Surprise success for Scandidramas


Why has the Western world fallen in love with Nordic noir thrillers?

Danish public broadcaster DR gained a reputation for quality television with the success of The Killing, a police thriller that was watched all over the globe.



And now, the third and final season of Borgen is set to premiere in Denmark, having become one of the highest-selling television series in modern history.

But before Borgen hit record highs, the idea that the show could follow the path of unexpected global hit The Killing seemed too good to be true.

“When it started travelling I just couldn’t believe it,” says Danish actress Sidse Babett Knudson, who plays the role of Danish Prime Minister Birgitte Nyborg Christensen.

Sidse Babett Knudsen interview:

When he landeded the role of the Prime Minister’s spin doctor Kasper, actor Pilou Asbaek was certain the show wouldn’t be a global hit.

“It’s about Danish politics, with a spin doctor and a journalist. It has absolutely no international potential at all.”

Asbaek is pleased about the show’s success, but finds it difficult to deal with his newfound fame.

“One third of the population in Denmark watches the show, so I am very thankful that I got the opportunity. But I am also angry because it’s more difficult to shop alone now and buy toilet paper.”

Screened in 120 countries, both series are set in Copenhagen, but brought to life in DR’s space-age studios in a series of elaborate, purpose built sets.

The public broadcaster has now produced two critically acclaimed series, on a drama budget one eighth of the size of the BBC.

DR Head of Fiction Nadia Klovedal Reich admits she was surprised at the success of the shows, but understands why they appeal to a global audience.

“We are a little country with a small budget for drama but we also have a lot of good stories to tell in Denmark. We feel that the shows we are doing have something for the heart and for the mind…we are kind of rough and soft at the same time.”

Pilou Asbaek too has theories about the secret to Scandinavia’s success.

“I have some ideas. One of them is that Danish drama is a mixture of business life and personal life. I think that people really like that they can see people with power in their own private homes. And the other one is that there are strong female characters and I don’t know how it is in Australia, but in Denmark right now the strongest persons in the country are female.”

Pilou Asbaek interview:

“I think it’s easier to be a woman prime minister in the fictional world,” says Babett Knudson.

“In no episode do we talk about my clothes, or my handbags, or my haircut, which they do much more with female politicians than male politicians.”

The imminent third and final instalment of the political thriller will bring an end to one of Denmark’s most successful productions.

However, Kovendal Reich isn’t wasting any time looking back.

“It’s actually not [sad] because we are on our way with news shows we have all our creative energy in now…so it’s okay to say goodbye to Borgen.” 

The success of The Killing and Borgen has paved the way for Denmark’s next Nordic noir adventure: ten part series The Legacy, which is due to be released in January 2014.

Producer of The Legacy Karoline Leth admits it is a bit daunting to be working in the aftermath of such global success, but she isn’t deterred.

“I think the best thing is not to feel the pressure.” 

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