Before We Die on Channel 4: why Scandi remakes don't work

Before We Die: Why we shouldn’t be making British versions of Scandi dramas

Why can't we just enjoy the originals?

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Before We Die on Channel 4 is getting a bit of a pummelling from the critics.

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

But despite a brilliant cast and an intriguing story, reviewers have slated it and viewing figures have hardly been through the roof.

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

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

Why hasn’t Before We Die on Channel 4 worked?

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

Over the past decade, we’ve had some brilliant, edge-of-your-seat series from Sweden, Denmark and Norway, as well as Nordic countries such as Finland and Iceland.

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

Series such as The Killing, The Bridge and Beck have all been huge success stories.

Back in the early 2010s these series spawned a new genre – Nordic Noir or Scandi Noir – and gave us something new, influencing a new batch of crime dramas in this country.

Before We Die on Channel 4: why Scandi remakes don't work
Danish series The Killing became a huge success 10 years ago (Credit: YouTube)

Had there been no The Killing, there would have certainly been no Broadchurch, Unforgotten or any other of the most popular British crime dramas.

The rise of Scandi Noirs suddenly made our own channels up their games – it now wasn’t enough to make the kind of crime dramas we had been used to.

Now, thanks to the likes of The Killing and The Bridge, they had to be moody, have bags of atmosphere and give equal weight to the victims of crimes and their families.

Before We Die on Channel 4: why Scandi remakes don't work
Sofia Helin as Sag Norén in the global hit, The Bridge (Credit: YouTube)

The Bridge has been remade five times

This greater depth was most welcome, but one hurdle remained – subtitles.

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

And subtitles aren’t for everyone.

So it’s only natural that broadcasters wanted a piece of the action and wanted to remake these series in their own home languages.

And yet, they haven’t really taken off.

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

And while The Tunnel was fine, it left me scratching my head, asking ‘why not just watch the original?’.

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

Now it’s Before We Die’s turn.

Starring class acts Lesley Sharp and Vincent Regan, it still got hammered by the critics after the first episode.

Lucy Mangan in The Guardian said: “Their dire performances make Before We Die such a weak, bleak, affectless hour that it almost becomes compelling again, albeit for all the wrong reasons.

“At the very least, it makes you appreciate the level of quality that we have come to take for granted in television dramas.”

Before We Die on Channel 4: why Scandi remakes don't work
Kenneth Branagh as Wallander (Credit: YouTube)

Please leave them alone!

So what’s the problem here?

I watch and love Scandi Noirs precisely because they’re Scandinavian.

I love seeing the different social mores, the classy furniture and decors, the food and the different way of life.

And then there are the stunning, bleak landscapes.

Even though they’re often dark-as-night, watching a Scandi Noir is escapism for me, and allows me to dive into a new culture.

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

I just love their Scandi-ness, and yes, I love reading the subtitles and hearing different languages.

And I often ask myself what the point is of remaking 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 be.

It’s precisely their ‘otherness’ that makes the originals so successful.

Before We Die continues tonight (Wednesday June 9) at 9pm on Channel 4

The Bridge / Bron / Broen - Season 2 - trailer

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Nancy Brown
Associate Editor

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