You may not have heard of Skam – it’s Norwegian, exists solely on streaming sites and uses translations. It doesn’t follow the classic ‘high-school’ formula and isn’t shown on one of the many channels for teenagers. On all accounts, it should be basically unheard of. However, although you may not have heard of Skam yet, you will very soon.
‘Skam’, meaning ‘shame’ , is a four-season TV show which ran from 2015 to 2017. It deviates from what is considered normal for a TV show aimed for teenagers and has also broken many records for viewership in Norway. Each season centres on a different main character and each episode varies in length, with around ten episodes per season. But it’s not the unique design of the series that has allowed it to reach international fame; it’s the stories that they tell and the way they tell it.
With each series having a different main character, Skam has distance and the time to invest into new characters, new ideas and new scenery; there is a difference between season 1 and season 3 because they both tell different stories. That’s why Skam is so entertaining: if you don’t like one story, you can drop it and pick it up again later. Unlike other shows that always drag out an unnecessary storyline – e.g. anytime there’s an unwanted pregnancy subplot – its short number of episodes and running time mean that everything develops quickly, and its over before you know it.
But that’s not what Skam is about. The focus is actually on the characters rather than the stories which is obvious in their marketing. Skam is the only show that uses social media in a new way; the characters in the show have their own social media accounts, and their interactions make them feel like real, actual people. The snapshot into what they’re doing and talking about during the week gives you a fix for when you’re looking for the next episode to watch. This allows the show to evolve beyond its episodes, and is one of the reasons why it’s so popular.
Another reason is the number of relatable storylines it contains . Yes, Skam is a show for Norwegian teenagers and is all about their culture (make sure to Google ‘Russ Buss’ – trust me, they don’t explain what it is), but the social issues it shows and how realistically they’re displayed is why the show is so successful. I’m not one to spoil anything, but in only 43 episodes, Skam explores the themes of: religion, homosexuality, eating disorders, personal identity, forbidden love and mental health issues. Different subjects are brought up by different characters and they’re all treated with respect;a far cry from how such issues are usually portrayed.
Unfortunately, Skam as we know it has finished now. The Norwegian show has closed down, citing the overwhelming amount of pressure and fame that it had not anticipated. However, the demand for new material has been answered. At the point of writing this, there are six new adaptions of Skam being produced in: America, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. All of these adaptions will have new storylines and new characters, but will still have the same unique formula that drove the original to worldwide fame.
If you can’t wait that long? The French version of Skam is already airing: season 1 has been showing and all of their social media is up and running. So if you haven’t heard of Skam yet – just give it a year – or maybe just a few months: it’s definitely coming somewhere very close to you.
Edited by Tia Ralhan