The old adage about truth being stranger than fiction certainly seems to have some merit. There has been a glut of series in recent time dramatizing actual events of recent history. They probably appeal because most of these events happened during our lifetimes, so there’s a familiarity there. But whatever the reason, their popularity is unquestionable.
If you want to avoid all spoilers, stop reading now.
Walter Presents latest foray into the world of drama sees them heading across the Nordics to Finland and the story of the rise of Nokia, the mobile telephone company. Nokia (which actually means “soot” in modern day Finnish) is a small town near Tampere. But by the time of this dramatization, the company had outgrown its Nokia roots and moved to the city of Espoo.
This story, which starts in the late 1980s, follows the journey of Nokia’s youthful legal team, Katarina (Satu Tuuli Karhu) and Aki (Emil Kihlström) as they find themselves having to tackle the might of Motorola, who are suing Nokia for patent infringement. Katarina has struggled to get a foothold in the legal profession, so she’s overjoyed to be working with her friend Aki, unaware of the drama that is about to unfold.
The fledgling Finnish company – at the time best known for a range of products from rubber to paper to electronics – have some serious financial issues, though. We see some sour-faced representatives from the banks, clearly hoping to recoup some of the money they’ve loaned to the Finnish company. Nokia’s Head of Finance, Jorma Ollila, tries his best to warn the CEO – Kari Kairamo – of their predicament, but the boss is a loveable larger-than-life character, who – on the face of it – is blind to the crisis the company is facing. But when Kairamo realizes the extent of the company’s problems, he takes his own life, resulting in Jorma acquiring the top position and having to tackle the company’s uncertain future.
Elsewhere, Nokia’s chief technical superstar, Risto Salminen, is busy working on a new phone to rival Motorola’s latest release, which is leading the way in the mobile market. He names his prototype 101 – hence the series’ title. It’s amusing to see these huge, brick-like devices and the simplicity of what they are capable of, compared to today’s technologically advanced smartphones.
There’s a lot to take in during the opening episode, and a myriad of characters to get to know. But it’s well worth sticking with, because it’s beautifully shot and superbly written. Each character is entirely believable (probably because they’re real people) and the script is sharp and witty.
The series was commissioned in 2022 by Finnish broadcaster MTV3 and CMore for Sweden, Denmark and Norway. It’s deservedly won plenty of plaudits for its nostalgia-filled look, the superb acting and direction. This is real gem of a show, a great nostalgia trip for those of us old enough to remember those glorious Nokia products of thirty years ago.
Walter Presents: ‘Mobile 101’ launched on Channel 4 on 21st May at 11pm. The full series is now available on Channel 4 streaming.