‘Maniac’: The Original Norwegian Series Leaves Plenty of Room for Netflix’s Remake to Improve

For a show that can be literally anything it wants, the original “Maniac” offers a pretty basic template to build on.

There are many reasons to remake something. Sometimes it’s for a built-in audience, other times it’s to recapture something that needs recontextualizing in the current times. Rarely is it the case that a remake is made simply because it can be better than the original. At this point, all we have to go off of Netflix’s upcoming series “Maniac” is a short synopsis and a handful of first-look photos. But what we do have extensive evidence of is the Norwegian series Cary Fukunaga’s impending remake is based on, and it might be the rare exception to that rule.

Hiding in plain sight in the Netflix catalog, all 10 episodes of the original — same spelling and everything — is available to stream right now. Starring and co-created by Espen PA Lervaag, it’s a comedy more absurd in theory than in practice. While staying at a mental facility, Espen winds through a series of fantasies that feature fictional versions of himself and hospital staff. These range from “Lord of the Rings”-style adventures to him being the star of a sex comedy’s American football team.

Every episode bounces between the reality of the hospital and a different reworking of a pre-existing style or series. Most of them follow the same basic arc: Espen has to fulfill some task within the fantasy that only he can see, while back at the hospital, the staff sees him fashion horses out of brooms, guns out of hairdryers, and pantomime an endless string of horny fight scenes. Most of these episodes are built around the surprise of that first reveal, so to say what other shows it apes is almost a spoiler in itself.

Read More: ‘Maniac’ First Look: Emma Stone and Jonah Hill Experience Cary Fukunaga’s Psychological Experiment

Now, Netflix hasn’t read released any budgetary numbers, but for a series that involves one of its highest-profile casts yet (Jonah Hill, Emma Stone, Sally Field, and Justin Theroux are all part of the ensemble), and a creative team that boasts “True Detective” and “The Leftovers” on their resumes, it’s safe to assume that the budget on this new version of “Maniac” will have significantly more resources than its predecessor. Part of the charm of the original version is that these are scrappy reimagining of things like a World War II mission or a Wild West shootout. Not so, it seems, with what we’ve seen so far of whatever futuristic space capsule the main cast is in these neon-bathed official photos from the Netflix reimagining.

While the machinations of “Maniac” put a spin on a number of different scenarios inside Espen’s own mind, there’s really no thematic difference between each of these episodes. They follow the same trajectory of him dealing with an imaginary friend and his not-so-repressed feelings for Mina, his therapist.

If there’s any variation in the story, it comes from the minor changes in whatever individual quests Espen has fashioned for himself. And so, halfway through the season, you get the idea that this guy is fueled by lust and escapism and not a whole lot else. Lervaag is charming enough to get across Espen’s preoccupations, but for a show that can literally be anything it wants, these ten episodes seem stuck in coming to the same conclusions over and over again.

Maniac Norway Original Football

“Maniac”

It seems like part of what the new version might be doing to combat this idea is by introducing another patient. Whether Hill or Stone is more the Espen analog is almost irrelevant. Even if they follow the same format of one patient and one imaginary friend, the different viewpoints from multiple characters would solve the problem of getting stuck in a basic psychoanalytic cycle. If the report is true that both the lead performers “will play patients in the institution,” that gives the rest of this all-star cast to be more than just pawns or objects of desire in one man’s hallucinations.

The best part of this remake process is that the existing “Maniac” doesn’t have any dense mythology to unpack. There’s no puzzle-like plot making a pre-existing template that an American version would have to reinvent or adhere to. With a fairly straightforward alternative already in place, the new version of “Maniac” can do more to make sure that there’s something meaningful in every episode and that each of these fantasy sequences don’t reset to square one when they end.

In the process, “Maniac” 2.0 can also do more to keep the setup of the show from being a simplistic way of treating personality disorders. Espen’s treatment always seems like an afterthought, even as the season progresses and he learns to corral the id-like impulses of his imaginary companion Håkon. If the remake can take the ideas of romantic frustration and family disappointment and do something more constructive with them rather than giving into the whims of the central character, it’ll elevate the show beyond just a simple exercise.

The “pharmaceutical trial” teased in the new series’ synopsis feels like a conscious way to do that. Where the original largely landed on all of this being up to Espen to change, “Maniac” seems like it would benefit from engaging with that extra layer of another reality created from an external source. Rather than sticking solely to vicarious hijinks, introducing an actual treatment into the mix would add depth to a story that seems best when it zeroes in on questions of control.

“Maniac” can literally be anything. Hopping into other fictional worlds is carte blanche to explore anything this series wants. It’s the ultimate reason to give a premise another try, to really play with how a new set of tools can make this premise feel less like a TV show and more like an experience.

