your next binge watch: young and promising

The Oslo based dramedy is the perfect for those mourning the end of Skam and GIRLS.

by Colin Crummy
|
23 August 2017, 12:27pm

Screenshot von YouTube aus dem Video “Young And Promising - Unge Lovende Trailer - English Subtitles“ von Nordic Drama

In Young and Promising, twentysomethings Elise, Alex and Nenne are finding such a title difficult to live up to. The three friends live in Oslo and aspire to make it in stand up comedy, theatre and writing respectively, but things are not going as expected. Elise messes up her interview for a visa to go try to make it in LA, Alex botches her audition for drama school and Nenne cannot catch a break with her novel. When Nenne does manage to find a publisher for her work, the two young, male editors praise her writing for saying something about what it is to be a young woman today. "That's like saying Moby Dick is about a whale," she retorts, before hightailing it out of there.

The message: don't think a Scandi show about a group of twentysomething girls trying to figure out when they'll have figured it all out is a cut and paste job from across the Atlantic. Sure, Young and Promising's Oslo setting -- all soft filters, Fjallraven rucksacks and the best foliage this side of #plantsonpink -- is a perfect balm for anyone missing Hannah Horvath's Brooklyn. But just as that other Scandi youth streaming sensation Skam wasn't simply a Nordic update of Skins, Young and Promising finds its own distinctive voice by mining drama from its Scandinavian location.

Young and Promising, which is currently streaming on C4's global drama channel Walter Presents, is the work of Siri Seljeseth, who stars as Elise, the stand up with a visa issue and an ex-boyfriend situation she's not really resolved. Seljeseth's inspiration was a kind of tearing up of hygge guides, exploring the fact that Scandinavian life has its own unique challenges. "I just thought there wasn't really a show about being in your 20s here, and finding out that life might not be what you expected," she told the Guardian earlier this year. "Thanks to national testing introduced across all schools in Norway, she says there is now an "extreme pressure on young people to be exceptional" that had led them to be branded "generation perfection."

The young women in Young and Promising may not be perfect; they may not even be that young or promising either (Elise's first stint in LA involved working as a Bob the Builder mascot in a mall, while Alex's drama school audition isn't her first). But they are extremely well crafted characters. They're not cartoonish like Fleabag nor are their flaws as manifest as GIRLS. In its low key way, the show feels more connected to something like Looking, HBO's San Fran-set gay drama, which similarly took the farce of getting into adulthood down a notch.

That's not to say Young and Promising wafts along. Like Skam, it finds plenty of Nordic cool to rip into. In its opening episodes the show expertly lampoons creativity gone bad in a scene where a young hipster reads his bloody awful poetry (sample line: "sperm drops down the glass") as Elise engages in her own messy conversation with the sometime boyfriend.

Most intriguing of all -- and perhaps most damaging to the sense of Norway as some kind of gender equality idyll -- is Elise's relationship with her father, which brews to a toxic climax by the end of Season One (the show is now into its third in Norway).

When Elise returns from LA, her mother delivers the news that her father is expecting a baby, but not with her. It's a charged moment, and cuts like a knife through their perfectly designed Nordic life. For all its understated poise, Young and Promising is a show that cuts deep.

Young and Promising is on channel4.com