Norway hopes for first global TV hit

NRK’s thriller series Øyevitne (Eyewitness) will be Norway’s first American remake

Photo: NRK Anneke von der Lippe plays Helen Sikkeland in the Norwegian crime drama.

Photo: NRK
Anneke von der Lippe plays Helen Sikkeland in the Norwegian crime drama.

The Local

Denmark has done it with The Killing, Borgen, and The Legacy. Sweden has done it with Wallander, and the two countries teamed up to do it with The Bridge. But until now, Norway has not succeeded in riding the “Nordic Noir” craze by having a hit series remade for an international audience.

That is set to change now that the series Øyevitne (Eyewitness) has been bought by NBC Universal, which plans to produce an American version of the Norwegian hit for the cable channel USA Network.

“The American TV market is the best and they create an incredible amount of well-produced content. That they come here and want to have something that we have made is a big feather in the hat of Norwegian drama,” NRK spokesman Ivar Køhn told his own network.

Øyevitne is about two teenage boys who witness four biker types get gunned down in a forest. The boys are spotted by the gunman but escape and then keep quiet about what they saw out of fear that their secret sexual relationship will be revealed.

“Norway’s incredible show Eyewitness follows a horrific crime story through the unlucky and unlikely eyes of two innocent witnesses. It’s a bone chilling thrill ride that not only exposes the details of a crime, but also the secrets of the witnesses who watched,” Dawn Olmstead, an executive of development at Universal Cable Productions, told Variety.

American screenwriter Adi Hasak will helm the remake. He praised Norwegian creator Jarl Emsell Larsen’s vision for the original.

“I was really inspired by Jarl’s execution of the series, not to mention the fact that he placed two gay teenage boys central to the action along with a female inspector who must choose between her career and family,” Hasak told NRK.

“There have been several series to come out under the Nordic Noir genre, but Jarl takes this production to a whole new level,” he added.

While NRK might be excited by the remake, there is certainly no guarantee that it will be a hit. Despite the success of the Danish original Forbrydelsen, the U.S. version of The Killing had a hard time breaking through and was cancelled by AMC twice before the series concluded on Netflix.

The U.S. version of The Bridge was dropped by FX after just two seasons, while the Danish-Swedish version appears likely to return for a fourth.

The Danish political drama Borgen was due to be remade for NBC, but that version never saw the light of day. HBO now owns the rights to a remake but no premiere date has been announced.

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 29, 2016, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.