“BARBARIANS”, A NETFLIX drama set 2,000 years ago in ancient Germania, inverts some modern stereotypes. In it, sexy, impulsive, proto-German tribesmen take on an oppressive superstate led by cold, rational Latin-speakers from Rome. Produced in Germany, it has all the hallmarks of a glossy American drama (gratuitous violence and prestige nudity) while remaining unmistakably German (in one episode someone swims through a ditch full of scheisse). It is a popular mix: on a Sunday in October, it was the most-watched show on Netflix not just in Germany, but also in France, Italy and 14 other European countries.
Moments when Europeans sit down and watch the same thing at roughly the same time used to be rare. They included the Eurovision Song Contest and the Champions League football, with not much in between. Now they are more common, thanks to the growth of streaming platforms such as Netflix, which has 58m subscribers on the continent. For most of its existence, television was a national affair. Broadcasters stuck rigidly to national borders, pumping out French programmes for the French and Danish ones for the Danes. Streaming services, however, treat Europe as one large market rather than 27 individual ones, with the same content available in each. Jean Monnet, one of the EU’s founding fathers, who came up with the idea of mangling together national economies to stop Europeans from killing each other, was once reputed to have said: “If I were to do it again from scratch, I would start with culture.” Seven decades on from the era of Monnet, cultural integration is beginning to happen.