Why we shouldn’t do British versions of Scandinavian dramas

Before we die on Channel 4 there is a bit of a beating by the critics.

Based on a Swedish series of the same name, there were high hopes for the drama.

But despite a brilliant cast and fascinating story, the reviewers had it planned and the audience numbers had barely gone through the roof.

So the questions: why are so many Scandinavian dramas becoming inferior to their originals and is it time to stop?


The cast of Before We Die on Channel 4 (Credit: C4)

Why didn’t Before We Die work on Channel 4?

Like many of you out there, I love Scandinavian dramas, especially crime fiction.

Over the past decade we’ve had some brilliant, groundbreaking shows from Sweden, Denmark and Norway, as well as Nordic countries like Finland and Iceland.

Read more: Before We Die on C4: What is it about, how many episodes does it have and how can I watch it?

Shows like The Killing, The Bridge and Beck were all great success stories.

In the early 2010s, these series spawned a new genre – Nordic Noir or Scandi Noir – and gave us something new that influenced a new line of crime thrillers in this country.

Before We Die on Channel 4: Why Scandi Remakes Don't Work
The Danish series The Killing became a huge success 10 years ago (Source: YouTube)

If it hadn’t been for The Killing, there would certainly not have been Broadchurch, Unforgotten or any of the most popular British thrillers.

The rise of the Scandi Noirs suddenly made our own channels about their games – it was no longer enough to do the kind of thrillers we were used to.

Now, thanks to The Killing and The Bridge, they had to be moody, have a lot of atmosphere, and give equal weight to crime victims and their families.

Before We Die on Channel 4: Why Scandi Remakes Don't Work
Sofia Helin as Sag Norén in the world hit The Bridge (Source: YouTube)

The bridge was redone five times

This greater depth was very welcome, but one hurdle remained: subtitles.

Channels such as BBC Four, More4, Netflix and the Walter Presents brand on All4 provided us with foreign-language imports with subtitles.

And subtitles aren’t for everyone.

So it’s only natural that the broadcasters wanted some action and wanted to remake these series in their own native language.

And yet they haven’t really lost weight.

Take the bridge. It has been reissued five times in five different countries, including The Tunnel for the UK.

And while The Tunnel was fine, I scratched my head and asked, “Why not just see the original?”

Before we die
Christian and Hannah in Before We Die (Credit: Channel 4)

Now is the turn before we die.

With top-notch actors Lesley Sharp and Vincent Regan, it was still getting hammered by critics after the first episode.

Lucy Mangan on The Guardian said, “Your terrible performances make Before We Die such a weak, dreary, affectless hour that it almost becomes engrossing again, albeit for the wrong reasons.

“At least it makes you appreciate the quality that we take for granted in television dramas.”

Before We Die on Channel 4: Why Scandi Remakes Don't Work
Kenneth Branagh as Wallander (Image: YouTube)

Please leave her alone!

So what’s the problem here?

I watch and love Scandi Noirs precisely because they are Scandinavian.

I love to see the different social customs, the fine furniture and decors, the food and the different way of life.

And then there are the breathtaking, barren landscapes.

Even if they are often dark as the night, for me watching a Scandi Noir is escapism and allows me to immerse myself in a new culture.

Read more: Before We Die on Channel 4: How can I watch the Swedish version?

I just love their Scandinavian studies and yes I love reading the subtitles and hearing different languages.

And I often wonder what the point is in redoing something that was so good in its original form.

Yes, the US version of The Killing and The Tunnel all had their moments.

And Wallander with Kenneth Branagh was a success.

But British TV channels … please just leave them alone.

It is precisely their “otherness” that makes the originals so successful.

Before we die, we will continue on Channel 4 tonight (Wednesday June 9th) at 9 p.m.

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