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Running out of things to watch during lockdown? In desperate need of something to binge? Why not escape the cold Lancaster weather by diving into the even colder weather of Scandinavia through some excellent TV shows? Scandinavian TV, just like British, American and other foreign TV, has a wide range of genres and types of shows. However, Scandinavia puts its own spin on familiar genres like crime with its own sub-genre Scandinavian noir and plays a central role in the production of certain genres, such as contemporary teen dramas.
Skam – The series that took the world by storm
Like many foreign TV shows, Scandinavian TV shows have a tendency of staying within Scandinavia, its main audience being people from Norway, Sweden, Denmark or the other Nordic countries. However, the 2015 teen drama series Skam is an extreme exception to this. The series took the over-done high-school drama and wrapped it in a new, innovative media format. Throughout the week, clips, text-messages, or Instagram posts were posted in real-time on the Skam website, before the content was unified into a full episode on the website on Fridays. Each season features a different main character, and each deals with an important issue, such as sexual abuse, sexuality, and religion, in a truly honest way. The show uses its interactive medium to create characters that feel more real to the audience than ever before, with each character having their own social media accounts and a presence outside of the episodes alone. With Skam, Norwegian TV channel NRK has managed to create a show which portrays a realistic picture of not only Norwegian but many high-school students’ experiences.
After the national and international success of Skam, NRK continued to produce TV series in the same type of multi-media format. From 2018 to 2019 they produced the series Lovleg, which, like Skam, deals with sexuality, but in the form of a lesbian relationship. The concept was also used for the series Blank, which also featured the real-time releases of clips, social media posts and text messages, but dealt with another age group, those just finished in high-school and entering adult life. The series deals with issues of relationships to friends and family, romance, race and class differences.
The international success of Skam also led to different adaptions by different countries, such as Skam Austin, Skam España, and Skam France.
The Bridge (Broen) – The epitome of Scandinavian noir
Probably the genre Scandinavia is most famous for is Scandinavian noir, also known as Nordic noir. While both the UK and Scandinavia produce crime drama series, both countries put their own spin on the genre, setting Scandinavian noir apart from British crime dramas. The Bridge is a Swedish and Danish collaboration, consisting of 4 seasons, the first season starting with a dead body being discovered on the Øresund Bridge, exactly on the border between Malmö and Copenhagen, leading to a joint investigation. As is common for the Scandinavian noir genre, the series follows two detectives, Swedish Saga Norén and Danish Martin Rohde (1st and 2nd season) and Henrik Sabroe (3rd and 4th season). The main character, Saga Norén, is a complex character with poor social skills and, without mentioning any spoilers, fits with the Scandinavian noir trope of the far from simply heroic protagonist. Scandinavian noir, and The Bridge, is multi-layered, and takes the viewer on a thrilling murder investigation, darker and more twisted than those of British crime dramas and typical whodunnit style murder investigations. The series is full of well-timed twists and turns that keeps you captivated by the mystery and the characters, and keeps you clicking “Next episode.”
Like Skam, The Bridge has proved popular internationally, having been shown in more than 100 countries, and prompting several remakes, including the UK and France’s The Tunnel. However, none of these can compete with the entrancing darkness of Scandinavian noir in its purest and most elegant form.
Other great Nordic noir TV series to check out: The Killing (Danish: Forbrydelsen) and Bordertown (Finnish: Sorjonen).
The Rain – A post-apocalyptic Scandinavia
Over recent years, several Scandinavian series have premiered on Netflix. Series such as the Swedish Quicksand, Danish The Rain, and Norwegian Ragnarok have all proved popular, not only in Scandinavia but internationally. The Rain is a Danish post-apocalyptic series, in which a deadly virus-bearing rainfall kills almost all humans in Scandinavia. The audience follows Danish siblings Simone and Rasmus who are left to take shelter in a bunker by their father. After six years, they emerge to search for their father, who never returned to the bunker. Already from the beginning, it’s a thrilling show, that keeps the viewers on their toes. With high production value and a character-driven plot that keeps you emotionally invested, The Rain is an exceptional show to emerge from Scandinavia. If you’re a fan of shows like The 100 or Under the Dome, or just generally sci-fi and post-apocalyptic TV and film, then you might want to check out The Rain.
Although available on Netflix with English dubbing, you don’t quite get the same experience as when watching it in its original language, Danish. With the voices you hear matching the actors’ lips, it conveys the emotion of the scenes better. The show is available with English subtitles.
Occupied (Okkupert) – A political dystopia
In another series about the future, we find ourselves in a very different Norway to the politically stable, rich, and democratic country we see today. The series depicts a Norway in which all oil and gas production, Norway’s biggest export, has been stopped due to catastrophic events. This creates a massive energy crisis in Europe, causing Russia, with the support of the EU, to invade Norway to restore its oil and gas industry. The series is centred around politics and war, and the layers of secrecy, action and tension build-up to a captivating story that you can’t help but get invested in. The series is placed in the political thriller genre, and for good reason, featuring agents, assassinations, rebel groups and more. It is a stark contrast to the peaceful Norway and Scandinavia we see today. The series had a budget of £7.5 million and is Norway’s most expensive production to date, and this can be seen in the series high production value. Occupied delivers everything you want from a political thriller. Highly recommended for fans of The Man in the High Castle or Designated Survivor.