Little Steven show axed over product placements

National broadcaster NRK has pulled the plug on a new comedy drama series starring legendary guitarist Little Steven after it emerged that the show could feature forbidden product placements.

Little Steven show axed over product placements
Photo: Stian Lysberg Solum/Scanpix (File)

NRK had planned to air the first episode of Lilyhammer on New Year’s Day, but has now decided to postpone the show indefinitely after discovering that production company Rubicon TV had signed a string of product placement deals.

The broadcaster said it had little choice but to put the show on ice, since state-owned television channels are barred from taking payment for the placement of products in any programmes made in Norway.

“Rubicon TV has entered into a series of agreements with companies and organizations, promising product placements in exchange for goods, services, and cash. This is a breach of the contract between NRK and Rubicon TV,” said Petter Wallace, Head of Commissioning at NRK.

“External producers are permitted to enter into sponsorship agreements, but not product placement agreements,” he added.

Rubicon TV’s administrative director, Lasse Hellberg, said the company was engaged in positive talks with NRK. He denied the firm had sold product placement slots to make money.

“There are some unfortunate formulations in some of the contracts, and that’s something we’ll resolve,” he said.

Hellberg said he did not think it would be necessary to cut any scenes from the series in order to satisfy national broadcasting criteria.

“It’s all based on an artistic foundation and has not been affected by commercial interests. For example, we went all the way to the United States to buy clothes, so there’s been no expense spared.”

The long-awaited eight-part series was set to feature Steven Van Zandt — or Little Steven — playing a New York gangster forced into hiding in Lillehammer after his appearance as a witness in a US trial.

The musician and actor, celebrated for his portrayal of the Silvio Dante character in The Sopranos, had been billed as the star attraction in a comedy action series set in the sleepy town, most famous for having hosted the 1994 Winter Olympics.    

And as the guitarist in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, Van Zandt is no stranger to Norway, where The Boss and his band remain hugely popular.

The US actor said he liked the script and had no hesitation in accepting the role, which sees him struggle to adapt to life as an unemployed immigrant in Lillehammer.

Speaking to NRK before the decision to put the series on hold, the show’s scriptwriters said Lilyhammer would seek to show Norway from an immigrant’s perspective. Cut adrift from his natural habitat, the former New York Mafioso finds himself caught up in ever more absurd and embarrassing situations when faced with Norwegian bureaucracy and local attitudes. 

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Norwegian reality show introduces sexual consent rule for contestants

The latest series of Paradise Hotel in Norway has introduced an on-screen consent requirement for contestants planning on having sexual contact following allegations of abuse on the Swedish version of the show.

Norwegian reality show introduces sexual consent rule for contestants
The show has introduced on-screen consent requirements. Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Contestants in the latest series of Paradise Hotel, which aired on Monday night, will require contestants to demonstrate on-screen with a thumbs up to the camera that they consent to any sexual activity.

“We were told from day one that if we were to have sex, we had to consent with a thumbs up to the camera from both parties,” Stian Trulsen, a contestant on the hit reality series, told newspaper VG

Earlier this year, it was alleged that a male contestant abused two female participants on the Swedish edition of the show. Swedish prosecuting authorities are investigating the alleged abuse. 

Christian Meinseth, program manager for production company Nent which makes the show, said the new rules weren’t directly introduced because of what happened on the Swedish programme. 

“No, but we have, of course, worked with the series and looked at our practices around the format, so we ensure that Paradise Hotel is both a good watch and fun to be a participant in,” Meinseth told VG. 

“We are very concerned about the participants’ safety, and we have not had any challenges around the new rules,” Meinseth added. 

The program manager added that the production company wanted the show to reflect a more modern approach to sex. 

“At the same time, we are also careful to monitor language use and how the participants describe each other. Everyone should show respect for each other, and there will be more focus on the game itself. Viewers can look forward to an exciting and entertaining season,” he said. 

The 15th season of the show, which has been on Norwegian tv screens since 2009, will also include a “paradise talents” week where there is a focus on inner values as part of several on-screen and off-screen measures to try and promote more healthy sexual relationships.