Young and Promising is back on our screens this summer, with Season 3 joining Season 1 and 2 on Walter Presents, All 4’s streaming channel dedicated to foreign-language TV. Following three Oslo girls in their mid-late 20s and their lives, loves and friendships, the show has become a hit in its home country of Norway and also resonated with audiences in the UK.
Here are five reasons why you should be watching:
1. There are no dead bodies
Walter Presents has given us a wonderful collection of Nordic Noir, with detectives solving murders and disappearances in dark, brooding dramas and horrifying, gripping thrillers. Young and Promising is the perfect antidote to that, instead charting the highs and lows of living in Oslo as a young person – a comedy that combines the humour of awkward everyday youth with actual comedy, as our lead, Elise, is a stand-up comedian trying to build a career. Funny, sweet and anchored in friendship, there’s not a dead body in sight.
2. It’s real
Don’t for one minute think that means this is a light, shallow affair: Young and Promising succeeds because it’s realistic, with a trio of well-rounded women facing their own troubles and successes. It’s rooted in creator Siri Seljeseth’s own experiences, as she came back from the USA but was unable to renew her visa in Oslo, leaving her stuck back in her hometown. And that truth extends to her two friends, Nenne and Alex, based on the actors who play them (Gine Cornelia Pedersen and Alexandra Gjerpen), who struggle with their own relationships and careers (one’s an aspiring actress, the other a fledgling author).
3. It’s universal
While everything is rooted in real life, the three seasons see the characters and themes grow and evolve, becoming not only about friendship but about how to make sense of life, find one’s direction, and overcome practical as well as emotional hurdles. The cast are superb, often hilarious, frequently moving and always convincing – you not only buy into their central bond but also into their day-to-day existences, from parents who have affairs and break up to rivals who steal auditions and boyfriends who are clueless. It’s so specific that it becomes universal, resonating with anyone of the same age – or anyone who can remember being that age.
4. It’s about women in creative industries
After years of stories about male lead characters, it’s a treat to see not only a series about women, written by a woman, but a show that explores the challenges of women succeeding in creative industries. Alex’s acting career is a laugh-out-loud rollercoaster of pretending to be able to do accents and dialects just to get a voiceover gig to dressing up with a fake ring and fur cape to try for a stereotypical Scandinavian role via iPhone. Nenne, meanwhile, juggles a catering job with courting an influential publisher, trying to find a way to be rewarded for helping her out in a time of drunken need. Elise, on the other hand, goes from painful nights on the stand-up circuit to finding a potential future in a promising TV pitch, while having to distinguish between professional and personal chemistry with a co-writer. Just when one thing goes right, another veers wrong, whether it’s due to homesickness, nerves about printing a book with the right people, or frustrations over other people holding them back.
Refreshingly, they’re all failures to some degree, but have hope that’s fuelled by each other; some of the best moments are when they discuss their relative achievements, weighing up the merits of stand-up comedy versus literary writing, how one’s work can be popular but another’s must stand the test of time and “actually mean something”. It’s those kind of conversations that are lacking in so many TV shows, and rank Young and Promising alongside such series as Girls, Fleabag and particularly The Bold Type.
5. It’s only 30 minutes
Binge-watching is fun, but so is sleeping. Young and Promising allows you to do both, with each episode only 30 minutes long. With only six episodes in each season, the result is a short, sharp burst of wit, laughter and drama, all of which can be polished off in under nine hours – or savoured, one slice at a time, for weeks. And with All 4 allowing you to download episodes to watch offline, there’s no reason not to make this your next box set or three.
Young and Promising Season 1 to 3 are available for free on Walter Presents.