Scandinavia is cool, and Scandinavian design – from fashion and furniture to electronics and architecture – is a powerful force. Now Scandinavian drama is taking over our tellies. First we had Wallander, then cult hit The Killing, and now Borgen, a political drama filling the void left by The West Wing and The Thick of It.
Borgen (the title derived from the nickname for the Danish parliament) follows party leader Brigitte Nyborg on her rise to power and the lives of politicians, journalists, spin-doctors and family surrounding her. Perhaps surprising for a sub-titled drama, documenting the ins and outs of coalition politics, it makes for gripping television. It is the characters that really make the show, from the immensely likeable Brigitte to slick spinner Kasper and slimy opposition leader Michael Laugesen.
Brigitte’s relationship with her family is particularly well done, with wonderful chemistry between the leader and her incredibly supportive (and attractive) husband. Inevitably, Brigitte’s increasing political success puts a strain on this charming relationship, but I have faith that their clear attraction to one-another and mutual sense of humour will pull them through. The main weakness in the show lies in Katrine, the supposedly gifted young journalist who instead comes across as over-emotional, easily led, and – quite frankly – not very nice. Hopefully as the series draws to a close her character will develop some personality.
Although Danish politics is probably an unfamiliar topic to most, much of the plot will resonate to a British audience. The first two episodes focus on the manoeuvres leading to the formation of a coalition, whilst the next highlight the compromises required to get anything done, something no longer foreign to the UK. Other issues, such as the role of women in politics and the nature of their relationship with America, will also seem familiar.
Indeed, the show serves to remind us that, despite the differences in language, there is much in common between the politics Britain and the rest of Europe – or, at the very least, Denmark; far more so than in the American system represented in The West Wing.
Borgen is currently being broadcast on BBC 4 on Saturdays at 9pm. To catch up, visit BBC iPlayer.