Watched the first 2 episodes of Borgen Saturday night. Yes, the subtitle season has started early.
Why is it so fascinating? And it was! I have mentioned before that it was made for Danish viewers and thought to be too arcane for a foreign audience. And it's in Danish. With subtitles. Set in a foreign city, whose geography doesn't immediately make any sense. Starring unknown (except to devotees) actors. And deals with subtleties of Danish politics and even (this week) military niceties. But somehow it is as popular in UK as in Denmark. And the lead journalist hasn't even got her kit off yet.
I think a leader I read today hits the nail on the head – 'why can't the BBC produce anything more complex than a futile game show or a foul-mouthed comedian?' Well, a bit harsh maybe, but I have felt for some time now that British TV has become even more dumbed down than usual.
Stand-up has become big here lately. I quite enjoy some of the exponents myself. But it has led to rather a lot of stand-up programmes, and panel games featuring comedians, and indeed panel games hosted by comedians. Nothing really wrong with that in theory; we all need a good laugh from time to time. From time to time to time even. But, inevitably, with so many funny men and women, not all of them are good. Or even funny.
There are, to be fair, one or two amusing sitcoms (and some unfunny ones too), but even they rely occasionally on the odd belly laugh from foul language or toilet references.
This situation seems to be supported by the film industry. I saw a poster the other day for Stag Night 2 or Bridesmaids 2 or The Hangover 3, or whatever it was, and the tagline was 'even cruder than the last one!' So I presume that this type of humour is a selling point. If that's the current demand, I suppose it explains why the jokes on TV have become so unsubtle.
Game shows and their totally uninformed contestants I've sniped at before. But new ones keep coming along. They now seem to be the accepted parking place for comedians whose own comedy shows have come to an end. So they're usually both irritating and without humour.
Anyway, back to foreign series. I was totally gripped, as ever by The Killing 3, that other Danish thriller, but devastated by the ending. I shan't spoil it for any of you that hasn't seen it yet, but the series' trick of ending each episode with the least expected outcome, to whet your appetite for the next, was exceeded tenfold at the end, but the whole house of cards was not only knocked over, but set light to. Even the US remake writers will have difficulties writing a series 4 now. Perhaps the formula had been played out.
Actually the producers of US TV series don't think so. I know there have been series with unclear or semi-real happenings unfolding – 'Lost', and I suppose '24', for example, and 'The Wire', but 'Homeland' seems even closer to the Nordic formula. The writers used this approach too to prolong the US version of 'The Killing', which was also greatly enjoyable, though different from the Scandinavian version. The immensely enjoyable 'Homeland' similarly underlines that other TV series-makers have picked up on this script-writing method. But 'Homeland' too ended completely unsatisfactorily and, I assumed, with some open-ended denouement intending to signify that the main protagonists had been written out. I have since discussed the ending with several friends and discovered at least as many possible meanings to the ending. Hmmm.
I subsequently read that Damian Lewis (the British lead actor) has signed a new 5 year contract. So I guess he hasn't died then. Just a guess mind. And perhaps the next series will be ready when Borgen finishes. Hooray! Meanwhile, for my health and peace of mind, tell me to switch the bloody television off.