Review: Eyewitness 1×1 (US: USA)

Norwegian, but no different

In the US: Sundays, 10/9c, USA

Up until now, Norwegian TV hasn’t seemed to me to be a good birthing ground for new TV shows. Unlike Sweden and Denmark, which have done well in terms of adaptations with the likes of The Killing, Bron/Broen (The Bridge) and Den Som Dræber (Those Who Kill), Norwegian TV has stayed resolutely Norwegian. In part, maybe that’s because it’s not usually very good – at least, the likes of Okkupert (Occupied) and Mammon haven’t done anything to make me think there’s untapped potential there.

Yet here we are, staring down the barrel of the gun that is Eyewitness, an adaptation of NRK Norway’s Øyevitne (Eyewitness) by Shades of Blue creator Adi Hasak. Turns out there’s mileage in those fjords after all.

As with the original Norwegian series, Eyewitness is an anthology show and this first season sees two teenage boys (James Paxton and Tyler Young) out in the woods ostensibly racing motorbikes but both nursing a secret desire for the other. Just as they’re consumating their feelings for one another, a gang of criminals turns up with a captive in the boot of their car. However, an undercover FBI agent is in their ranks and before you know it, everyone but the boys is dead. 

The boys try to pretend nothing has happened, including their gayness, but the situation is complicated by the fact that Young is being fostered by local sheriff Julianne Nicholson (Law & Order: CI, Boardwalk Empire, Masters of Sex, Ally McBeal) and that FBI agent Tattiawna Jones might have bent a few rules as the handler of the deceased agent. Oh yes, and that not everyone died in the shoot out after all and the survivor has a fair idea of where the boys might be…

Anyone expecting either a new Fargo or a new Insomnia is going to be disappointed, as this is a pretty straight down the middle crime thriller bar the boys and the difficulties of being gay in a US High School, which make a welcome change from the usual plotting. However, disgraced city-detective Nicholson is the real focus of the piece, as she finds herself coming to life in her tedious upstate New York job now that real crime is occuring. This gives us the usual marital ructions, with Nicholson keeping numerous secrets from and failing to attend all sorts of important events with doctor hubbie Gil Bellows (Ally McBeal). There’s also the usual FBI mocking of ‘lesser’ agencies, usual ‘realistic’ look at drug addicts and usual gritty crime. 

In the hands of Twilight director Catherine Harwicke, it all looks great and it does have a slightly harder edge than might have been expected. Warren Christie (Alphas) makes a suitably silent but scary Terminator-like pursuer for the boys. But it you were looking for something new, some Norwegian-inspired Nordic Noir twist on the crime formula, as of yet, it hasn’t appeared. Or maybe it has and as I suspected, Norwegian TV doesn’t yet have much to offer the rest of the world.