The Norwegian “Maniac” is currently available to stream on Netflix. The remake is expected to premiere later in 2018. 

Norway’s Maipo Prepares Dystopian Thriller ‘Fortress,’ Season 2 of ‘State of Happiness’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Leading Norwegian company Maipo is developing “Fortress,” an ambitious dystopian thriller, and is preparing the second season of “State of Happiness” (“Lykkeland”), the historical series which is competing this week at Canneseries. “Fortress” is created and penned by two high-profile Norwegian screenwriters: John Kåre Raake, whose track record includes Nordic blockbusters such as “The Wave,” […]

Leading Norwegian company Maipo is developing “Fortress,” an ambitious dystopian thriller, and is preparing the second season of “State of Happiness” (“Lykkeland”), the historical series which is competing this week at Canneseries. “Fortress” is created and penned by two high-profile Norwegian screenwriters: John Kåre Raake, whose track record includes Nordic blockbusters such as “The Wave,” […]

Norway’s ‘Home Ground’ Bows in Berlinale Series

In town for the Berlin Film Festival, Norwegian prod-co Motlys world premiered their Norwegian soccer drama “Home Ground,” on Tuesday Feb. 20. A day later, Norwegian broadcaster NRK announced they had recommissioned the series for a second season. Originally produced by Motlys for NRK, and set to premiere in Norway on March 4, DR is […]

In town for the Berlin Film Festival, Norwegian prod-co Motlys world premiered their Norwegian soccer drama “Home Ground,” on Tuesday Feb. 20. A day later, Norwegian broadcaster NRK announced they had recommissioned the series for a second season. Originally produced by Motlys for NRK, and set to premiere in Norway on March 4, DR is […]

Martin Luther King Jr.’s Children Slam Trump for ‘Shithole’ Countries Comment

Martin Luther King Jr.’s children are criticizing President Trump on what would be the civil right’s activist’s 89th birthday over the president’s recent private comments referring to “shithole” countries.

“When a president insists that our nation needs more citizens from white states like Norway, I don’t even think we need to spend any time even talking about what it says and what it is,” said King’s son, Martin Luther King III said Monday in Washington, according to the Associated Press. “We got to find a way to work on this man’s heart.”

King’s daughter Rev. Bernice King also told her Atlanta church that they “cannot allow the nations of the world to embrace the words that come from our president as a reflection of the true spirit of America.”

Also Read: Trump Blasted for ‘Racist’ Comments Questioning Immigrants From ‘Shithole Countries’

“We are one people, one nation, one blood, one destiny … All of civilization and humanity originated from the soils of Africa,” she said, per the AP. “Our collective voice in this hour must always be louder than the one who sometimes does not reflect the legacy of my father.”

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said on Friday, according to several people briefed on the meeting in which he said the comment, according to the Washington Post.

The president went on to say that the country should instead bring more people from countries like Norway. Some observers have called Trump’s remark “racist,” noting that Norway is predominantly white, while the countries he derided — such as Haiti and African nations — are not.

Also Read: Sean Penn: ‘Shithole’ Comments Make Donald Trump ‘An Enemy of Mankind’

Trump denied using that quote the next day on Twitter, saying “the language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used.”

The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made – a big setback for DACA!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2018

Related stories from TheWrap:

CNN Tweets Martin Luther King Was a Socialist ‘Before It Was Cool,’ Internet Freaks

Martin Luther King Jr’s Niece Defends Trump: ‘I Don’t Believe He Is a Racist’ (Video)

Watch Martin Luther King Jr’s ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech (Video)

MLK Day: 11 Most Inspiring Martin Luther King Jr. Memes

Martin Luther King Jr.’s children are criticizing President Trump on what would be the civil right’s activist’s 89th birthday over the president’s recent private comments referring to “shithole” countries.

“When a president insists that our nation needs more citizens from white states like Norway, I don’t even think we need to spend any time even talking about what it says and what it is,” said King’s son, Martin Luther King III said Monday in Washington, according to the Associated Press. “We got to find a way to work on this man’s heart.”

King’s daughter Rev. Bernice King also told her Atlanta church that they “cannot allow the nations of the world to embrace the words that come from our president as a reflection of the true spirit of America.”

“We are one people, one nation, one blood, one destiny … All of civilization and humanity originated from the soils of Africa,” she said, per the AP. “Our collective voice in this hour must always be louder than the one who sometimes does not reflect the legacy of my father.”

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said on Friday, according to several people briefed on the meeting in which he said the comment, according to the Washington Post.

