milkboys Films & TV, Mixed & Random 12 Comments

Skam: the real and risqué norwegian tv show causing teen hysteria. Skam is taking over teenagers’ lives – fans are adding their own subtitles, skipping school, and losing sleep over this Skins-like high school drama that subverts stereotypes

This past week, I received an email from a 24-year-old girl urging me to write about this Norwegian TV series, Skam. I was skeptical. Was this some grassroots PR at work? Was she somehow involved with the show? “No,” Hanne Selboe Karagülle assured me, “I am not involved in the series in any way, just a fan (like everyone else in Scandinavia it seems)!”

Later, I would discover that fans, people like Karagülle, were on a tireless crusade to make this racy teen drama more popular. They’re hard at work tweeting at celebrities and launching petitions for the network on which it aired, NRK, to add English subtitles for international fans. All fighting for a show that doesn’t really need the help. Despite being in Norwegian, it’s drawn viewers from countries around the world who have all pictured themselves locking lips with William, dishing spicy one-liners like Sana, or coming out to friends like Isak. (Warning: spoilers ahead.)

Karagülle told me it centred on high school students and their struggles, dreams, and rakish hookups in Oslo. Each season is told from the POV of one main character. It’s unique in that clips of the show are posted in real time online, as if its characters are real people. So, for example, if a party on the show is happening Saturday at 2am, that’s when the party clip is posted. On Fridays, all the clips published that week are assembled into one episode.

When the show isn’t on air, fans can interact with the characters via fake profiles on Instagram and Facebook. Text messages between characters are also posted online, prompting speculation throughout the week. It’s like you’re living with them, says 20-year-old Grazia Ames, a fan of the show. “I like some photos on Instagram because I like the fact that they make them seem just like another friend or real person out there.”

At the bottom of Karagülle’s email, there was a link to a teaser for season three. Harmless enough, I thought. Wrong. Shirtless teen boys in a locker room spray each other with water bottles. A milk carton narrowly misses one guy’s head, exploding into a milk shower, which soaks Isak’s face. It looked so much like gay porn. What the hell was this show? Some were calling it a less OTT, less pretentious version of UK drama Skins.

I decided to give Skam a shot. I was consumed, swallowed up in a vortex of startlingly normal teen drama. I binged two and a half seasons, containing 12 episodes each, in less than two days. I started telling friends about it, following the characters on social media and throwing favs at tweets from fan accounts. As I hooked up to the drip feed that was Skam,

I poked around online. I began to realise just what a phenomenon this show was becoming. The first season aired in September 2015, and at certain points during season two, Skam – which translates to “Shame” – was watched by some 1.3 million viewers. Norway’s population is 5 million people. Over one-fifth of the country was tuning in to watch. Skam came out of nowhere. Shielded from the press, the actors in the show did nothing to drum up publicity. Many of them still have day jobs. (The actress who plays Noora works as a telemarketer.) There were no advertisements for the show. The creators simply relied on social media to rocket launch this TV series to the masses.

Now, Skam is causing teen hysteria. Some kids are reportedly skipping school to watch the show. NRK has been bombarded by tweets from teens saying they can’t sleep because they’re aggressively refreshing the page, awaiting new clips or text messages.

Read on…

Comments 12

      1. You could, I did. I started with Season 3, then once I caught up I didn’t want to wait for the next episode so I started watching the other seasons. They’re all great, Isak’s homosexuality is eluded to, multiple times in the other seasons, but he’s not a focus. It is fun to read all the social media and facebook messages in order, cause it does answer some questions in the series. You can also fine all of Isak’s scenes if you don’t want to go back. But the show is short, some episodes are 15 minutes and others are 40, and each season is less than 11 episodes. It’s not hard to binge.

  1. Got milk?

    They must have hired these actors directly from a modeling agency. Hot bodies!! And the locker play seems very natural, “up-to-date” as guys would do in a locker room/shower after some sport. Oh, to be a “wild” fly on the walls of that locker room!

    Just wonder how many takes it took them to get that milk from the wall splash to his face … or more likely, how many cartons of milk they emptied on him for the camera? :-)

    Milk does a body good!

    1. These actors in that teaser or trailer are not from a model agency, they are the teen actors and real schoolboys that play in the series. The one having the milk splashed over him is 17 years old.

  2. The only teen dramas worth watching are the ones in which actual teens are cast. At first glance, these actors all look to be in the twenties, which are far more common and an insult to the intelligence.

    1. “At first glance, these actors all look to be in the twenties”

      You MAY BE correct, but I suspect you don’t know FOR SURE (neither do I). I do know that some Caucasians of Scandinavian descent CAN LOOK somewhat older for their actual ages than others. But, as liberal as Finland is (usually), WHY would they pick out noticeably older actors when they could easily find h.s. teen actors who would willingly do these parts? They’re not like America when it comes to homophobia and paranoia about near-nude scenes of teens and/or playing [possible] gay roles. I doubt that the average Finn would care about real h.s. age actors playing roles of this type.

    2. In the gay couple whose story is central to the series the boy who plays Isak is now 17, the one who plays Even is now 21

  3. The casting was done in high schools, mainly because NRK is like the Norwegian PBS. The first season they were 15, some are older cause they’re seniors that just finished Russ. They are 18/19 but the main character and his best friend are both 16/17, while the boyfriend is 19. More importantly they did cast the same age for the characters, which I hope the English version does too. Nothing’s known for sure but the whole series has followed the same group from 1, boys and girls.

  4. I just wanted to thank you for your article. I started watching skam a week ago and as I finished it, I’ve just realised how good was it and how much I feel the characters. I can potrait myself into Isak so much all throughout the series, that each time he kisses Even, I get lifted. From being in love with his best friend to meeting “the boy of his life” I experienced all these situations. The his friends react to himself being “probably” gay made me so happy and confident about my friends too. It’s a TV series ok, but still I guess it’s trying to teach something.
    Isak is now kinda of giving me the force to don’t care about closets and labels and just date who I want and be myself all day long.
    I know this may look as a stupid thought from a trouble hearted teen (which I am lol), but for me it does really matter.
    Keep doin’ what you love.

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