Tag Archives: Kanal 5

Surface tension

Terror comes to Copenhagen when a group of people are taken hostage aboard a subway train. DQ chats to the creator and producer of Danish drama Gidseltagningen (Below the Surface).

Drama series can be years in the making – yet the team behind Danish hostage series
Gidseltagningen (Below the Surface) went from idea to air in just over a year.

The show’s debut on Discovery Networks-owned Kanal 5 earlier this month was the culmination of a remarkable journey for creator/director Kaspar Barfoed and producer Morten Kjems Hytten Juhl, who came together to bring to life a premise that had already been pitched to the network.

Kaspar Barfoed

SAM Productions – set up by writers Soren Sveistrup (The Killing) and Adam Price (Borgen) plus producer Meta Louise Foldager Sorensen (A Royal Affair) – had taken the idea of a drama following a hostage situation in Copenhagen to the channel in fall 2015, before Sorensen approached Barfoed to develop the story.

“There were no stops, we just kept moving,” Barfoed tells DQ. “We developed the idea for two or three months, then we got a writers room up and running and started writing the episodes. We went straight into pre-production and started shooting in September 2016, so it was 12 months from the idea to shooting.”

Set across eight days, the eight-part series sees a terror task force led by Philip Norgaard (played by Johannes Lassen) and Louise Falk (Sara Hjort Ditlevsen) attempt to rescue 15 people who are being held hostage on a subway train.

Reporter Naja Toft (Paprika Steen) acts as a go-between with the hostages and police as the savvy captors bait the press with information about the pasts of each of their hostages. And as a media frenzy erupts, the country becomes divided over whether to negotiate with terrorists.

Below the Surface is produced by SAM for Kanal 5 and Germany’s ZDF Neo, which will air the series this autumn. StudioCanal holds distribution rights.

“The main dilemma is the fact that in Denmark, we don’t pay ransom for hostages – it’s just the law,” explains Barfoed of the conundrum at the heart of the series. “We don’t want to encourage others to do it and we don’t want to pay terrorists, which is a great concept – except when it meets reality. It means we’re going to let people die over amounts of money, so we wanted to put that dilemma in front of people.

Below the Surface’s creators opted to focus on character more than action

“Then for the hostage takers, we thought you would use a journalist to let the public get to know these people and put faces on these hostages. Then let’s see if you can still keep that law. And also, perhaps rightly, the journalist feels she’s the one who can help these people, so it’s not just an evil journalist who wants to sell papers. It’s really difficult – it’s an insane dilemma. I don’t know the answer but we thought it would be interesting to ask those questions.”

Barfoed admits he was instantly drawn to the idea of a hostage drama, but adds that Below the Surface isn’t based on any specific real-life incident.

“Just hearing the word ‘hostage,’ there’s instantly a lot of drama that can grow from that. But our ambition was to look at who gets involved, who gets the phone call and what the dilemmas are. What are the tough choices someone has to make and, if you’re the one who gets taken as a hostage, what do you go through? That was really interesting and the more we talked to people, the more research we did, we found there was so much there.”

Barfoed spent several months outlining the story before linking up with four other writers, Astrid Oye, Per Daumiller, Lars K Andersen and Michael W Horsten. He then opened a writers room, which mapped out each individual episode.

Morten Kjems Hytten Juhl

“One person would go and write an outline, come back, we’d talk some more and then they would go home and write a draft,” he explains, adding that there would only be three writers in the room at a time. “We’d talk about it more and do another draft. That was the process. People in the room would change but typically it was three people beating out the story.”

With such a rapid schedule in place to get the series ready for Kanal 5’s spring schedule, lots of joined-up thinking was needed between Barfoed and producer Juhl.

This meant there were discussions from the outset about the scope of the series, how it would look and how they could maximise their modest budget.

“It could have been a totally high-end show or it could also be scaled down,” Juhl explains. “We found a reality in the middle somewhere. With the financing going on quickly, we had to develop the idea with flexibility in the budget. So we had to keep an open mind and constantly communicate, sometimes daily but always weekly.”

