UPDATED: An Internet-based drama series featuring the lives of four teenage girls in Oslo has become so popular during its first year on the air that producer NRK seemed likely to find buyers for it abroad. The first episode of the series called Skam (Shame) was one of the most-seen on NRK’s “nett TV” ever, but now NRK is meeting resistance from foreign buyers because the show is simply too daring for non-Norwegian audiences.
The show won several awards at Norway’s equivalent of the Emmys this spring. “Skam is about our lives, that’s why we’re following it,” 15-year-old Kaja Skotner told newspaper Aftenposten recently.
Parents including Norway’s Crown Princess Mette-Marit have also tuned in, with no small degree of uneasiness, to gain insight into what’s going on in their teenagers’ lives that often goes unsaid, from online bullying to sexual debuts and date rape. Mette-Marit’s son Marius Borg Høiby even appears in a party scene in the last show of the season.
“It’s fantastic that the series has created such a huge conversation,” Crown Princess Mette-Marit said from the stage of a literature promotion tour last week. “It has stirred discussion about difficult subjects, it has been a way for me as a mother to understand my children and the world they live in. It’s been fine for me.”
Prime Minister Erna Solberg, who has a teenage daughter herself, has also tuned in. “I saw that Erna Solberg was following the series, and that made me glad,” 16-year-old fan Anne Nuland Sole told Aftenposten.
The show’s unusual format has consisted of new clips published every day, which are then put together to form an episode aired every Friday. It’s broadcast via its own website (skam.p3.no) but also airs on NRK3, the nationwide channel aimed at youth. An average 192,000 viewers have watched every episode, with the target audience aimed at 15-year-olds.
Newspaper Dagbladet reported on Monday that Betafilm of Germany was working on selling the series internationally under its English name, Shame. NRK officials clearly were hopeful of another international success like Lilyhammer or their slow-TV series. On Wednesday NRK itself was reporting a letdown.
Betafilm sellers told NRK that the show’s content and format may simply be too progressive and innovative for foreign buyers to handle. Even though lots of interest was expressed when the show was promoted at a TV congress in Cannes, no deals were struck.
NRK’s sellers cited negative reaction to scenes of excessive drunkenness among youth, and suggested that many of the buyers, often white middle-aged men, were reluctant to invest in something so complex and daring.
Ole Hedemann, project leader at NRK who’s a white middle-aged man himself, said he still thinks other Nordic broadcasting agencies will buy Shame, but just “need some more time” to digest its complexity. “Give it three years,” Hedemann said.
To see some video from Skam, click here (external link, to NRK’s site in Norwegian).