Exams are over and summer has arrived! You’ve finally handed in that godawful essay on eBart, your favourite dress is back in the wardrobe now EGB has been and gone, and you’ve taken the obligatory rock photo. You are picturing yourself sipping a cool bottle of Devon red, warm paper-wrapped fish and chips bundled on your lap in Exmouth with the sun setting over the sea.
But this is the south west of England, so what about the inevitable not-so-sunny days?
I’ve put together a list of three binge-worthy TV series from Scandinavia to get you through the English summer. So . . . close all those revision tabs on your laptop, nestle under your duvet and relax… scandi style!
First-off, SKAM. Get overly invested in the pastel-coloured universe of the Norwegian cult teenage drama. This revolutionary TV-series has not only became the ‘most-watched web TV show in Norwegian history’ but has exploded internationally with spin-off series in France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, the US, Spain and the Netherlands. The programme is an authentic and intimate portrait of the everyday life and challenges of youth.
Iconic scene: The girls on their way to their first real house party – to the sound of Peaches ‘Dick in the Air’.
Set in a high school in Oslo, we encounter and get to know a group of Norwegian teenagers as they try to navigate youth in both its exuberance (first experiences of getting drunk, partying and having sex) but also not shying away from its challenges (from status anxiety, to coming out, religion, rape and depression). Each season is told from the perspective of a different character.
The relatable main characters of SKAM I and SKAM II
All this plays out on the screen as well as online – each of the characters have their own Instagram accounts, the events of the show appear on Facebook, and viewers can read the texts messages that go between them on the show’s website. This innovative development, not only embraces the viewing habits of a new generation, but also blurs the line between reality and fiction.
Part of the pleasure of this series lies in absorbing stray bits of anthropology. The show depicts some of the particularities of Norwegian culture, such as the tradition of hyttetur (cabin tour in the mountains aka hygge central) in SKAM I episode 2 and SKAM II episode 4. As well as the russefeiringi season 4 (a month-long party on a bus. Norwegian students celebrate the end of high school by buying a bus – yes, actually! – and party the entire night until school every day for a month).
While cultural quirks such as these keep things interesting, the show remains highly relatable. We can all relate to our friend getting way too drunk at a party (Eva in most episodes of season 2) and telling off our flat mate for eating food from our shelf of the fridge (SKAM II ep. 9).
Eskild eats Norra’s fishcakes
Borgen, meaning Danish for castle and also the name of the parliament building in Copenhagen, is premised on Danish coalition politics. This series manages to break down complicated Danish politics by having one character represent each political party.
Female Prime minister Birgitte Nyborg with her Finance minister (left) spin doctor (right)
Aside from the politics, the show satiates Britain’s nation-crush on Denmark by showcasing the country’s progressivism and good design. Aside from the ever-put-together female prime minister, the show tackles gender equality through the subject of abortion. When the central character Katrine Fonsmark, who plays the role of a good-hearted and skilled journalist, has an abortion she meets no comeuppance. Rather, she is back in the newsroom in no time.
The show’s interiors also satisfy the eyes with their subtle Danish design. The Danish parliament and characters homes are replete with Danish designer Poul Henningsen’s iconic lamps and Arne Jacobson chairs.
Star journalist Katrine Fonsmark
- THE BRIDGE
Finally, The Bridge. The first episode begins with the discovery of a body on Oresund bridge which connects Copenhagen, Denmark and Malmo, Sweden. The body is found exactly halfway between the two countries, requiring the police teams from either side to work together to figure out who done it. Just as the plot yo-yos between the cities of Copenhagen and Malmo, the series itself was co-funded by the national television companies of their two countries.
Lead homicide detective in Malmö Saga Norén looks out from Oresund bridge.
Firmly situated in the Nordic Noir genre, the series reveals the murky underbelly of these idealised (and potentially bland) Nordic countries which turn out to be just as dysfunctional as our own. The show explores mental illness, poverty and drugs.
These dark themes have the aesthetic to match: bleak landscapes, long dark nights and plenty of rain, evoking Danish poets Henrik’s Nordbrandt’s poem “Året har 16 måneder” (The Year has 16 months. )
‘The year has 16 months: November,
December, January, February, April,
May, June, July, August, September,
November, November, November, November.’