Review: TV on DVD

Borgen – season one and two – and soon season three

This Danish political fiction sits as my number one program for this year. While it is fiction, the program has all the feel of realpolitik. In fact, the fictional political parties and media all have real life equivalents in Denmark.

What this program does is to celebrate access and equity in daily life. I am not sure if this just fact of life for Danes, but it is very positive to see the emphasis on how many women are in politics, how childcare is handled well by both partners, and work life balance issues are part of the fabric of the program’s discourse.

The story line is simple. It is about politics, political parties, personal politics, family and relationships and the media. I could provide you with the complete story line and what happens after during each season and it would not take away too much from your viewing.

The real enjoyment is in the characters and the episodes of their lives in and around politics and the media. What is at stake often are people’s values and ethics and what are they willing to trade-off to gain some political benefit.

This program is often listed with other Danish programs as Nordic Noir. It does not sit well in this categorisation. This is an intelligent and beautifully made fictional political drama. The story lines get very intense at times. It was hard to go to bed when the next episode was sitting there in the DVD.

This is not about something bleak and darkness. While there are ongoing political tensions and personal dramas, it presents many positive and optimistic notes. The female characters are to be admired.

Having seen the first two seasons and now watching season three (all on imported DVD), I would place Denmark as a country worth visiting. This is not the feeling you have after watching the other great Nordic programs, eg The Killing and The Bridge.

We have just started watching season three as this arrived by mail from the UK on Christmas Eve. Already it has proved to be up there with the first two seasons. Sadly this season is the final season.

But I have seen notices of a new Danish drama, The Legacy,  now showing on Danish TV and yet to make its way to being translated (sub titled) for English-speaking countries.

I managed to buy my copies of season one and two this year while Australia had its first female Prime Minister. It was a coincidence then to be watching Sidse Babett Knudsen as the first female Danish Prime Minister, Birgitte Nyborg Christensen. There were a few months there where the fiction of Borgen and the realities of Australian politics and my own life at work were running as if they were each in parallel universes. Ethics and values and how people should respect each other were issues that blended across different aspects of life this year.

On another note, Borgen is listed by a couple of American critics as the best TV drama that the US audience will not view.  Meaning that the US audiences do not like sub-titled TV programs, or at least that is the way their TV stations put it. So Borgen is not to be shown on main stations in the US. But wait! Yes there are plans to make their own version of it for US audiences. Somehow I just cannot see it being as intelligent.

Finally, FYI:  Borgen means “The Castle,” a nickname for Christiansborg Palace, the seat of Parliament, the office of the prime minister, and the Danish supreme court.

Recommended: Rating 10/10

see also later post following the viewing of series three – click here.


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