Tag Archives: scandi-drama

BBC4…The Bridge. The second series is the hardest.

9 Jan

Can the second series of the Bridge capture our imaginations?

The Cat Stevens song from the seventies goes “the first cut is the deepest” but if he was a TV executive he would probably have been singing how “the second series is the hardest” because it truely is.

How do you take a great idea, spin in it out into however many episodes that make up the first season, give it an engaging story arc and a  satisfactory conclusion, but still leave just enough untold from the original idea to spin out one or more series. The answer is with a lot of difficulty because often a satisfactory conclusion to the first season often conflicts with have a meaningful second season.

I loved the first season of Danish-Swedish drama co-production The Bridge (Boen / Broen) with the kernel of its storyline focusing on a crime committed at the centre of a bridge that links Copenhagen in Denmark with Malmo in Sweden.  The unusual location of the crime brought together Swedish detective Saga Norén (Sofia Helin) and her Danish counterpart Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia) in a gripping series of episodes that saw them track down a serial killer  who turned out to be a former colleague of Martin.

So how do you follow on from that, given that crimes on the bridge that require cross-country investigations are not an every day occurrence?  Well series 2 has created another crime that coincidentally happens again in the middle of the bridge.

In season one it was a dead body found in the middle of the bridge, this time around it is a mystery ship crashing into the pillars of the bridge at its centre. So guess what? Saga and Martin are reunited for series 2.

A bit contrived you might say, weighing in against that is the relationship between Saga and Martin. Saga in particular who is so lacking in social skills to the extent that she may be autistic, although it is never explicitly stated, is the star of the show. The success of season 1 was largely built on this relationship and with both characters reunited in season 2 it gives it a good chance of success.

The Bridge Season 2 is available on BBC iPlayer

BBC4…It is ‘Hej Hej’ from Borgen

16 Dec

All good things come to an end and so it was with Borgen.  The latest in the Scandi-dramas that has enthralled audiences of BBC4 has said hej hej and “tak for the memories”.  Birgitte Nyborg (Sidse Babett Knudsen) and all the other characters that made staying in on a Saturday evening and watching BBC4, or at least catching up on BBC iPlayer  the next day, a worth while event.

I look back over the three series and pick out my highlights of the show.

Villain of the show

There were three main contenders; smarmy yuppie hipster and TV executive Alex Hjort (Christian Tafdrup), irascible old school right winger Svend Åge Saltum (Ole Thestrup), and slimy politician turned tabloid newspaper editor Michael Laugesen (Peter Mygind). Saltum arguably is not a villain in the truest sense of the word, as despite his odious reactionary beliefs he ultimately represents a not insubstantial section of the electorate that share that belief. That leaves Laugesen and Hjort, and it is no contest. As shallow, ratings obsessed and cowardly Alex Hjort was in comparison with Laugesen he was a rank amateur. From hounding a former rival into suicide, to sending his lackeys to stalk Birgitte’s daughter at the hospital she was being treated, Laugusen’s dark shadow spanned the series and the fear of his newspaper Ekspres was often the beginning of wisdom in Borgen.

Episode of the show

There were two stand out episodes for me. The first was the episode in which Laugesen set up former Labour party rival Troels Höxenhaven (Lars Brygmann) with a male prostitute. An event which ultimately led to Höxenhaven’s suicide. It was a dark episode. The other contender for me was when Kasper Juul (Pilou Asbæk) shared the deepest darkest secrets of his life with his on-off girlfriend Katrine Fønsmark (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen). He couldn’t bring himself to talk about the abuse he received as a child but the scene where he left the few things he kept from his childhood for Katrine, and these detailed his abuse, as she read through them the emotions that evoked were very powerful. Two strongly emotive episodes that epitomised how good Borgen is. Of the two the Kasper Juul story for me was a good as Borgen would ever get.

Miss of the show

Borgen is great, but when you film 30 episodes you are bound to get something that is not right, at least not by the high standards the show had set. There is only one winner here, when Borgen did an expected segway into what could only be described as an opening scene of a 1970′s Scandinavian adult movie. Birgitte’s marriage had fallen apart, problems at home were overwhelming her, and to cap it all her sink was leaking. In desperation she calls on her official chauffeur to help out. As he fixes the sink, Birgitte’s seduces and ultimately gets to have her wicked ways with him. Just wasn’t right. The other close contender for the miss of the season was when Borgen tried to go all “West Wing” on us with the episodes around the fictional country of Kharun. Borgen does not really work well outside the confines of Christiansborg.

Wimp of the show

Two men stand out, Troels Höxenhaven, the politician, a man who felt he had a right to power but struggled to seize the moment as opportunities came and went. Torben Friis (Søren Malling), the TV editor, bullied and victimised by his management and almost losing his family and career in the process. Both men were inherently weak, but Torben did find some sort of redemption when he eventually stood his ground against his boss Alex Hjort. Höxenhaven never found the opportunity to redeem himself.

Hero of the show

The obvious choice would be Birgitte Nyborg on the back to her improbable rise to power, almost performing the same trick twice, despite never winning an outright majority. Her fairy tale political life however would almost certainly have come to nought without the presence of her right hand man Bent Sejrø (Lars Knutzon). Serjo was clearly not a man you would call a slave to fashion, with his scruffy beard, partially knotted ties and all round scruffy demeanor, but what he was was Birgitte’s moral compass and mentor. Whatever trials and tribulations she faced she knew there was always someone she could count on and that was Bent.

Re-live the best moments from Borgen with with Season 1, 2 and 3 on DVD from Amazon.