‘Exit’ chauvinists set new TV record

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UPDATED: They’re back for a second season: Four of the most egotistical, money-hungry, power-grabbing and glaringly cocky men that Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) could dream up for its hit TV series called Exit. Now they’ve also managed to draw NRK’s biggest streaming audience ever, with 1.16 million Norwegians watching just the first episode when it became available Friday night.

The TV series Exit’s high-finance men (from left) Henrik (Tobias Santelmann), Jeppe (Jon Øigarden), Adam (Simon Berger) and William (Pål Sverre Hagen), shown here in Season 1, break all moral barriers in their quests for even more money, power and action. PHOTO: Fremantle/NRK

“These are the highest streaming numbers we’ve seen after such a short time for a drama series,” Iacob Christian Prebensen of NRK’s analysis division told NRK’s own news department on Monday. After just three days of availability on NRK TV, 876,000 had seen the first episode of Season 2. That compared to 200,000 for the first episode of Season 1, which also had a lot of advance publicity and quickly became almost as popular as NRK’s Skam (Shame) series that eventually spread internationally.

By Monday, reported NRK, 699,000 had already watched the full season of eight episodes just during the weekend. The first and second episodes were also aired on NRK Channel 1, appropriately late on Saturday night. All the violence, sex and heartless brutality against the men’s trophy wives isn’t exactly geared for prime-time family entertainment.

Fast cars and high living are all part of the action in Exit, until some of the characters literally break down. PHOTO: Fremantle/NRK

In a country with a total population of around 5.3 million, Exit‘s audience is indeed large. 1.5 million Norwegians watched the first season and they’re literally streaming back for more of the wild partying, lying, insider trading, graphic sex scenes, cocaine use and other forms of decadence that clearly fascinated Norwegian viewers. This is a story, wrote business newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN),  about how far men with more money than they can possible spend will go, simply because they can.

Most disturbing, perhaps, is the stand-alone statement that appears on TV screens before each episodes begins. It notes that the stories and incidents portrayed are based on real stories from Norway’s “financial milieu.” So much for the country image of being a champion of social equality with enlightened citizens.

The bad guys here are all white, middle-aged Norwegian men with huge homes, expensive cars, fancy boats, style-conscious wives, young children and maids disguised as au pair from the Philippines. They’re easily bored, though, and perhaps have found that all the money they’ve earned both legally and illegally hasn’t bought happiness. Throw in a lack of any moral compass or human empathy and you end up with one of them throwing his pregnant wife down a flight of stairs and later pretending to hang himself, subjecting her to so much trauma that she suffers a bloody miscarriage.

The Exit men’s wives, shown here at a costume party, wind up with more than broken hearts and black eyes. Some, like Adam’s wife Hermine (played by Agnes Kittelsen), seek revenge. PHOTO: Stephen Butkus/Fremantle/NRK

It’s ironic, if not intentional, that the new season of Exit premiered just before International Women’s Day on Monday. While newspapers were full of stories about the ongoing struggle for gender equality, huge numbers of Norwegians were spending hours watching men who show zero respect for women and treat them with utter disregard.

The new season, however, also features jilted wives fighting back and seeking revenge. They have bigger roles in the new season, with one of them (played by actress Agnes Kittelsen) aiming to beat her horrible husband at his own game. She gains new insight into the world of tax havens, money laundering, insider trading and what happens when earning money is more important than people.

Viewers can quickly find themselves cheering her on. “I want these guys to be caught and jailed for their own economic crimes,” wrote political scientist and former bank exectuive Gro Reppen in newspaper Klassekampen this week. “I want these guys to be revealed, and convicted.”

Some reviewers characterize the new season as darker, deeper but also funnier than the first. Øystein Karlsen, who created the series, called the high ratings numbers after just three days “completely wild,” adding that he thinks it’s “just fantastic” that so many Norwegians are watching the series.

“We also have a year of (Corona) quarantine behind us,” he notes, and thinks Exit may just break the monotony. “That’s probably helped us, and maybe we’ve helped ease the lockdown for some.”

NewsInEnglish.no/Nina Berglund