One key decision made early on was to build a Metro station, which would be used to complement the limited amount of location shooting the producers were able to do at a real underground station. But building the set also afforded the production team the chance to then construct the police base right on top.

“That’s quite a cheap thing to build because it’s not an actual police station, it’s more like a barracks, and it gave us a lot of flexibility in terms of shooting,” the producer says. “So with these two primary sets built and an idea that we should shoot half of the show there and the rest on location, that shaped a nice production design that we would work from.”

Other discussions had a more direct impact on the story, such as how many hostages there would be – and how many would be actors and how many would be non-speaking extras.

The show aims to present a realistic look at a hostage situation

“That was very important because we could then write for a specific number of speaking parts, so that we didn’t deliver a script only to be told you can’t do this and you can’t do that,” says Barfoed.

“From the first arc, we knew what the beats would be. We also knew which characters we wanted to focus on in each episode. Each one has a main character we focus on, who is then a less important character in the rest of the show, so along the way you get to know the whole ensemble more. We do have a few characters in the police we get to know, but the deep character studies are with the hostages, because they are in a situation where it makes sense to reflect on who they are and how they ended up there. The thought that you could be on the train that day is something we can all relate to – those who are caught there are just unlucky. They just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Barfoed’s duties weren’t confined to the writers room, however: he also directed the first two episodes, with Christian E Christiansen and Roni Ezra helming later instalments. And rather than create a series full of overblown action sequences, Barfoed says character took centre stage, with the belief that the inherent drama of a hostage situation would be entertaining on its own merits.

“We just needed to make the characters engaging,” he says. “It has a lot of pace but we never wanted to Hollywood it up. We wanted it to feel realistic. We got really good directors to do the following episodes so I didn’t want to lead them too much. I wanted to give them the opportunity to do it themselves. Obviously we talked a lot and they saw the rushes, so they had a pretty good idea of how we shot it. We kept the crew as much as we could all the way through, so it was actually a pretty smooth transition when we changed directors and DPs.

“The basic stylistic approach is that there are two worlds – right next to each other, separated by height. But they have completely different looks and paces. It’s a dungeon down there, it’s in Copenhagen where we’re building a metro right now. And upstairs is where the negotiators and investigators work, so they want a lot of light and a place where they can move around quickly and talk to everyone. It lends itself to lots of contrasts.”

Designed as a closed-ended series, Below the Surface could return with a new challenge facing the terror task department and its main characters. But should it not get a second season, Barfoed hopes the show will leave its mark.

“We hope it will be something that is perceived as having more substance than a standard crime thriller,” he says. “It goes into the psychology of people caught up in this and takes a realistic approach to what would happen.”

And with other hostage dramas on air and in development, including Ransom and Embassy Down, it looks set to lead a new wave of crime series on television.

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Super Swede

Swedish actor Alexandra Rapaport tells DQ about starring in long-running crime drama Morden i Sandhamn and how she is enjoying being on both sides of the camera on returning thriller Gåsmamman.

Starring in three of Sweden’s biggest dramas, it’s no wonder Alexandra Rapaport has a schedule that befits one of Sweden’s most acclaimed actors.

She made her name in dramas such as Kronprinsessan (The Crown Princess) and Drottningoffret (Those In Power), and appeared in European crime drama The Team alongside Lars Mikkelsen.

But more recently she has been headlining crime series Morden i Sandhamn (The Sandhamn Murders), Modus and Gåsmamman.

The latter, which first aired on Discovery Networks Sweden’s flagship Kanal 5 in spring 2016, sees Rapaport play mother-of-three Sonja, who is drawn into the criminal underworld when she is forced to pay her murdered husband’s debt.

In the forthcoming second season, which debuts on February 2, Sonja and her family have secretly returned to Sweden after being on the run.

Gåsmamman’s second season debuts on Kanal 5 in Sweden next month

The 10-episode run also stars Tommy Körberg, Anja Lundqvist, Ivan Mathias Peterson, Grynet Molvig, Lisette Pagler, Shebly Niavarani and Ulf Friberg, plus new cast members Allan Svensson and Morgan Alling.

