Scandinavian Man Invasion on TV

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Anyone as obsessed with TV as I am knows that Nordic TV shows have asserted a kind of quality and dominance that has garnered well-deserved praise and attention (and the inevitable English-language – and other – remakes, as with The Killing mirroring the Danish Forbrydelsen and the Swedish/Danish production Bron spawning American/Mexican offshoot, The Bridge, and UK/French offshoot, The Tunnel).

Amidst the sea of fantastic Scandinavian television show choices, one cannot overlook the strength and ubiquity of the Scandinavian actors on English-language TV shows. TV has been taken over by Scandinavian men… I will undoubtedly forget some of them (yes there are that many!) but the most notable that spring to mind right now include some pretty startling, arresting performances:

Mads Mikkelsen (Denmark) in Hannibal

Ulrich Thomsen (Denmark) in Banshee

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Denmark) in Game of Thrones

Joel Kinnaman (Sweden/USA) in The Killing

Alexander Skarsgård (Sweden) in True Blood

Bill Skarsgård (Sweden) in Hemlock Grove

Peter Stormare (Sweden) in The Blacklist

Of note, Stormare is also starring in a series of Volvo Trucks ads (not unlike Jean-Claude Van Damme!) that champions Swedish values – see below. Stormare rules – cannot help but think of him again frequently now that there is a TV version of Fargo. He was a highlight in the film version.

Better safe than sorry!

Look at him “fika” all by himself!

Might not want to try “allemansrätten” wherever you come from (especially the USA where “stand your ground” might take precedence)

Nowhere in the world will you see as many dads with prams!

Substantial Swedish food!

Lagom! The Swedish Goldilocks complex!

Darri Ingólfsson (Iceland) in Dexter

Christopher Heyerdahl (Canada) in Hell on Wheels (honorable mention since he is not really a Norwegian but beautifully plays a Norwegian who shifts like a chameleon into different identities as it suits him but is known in the beginning as “The Swede”)

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Gustaf Skarsgård (Sweden) – Vikings (Yes, there are a lot of those Skarsgårds!)

Kristofer Hivju (Norway) – Game of Thrones (Finally – a real Norwegian to add to the list!)

All the Bridges and Tunnels

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Having now seen all the variations of TV’s Bron/The Bridge/The Tunnel, I find that even though each story is roughly the same, the gems of each are in the cultural differences that pop up in the telling. Sure, the Swedish-Danish production has some of that, but the cultures are not so vastly different (nor are the languages) or looked upon in the same ways, with the same kinds of prejudices as what one finds in US – Mexican relations or in the somewhat tense/frosty historical relationship between the UK and France. It genuinely surprises me that all three versions managed to be compelling and made me want to continue watching.

I saw the US version first, and I enjoyed it but felt that it struggled at times to explain and fit together elements of the story – particularly when comparing it later against the other versions of the show. The Scandinavian original is the gold standard, but the somewhat broader canvas created by the US and UK versions allowed for some consideration of real issues plaguing both countries (immigration, illegal immigration, human trafficking) – this exists between Denmark and Sweden as well but is not quite the same hot-button issue it is on the US-Mexico border or in the UK-France cross-Channel transport. Even the change of scenery in each story – and mostly good acting in all cases – made each version feel fresh. The insults that Brits and French and Americans and Mexicans hurl at each other is also a difference – the Danes and Swedes may have their issues, but nothing like what US-Mexico relations and mistrust amounts to.

I am not qualified to go on about this – I don’t have any deeper analysis. It has been a while since I saw the US version and a few months since I saw the Scandinavian one. Having just finished the UK/French version this weekend, I now only feel qualified to have an opinion – that I like them all.