Global Audiences of Danish TV Drama

2020.12.01 | Pia Majbritt Jensen, Ushma Chauhan Jacobsen

Black and white photo of two female academics sitting on a sofa discussing.

Pia Majbritt Jensen and Ushma Chauhan Jacobsen in conversation with nordics.info at the department for media and journalism studies at Aarhus University. Photo: nordics.info.

The global success of Danish TV drama in the late 2000s and early 2010s was surprising because of the relatively small number of people who can understand the Danish language and because the programmes were produced largely for a domestic audience by public broadcasting corporations. Audiences around the world appear to have responded to the combination of authenticity, emotional proximity and the portrayal of gender as well as the exotic Nordicness of the series. Many people from the Anglophone community as well as elsewhere were prepared to watch drama with subtitles in English for the first time. In 2020, the wave of hype around these programmes appears to be over, but key aspects, along with what is often considered to be Nordic Noir, arguably still influence mainstream television-making.

Pia Majbritt Jensen and Ushma Chauhan Jacobsen from Aarhus University were both involved in an interdisciplinary project which started in 2013 involving seven other scholars from Aarhus University and affiliated scholars in eight different countries focusing on The Killing, Borgen and The Bridge. They are ideally placed to help us find out why Danish TV drama is popular the world over.

Podcast (46 minutes)

Listen to an interview with nordics.info editor Nicola Witcombe which took place at the department of media and journalism studies at Aarhus University in October 2020 below.

Short film (11 minutes)

Watch Pia Majbritt Jensen and Ushma Chauhan Jacobsen from Aarhus University discuss the reasons given by audiences in eight different countries and learn about the three-leaf clover method and how it helped explain their findings - and also how consumer goods like television series circulate around the world.

The programmes that are mentioned in this podcast and film:

  • The Killing (Forbrydelsen) (2007-2012), produced by Danmarks Radio (DR) in co-production with ZDF Enterprises (first shown in Denmark in 2007).
  • Borgen (2010-2013), produced by DR (first shown in Denmark in 2010 and on BBC Four in 2012).
  • The Bridge (Bron/Broen) (2011-2018), produced jointly by Sveriges Television (SVT) and DR.

Further reading:

  • Anne Marit Waade, Eva Novrup Redvall, Pia Majbritt Jensen, eds. Danish Television Drama Global Lessons from a Small Nation (Palgrave, 2020).
  • Gunhild Agger, Det grænseløse tv-drama: Danskhed og transnationalitet [The boundless TV drama Danishness and transnationality] (Samfundslitteratur, 2020).
  • P.M. Jensen & U.C. Jacobsen, 'The 'three-leaf clover': A methodological lens to understand transnational audiences.' Critical Studies in Television, 12(4), 2017,pp. 430-444.

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