For readers outside the UK, ITV3 is the third digital channel for the main terrestrial UK broadcaster ITV. A quick glance at the BARB audience figures reveals that it is actually the sixth biggest UK TV channel, outgunning any of Sky’s channels or its sister stations ITV2 and ITV4. It achieves this by targeting ‘over 35s’ (and probably more women than men – ITV4 is ‘bloke TV’) and offering them re-runs of popular drama series. ITV chiefs have no doubt noticed the big success of Scandinavian drama series shown on BBC4 which have attracted record audiences of over 600,000 per episode. BBC4 is usually invisible to the tabloid press writers on TV but The Killing and Borgen have attracted a great deal of coverage in the broadsheets.
Now ITV3 have begun broadcasting Those Who Kill, their new Danish import, at 10pm on Thursday evenings. The big questions are: will the BBC4 audience migrate to ITV3 for their fix of ‘Nordic Noir’ and what will the existing ITV3 audience, fed on a diet of Wycliffe, Morse, Poirot etc. make of a show with murky lighting and subtitles? It’s probably thirty years or so since ITV stations (then regionally owned) put out European art films in late night slots. Can they make a success of it again?
On the basis of the first 90 minutes episode, Those Who Kill appears to be a more American-style crime series – or perhaps the grittier end of UK crime series such as Wire in the Blood. It has one of the tropes of the BBC4 Danish serials – the intelligent, fearless and strong-willed female lead. In Episode 1 Katrine (Laura Sofia Bach) takes the initiative in leading a police team investigating a serial killer of young women. She co-opts a profiler of ‘dissocial’ characters who has been previously used (and discarded) by the Copenhagen police and she has a close relationship with another young woman who is a forensic scientist. This trio solve their first case and despite his initial misgivings, the homicide chief (played by The Killing I‘s ‘Troells’, the actor Lars Mikkelsen) decides to promote Katrine. We also get to see at least two other actors from The Killing II and Borgen.
The four characters listed above (and a fifth junior police officer) are presumably going to be central in the series but so far we have learned only a little about their family backgrounds. I don’t get the impression that we are going to get the family melodrama offered by the serials nor their political narratives. The serial killer story is rather too familiar from US and UK series (even if, as we are often told, they are not in Scandinavia – though Jo Nesbø has just written one). This one was quite well done and was certainly grisly, but it didn’t have that usual Nordic Noir element of some kind of social comment on the collapse of social democracy or the impact of globalisation. It could easily have been a British or American story. Finally, there hasn’t been much sign of an overall serial narrative developing – a ‘story arc’ that will run through each episode. Still, this was the first episode. The big question is whether the audience will find the show on the schedules. The Guardian, home of blogs on The Killing and Borgen, doesn’t list ITV3 programmes, only trailed this show on the day of broadcast and hasn’t reviewed it so far.