Until this Christmas I had never seen an episode of Homeland, Borgen or The Killing. I’m one of those people who binge out on DVD box sets rather than watch a series an episode at a time. Many happy Christmases have been spent feasting on five or six episodes at a time of the West Wing, 24 or Lost.
For the last week I have been suffering from a rather bad dose of the lurgi, which has been so bad at times that I couldn’t even be bothered to switch on the TV. (I’m getting a bit better now, thanks for your concern!). However, I did manage to watch the first series of Homeland and quite enjoyed it, although I didn’t think it lived up to the hype. It was quite slow moving and had some very irritating characters. The thought that Carrie’s bipolar disorder wouldn’t have been discovered by the CIA was just laughable. However, let’s not carp. It’s left me wanting to watch Series 2, so it can’t have been that bad. I suppose I was wanting it to be a worthy successor to ‘24’, but truth be told, it only ever got to a ‘15’.
The same cannot be said of Borgen. I was hooked right from the first minute. Indeed, I am slightly ashamed to admit that I watched all ten episodes within a 24 hour period. No, since you ask, I don’t have a life. It was gripping. I’m quite used to watching programmes with subtitles from my time living in Germany, so that part of it didn’t bother me at all. Indeed, I hope it has made UK TV executives wake up to all the terrific foreign language programming we are missing out on.
Some will say that the plotlines are slightly predictable, and they’d have a point. Some of the characterisations are also predictable but the quality of acting means this hardly matters. The incestuous relationship between politicians and the media is laid bare for all to see as is the grubby side of coalition politics.
Birgitte Nyborg is very much of the same politics as the West Wing’s President Bartlet, although she doesn’t quite have as much of the ‘vision thing’ as he does. The subplot throughout the ten episodes is the changing relationship between Nyborg and her husband Philip Christensen, who finds it increasingly difficult to cope with the stresses manifested by his wife’s job. This storyline is again, somewhat predictable, but somehow, again, it doesn’t matter.
I thought the best actor in the series was from Pilou Asbeak who plays the PM’s spin doctor Kasper Juul. He has a dark side to him, as most spin doctors do, but is more self aware than most. The most unrealistic character was political journalist Katrine Fonsmark. She grated with me for all sorts of reasons, not least that I cannot imagine a 29 year old journalist constantly having public shouting matches with her editor. The woman she replaced as news anchor for TV1, Hanne Holm, was by far the more interesting character, and I’d like to see more of her in the next series.
Perhaps the best thing to emerge from Borgen is that it shows how an idealistic leader is forced to come to term with wielding political power. I wonder if Nick Clegg is a fan.
Interestingly NBC are to make a US version of Borgen, which leads me to ask why it is that UK broadcasters seem incapable of making multi-episode dramas like this. Borgen and the West Wing treat politics and politicians as forces for good as well as bad. Our broadcasters would reject any script which showed politicians in a good light. It all needs to be about scandal and corruption. Shame on them.
My dilemma now, is do I Sky Plus series two which begins on BBC4 in early January, or do I wait for the box set to come out later in the year? Somehow I don’t think I’ll be able to wait until then.