Industry Insiders Call for Complexity – and Honesty About Menopause – as Sex & Crime Threaten to Take Over New Finnish Shows: ‘Easy is Not Always Best’

Rexa Vella

Industry Insiders Call for Complexity – and Honesty About Menopause – as Sex & Crime Threaten to Take Over New Finnish Shows: ‘Easy is Not Always Best’

No surprises there: Sex and crime still work when it comes to attracting viewers. But even when playing with familiar tropes, it’s crucial to add complexity to stories and characters, Fremantle’s Jamie Lynn argued on a roof table at the Berlinale Series Market. 

“Easy is not always best. You still need to back great writers and great ideas,” he said during a panel discussion “Cold Cases & Hot Flashes – The Rise of Crime and Relationship Dramas in Challenging Times,” organized by the Audiovisual Producers Finland (APFI). 

“I have kids and before this, I said: ‘You have to put cheese on the vegetables in order to get them down.’ We have to make the shows that are approachable, but all this complexity and great, rich character work, that’s what people want. We just need to get them in quicker.” 

Lynn was presenting new pickup “The Revenge,” described as “The Talented Mr. Ripley” meets “Sharp Objects”.

“It’s a fresh take. The Nordics, in general, have consistently punched above their weight when it comes to incredible series, but the term ‘Nordic Noir’ has been created for a reason. It has been a very popular, serviceable genre, but this is a psychological thriller,” he said.   

“It’s depressing to say, but when I speak to the platforms, they say: ‘You have to do something really great in the first five minutes.’ Some of my favorite shows get great at Episode 3, but we can’t do that anymore.”

However, sticking to known genres isn’t exactly a crime, as long as you spice things up.  

“Crime still works and a lot of broadcasters and platforms play it safe, but these genres can be in disguise,” noted Helene Aurø of Reinvent International Sales.

“We should keep bringing other shows to the world. Crime works, relationships work, sex works. But they can mingle.”

Keeping that rule in mind, REinvent will bet on “Seconds” and “Hormones!” next.

“We would call ‘Seconds’ a ‘disaster drama’ or ‘disaster crime drama.’ Very often, it’s not just about crime: it’s so much more than that. It’s about human beings, about getting old and redefining ourselves, as well as living through a disaster.”

In the show, premiering in April, a female investigator has to find out what happened after a train crash shocks the whole nation. 

“It’s a tough job and we get to see her tough background. We have the accident, we have the crime, but we follow her. She lost someone very dear to her when she was younger.” 

Another interesting female character will be explored in “Hormones!,” but men also struggle in a story about “relationships, male and female menopause, and taboos you don’t normally talk about. And about sex,” said Aurø.   

“It’s about life after 48, or 49, or 50. Dramedies can be difficult when we talk about the international market and it’s taking more time for it to sell, but it’s something many people can relate to. These characters talk about it with a laugh and you laugh when you see it.” 

Protagonist of the “Money Shot” will have to acknowledge her age as well – not an easy feat for a porn star, but she is not done just yet, teaming up with a wannabe director to produce feminist porn. 

“The whole series is very sweet and daring,” assured Solar Republic’s Jemina Jokisalo. The show, coming out in Finland in May, will launch sales at Series Mania. 

“It started out as a joke. My executive producer was saying that we should just start producing porn, because nothing was moving ahead. I said: ‘It has to be feminist porn, at least.’ It’s something very different that will create noise in the market.” 

According to The Mediapro Studio’s Ran Tellem – presenting Season 3 of “The Paradise” – smaller budgets don’t necessarily mean lesser content. 

“The less money you have, the more innovative you are. You have to be smart in the way you write, produce and write. Less money is good for creativity.” 

In “The Paradise,” there is always a new crime story. But the actual thing you follow are the characters, he observed. 

“We came up with the idea to mix temperatures: to take ‘Nordic Noir’ to the south of Spain and see what it does. There is a village there, which is the largest habitat of Finns outside of Scandinavia. We were told: ‘You have to go to Finland in December to understand why we come here.’ It was minus 17 degrees and the guys showed up to work on a bike. And we understood.” 

In the final season, the show’s protagonist, now in her 60s, will be “battling killers” while trying to redefine what happens after your career ends. 

“It’s about the police, but it’s actually, as always, about people,” he stated. 

Still, it’s becoming harder to stand out. 

“Television has always been like that. Which cliché could I use here… Like any relationship, it has to start with a bang. You have to be seduced. What has changed in TV is the depth. Right now, it goes much, much deeper.” 

“Creating a TV show is more complex and the fact that the clients are consolidating with each other is not a great joy for us, but we just need to strike harder.” 

Lynn added: “I am Canadian and Finland is the Canada of the Nordics: it’s an underdog. But we like betting on underdogs. At Fremantle, we don’t have to invest in these shows – we choose to. I saw some things here I would like to be a part of. That shows you this market is still interesting.” 

The projects in brief: 

“Hormones!”

(8 x 45)

Dionysos Films

This dramedy about menopause is bound to tackle some uncomfortable topics, albeit with a smile, when forty-something gynecologist Elena is hit by it – hard. Karoliina Blackburn, Robin Svartström, Eino Kantee and Saga Sarkola star. Created – and written – by Johanna Vuoksenmaa and produced by Riina Hyytiä and Leena Mäenpää-Bentley. YLE is on board as the Finnish broadcaster.

“Money Shot”

(8 x 25 min)

Solar Republic

Another dramedy, this time about a washed-up porn actress (Pihla Viitala) who, after sudden firing, finds an ally in a young filmmaker. Together, they set about creating feminist porn company. Created and written by Jemina Jokisalo, it’s produced by Johanna Tarvainen and Samuli Norhomaa. Directed by Teemu Niukkanen. Elisa Viihde commissioned the series, while Federation Studios and Nordisk Film will handle international sales. 

“Seconds”

(6 x 50)

Fire Monkey Productions

Directed by Mikko Kuparinen and with a tagline that states that “It was impossible. Until it happened,” this disaster starts with a bang – or rather, with a train crash that leaves the whole country reeling. Investigator Marita Kaila arrives shortly after, but it won’t be easy to find out exactly what happened or who is to blame. Co-produced by YLE and created by Mikko Pöllä and Roope Lehtinen. Laura Suhonen writes. 

“The Paradise”

Season 3

Finnish investigator Hilkka Mäntymäki, who has already been through a lot, is back for a third helping of human drama and shady secrets: This time, a young Spanish man just vanishes without a trace. Soon, his body is discovered in a remote bog. Promising to tie past and present crimes, this YLE offering is produced by ReelMedia, with co-producers The Mediapro Studio and Media Musketeers Studios. 

“The Revenge”

(8 x 44)

Moskito Television

Get ready to meet “the most charming snake in paradise,” played by Pyry Kähkönen, recently seen in Miia Tervo’s “The Missile”. After tragedy strikes when he is still a child, his family wants nothing to do with Jesse. He starts leading a double life but, desperate to get even, he is just getting started. Written and directed by Matti Kinnunen, the show will premiere on MTV Finland in March. Mari Kinnunen produces.

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