The president went on to say that the country should instead bring more people from countries like Norway. Some observers have called Trump’s remark “racist,” noting that Norway is predominantly white, while the countries he derided — such as Haiti and African nations — are not.

Trump denied using that quote the next day on Twitter, saying “the language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used.”

Related stories from TheWrap:

CNN Tweets Martin Luther King Was a Socialist 'Before It Was Cool,' Internet Freaks

Martin Luther King Jr's Niece Defends Trump: 'I Don't Believe He Is a Racist' (Video)

Watch Martin Luther King Jr's 'I Have a Dream' Speech (Video)

MLK Day: 11 Most Inspiring Martin Luther King Jr. Memes

Former RNC Chair Just Called Trump a Racist on Live TV (Video)

Former chairman of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele — the first African-American to hold the job — said Friday that he believes President Trump is racist.

“At this point, the evidence is incontrovertible, it’s right there,” Steele said when asked if Trump is racist by MSNBC’s Hallie Jackson.

Steele’s comments follow a Washington Post report Thursday, which said that President Trump referred to Haiti and African nations as “s—hole countries” during a meeting with a bipartisan group of senators at the White House.

Also Read: Trump Blasted for ‘Racist’ Comments Questioning Immigrants From ‘Shithole Countries’

According to the Post, Trump also suggested the U.S. bring in more immigrants from places like Norway instead.

“There are a whole lot of folks like Donald Trump,” Steele said. “White folks in this country who have a problem with the browning of America … When they talk about [wanting] their country back, they are talking about a country that was very safely white, less brown and less committed to that browning process.”

Trump has denied making the comment as reported. “This was not the language used,” he tweeted Friday.

Also Read: Watch Don Lemon’s Tense Confrontation With Trump Surrogate Over ‘Shithole’ Remarks (Video)

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat who was present in the meeting with Trump, pushed back on the president’s denial, insisting that Trump “said these hate-filled things, and he said them repeatedly.”

Trump’s comments sparked a wave of condemnation from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle as well as media personalities, many of whom called the president a “racist.”

Watch Steele’s comments on MSNBC in the video above.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Watch Reporter April Ryan Ask Trump If He’s a Racist (Video)

How Late-Night Hosts Handled Trump’s Latest S— Storm (Videos)

‘Madam Secretary’ Boss Swears Trump Didn’t Inspire Plot About Impeaching ‘Irrational’ President

Former chairman of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele — the first African-American to hold the job — said Friday that he believes President Trump is racist.

“At this point, the evidence is incontrovertible, it’s right there,” Steele said when asked if Trump is racist by MSNBC’s Hallie Jackson.

Steele’s comments follow a Washington Post report Thursday, which said that President Trump referred to Haiti and African nations as “s—hole countries” during a meeting with a bipartisan group of senators at the White House.

According to the Post, Trump also suggested the U.S. bring in more immigrants from places like Norway instead.

“There are a whole lot of folks like Donald Trump,” Steele said. “White folks in this country who have a problem with the browning of America … When they talk about [wanting] their country back, they are talking about a country that was very safely white, less brown and less committed to that browning process.”

Trump has denied making the comment as reported. “This was not the language used,” he tweeted Friday.

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat who was present in the meeting with Trump, pushed back on the president’s denial, insisting that Trump “said these hate-filled things, and he said them repeatedly.”

Trump’s comments sparked a wave of condemnation from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle as well as media personalities, many of whom called the president a “racist.”

Watch Steele’s comments on MSNBC in the video above.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Watch Reporter April Ryan Ask Trump If He's a Racist (Video)

How Late-Night Hosts Handled Trump's Latest S— Storm (Videos)

'Madam Secretary' Boss Swears Trump Didn't Inspire Plot About Impeaching 'Irrational' President

Norwegian Hit ‘The King’s Choice’ Gets Royal Welcome In N.A. Bow

After breaking Norwegian box office records, The King’s Choice (Kongens Nei) is making its North American debut in high style. The Crown Prince and Crown Princess of Norway have committed to attend a glitzy screening of the Erik Poppe-directed film on November 8 at TIFF Bell Lightbox. The film, Norway’s official Oscar submission, has special significance to the royals, since it is based on the true the story of the three dramatic days in April 1940 when the Germans…

After breaking Norwegian box office records, The King's Choice (Kongens Nei) is making its North American debut in high style. The Crown Prince and Crown Princess of Norway have committed to attend a glitzy screening of the Erik Poppe-directed film on November 8 at TIFF Bell Lightbox. The film, Norway's official Oscar submission, has special significance to the royals, since it is based on the true the story of the three dramatic days in April 1940 when the Germans…

13 Must-See Horror Movies, Just in Time for Halloween (Photos)

Starry Eyes (2014)
Written & directed by: Kevin Kolsch, Dennis Widmyer

Cool imagery, solid performances, and a harrowing take on how far a person will go to become a star.

