If you’ve been around the fandom circles on social media in the past year, then you may have heard about this Norwegian TV show called SKAM that people, including me, started obsessing about all of a sudden. This happened mostly because of the show’s third season which aired from September to December/2016 and featured the romantic development between Isak Valtersen and Even Bech Næsheim.
Now, as per Deadline, the show has been officially greenlit for an American version after talks happening for a very long time. As a fan of the show, I can’t help but feel weirded out about this idea and it’s not entirely a matter of “I liked it before it was cool”.
You see, SKAM was a very unique show. For starters, each season was focused on one character and the episodes were a mesh of clips that were uploaded throughout the week to NRK’s website (the channel that produced the show). Not only that, but each clip was dated and timed in a way that, if the events of the clip would go down at 3 pm on a Tuesday, then that’s when NRK would upload it.
Therefore, the show was so well scheduled that it included birthdays, holidays, the Syrian refugee situation from last year, and even this year’s Ramadan. Plus, the page on NRK also included instant messaging with official Apple/Facebook software and Instagram posts from the characters. All of this created an immersive atmosphere that had people eagerly waiting for any sort of update.
I should also add that NRK did not provide English subtitles. Therefore, any viewer who did not know Norwegian had to wait for a non-official translation from some incredibly kind Norwegian folks who uploaded the clips with English subtitles or provided translations online — we even became known as the Google Drive Fandom, by the way, and SKAM won a few audience awards/pools like E!Online and Gullruten 2017 (Norwegian Oscar equivalent) from our votes. Sadly, due to its international fanbase, NRK had to geoblock the clips because of their local contract with music companies as the show embraced a myriad of current songs from Beyoncé to Nas.
Finally, SKAM was even more unique in how its teenage characters were also portrayed by teenage actors. The show was aimed at younger people, but it had no censoring of curse words. The actual high school that the actors attended served as their character’s school. The actors, allegedly, were paid very low fees which served as a testament to the show’s low budget and the actors’ love for their job. The low budget is also remarkable when you see how beautiful the cinematography is and much of that is thanks to the director, writer, and showrunner Julie Andem.
Now, why did I feel the need to write all this? Well, because that’s what makes this American adaptation worrisome. As much as there has been a push to hire age-appropriate actors (like in Riverdale, Power Rangers, and Marvel’s Runways, for example), it’s hard to have complete faith as things are right now. Facebook Watch being the producer is also a mixed bag of emotions because you wanna believe that newcomers to the broadcasting business can do good (such as Hulu’s work with The Handmaid’s Tale), but then again, we don’t have a lot to go on in terms of trust. And then there’s the fact that adapting this show is sort of moot when SKAM is perfect on its own, even if it is not accessible to more audiences.
Perhaps the way to our hearts is knowing that the original showrunner, Julie Andem, is also going to be the showrunner to the US version, but then it’s impossible not to ask yourself: if you are going to do this, then why did you have to end SKAM so soon? Many fans strongly speculated that, due to its “One Focus Character Per Season” format, we would get at least six seasons in order to properly tell the story of each main character. Instead, after the instant hit that season 3 became, the very first promo for season four already told us that it would be the last season, pulling the rug from under new and old fans alike. Four seasons were not enough: characters like Even, Vilde, and Jonas each deserved their own time to shine with their own spotlight.
Don’t get me wrong though: as much as some fans rightfully complained about some issues with season four, I still believe that SKAM ended beautifully… and yet way too soon. Like, guys, I actually learned Norwegian through online courses because of this show. I got in touch with an entirely new culture just by watching it. I wholeheartedly wish it was still airing so I could spend more time with these characters I loved.
I can’t see the future, but I am not too confident that SKAM US will be able to fill the void left in me by SKAM’s ending. There were a lot of important stories yet to be told and the show always told important stories: from learning to grow as a young woman independently, loving someone who can be bad for you, gaslighting sexual assault, coming out of the closet and accepting your sexuality, mental illness, to the struggles of a young hijabi woman in a faithless society.
SKAM was this huge deal for a lot of people and that’s why it’s bittersweet to see something so precious to you become distorted for a different audience when there’s perfection already made. We, the fans, are holding our breath to see if this will pay off. Until then, I guess rewatching Isak falling in love with Even or Sana Bakkoush reconnecting with her friends never gets old.