“Minute by Minute” might be the three best words to explain why you should be watching SKAM if you’re not already. These words are at the heart of a core, revolutionary, and romantic relationship between Isak and Even in this Norwegian show: SKAM (Norwegian for ‘Shame’). SKAM aired season one in September of 2015 on the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation channel, and is heavily watched in the US on Dailymotion. The teen-drama, now up to season four, focuses mostly on a group of friends who attend Hartvig Nissen high school in the largest city in Norway, Oslo. Each season shifts from one friend to another, while maintaining partial focus on the continuous lives and events of the other friends.
The writer, Julie Andem, heavily built her show to emphasize authentic characters by interviewing real teenagers and collecting that data to use in the show. The show itself has characters using their phones and laptops; it also displays what they are texting, what they are searching, everything and anything they are doing. The soundtrack to the show is quite unique. It includes ’90s rap to Norwegian pop to ‘Head Over Heels’ by Tears for Fears (an ’80s love song). In addition, Julie went as far as to incorporate a scene in season four that was based off of fan-art she saw on social media.
The show was originally posted in clips that were posted in real time, so if Isak was taking the “Gay Test” at 3 AM, that’s when you would’ve found the next clip, posted on NRK’s (Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation) online website. As of recent, the clips are condensed into episodes that range between 20-30 minutes, and there are ten per season. Andem also spreads the show beyond one forum – when a character posts on Instagram, the post appears in real time, and sometimes the posts are referenced in the show. This adds a new layer of realism to this already genuine and authentic series. When Even made Isak a video for his birthday, the video was posted on YouTube (it’s still uploaded and has over 500,000 views). That’s why media outlets, like Teen Vogue and GQ, have written that SKAM not only feels fresh, but also paves a new path for the future of online TV, and TV in general.
Equally essential to Andem’s late 2010’s second-screen approach, is her insistence on representation. Minority communities, even in 2019, still struggle to be accurately represented, especially in a healthy manner. Andem’s writing refuses to give half-hearted, toxic representation of the LGBTQ+ and Muslim community, as well as sexual-assault survivors.
This may sound like a Scandinavian pre-Riverdale, but SKAM features a more low-key grit of daily life instead of the heavy glamour and drama of Veronica and Betty. The show has been acclaimed for its natural dialogue, relatable characters, and realistic teenage tribulations. SKAM is a teenage drama that surpasses what you expect on a TV show, and is more akin to a cinematic YouTube vlog. It brings up relevant issues in our world, like mental health, and how they directly and indirectly affect the teenage characters, as well as how the problems psychologically and physically affect them. And it does it in real time in a way that feels like these characters are living with you.
Maybe you’ve heard of SKAM Austin, possibly, which reflects the most recent genius in Andem’s writing. The outline of the characters and the outline of the plot has been translated into several remakes: SKAM France, DRUCK (German), SKAM Espana, SKAM Italia, SKAM Netherlands, and WtFOCK (Belgian). With each of these adaptations, Julie molds the basic characters, from the original SKAM, into their own unique persons that match the correlating country. For example, in SKAM France, instead of it being Isak and Even who fall in love in season three, it is Lucas and Elliott, replacing the Norwegian names with common French ones. Or, another excellent example is from DRUCK– Matteo (Isak) and David (Even), instead of sharing their first kiss underwater in a swimming pool like the original, they instead share their first kiss in an empty swimming pool; as well as David who, instead of battling bipolar, like Even, has to battle body dysphoria and coming out as transgender to Matteo. Little changes like that make the SKAM remakes different in their own right.
This show, and its adaptations, are binge worthy and will entice you into a new world of intricate characters facing equally complex and universal teenage (I’d go as far as to say human) problems.
The raw intensity and emotion flowing into an intimate conversation where Isak tells a depressed Even, “Du er ikke alene (you are not alone).”; the over-arching message of love and kindness triumphing over hate and fear; and of course, the ‘Girl Squad’,
and ‘Boy Squad’,
will become a part of your daily routine, and have you pulled in, much like Isak and Even, minutt for minutt.