Available to rent: Amazon Video, YouTube, iTunes

 

Honeymoon (2014)
Directed by: Leigh Janiak

Janiak made a solid directorial debut with “Honeymoon.” The whole film rests on the shoulders of the two leads with excellent chemistry who take you through a well-paced story of paranoia and freaky scares.

Available to rent: iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV

 

What We Do in the Shadows (2015)
Written & directed by: Taika Waititi, Jemaine Clement

This film is a joyride of a horror comedy. This mockumentary stars all of your favorite monsters, and will make you smile with it’s charm.
Available to rent: Amazon Video, iTunes

 

GoodNight Mommy (2015)
Written & directed by: Veronika Franz, Severin Fiala

I caught this out of Fantasia 2015, and was blown away. I admittedly shielded my eyes during the more torture-y parts at the end, but I didn’t see the twists, and it’s one of the most visually stunning genre films in recent years.

Available to rent: Amazon Video, YouTube, iTunes, Vudu, Google Play Movies & TV

 

The Visit (2015)
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan

Fun story: I was invited by my former boss Steven Schneider (and EP on the film) to a small screening, and he wouldn’t tell me what it was. I walk in and M. Night is there and only a couple of other people. I was so scared, and unfortunately was sitting in the front row so everyone could see me jump (haha) Kids, and creepy old people? I’m in! I was over found footage, but I powered through that element because the story is so fun to watch unfold. Signature Shyamalan Twist works like a charm, and with this and “Split” getting great reviews it’s great to have M. Night back.

 

Green Room (2016)
Written & directed by Jeremy Saulnier

As a huge fan of “Blue Ruin,” I was equally as impressed with how “Green Room” as a a brutally relentless thriller that is both tense and entertaining.

Available to rent: Amazon Video, YouTube, iTunes, Vudu, Google Play Movies & TV

 

The Guest (2014)
Directed by: Adam Wingard

I caught this on the big screen at Next Fest in 2014. Maika Monroe and Dan Stevens are captivating to watch. Period. It’s a quick-paced thriller wrapped into a poppy homage to throwback horror films.

 

In Order of Disappearance (2014)
Directed by: Hans Petter Moland

I was lucky enough to see this at Fantastic Fest in 2014. It’s an intense Norwegian revenge story set against the beautifully snowy backdrop of Norway in winter. Tonally it reminded me of “Fargo” with added thriller elements and tense scenes.
Available to rent: Amazon Video, YouTube, iTunes

Afflicted (2014)
Written & directed by: Derek Lee, Clif Prowse

I was pleasantly surprised by this film. Lee and Prowse put a unique spin on the well-tread vampire sub genre by giving the viewer an experience of what it’s like to make the transition into a vampire after you’ve been bitten by one. Shot on a very limited budget, the effects are impressive and mostly practical and they make great use of the docu-style filmmaking.

Available on Amazon Video, iTunes, Vudu

 

Hush (2016)
Director: Mike Flanagan

Home invasion movie out of SXSW 2016. Reminiscent of “The Strangers” and “Wait Until Dark,” it’s a very minimalist movie, and is intense, nonstop and entertaining. It’s low budget, but it doesn’t take away from the quality in this gem.

Available to rent: Netflix

 

The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)
Directed by: Adam Robitel

Jill Larson carries the film well in the title role that requires her to go from happy to sad to positively terrifying in the same scene. I wish it wasn’t found footage because I felt like that was one of the weak elements of it, but if you want to watch a possession film that won’t disappoint give this a look. I’m excited to see what Robitel does with “Insidious 4.”

Available to rent: Amazon Video, YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV

 

Under the Skin (2014)
Directed by: Jonathan Glazer

This film is gorgeous. It’s eerie. It’s an artsy take on “Species,” and will gross you out as much as it will impress you with it’s visuals. It’s a very polarizing film, but the lovely Scarlett Johansson makes it work on so many levels. It’s sure to stick with you after viewing.

Available to rent: Vudu, Amazon Video, YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, iTunes

 

It Follows (2014)
Written and Directed by: David Robert Mitchell

I’m sure you’ve at least heard of this film. A testament to its quality is that it’s one of the few films horror films to get an expanded release after doing high number in its limited run. Spooky soundtrack, 80’s vibes, and a new twist on the slasher sub-genre. Watch this in the dark. There are multiple gasp-worthy scenes.

