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Swiss financial thriller Banking District on MHz Choice!

THE SHOW: Banking District is a Swiss financial thriller, created and produced by Stéphane Mitchell, Fulvio Bernasconi and Jean-Marc Froehle. I’m going to be honest and admit that when I read the description for this show – a Swiss banker goes into a diabetic coma, his sister takes over the bank and suspects it wasn’t an accident – I thought it sounded less than thrilling. I’ve never been happier to say I was so very wrong.

YEAH, BUT…: Maybe you are like me and are generally ignorant of world finance and the inherent dramas therein. Fear not, Banking District understands and is here to help. Heretofore, my knowledge of Swiss banking was based on information I gleaned from Bond movies and other films where international criminals placed their assets in Swiss accounts thereby rendering them untouchable, somehow, to law enforcement. The details on how all of this worked remained mysterious to me, even into adulthood, even into the modern American recession during which our government was suddenly like, “Hey, wait… the super-rich have been hiding their money in Switzerland to avoid paying massive amounts of taxes on it?!” I vaguely recall smirking at various news stories of Obama bringing down the hammer on such practices during one of my three employment layoffs during this period. Good times. ANYway, I’m saying, I was nervous to watch this because I felt like I would not understand what was going on, but I needn’t have worried. First, they are very crafty with giving quick, succinct recaps of the situation in a way that provides clarity and weaves it all together with the plot; and secondly, the main story about generations of family secrets coming to a head is exciting enough to stand alone in any context.

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Laura Sepul in Banking District

[LOCATION] WAS LIKE ANOTHER CHARACTER: Geneva is, you guessed it, gorgeous. And you get to see a lot of it, too, because when Paul (Vincent Kucholl) goes into the coma and Elisabeth (Laura Sepul) takes over, she spends literally every moment driving from one side of the city to the other, hashing it out with various members of her family, trying to discover what really happened to Paul and what he was hiding in the many vaults and files and lockboxes of the bank. This is French-speaking Switzerland, as opposed to the German-Swiss region that you might have enjoyed seeing in The Undertaker, and one of my favorite moments of the six hours of this show was an offhand comment by a banker who shuddered when considering having to collaborate with his German-speaking counterparts. Imagine living in a country three times smaller than Alabama and having that kind of cultural complexity. I love it. There are mountains in the back of every shot and, basically, it looks like a perfect place to live or visit.

TWISTS AND/OR TURNS: “But… bankers,” you’re saying. “Where do the thrills come in?” Apparently, holding onto the cash of the world’s most powerful people is kind of crazy! Sometimes you have to convert fifty million dollars into diamonds in the back room of a tiny store, or carry around a Van Gogh in a suitcase, or fly to Cyprus because it’s the only place in the world where you can safely do business with a Russian. Sometimes things go sideways and you end up making desperate moves that anger the wrong people. Elisabeth, having taken another path in life after growing up hating the bank her family has run for 300 years, is suddenly thrust into all of this drama with the added layer of intrigue surrounding her brother’s secret life. Just when she thinks she has his motivations figured out, she discovers yet more secrets, which turn into a veritable Swiss avalanche of other secrets, some of which are about her own life. This thing is intense from start to finish, and I’m talking to the very last second.

MAKE A NIGHT OF IT: Watching any Swiss show is an invitation, non, an obligation, to indulge in the most sophisticated cheeses and chocolates. At an hour per tightly-paced episode, Banking District is just right for bingeing, so crack open the truffle vault, melt down some raclette and enjoy.

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About the author:
Allison Lowe Huff is a freelance writer and editor with an overly concentrated interest in mystery stories from anywhere and everywhere. Follow her on Twitter @lowehuff.