November 22, 2012

CHANNEL 375 ON DirecTV:

'Borgen,' 'The Thick of It,' Bond: What to Watch During the Thanksgiving Weekend (Jace Lacob,  Nov 21, 2012, Daily Beast)

Borgen (LinkTV and online at LinkTV.org)

If you haven't yet fallen under the spell of Danish political thriller Borgen, here is the perfect opportunity to watch a marathon of Seasons 1 and 2 as LinkTV will air all 20 episodes of this penetrating and intelligent series over the holiday weekend, from Thursday to Sunday.  Revolving around the political, moral, and ideological struggles of Denmark's first female prime minister, Borgen is hands down the best television show of 2012, and the women at the show's center--Sidse Babett Knudsen's sympathetic statsminister Birgitte Nyborg and Birgitte Hjort Sørensen's ambitious journalist Katrine Fønsmark--deliver two of television's strongest and most nuanced performances in a show that holds up a microscope to the political and media spheres in Denmark. The result is an unforgettable and insightful drama that will have you forgetting that you're reading subtitles. 

Bonus tip: Don't worry if you don't have DirecTV or Dish or if you're away from your television this weekend: you can watch the episodes online at LinkTV.org for two weeks after the on-air marathon.


Stream On: The Danish West Wing (June Thomas, June 1, 2012, Slate)

[A]nd for the first time ever, I got so stuck on a show that I absolutely, positively had to know how it all worked out. As soon as I got home, I ordered up the Region 2 DVD from Amazon.co.uk, and I didn't leave the couch for an entire weekend.

That show was Borgen, a Danish drama about that nation's first female prime minister--a sort of Scandinavian West Wing meets Commander in Chief meets ... well, there is no U.S. analog for a show that allows a beloved character to have an abortion and regret it but apparently recover just fine, thank you very much.

I had a fabulous weekend on the sofa, but it was a solitary pleasure--since most of my friends couldn't watch the DVDs even if I had gone door-to-door proselytizing for the show, there was no chance for the kind of spirited back-and-forth conversations among friends that are such a fun part of the TV-watching experience.

And then I learned that Link TV is airing the show in the United States right now. Link TV, which bills itself as "the first nationwide television channel and website dedicated to providing global perspectives on news, events and culture," is available on satellite via the Dish Network and DirectTV, and a few cable providers around the country run some of its programming. Unfortunately, my cable system is Link-less, but for a limited time, Link is streaming the first season of Borgen on its website, and it will start airing and streaming Season 2 on Sunday, June 3. (Get the full scoop on the Link TV website.)

Borgen--the title is translated as Government, though borgen means castle, which is the nickname for Denmark's parliamentary building--is a rumination on power, ambition, integrity, love, and the art of making a deal. (Hero Birgitte Nyborg's first task is to form a coalition and thereafter to keep it together.)  It's a grown-up story about a strong, smart, funny woman who is responsible for the fate of her country and its people but is still hot for her husband and worried about her kids.

The show is beautifully plotted. The many intrigues in the worlds of politics, journalism, business, and PR are given just enough twists and turns to be surprising, but never so many that they become tiresome. It also provides a deliciously sneaky peek at Danish life. Did you know that Danish vicars wear Hamlet-like neck ruffles, that Scandinavians really do eat those hard old crisp breads (sometimes even in bed), or that Danes often hold meetings standing around tall tables? I've been to Denmark twice, and I didn't.


Borgen: The Best TV Show You've Never Seen (Andrew Romano, Jul 30, 2012, Daily Beast)

Think of Borgen as The Anti-Newsroom. Aaron Sorkin's gourmet drama about a cable-news anchor on a "mission to civilize" the masses was supposed to inherit The West Wing's mantle--until it turned out to be a preachy mess. The good news is that everything Sorkin gets wrong, Borgen gets right. (In the States, the Season 2 finale airs Aug. 5 on LinkTV; the show is already a hit in Europe, and a U.S. remake is in the works.) While The Newsroom is stuck in the past, bathing its grouchy male hero, Will McAvoy, in beatific lightbeams every time he grumbles about the good old days--you know, when "real newsmen" bestrode the earth--Borgen dramatizes the cutting-edge struggles of a woman who wouldn't even exist in the world Sorkin wants to revive: Birgitte Nyborg, the first female prime minister of Denmark.

She is a riveting protagonist. McAvoy is only powerful because Sorkin says so; Nyborg must take power from a bunch of bulbous male politicians who refer to her as "Mommy" whenever she leaves the room. McAvoy is brilliant because everyone keeps calling him brilliant; Nyborg, in contrast, actually does a lot of brilliant things (thwarting an ambitious rival, outwitting a dangerous dictator). For McAvoy, every problem has an easy, righteous answer, but Nyborg has to learn the hard way: one day, she and her rangy husband, who has put his career on hold for her, are boffing and bantering like a Nordic Bogart and Bacall; the next day, his sense of self has eroded and their perfect post-feminist "deal"--he runs the household, she runs the country--begins to collapse. The difference between the two shows is the difference between reading an overwrought op-ed about the sorry state of politics and actually living out those complexities in real time. Guess which is more compelling.

Borgen isn't the first show about a female politician; Commander in Chief, Parks and Recreation, Veep, and Political Animals all put women in positions of power. But by obsessing over the delicate, seesawing balance between what its characters do at the office and what they do at home, Borgen digs deeper. How should Nyborg respond when the company that has just hired her spouse, a sought-after CEO, also stands to profit from one of her policy decisions? Does she risk her marriage and force him to resign, even though he's going stir-crazy at home? Or does she put her husband ahead of her government?

The supporting storylines are equally nuanced. What happens when the spin doctor in charge of Nyborg's message and the star reporter covering her ascent are exes? Does the former deny the latter access? Does the reporter flirt to get the story? And how do their colleagues react? On Borgen, every public decision has private consequences, and vice versa, which is something that Hollywood usually ignores and that actual politicians, operatives, and journalists have to hide. Finally getting to see these secret repercussions spool out and spill over is spellbinding; they raise the stakes on everything that happens, suffusing even the most quotidian moments with suspense.

As a result, Borgen tends to keep its characters in a constant state of flux--a cinematic trick that's especially rewarding because it's so rarely attempted on TV.
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Posted by at November 22, 2012 8:46 AM
  
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