Set in Stockholm, it is directed by Richard Holm and produced by Birgitta Wännström for Endemol Sweden in coproduction with Discovery Networks Sweden and SVoD platform CMore. The writers are Camilla Ahlgren and Martin Asphaug.

The story is based on Dutch drama Penoza, which aired on NPO3 in the Netherlands for four seasons, and Rapaport immediately fell in love with the crime thriller after Wännström approached her with the idea of adapting it.

“It’s my baby,” says the actor. “The producer contacted me with this idea and we pitched it to Kanal 5 and got it. We found the best director and we started doing it.

“It’s a great show because it’s such a strong and powerful story. Everything happens really fast and it has a big drive forward every season. It’s a really good story.

“It has this big drama, crime, thrills and a lot of humour. You get a very warm feeling when you see it. Season one was a huge success and it got great reviews. It was so special for me.”

Rapaport also stars in crime series Morden i Sandhamn

Viewers were just as entranced by Gåsmamman as Rapaport, with the first episode breaking Kanal 5 records. Some 725,000 people tuned in, making it the highest-rated Swedish drama since Vänner & Fiender, which drew around 427,000 people in 1998.

But Rapport’s love of the show runs especially deep, as she is also an executive producer on the series.

“I love it,” she says, adding that work has already begun on a potential third season of the series. “I’m involved in casting, script writing and editing – everything in both seasons. I’m really putting my nose in everything and I love it. It’s the first time as an actor I’ve got to sit in different chairs at the same time. It’s really fulfilling. I want to use my knowledge. I like thinking about character and story, but I want to be in front of the camera, not directing.”

Last year was a busy one for the actor, filming season two of Gåsmamman at the same time as production began on four new films in the long-running Morden i Sandhamn series.

The detective drama, based on Viveca Sten’s series of novels of the same name, sees Rapaport play Nora Linde, a summer guest on the Stockholm archipelago of Sandhamn who partners with Detective Thomas Andreasson (Jakob Cedergren) to solve a number of grisly murders.

Rapaport (far right) poses with her fellow Modus cast and creative team

Filming is taking place in two blocks – first between August and October 2016 and then from May to June this year – and the new films will premiere first on CMore and then on TV4 in spring 2018.

The first two films are based on Sten’s novels I Maktens Skugga (In the Shadow of Power) and I Sanningens Namn (In the Name of Truth). The series is produced by Filmlance International, together with TV4, German broadcaster ZDF and distributor ZDF Enterprises.

“It’s really popular – people love it!” Rapaport enthuses. “In Denmark, Germany and Finland, it’s one of the biggest Nordic TV series. It’s crazy. Nordic Noir is now Scandi Blue Sky – it’s not raining!

“People like the characters, and the murder plots are scary but not creepy. It’s a family series because we have this expression, ‘cosy thriller.’ We always show the water and it’s a nice environment, the light and the summer. You can almost taste the salt from the ocean. It has a bit of everything. It’s the opposite of The Bridge – how it looks, smell and tastes.”

Morden i Sandham first aired in 2010, with the first five stories being split into three parts. Now the four latest instalments will play out as 90-minute films.

Rapaport jokes that she is nothing like the character she portrays in the books: “In the book she’s tall and blonde. I look exactly the opposite! People don’t mix us up. I’m doing my Nora and the book is a bit different and I just try to capture her personality. She is nosy but she’s a very nice, sensitive person. She’s nosy in a good way. My character in Gåsmamman is quite the opposite.

“It’s challenging to be that nice, calm and worthy. That’s not me at all! It’s really nice to come out here and live on this island. It’s an extended summer, even though I work hard.It’s a magical place to be. I love it.”

Teasing the new season, the actor says Nora’s will-they-won’t-they relationship with Thomas will deepen in the new run of films.

“We are certainly in love with each other but never get together. Maybe they will,” she teases. “They are soulmates. Everyone can see they fit together, but life pulls them in different directions. Are they going to get together or not? They are good friends as well. In this season, I have a new man and he’s jealous.”

