Why Denmark is swapping The Killing for Midsomer Murders

The cosy British whodunit is the best-performing imported TV show in the land of Sarah Lund


In recent years, Denmark has become known as the home of dark and gritty crime drama. Shows like The Killing and Swedish co-production The Bridge have not only performed well in their native Scandinavia but also proved hugely popular over here. 


It’s just one side of an exchange programme that sees the Danes buying in numerous of our shows in return. And despite their taste for the hard stuff, when it comes to British crime dramas it turns out they enjoy nothing more than a cosy whodunit.

“Midsomer Murders is the best performing acquired programme of all – that goes for Scandinavia in general but especially on Danish television,” Kaare Schmidt of Danmarks Radio, the Danish equivalent of the BBC, tells RadioTimes.com.

“We have it in the biggest slot for us, which is Saturday night at around 9pm, and it beats everything the competition can come up with, and has been doing so for 12 or 13 years, as long as it’s been around.

“We always win Saturday night because of that. And it gets a share of the audience that otherwise only Danish-produced shows can get – between 30 and 40 per cent. It’s the number one big hit on our main channel DR1.”

Along with its outlandish body count, the long-running ITV series – starring John Nettles and subsequently Neil Dudgeon as the DCIs Barnaby – is known for its idyllic rural setting and leisurely plotting, making it a change of pace for crime fans.

“It’s murder for fun,” says Schmidt. “It’s just putting the puzzle together and that’s what it’s all about. You just have a good feeling when you watch it and if you fall asleep it’s fine, because you’ll never remember who did it anyway.”

But it’s not just the gentle side of British detective drama the Danes are interested in – they also enjoy a taste of their own medicine in the form of brooding BBC1 series Waking the Dead.

“This is the more serious side of detective drama,” says Schmidt. “It’s about psychology, the human heart, society and it’s not just a crime story, but a drama that takes off from there.

“Waking the Dead is the biggest hit on [our second channel] DR2. It gets twice the channel’s usual share.” 

Nevertheless, he has a bone to pick with the makers of the now defunct cold case forensics show: “Unfortunately, you don’t produce any more of them and I’m really mad about that!”

Overall, though, this is one exchange programme that seems to be working: “Crime stories, detective stories – the British are especially good at making them and we have an especially big audience for them,” says Schmidt.

“That is the key to our success – we can’t fail if we get a good British detective story.”

Paul Jones was talking to Kaare Schmidt at the annual BBC Worldwide Showcase, the world’s largest international television market hosted by a single distributor, where foreign buyers come to purchase British shows from across a range of channels and producers