I finally got to see Borgen, yet another Scandinavian drama that has had Great Britain in subtitled ecstasy.
The show is described as ‘Denmark’s West Wing’. The crucial difference is the lead character Birgitte, the first female prime minister of Denmark. The show details Birgitte’s journey from being an idealistic politician to a compromising, power-hungry boss of the country.
This being a Scandinavian show, the female characters are outstanding. There are very few clichés and stereotypes that we see populating mainstream English/ American shows. The grey area of morality and justice that Birgitte inhabits, and her maneuvers to get the best out of the tricky situations are realistic with a strong moral commentary. This is what Scandinavians do best. Their shows/ novels are far from smartass cynical fast talking annoyingly predictable shows coming out of English-speaking countries. They are atmospheric, dark, intense, brutally honest but with a strong thread of moral commentary.
I liked the show, but not as much as Bridge, or Killing.
What I liked is the way it openly talks about women in power. In the first episode itself, Birgitte is told – by her male well wishers as well as a nasty right-wing opponent- that she needs to be at the ‘Head of the table’, i.e., in charge of situation, befitting her status as a top boss. Her husband, a corporate honcho tells her how very often women hurry to describe their faults and ask for less, while men hide their faults and ask for more. Very Sheryl Sandberg. In fact, Birgitte’s character does resemble Sheryl Sandberg – soft, smiling demeanour and all, but without the corporate greed and with a social conscience.
How Birgitte gets to the head of the table is deliciously unpredictable. I was half expecting her to either become a tough boy or be a manipulative bitch because that’s what successful women are according to popular culture!! But she is neither, surprise and sigh of relief.
What I also liked is the show’s willingness to spiel issues like terrorism, abortion, environmentalism, corporate bullying etc. with a twist. Many shows I watch these days are a calculated mix between token political correctness and convenient old world morality. Borgen resists that.
Really loved the lead actress Babett Knudsen, the incidental characters, snappy editing, lush cinematography and first class acting by virtually everyone on screen.
What I found troublesome was the intense focus on and passive-aggressive nature of Birgitte’s family. While the show does focus on how difficult it is for successful women to manage both family and work ( men don’t need to do that!!), it feels exaggerated. Can’t she hire a nanny? It is unbelievably stupid that a family would expect a prime minister to be there for sing bedtime stories. I also found it quite ridiculous that her son’s bed wetting is indirectly blamed on her job. Her husband’s character ( played by distractingly handsome Mikael Birkkjer who is a cross between Steve Jobs and Russell Crow), which starts as supportive spouse, degerates into I-want- primeminister-for-wife-but-want-her-to-also-focus-on lingerie-or else-I- will-cheat- and -be- a sexist -moron.
What I didn’t like was the totally random relationship between Kasper and Katrine. It was way tooooo lukewarm and pretentious for me. And it occupied too much of airtime and story arc.
Overall, I am not buzzing from the show as such, but I will definitely watch the second season when available here.