Monday, August 20, 2012

Ten Reasons to Watch Borgen

Link TV is running a marathon of Borgen, seasons 1 and 2, starting today. If you get Dish Network or DirecTV you have Link, if you don't, you can watch the episodes streaming online, without commercial interruption, for two weeks from the day the episodes air. If you do not live in the United States, there might be other ways you can watch, including buying the show on DVD. At the moment it's only available in region 2, but if you have a DVD drive on your laptop you can download VLC media player for free and it plays any region DVD.

I know I've already gushed about the show at length but if there's one thing I've learned it's that when it comes to evangelizing for your favorite things, sometimes you have to talk about them a lot because not everyone is paying attention to you all the time.

I think Borgen is worth your time and I will attempt to explain why here!

1) Limited Run
The format for this show is different than what we're used to on American TV. The episodes are almost a full hour in length and the seasons are just ten episodes each. Also, Borgen will only be three seasons long, because that's how much story the writers feel they have to tell. What that means is that the characters don't languish or regress helplessly while the writing team attempts to make their story last. Everything that happens has a purpose and each season has a clear arc. There is no filler. Every episode is meaty.

2) Great Writing
Every episode is a treat in itself, but when you reach the end of a season and look at how it all pulled together you can't help but be impressed. Story is properly seeded, foreshadowed, and built. If something is brought up, there's probably a reason for it. Nothing feels wasted, the show is tightly plotted.

3) Great Characters
The show centers around three characters, Birgitte Nyborg, the fictional first female prime minister of Denmark, her spin doctor Kasper Juul, and reporter Katrine F√łnsmark. Some of the articles I've read describe Katrine as Birgitte's nemesis, but let me make it clear that's not how it's depicted on the show at all. They are two professional women with their own goals that sometimes may be in conflict with each other. But Katrine isn't setting out to destroy Birgitte or anything like that. This isn't Political Animals with loads of backstabbing. Each of these characters is interesting and nuanced, I love them all to be honest. I feel like they are written with love, which is the best thing I can say about any show. And like I mentioned before, they grow throughout the course of both seasons in ways that are incredibly satisfying. Trying not to be too spoilery, season 1 should not be viewed as a complete story in itself, because what season 2 does with the aftermath of season 1 has been one of the most surprising and delightful things I've watched in recent times.

4) Interesting and Relevant Political Issues
I'm not always a huge fan of politics on TV, I often think it turns out kind of cheesy or hard to believe or that the politicians are villainized or agendas are pushed. Borgen certainly has a liberal sensibility and I feel like the politicians that make up Birgitte's government are given more depth than those in the minority right wing parties. (most everyone is very flawed, though) Even so, I never feel as if the show is telling me how to think about anything and I feel the political issues are given the complexity they deserve. Just because it takes place in Denmark doesn't mean the issues explored irrevelant to an American* audience, the war in Afghanistan, the influx of refugees, the private lives of politicians, gender equality...all of these things are discussed on Borgen and are treated as difficult problems with perhaps no easy solution. I was reading an interview with Adam Price, the creator of Borgen, and he said one thing they wanted to make sure of was that Birgitte never really loses her idealism. This is very refreshing to me personally, because I have lost a lot of interest and faith in politics, and the somewhat more gentle and goodhearted (but not at all naive) approach that Borgen takes to politics is preferable.

5)It's feminist!
Maybe the most feminist show I watch. Birgitte and Katrine are fully realized characters. I never feel like the show punishes them for being female, but rather depicts the difficulties of their lives fairly. They do not break over the men in their lives, even while being allowed to feel grief or disappointment when things go wrong. Katrine and Hanne develop a fantastic relationship as two women in the same profession who used to be competitors. While acknowledging realities such as, "for the first time, men want to sleep with the prime minister" the show doesn't use either Birgitte or Katrine's attractiveness as a means they use to succeed professionally. And there's so much more I could say but I think it would be too spoilery.

6) Be ahead of the curve!
Borgen continues to receive rave reviews in the press, I haven't seen a single negative review from a critic. It won the BAFTA last year. This is good television! NBC may still go ahead with their adaptation, but don't accept the pale American substitute, and go for the original! (don't let the subtitles scare you off, etc...)

7) Heart and Mind
I think Borgen is a show for both heart and's a show that makes you think, one you can appreciate on an intellectual level, but also one that will play on your emotions and live in your heart. This is rare, imo.

8) The cast.
The main cast is beautiful, okay? I mean I watched After the Wedding this past weekend just to see Sidse Babett Knudsen again, because I already was missing her. They are also talented---great actors! (After the Wedding was great, btw, and on Netflix Instant!)

9) Denmark makes good product
They gave us Legos and cheese Danishes and now they are giving us good TV, okay? (lol yes I'm running out reasons)

10) It will make me really really really happy.

I hope you will let me know if you decide to watch!

*I'm sure they are relevant to other countries's interest as well, but since I'm mainly pushing this right now because of it's limited availability in the States, I focused on the United States.


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