The Nordic nations have become a factory of high-end TV over the past few years, with series like The Killing, The Bridge, Borgen and Lilyhammer becoming international hits.
There’s no shortage of Nordic drama at international TV market Mipcom, which kicked off in Cannes Monday. Beta has had success hawking its Norwegian political thriller Mammon; ITV Studios Global Entertainment has Swedish mystery thriller Jordskott; Zodiak Rights has the Jo Nesbo-created Occupied; Red Arrow International is presenting the New York/Swedish cop drama 100 Code.
But Acquitted, the new Norwegian series which FremantleMedia International is pitching to global broadcasters this week, stands out from the pack.
The one-hour drama, which Norway’s Miso Film is producing for pubweb TV2 Norway, takes elements of the Nordic Noir tradition and combines them with the much older Scandinavian tradition of existential drama, bearing a resemblance to the works of Ingmar Bergman or Henrik Ibsen.
The plot of Acquitted follows Aksel Borgen, played by Norwegian actor Nicolai Cleve Broch, a business man who, after spending 20 years as a high-powered corporate executive in Asia, returns to his home tome in rural Norway. Borgen is back to try and rescue the town’s main company from bankruptcy. But Borgen is haunted by his past. 20 years ago he was accused of murdering his high-school sweetheart. Although he was acquitted of the crime, many in his home town still feel he got away with murder.
“I wanted it to be a character drama and not just a crime drama,” says Siv Rajendram Eliassen, the writer who created Acquitted together with Anne Bache-Wiig. “It wasn’t the murder that fascinated me, the who-done-it factor, but the struggle to be acquitted, to be accepted again by society. Anne and I didn’t even plot the crime drama, we didn’t even figure out who did it, until two years into development.”
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That FremantleMedia International, one of the world’s largest television sales groups, would pick up a Norwegian-language drama, speaks to the seismic shifts in the television industry over the past decade.
“I think we couldn’t have done this 10 years ago,” says Jonas Allen, who is producing Acquitted for Miso Film. “What started in Sweden with the crime series like Wallander and then Denmark with The Killing has gone further now. (Danish political drama) Borgen showed it’s not the crime, its the characters that sell now. The market is more ready to absorb and accept a series like Acquitted, where you don’t really need the crime. The crime is just an excuse to tell the story of these characters.”
The first 10-episode season of Acquitted is set to debut on Norway’s TV2 in January.