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.