Show of the week: Eyewitness

Nordic noir has become hot category of programming in the international market and The Killing, The Bridge and Borgen have won critical acclaim, notched significant international sales and put Denmark and Sweden on the drama map. Now, Norwegian public broadcaster NRK wants to build its international profile and upon the success it has had with thriller series Mammon.

With that in mind, it has struck a programming deal with MTG-owned UK-based distributor DRG, which will be bringing its dramas to market. The deal built on the previous relationship that involved DRG repping NRK’s scripted formats. The first new NRK offering DRG will launch is Eyewitness, which will go out on NRK1 in the autumn.

The six-part series follows events after Philip and Henning, two teenagers secretly in love, who meet in a remote quarry where they witness a mass-shooting. Unsure if the killer has seen them, the pair vow to keep the event a secret. By chance, Philip’s mother is the local police chief and is investigating the case, unaware that her son is a key witness and also of his sexuality.

“When you think about Nordic noir you think about murder stories and detectives, but drama from Norway and NRK is often less specifically about detectives with more crime thriller stories with maybe political elements,” says Noel Hedges, DRG’s senior VP, acquisitions, the exec brought in by the distributor earlier this year to help oversee sales and acquisitions of finished programming. “NRK’s slate is so varied it’s hard to categorise.”

Without pigeon-holing, Eyewitness is a good example of NRK’s scripted offering. “It’s more than a crime drama, it has a murder story at the centre that leads us into a thriller about corruption, drugs and gangs, but it’s very much about family, what a family is and how secrets can rupture that.”

Bearing out the family and relationship elements of the drama, the cast of characters, alongside the central teenage pair includes a female sheriff, an undercover female cop and her sister who is in the gang she has infiltrated. There are also corrupt cops, Balkan crime lords and others weaving in and out of the show, which Hedges compares in tone to British dramas such as Line of Duty and State of Play.

Whereas the six-installment run would once have been an issue for many international broadcasters who would demand more episodes, there is an increasing acceptance of limited-run and shorter series, meaning Eyewitness could work in numerous international territories. DRG was shopping it to buyers at NATPE Europe in Prague last week, and the likely destination for the show in central and eastern Europe is public broadcasters, with the region’s commercial channels favouring telenovelas and US drama.

Hedges notes that DRG will be bringing some interesting new NRK titles to market in the coming months, and that the distributor is doing more than simply shopping the Norwegian pubcaster’s series internationally. “It’s more than looking at their finished shows and selling them, we can help bring in copro partners and financing,” he says.

The show: Eyewitness
The distributor: DRG
The broadcasters: NRK1 (Norway)
The producer: NRK
The concept: Norwegian thriller and relationship drama about a pair of illicitly gay teenagers who witness a terrible crime