Having established herself as one of Sweden’s leading actors and with a third season of Gåsmamman in the works, Rapaport’s future is as bright as the Sandhamn sunshine.

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Our friends in the frozen north

Nordic drama has made its mark on the international stage over the last few years. But what’s coming next? A good source of information is the Nordisk Film & TV Fund, which provides regular updates on shows in development, production and distribution. So this week we look at some of the latest developments from the region.

next-summerNext Summer: Bob Film is remaking Norwegian comedy Next Summer for Kanal5/Discovery in Sweden. The original version aired on TVNorge/Discovery and was one of the country’s most popular local TV dramas. The Swedish remake, which will air in 2017, centres on a man who shares a summer house with his wife and in-laws in Stockholm’s archipelago. Bob Film also remade the Finnish drama Nurses for TV4 Sweden. That show, known locally as Syrror, launched on October 19, attracting an audience of one million. It’s part of wider trend of local Nordic adaptations that also includes Gåsmamman and Black Widows. Bob Film is also working with Sweetwater on a crime drama called Missing (Saknad) for CMore and TV4, which focuses on the investigation into the murder of a young girl in a Swedish Bible-belt town.

Bonusfamiljen (The Bonus Family): Nordisk Film & TV Fond has just allocated a total of NOK9.4m (US$1.14m) to a slate of new film and TV projects. One of them is season two of The Bonus Family, a comedy drama about a recomposed family and the complications that go with it. Season one is due to air on SVT in 2017, as well as on NRK, YLE, RUV and DR. Season two, granted NOK2.4m (US$290,000), started filming in September and will continue until February 2017.

downshifters_1Downshifters: This Finnish series has just secured a French sales rep (ACE Entertainment) while Sweden’s Anagram has optioned remake rights for its own market. The 10-part comedy from Yellow Film & TV has been generating a good buzz since it launched on OTT service Elisa in late 2015. More recently, it aired on YLE2 and established itself as the second most watched programme. The series tells the story of a couple who face financial problems and are forced to cut down on their extravagant lifestyle. A second series, Upshifters, will launch on Elisa in December 2016.

The Rain: News of this Danish show has been doing the rounds in the last couple of weeks. Produced by Miso Film (Dicte, 1864, Acquitted), The Rain is a dystopian drama commissioned by Netflix. The series is set in Copenhagen 10 years after a biological catastrophe that wipes out most of the population in Scandinavia and sees two young siblings embark on a search for safety. Guided only by their father’s notebook about the virus and the hazards of this new world, they start a dangerous journey through the country and join up with a group of other young survivors. Miso has had a busy few months, with the second season of Acquitted recently launching on TV2 in Norway.

midnight-sunMidnight Sun: This Swedish/French crime show recently debuted to 1.39 million viewers (38.1% share) on SVT1 in the Sunday 21.00 slot. According to the channel, this performance is comparable with The Bridge (Bron/Broen). Midnight Sun also trended at number two on Twitter – and online viewers, which are still to be added to the count, could pass 200,000. The show also secured strong reviews in the Swedish media, with five stars out of five in Aftonbladet. Elsewhere in Scandinavia, Midnight Sun will premiere on RUV on December 5. DR, NRK and MTV3 are likely to air the show, which is distributed internationally by StudioCanal, in early 2017.

nobelNobel: Trapped and Nobel were among 26 European fiction TV series selected for the Prix Europa Media awards last month. Trapped, an Icelandic crime show, won Best European TV Series while Nobel, a Norwegian political/war drama, won Best European TV Movie/Miniseries. Nobel was described as “a precisely crafted original script, perfectly executed and directed, that takes the viewer on a journey into a world of lies, betrayal, mistrust and political games.” Produced by Monster Scripted for NRK, Nobel secured 800,000 viewers for its first episode across NRK1 and NRK streaming service NRK.TV. Both Trapped and Nobel were supported by Nordisk Film & TV Fond. Nobel was directed by Per Olav Sørensen, who also directed The Heavy Water War.