Available to buy: Amazon Video, Google Play Movies & TV, iTunes

Starry Eyes (2014)
Written & directed by: Kevin Kolsch, Dennis Widmyer

Cool imagery, solid performances, and a harrowing take on how far a person will go to become a star.

Available to rent: Amazon Video, YouTube, iTunes

 

Honeymoon (2014)
Directed by: Leigh Janiak

Janiak made a solid directorial debut with “Honeymoon.” The whole film rests on the shoulders of the two leads with excellent chemistry who take you through a well-paced story of paranoia and freaky scares.

Available to rent: iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV

 

What We Do in the Shadows (2015)
Written & directed by: Taika Waititi, Jemaine Clement

This film is a joyride of a horror comedy. This mockumentary stars all of your favorite monsters, and will make you smile with it’s charm.
Available to rent: Amazon Video, iTunes

 

GoodNight Mommy (2015)
Written & directed by: Veronika Franz, Severin Fiala

I caught this out of Fantasia 2015, and was blown away. I admittedly shielded my eyes during the more torture-y parts at the end, but I didn’t see the twists, and it’s one of the most visually stunning genre films in recent years.

Available to rent: Amazon Video, YouTube, iTunes, Vudu, Google Play Movies & TV

 

The Visit (2015)
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan

Fun story: I was invited by my former boss Steven Schneider (and EP on the film) to a small screening, and he wouldn’t tell me what it was. I walk in and M. Night is there and only a couple of other people. I was so scared, and unfortunately was sitting in the front row so everyone could see me jump (haha) Kids, and creepy old people? I’m in! I was over found footage, but I powered through that element because the story is so fun to watch unfold. Signature Shyamalan Twist works like a charm, and with this and “Split” getting great reviews it’s great to have M. Night back.

 

Green Room (2016)
Written & directed by Jeremy Saulnier

As a huge fan of “Blue Ruin,” I was equally as impressed with how “Green Room” as a a brutally relentless thriller that is both tense and entertaining.

Available to rent: Amazon Video, YouTube, iTunes, Vudu, Google Play Movies & TV

 

The Guest (2014)
Directed by: Adam Wingard

I caught this on the big screen at Next Fest in 2014. Maika Monroe and Dan Stevens are captivating to watch. Period. It’s a quick-paced thriller wrapped into a poppy homage to throwback horror films.

 

In Order of Disappearance (2014)
Directed by: Hans Petter Moland

I was lucky enough to see this at Fantastic Fest in 2014. It’s an intense Norwegian revenge story set against the beautifully snowy backdrop of Norway in winter. Tonally it reminded me of “Fargo” with added thriller elements and tense scenes.
Available to rent: Amazon Video, YouTube, iTunes

Afflicted (2014)
Written & directed by: Derek Lee, Clif Prowse

I was pleasantly surprised by this film. Lee and Prowse put a unique spin on the well-tread vampire sub genre by giving the viewer an experience of what it’s like to make the transition into a vampire after you’ve been bitten by one. Shot on a very limited budget, the effects are impressive and mostly practical and they make great use of the docu-style filmmaking.

Available on Amazon Video, iTunes, Vudu

 

Hush (2016)
Director: Mike Flanagan

Home invasion movie out of SXSW 2016. Reminiscent of “The Strangers” and “Wait Until Dark,” it’s a very minimalist movie, and is intense, nonstop and entertaining. It’s low budget, but it doesn’t take away from the quality in this gem.

Available to rent: Netflix

 

The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)
Directed by: Adam Robitel

Jill Larson carries the film well in the title role that requires her to go from happy to sad to positively terrifying in the same scene. I wish it wasn’t found footage because I felt like that was one of the weak elements of it, but if you want to watch a possession film that won’t disappoint give this a look. I’m excited to see what Robitel does with “Insidious 4.”

Available to rent: Amazon Video, YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV

 

Under the Skin (2014)
Directed by: Jonathan Glazer

This film is gorgeous. It’s eerie. It’s an artsy take on “Species,” and will gross you out as much as it will impress you with it’s visuals. It’s a very polarizing film, but the lovely Scarlett Johansson makes it work on so many levels. It’s sure to stick with you after viewing.

Available to rent: Vudu, Amazon Video, YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, iTunes

 

It Follows (2014)
Written and Directed by: David Robert Mitchell

I’m sure you’ve at least heard of this film. A testament to its quality is that it’s one of the few films horror films to get an expanded release after doing high number in its limited run. Spooky soundtrack, 80’s vibes, and a new twist on the slasher sub-genre. Watch this in the dark. There are multiple gasp-worthy scenes.

Available to buy: Amazon Video, Google Play Movies & TV, iTunes