Walter presents Norwegian drama

This streaming service brings individually selected international dramas to American audiences—including Norway’s Valkyrien and Young & Promising

Photo courtesy of Walter Presents
Walter himself. He personally selects the shows that are available through the service.

Molly Jones
The Norwegian American

Each year, countries around the world are producing brilliant, groundbreaking dramas for television, and yet most of these remain unknown to U.S. audiences. Most of us are exposed to hefty doses of American programs with a side of British drama, oblivious to the compelling non-English dramas earning high praise internationally.

But how are we to discover the top foreign programs without spending thousands of hours scouring through all that the world has to offer? Don’t fret; there’s already somebody doing that for you.

Enter Walter Iuzzolino. Once a television executive, he now spends his days watching international drama—4,000 hours and counting—with the aim of bringing you the crème de la crème through his foreign drama streaming service, Walter Presents.

The few dozen contemporary foreign programs currently available on Walter Presents range from French and German to Catalan and Croatian, all with English subtitles, in an intriguing mix of genres. And each month, new and exclusive programs are added.

Walter Presents is currently serving up Oslo two ways with a pair of contrasting Norwegian dramas: Young & Promising (Unge lovende) and Valkyrien.

Photo courtesy of Walter Presents
Young & Promising follows three young Norwegian women struggling to get their careers off the ground.

Young & Promising follows a trio of mid-20s Norwegian women—Elise, a comedian; Nenne, a writer; and Alex, an actress—through their ups and downs as they struggle with their relationships and friendships, family drama, and mental illness, all while trying to get their careers off the ground. They are often determined and independent yet at times vulnerable and even a bit pitiful—but they are always real. Whether they’re at their best or their worst, you’ll find yourself rooting for these “young and promising” characters.

Set in the underground tunnels of Oslo, Valkyrien presents us with a much different perspective of Norway’s capital. When Ravn’s wife Vilma is dying but the hospital prohibits him from developing her experimental cure, he takes extreme measures. Everyone believes Vilma is dead, but in reality Ravn has taken her into an abandoned station below the city where he can continue her treatment. Leif, who is in charge of the underground, allows Ravn to use the space as long as he agrees to use the illegal clinic to treat those who are wanted for crimes or distrust “the system.” The situation continues to unravel in this compelling thriller, exposing the lengths people will go to in desperate situations.

Photo courtesy of Walter Presents
Valkyrien is set in a literally underground clinic in Oslo.

Both of the Norwegian programs were remarkable in their own unique ways and only made me want to try more of the dramas available on Walter Presents.

Recently, I had the opportunity to ask Walter Iuzzolino some questions about Walter Presents and his interest in international drama:

Molly Jones: What are you hoping to achieve by sharing foreign-language drama through the Walter Presents platform?

Walter Iuzzolino: I could say that I’m hoping to break down borders, promote cultural exchange, and encourage world peace, but the truth is far less highfalutin. I just love great stories and great drama. The shows that I’ve chosen for the platform are all of outstanding quality and they really do deserve to be seen.

MJ: What initially sparked your interest in international drama?

WI: I grew up in Italy on a diet of international drama. Everything from badly dubbed tough German cop shows to dramatic South American telenovelas—I consumed them all with relish, sitting on the sofa with my grannies. When I moved to England, I was surprised by the lack of international drama available—only U.S. shows seemed to be broadcast, and I felt that was a great shame because I knew there was a world of great drama out there.

MJ: How do you select these shows out of all of the programs being created around the world? Is it challenging to get the rights?

WI: I watch thousands of hours of drama from all over the world searching for shows that have been huge hits in their countries of origin, award winning, or critically acclaimed. For a long time no one was interested in buying these shows for English-speaking territories, so distributors and producers are delighted to sell us the rights, as they know we will work hard to champion and promote their shows.

MJ: In the intro for Valkyrien you say, “If you only watch one program this year, make sure this is the one.” Why is that? What do you think makes Valkyrien such a groundbreaking show?

WI: Forget missing girls and detectives searching dark forests—this is Scandi Noir like you’ve never seen it before. A zeitgeist original story, beautifully shot in crisp settings with utterly compelling performances that will suck you into the narrative—addictive drama at its very best.

MJ: There are many dramas featuring groups of young women. What is it about Young & Promising that sets it apart?

WI: There’s no big explosions, no dramatic plot twists, no serial killers on the loose in this one. The beauty of this show lies in the believability of its three main characters—those girls just feel very real. They fail in life, nothing much happens in a narrative sense, but you love these girls from the off. You feel part of their inner circle and you tune in to get the latest gossip because you really care about them.

MJ: As someone who is familiar with programs from countless cultures, do you feel that there is anything that distinguishes Norwegian shows from those of other countries?

WI: Norway used to be considered the drama equivalent of the ugly sister to other Scandi neighbors like Denmark and Sweden, but all that has suddenly changed. Norway is now producing some fantastic, innovative dramas. Like all Scandi shows, Norwegian dramas are always beautifully shot and look stunning, but increasingly they also have something that sets them apart from the rest of the world—originality. That could be in storyline, setting, performance, or even format as with Skam, a drama that was commissioned for online as 15-minute episodes. It’s a quality that is hard to ape and it truly sets Norway apart.

MJ: Do you expect to add any additional Norwegian programs to Walter Presents in the near future?

WI: Absolutely, stay tuned.

Learn more about Walter Presents at Subscriptions cost $6.99 per month or $69.99 for the year. The service is available in many formats, including an app for iOS and Android, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, or simply in your web browser.

This article originally appeared in the July 28, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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The Norwegian American

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