heartless-emilie-claraHeartless: In a recent interview with The Nordisk Film & TV Fond, SVoD service Walter Presents’ curator Walter Iuzzolino said 25-30% of the platform’s shows are from Scandinavia. In terms of titles doing well, he mentioned Heartless: “Our curated programme goes way beyond the tradition of Nordic Noir that has been established by the BBC. I would say that 30% of our audience is 16 to 34, the rest 35-plus. The sexy Danish vampire series Heartless, for example, was a huge hit among 16-24s. Normally I hate fantasy and sci-fi but it’s elegant, poetic, cleverly done and an interesting portrayal of a family –  a sort of vampire version of The Legacy. It was a huge success, pushed only by word of mouth.”

Watchdog: At last month’s Mipcom market in Cannes, ZDF Enterprises announced an exclusive first-look rights deal for all scripted content from the Finnish producer Fisher King. Matti Halonen, Fisher King MD and producer, said: “ZDF Enterprises is a well-established company that can give a lot of support to a smaller player like Fisher King.” The first joint project that ZDFE is working on is the upcoming political thriller series Watchdog. Set in present-day Helsinki, The Hague and London, it’s described as an adrenaline trip into the heart of European justice policy and security regulations concerning source protection and privacy insurance. Fisher King is also behind Bordertown, which is represented worldwide by Federation Entertainment and has been sold to Sky Deutschland and CanalPlay France, while English-language series Crypted is also in its pipeline.

Deadwind: Paris-based financing and distribution boutique About Premium Content (APC) recently picked up Finnish crime drama Deadwind. The 12-part series is about a detective in her 30s who is trying to get over her husband’s death when she discovers the body of a young woman on a construction site. At Mipcom, APC launched Norwegian drama thriller Valkyrien, which is produced by Tordenfilm for NRK. It also distributes another Norwegian show, the youth-oriented Young & Promising, which was recently sold to the UK, Germany and France and has a US deal is in negotiation.

Dan Sommerdahl: This autumn it was announced that Nikolaj Scherfig (The Bridge) would be co-creator/head-writer on Dan Sommerdahl, a new series based on Danish author Anna Grue’s bestselling book series. Distributor Dynamic Television (Trapped) is pre-selling the series on behalf of Germany’s NDF and Denmark’s Nordisk Film. TV2 Denmark is attached and a German broadcaster will soon be announced. Scherfig said the project is different from classic Scandi noir: “It is a tight, clean crime series reflecting on life outside cities understanding how modernity and social development affect life in the province.” Klaus Zimmermann, Dynamic co-MD, told nordicfilmandtvnews.com: “NDF originally acquired the rights to the books and wanted to make it in the tradition of a German crime series with German actors for an international market. But then we felt it made more sense to make it as an original Danish show with a Danish writer and Danish actors. It’s simply the right way to tell the story.”

Hassel-Ola-Rapace_small-1Hassel: Speaking to the Nordisk Film & TV Fond about Viaplay’s strategy for coproducing original content for the Nordic region, CEO Jonas Karlén said upcoming original Nordic scripted series on Viaplay include Swedish Dicks, Svartsjön/Black Lake, Hassel, Our Time Is Now and Occupied season two. Hassel is a Nordic noir starring Ola Rapace as the iconic detective created by author Olov Svedelid. The show is produced by Nice Drama in coproduction with Beta Film, which handles global sales, and is due to launch in late 2017.

springtideSpring Tide: Eight brand new Nordic TV dramas have been selected for The Lübeck Festival’s Nordic Film Days. “TV drama is the big new thing. It was time for us to open up our festival to TV series, as Germans are so fond of Nordic noir,” said the festival’s long-time artistic director Linde Fröhlich. Shows to be introduced include Splitting Up Together (DK), Living with my Ex (FI), Trapped (IS), Nobel (NO), and Modus, Hashtag and Spring Tide (SE). The latter crime drama, based on the novel by Rolf and Cilla Börjlind, is about two cops who come together to solve the murder of a pregnant woman. The show is distributed internationally by Endemol Shine International.

