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Category: TV-shows

In TV Shows: Scandinavian Shows Evaluated

Scandinavian TV shows have always had a particular aesthetic, different from e.g. German shows, not to mention French or British TV shows.Don’t ask me why that is, according to my girlfriend, very talented photographer, it’s the way they frame and film the scenes, but I think there’s a cultural emotional subduableness, subtlety, and design aesthetic, not to mention very good story telling that makes Scandinavian TV shows special. In this piece, I’ll shortly go through some shows worth watching.

The Killing

I think that this show is easily the second most famous one (after Millennium) coming out of Scandinavia. A strong female character, to the point that she doesn’t work well with people, silent and determined to solve the different crime that each season is centred around. The 1st season is obviously the best one, the middle seasons feel like filler to me, but the show ends with a bang. Could not stop watching, it lead to plenty of woollen sweaters around the house as well. Don’t watch the US remake, watch this!

The Bridge

Comes in part out of the team responsible for The Killing. Another strong, but sincerely messed up female protagonist, from Sweden this time (The Killing is Danish), teaming up with a Danish policeman to solve a crime that happened exactly on the intersecting bridge between Sweden & Denmark. Most entertaining is the interplay, the psychological derangement of the female character, the way it is shot (less dark than The Killing). The story itself was not as good as The Killing, but still pretty exciting. Don’t know about the US remake, but this one is worth a watch!

Borgen

Completely different show, a drama with another strong female protagonist (!). This time the focus is a politician’s rise to power and challenges in balancing being a prime minister with being a mother and a wife. Very relevant topic to today’s society, but also compelling to watch. Looking forward to the new season if/when it comes out.

The Ones Who Kill

New show that I started watching, playing in Denmark, another (disturbed) female protagonist who partners up with a profiler to solve pretty gruesome crimes. It’s well-filmed, but sometimes a bit too graphic for my taste. 

Bonus:

Millennium: infamous book and movie trilogy. I liked the Scandinavian film version of it, though this kind of story is better told across a season, rather than 3 movies.

Let The Right One In: thriller about vampires, great movie, more atmospheric than bloody. Liked it a lot.

Insomnia (1997 version): psychological thriller about chasing a killer during the 24 hour daylight that haunts some Scandinavian countries during mid-summer. Very haunting and effective. 

In Music: The last track of ‘Six Feet Under’

The last track of the show was a beautiful piece of ambiance while the final scenes of the show were shown. So sad! I wrote before how I wondered whether this show, which is about death, desensitised you from the death-experience. I think that it does the opposite, that you become more sensitive to it, but that ignoring it is worse—you have this constant shadow hanging over you, especially when you get older. I didn’t realise that Alan Ball, who also wrote and directed ‘American Beauty,’ had done the same for this show. A marvellous piece of art and I feel privileged to have been allowed to see it (as I feel with many of HBO’s shows).

Enjoy the track!

In TV-Shows: Thoughts on "Six feet under"

My first thought about this show was, what is people’s fascination with death? Then I realised that we are all fascinated with death, which should make anything to do with that topic an instant blockbuster. Of course, the latest show on this topic, “Pushing Daisies,” was just cancelled, so even death can’t save your show all the time.

There are three big themes to “Six feet under.” The first is clearly death. The second is homosexuality. The third is the insanity of the Fisher family, the main focus on this show. The Fisher family runs an undertaking business and one of the members is gay, which is the way that all relates.

Let’s start with death. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about that part. Every episode starts with a death (with the exception of one or three). Some deaths are normal (i.e. of old age), some deaths are odd, some deaths are horrible, some are comical. I’d like to say that watching this show desensitises you to death, but I luckily haven’t been in the position to test that out yet. What I can say is that you get the feeling that death is something rather natural and that we all cope with it somehow.

Let’s continue with homosexuality. There are a lot of gay scenes in this show, as one of the characters comes out of the closet and tries to live a normal life. I think he succeeds, and through it you develop a better understanding of the battle (both in the gay person’s head and in his environment) and feel good when that battle is won.

Let’s finish with the insanity. I’ve thought a lot about it and I think that situations in the show end up becoming insane, because people constantly play off other people. E.g. in an effort to become closer to another man, a woman joins a cult, and insanity follows. Or, because one man finds out he’s dying, but keeps it from his girlfriend, she feels alienated and starts sleeping around, which creates more tension. There’s some seriously “fucked up shit” (a phrase often used in the show), that’s happening, but it can all be explained by reacting to the actions of another person. It kind of feels like no one has control over their own choices, which is a semi-true parody of real life and explains why not everything is nice and logical or orderly.

Kick-ass drama. If you can get past the death-part, it can be enjoyed by all I think.

In 2008: a year of media

My media memory only goes back so far, but the great thing about the human brain is that it’s self-selecting, automatically dismissing that which isn’t noteworthy.

Memorable this year were a few things in tv-shows, films, and music.

The year in TV-Shows:
My highlight this year is definitely finishing “The Wire“, which I managed to do over the period of several months. A genius piece of writing and it made me a big fan of HBO, which, as I recently found out, stands for Home Box Office. A great name!

Another gem that stood out was “Damages,” with Glenn Close, which never let up in the tension. I’ve only seen the first season and can’t wait for the rest.

Comedy-wise, I’ve been left pretty disappointed since Seinfeld and the early Friends, but I can warmly recommend “How not to live your life.” It only aired a few episodes this year, but it was laugh-out-loud funny British comedy.

The year in Films
Last Christmas, I actually made it my resolution to focus on the classics in 2008 and beyond, and can’t really recall any brilliant films coming out (of course, I’m wrong, but my brain only holds that much space).

Classics that stood out were:

  • The Public Enemy, which I liked because it’s the oldest thing I’ve ever seen and I’m fascinated at the idea of looking through a window into life when my grandparents lived.
  • Rebecca, which was also tension non-stop.
  • A few Jean Arthur movies, whom I’ve developed a mini-crush on.
  • Lawrence of Arabia, which just seems like the optimal adventure movie to me.
  • And Casablanca, which is just a classy flick.

I’m trying to strain my brain for some more recent films, perhaps you can suggest some. Did Juno come out this year (no), in which case, that’s worth a watch, as well as Mongol (the life of Genghis Kahn).

The year in Music
Similarly, I think it is hard to form a valid opinion as to an album is great, when it has only recently been released. Thinking back at 2008, only two albums stood out:

Everything else, I still have to think about.

In TV-shows: Mad Men’s Cigarettes

TV Scoop_ Mad Men cigarette count_ one every minute.jpgI’m not sure what I like about Mad Men. There’s no real action in it, but I guess it gives a glimpse, a stylised one, into 1950’s and 60’s society in the US, and I’m always fascinated by how people used to live before I was born. Of course, it’s usually better to watch a movie from that time for that, or read a book.

In any case, things to like about it are:

  • the marketing—the industry was just getting started and it’s interesting how things worked and have evolved since then.
  • the fashion—it’s pretty stunning how people are dressed in that show, elegant certainly, and not quite mass-produced elegance either.
  • gender-relations—the rise of feminism, the machismo of men
  • the vices—the constant smoking, drinking, and sleeping around… in and outside of work

I think there’ll be cigarette-counts released as soon as season 1 has ended. But in the mean time, I found out that at least one show featured the lighting of 42 cigarettes—that’s one every minute! That alone makes it a fascinating watch; I wonder if they’re real!

In TV-shows: How to not live your life

My favourite British sitcom, which does narrow it down a bit. But it’s definitely laugh-out-loud brilliant.

Not safe for work and if you can’t get your hands on it, be creative.

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