Why the Norwegian Show 'Skam' is a Must-Watch

Why the Norwegian Show 'Skam' is a Must-Watch

The television show quickly sweeping the world is breaking all the rules, and truly connecting with a Millennial audience. Here's why.

The television show quickly sweeping the world is breaking all the rules, and truly connecting with a Millennial audience. Here's why.

Text: Ian David Monroe

There is a reality-blurring television show about teenagers that is blowing up in Norway, and, now, worldwide. Skam, presented by Norwegian government-owned channel NRK and directed by Julie Andem, follows the life of a cast of high schoolers as they navigate all the obstacles that come with growing up: love, depression, mental illness, sexuality, religion, and all that’s in between. Think Skins for a new generation.

What makes Skam special is its authenticity, a point first, and accurately, made by the New York Times. Its stars aren’t blemish-free just like their character’s life, and most of them still have day jobs or are still in school. One lead still works as a telemarketer. The dialogue mirrors teen talk well, too, mostly because the entire cast is actually the age they’re portraying, which is something that American television can’t seem to grapple with. How many times have you seen a 26-year-old play 18? With that mix of elements, the show stands in stark contrast to the big-budget teen-targeted shows of MTV, and the silly, contrived dramas of primetime television.

The show’s rollout adds to its uniqueness; each week different snippets of the forthcoming show are released in “real time." If a party scene is happening at 1 AM, then the clip will be posted at 1AM. At the end of the week, the entire episode is released with additional content. This unique unveiling has some fans ditching school or staying up all night in the hope's of catching a clip. To say the show's following is obsessive, would be an understatement. Just venture to the popular Twitter @ISAKxEVEN, and you'll see. That account is also a great way to keep up with the show's happenings, especially for those outside of Norway.

Each of the characters has their own social channels, too, which further blur the lines of what’s real and what’s in character. Their Instagram accounts look exactly as they should if said character was actually real—blurry iPhone photos seem to be a favorite. Plot-pushing text exchanges between characters are also regularly uploaded to the NRK Facebook page giving fans a new level of engagement.

This rabid fan base is precisely why the show is breaking into international territories. Immediately following each clip or episode, fans add English captions and upload them to a variety of places. Music rights and permissions (the soundtrack is stellar) keep the show from YouTube, though some savvy users have figured out how to bypass the platform’s sensors—cut the music out completely.

Watching the show in this way is far from ideal, which is why producer Simon Fuller has just announced that he’ll be creating an English version with an entirely new cast. But if Skam’s strength is in its authenticity, then by the very nature of a remake, Fuller’s version can never live up to the hype. Those things rarely ever do, but it will be interesting to see how certain cultural elements will be changed in each season. There are already rumors that season four will focus on the take-no-shit Sana, a proud Muslim who wears her hijab, even in private.

(Spoilers)

That's another interesting element. Each season a different character becomes the focus. First, it’s Eva, a first year, navigating a new relationship with her boyfriend, Jonas, who she stole from her best friend. The nature of their meeting ultimately leads to instability and the anxiety of cheating nearly ruins it all.

The second season follows Noora, a whip-sharp, smart, and stubborn girl being aggressively pursued by Wilhelm, who's too-cool demeanor makes him something of a Norwegian Edward Cullen. Despite her disdain for his popularity and well-documented history of womanizing, she can’t help but fall for him. Just as the two hit the honeymoon stage, though, Noora is faced with the realization that she might have been raped at a party, by Wilhelm’s brother, no less. The ensuing scenes make for the show’s darkest narrative yet. As a personal aside, I have never experienced such an emotional rollercoaster from a television show in my life.

The third, and present, season follows Isak as he explores his often-hinted-at sexuality and the subsequent struggles with coming out. His friends act about the same as you'd expect, but it's his parents, particularly his unstable and religious mother, that cause the anxiety. Naturally, he tells them over text.

UP NEXT

Watch Kate Moss Channel Elvis Presley in "The Wonder of You"