Below the Surface: This is a new drama based on an idea by Adam Price (Borgen) and Søren Sveistrup (The Killing) – now principals in Studiocanal-backed firm SAM. The thriller series centres on an operation to rescue 15 hostages from a Copenhagen subway train. Price and Sveistrup said: “There is something both eerie and fascinating about [taking hostages] as a criminal act. The close and complex relationship between the hostage and hostage-taker immediately opens up strong character-development possibilities and can also put a number of highly topical issues about our time to the forefront, such as fear of terrorism.“ The eight-part series has received DKK14m (US$2.08m) in production support from the DFI’s Public Service Fund and will air on Kanal5/Discovery Networks.

skamSkam: Cult Norwegian youth series Shame (Skam) launched on NRK and was recently acquired by DR3 for Denmark. Danish newspaper Politiken called it “a youth series about high-school life that makes Norway cool for the first time.” Steffen Raastrup, director of DR3, said: “The series’ premise is that when you’re young, you should not be ashamed of who you are but stand up for yourself and deal with the fear that many feel during their formative teen years.”  Skam – which is now up to three seasons in Norway and is a strong performer on social media – has also been acquired by SVT in Sweden and RUV in Iceland.

Interference: This is an eight-part English- and French-language sci-fi thriller in development by Stockholm-based Palladium Fiction. Palladium, which is minority-controlled by Sony Pictures Television (SPT), is producing the show alongside Atlantique Productions. SPT is distributing the show internationally. The Palladium team was also behind the critically acclaimed drama Jordskott, and is now working on a second season of the show. Palladium is also developing an English-language project with UK writer/producer Nicola Larder.

Established in 1990 and based in Oslo, the Nordisk Film & TV Fonds primary purpose is to promote film and TV productions of high quality in the five Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden). It is funded by 17 partners: The Nordic Council of Ministers, five national film institutes/funds and 11 public service and private TV stations within the region. Its annual budget is approximately NOK100m.

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‘Tis the season for renewals

Matt DIllon starred in the first season of Wayward Pines but will not feature in the second run
Matt DIllon starred in the first season of Wayward Pines but will not feature in the second run

This summer, critics couldn’t decide whether M Night Shyamalan and Chad Hodge’s 10-part mystery-thriller Wayward Pines qualified as a hit. But the show’s host network Fox has now answered that question by giving the production a second season.

Fox Broadcasting Company’s entertainment president David Madden said: “Wayward Pines was a huge hit for us. We were absolutely blown away by the mysterious and surprising world that Night and his team created, and the twisting-and-turning storytelling that drew viewers in from day one. Season two is going to take the suspense, the vision of the future and the haunting character drama to whole new levels.”

A same-day audience of three to four million wasn’t especially impressive. But Fox has crunched the numbers and come up with the following analysis: “Season one of Wayward Pines ranked as summer 2015’s number-one broadcast scripted series among adults 18-49, averaging a 2.2/8 in the key demo. The series – about a Secret Service agent on a mission to find two missing federal agents in a sleepy town, and the shocking results of his investigation – ranked among summer 2015’s top 10 broadcast programmes overall among adults 18-49. It earned a multiplatform average audience of 9.4 million, which represents a +145% increase versus its Live+Same Day audience – the largest multiplatform lift versus Live+Same Day ever for a Fox drama.”

According to Fox, the second season will pick up in the wake of season one, when a new arrival in Wayward Pines finds himself in the middle of a serious rebellion, as the residents battle over how to preserve the endangered human race. Season one stars Matt Dillon and Toby Jones will not return, so there will be a lot of interest in who gets cast as the new lead.

Showtime has extended Homeland into a sixth season
Showtime has extended Homeland into a sixth season as its fifth finishes strongly

This week has also seen renewals for Showtime’s Homeland and The Affair. This confirms our hunch that Homeland had done enough in season five to warrant a renewal, though the announcement has come later than expected.

Season five is finishing strongly, which appears to vindicate the decision to move central character Carrie (played by Claire Danes) to Berlin. Co-creator Alex Gansa has suggested that this could be the model going forward, with each season placing Carrie in a new geographic location.

