2015 has been a mammoth year for Scandinavian TV drama. From Dag to The Bridge, from Norway to Sweden, the list of brilliant and diverse dramas has far exceeded anyone’s expectations. BBC4 and Sky Arts, the two leading Nordic-Noir importers, have managed to entice a new portion of the UK population who no longer fear reading a plethora of subtitles to understand the narrative – especially when the show is too brilliant to overlook. Shows like The Legacy and The Bridge have been huge successes this year inspiring Journalists from UK papers like The Guardian, The Telegraph, and other broadsheet news establishments, to write online reviews and episode guides alongside powerhouse, BBC funded dramas like River and Doctor Who – A sign of the rising popularity.
As this blog doesn’t just focus on Scandinavian dramas, I have (and want) to highlight other European dramas that have gained international success here in the UK and in the US. First of those being Deutschland 83, a coming-of-age German spy drama set around the cold war division between East and West Germany. Proving popular in the US, it gained the attention of channel 4 making it their flagship series to launch Walter Presents (a new multi-language online channel) this January. Channel 4 also picked up their second French language drama, Witnesses, following two detectives hunting a killer in the rainy seaside town of Le Tréport. This became a huge success, similar to that of their other French acquisition The Returned.
2016 has much to offer in terms of new TV dramas. Here are a few programmes I’m looking forward to:
Occupied is a Norwegian thriller, based on a Jo Nesbø script written in 2008. In modern day Norway, Russia has occupied the country citing the need for their remaining oil. Modern day occurrences such as the Middle Eastern Crisis and the US’s withdrawal from NATO has plunged Europe into an energy crisis, making Norway a prime target for a wide-scale invasion. The narrative follows many different Russians and Norwegians, from everyday citizens to the hierarchy, such as the Prime Minster of Norway.
The series has come under some scrutiny over its representation of Russia as an ‘evil’, aggressive country. However, the series has become vastly popular in Norway and has been sold to several other countries for broadcast. With a budget of $11 million it’s the most expensive Norwegian TV show to date.
UK airing date is still TBA, however it will be arriving on US Netflix in January.
Made by legendary Icelandic film-maker Baltasar Kormákur, Trapped follows a police investigation into a dead body found floating in the port of Siglufjörður. The isolated town is then subject to a number of grizzly murders, all seemingly unrelated. Akin to it’s Nordic Noir cousins, Trapped is a grey stained detective drama, capitalising on the success of The Bridge and The Killing. The Icelandic TV export market is incredibly scarce, and so here’s hoping that this drama encourages more quality shows be produced in Iceland.
The show is, like Occupied, the most expensive show produced by the country totaling a staggering $7.5 million.
As of December 2015, the series’ first episode has only been aired at the Toronto International Festival so not too much information is readily available.
This series is available on BBC4 in the first quarter of the year.
Follow The Money:
Danish drama Follow The Money is a fresh approach to drama within DR; Follow The Money peers into the greedy corporate world to reveal dodgy dealings and the fierce underbelly of big businesses. Featuring Dogma 95 veterans Thomas Bo Larson and Nikolaj Lie Kaas, the series follows police detectives assigned to a murder at a wind farm off the coast of Denmark. However, it’s not too long until they find deceptive business deals that could be connected to the killing.
The series is available on BBC4 later in the year.
Blue Eyes, featuring Louise Peterhoff, is a political Swedish drama about the murder of a politician just weeks before Sweden’s general election. The culprits, Veritas, are a violent political group who will go to extreme lengths to prevent further immigration. Meanwhile, Louise plays the replacement Chief of Staff, Elin, who uncovers corruption in the government and digs further than anyone has dared to before. What she finds is a scandal that will shake the government to the core. Neo-Nazi’s, political corruption, explosions – what else do you need from a TV show?
This series is also one of the first to be broadcast on Walter Presents, alongside Deutschland 83.
After 20 years in exile, Aksel Borgen (Cleve Broch) is summoned back to recover a business that is on the verge of bankruptcy. Accused for a murder he did not commit, Aksel is confronted with all the people of a past life that can’t and won’t forgive him – including his family.
Acquitted is a Beautiful, aesthetically driven drama (in the beautiful Norwegian mountains) that promises a large degree of mystery.
Available on BBC4 later this year.
Not only will we be blessed with new dramas, we see the return of a few of our favourite series over the last few years:
With series 5 premiering on BBC4 in 2015, the UK got it first taste of the epic (both in narrative and length) detective drama that is Beck. Written by famous Swedish authors Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, Beck has been adapted for TV and swiftly become the nations favourite whodunit series, re-inventing tales that have been around for 50 years. In series 6, which will be shown on BBC4 sometime in 2016, Beck will gain a new partner – Kristofer Hivju (Game Of Thrones) – but will encounter much of the same murder mystery we did last series.
Jordskott was awarded Sweden’s Kristallen (equivalent to BAFTA) after a wholly positive reception to it’s first series. This series is a supernatural, fairy-tale type drama that features intrigue and confusion throughout when children begin to disappear in quick succession. Tales of beasts and monsters soon begin to cause panic around the small town, and it’s all connected to the demolition of the forest. Eva Thörnblad, the descendant of a very prestigious family in the town, begins to uncover the secrets behind the forest when she discovers her own daughter out among the trees – the one that had apparently died 7 years earlier. As the series progresses the mystical elements start to cause more and more problems for the residents of Silverhöjd.
It’s with great expectation that I look forward to seeing what 2016 has to offer. We are seeing more and more series from Scandinavia, with comedy and thrillers both on the rise in the UK and US. I am, however, with a small amount of fear, not entirely sure on further TV exports within the European market (excluding Scandinavia). Deutschland 83 was a stand-out drama of 2015 yet I have found no indication of other German shows coming out for an English language release. This is a worry for me that I hope will turn out to be misguided towards the middle months of the year. In spite of this, I do hope that 2016 will have more and more of the UK public interested in international releases, and that these will on only continue to rise in content and quality.