There was also a renewal this week for NBC’s The Blacklist, which stars James Spader as a criminal mastermind working with the FBI. The drama, which will go into season four, averages a same-day of audience of around seven million. It’s also popular internationally, featuring on networks such as Sky Living and TF1 in France.

The timing of the announcement makes this an early renewal for the show, and creator Jon Bokencamp says he has known about The Blacklist’s return for a while. Speaking in a podcast interview this week, he commented: “We knew about that a while ago. It’s one of those things that’s hard to keep quiet. But yes, we’re renewed through to the fourth season. Hopefully we don’t tank that out – we’ve got a lot of story to tell.”

The Blacklist, starring James Spader, has been given an early renewal
The Blacklist, starring James Spader, has been given an early renewal on NBC

Back at Fox, one show that is certain to get a renewal is breakout hit Empire, which is now in the middle of its second run. However, the new season has been bumpy ride, akin to the ‘difficult second album’ syndrome. After opening to 16 million viewers (22.5 million when you add in the multiplatform/time-shifted figures), the music industry-based show dropped as low as 9.2 million (same-day rating) for episode nine. Episode 10 saw a bounceback (11.8 million) but the underlying critical narrative suggests the show has lost its way slightly.

The biggest complaint seems to be that this year’s plots and characters lack authenticity, with USA Today summing it up like this: “On social media, fans are griping about ever-more-outrageous storylines (‘cartoon garbage,’ sniffed one Twitter user), such as frantic efforts in (one) episode to find and dig up the body of Vernon, who was accidentally killed in last season’s finale, and park his decomposed corpse in a car to intimidate an attack-dog prosecutor. There’s pushback on the show’s heavy dose of celebrity cameos, from Chris Rock to Ludacris.”

Having said all this, Empire is still the strongest US network show by far. To put it in perspective, its rating among the all-important 18-49 demo far exceeds that of new shows such as Blindspot, Limitless and Quantico. So a renewal is as certain as anything can be in this life.

Empire is likely to return despite enduring the TV equivalent of 'difficult second album' syndrome
Empire is likely to return despite enduring the TV equivalent of a ‘difficult second album’

A likely beneficiary of its success is Rosewood, which airs straight after Empire. Having seen its ratings boosted as a result of Empire’s strong lead-in, it’s another show that is pretty much guaranteed a return.

Continuing on this topic, this week provided a superb example of the impact that a strong lead-in can have on a title’s ratings. Until recently, AMC’s Into the Badlands had been benefiting from airing directly after The Walking Dead. But with the latter now on a winter break, Badlands has seen its audience plummet. Same-day ratings for the first four episodes of the show go like this: 6.4 million, 4.8 million, 5.2 million, 2.4 million – the latter figure being the first week in which it didn’t have a boost from The Walking Dead.

This isn’t necessarily a problem for Badlands. It’s possible that, without TWD in the schedule, fans of the futuristic martial arts show have decided to record it and watch it another time (maybe earlier the next day). The real test of whether the show has managed to build a loyal audience will come with Live + 3 Day or Live + 7 Day ratings. That said, even at its new lower level, it’s still a strong shout for a renewal.

Moving away from renewals, this week saw the launch of a show that may soon be talked about as the latest Scandinavian hit.

Gasmamman: Scandinavia's next big hit?
Gasmamman: Scandinavia’s next big hit?

Gasmamman (Mother Goose) is being described as Sweden’s answer to Breaking Bad. The story follows a mother-of-three who takes over the family’s illegal marijuana business after her husband is shot in a drug deal gone wrong.

The Endemol Shine-produced show is currently airing on pay TV platform C-More and will shift to Kanal 5 in spring 2016.

In an interview with Reuters, lead actress Alexandra Rapaport said: “When we pitched this we talked about it being a kind of Erin Brockovich meets Breaking Bad. The Bridge and The Killing were big inspirations for us. But I think we also add some humour to it, which is why we compare it to Breaking Bad.”

The Reuters report says the show’s producers plan to make four seasons in total.

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