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Annika Bengtzon Crime Reporter (Ep. 1-3 & 4-6)

Release Year:         2012
Studio:         MHz Networks
Format:         Colour; widescreen; NTSC; in Swedish with English subtitles
Rated:         Not Rated
# of Discs/Episodes:         3 / 3 & 3 / 3
Running Time:         270 minutes & 270 minutes
DVD Release Date:         July 30, 2013
Screenwriters:         Permilla Oljelund, Alex Haridi, Antonia Pyk, Bjorn Paqualin
Directors:         Peter Flinth, Agneta Fagerstrom, Ulf Kvensler
Actors:         Malin Crepin, Bjorn Kjellman, Leif Andree
DVD Features:         SDH subtitles
E:Top Picks Rating:         8.5/10

MHz Networks Write-up:  
Based on author Liza Marklund’s best-selling crime novels, Annika Bengtzon is a journalist and working mother of two struggling to keep her marriage alive. Fearless in her search for the truth, she won’t take no for an answer from anyone; not from prestigious academicians or drug dealers or from colleagues inside her own profession. Her passion for getting the story may bring her into dangerous situations, but ultimately allows her to peer into the heart of every crime. Annika’s not afraid to square off with hardened criminals, but her toughest challenge seems to be trying to balance the job with her sometimes tumultuous private life.

Jon Ted Wynne Review:  
34 years old at the time this series was made, in 2012, rising Swedish star Malin Crepin embodies driven, young, thrill-seeking newspaper reporter Annika Bengtzon. While the title of the show as well as its premise suggest a throw back to 1940’s film noir when most protagonists were usually either private eyes or reporters, the series is beautifully shot, stylish, and makes great use of colour and locations. While not without cliches, the scripts are exciting and we come to really care about Annika. This is crucial and not a given, for any protagonist, especially female, who sacrifices her home life for professional success (and perhaps to feed her addiction to adrenaline) is bound to come under some criticism for her choices, even in this day and age. It helps that Ms Crepin is beautiful without being intimidatingly so (making her likeable) but it is also a credit to her acting abilities that she so ably pulls this off.

The series gets off to a heart-pounding start when Annika finds herself at the annual Nobel Prize Banquet, “Nobel’s Last Will”, where she witnesses a shocking murder. But who is the real victim? It’s the story of a lifetime but a gag order prevents her from writing about it. One of the show’s ongoing cliches is established early in this episode when Annika appears to be in a very privileged position with the local police, who supply her with important crime-related information at the drop of a hat. Ultimately such details compromise the show’s integrity and prevent it from being exceptional. ANNIKA BENGTZON is, however, still highly watchable and one’s enjoyment level may be influenced by how forgiving one is towards these dramatic cliches.

Annika’s home life is also somewhat predictable, with her husband a bit of a wet blanket the way he fails to put his foot down over Annika’s extremely-driven behaviour, especially when it comes to her sharing the load of raising their two children. Speaking of which, how on earth would such a career woman take the time to have TWO children, let alone one. It is hard to imagine Annika Bengtzon taking maternity leave.

This is not to say anyone can’t have a successful career and a happy home life, but it isn’t easy, and perhaps the show could be a bit more creative when exploring this story arc.

Having said that, ANNIKA BENGTZON is an enjoyable set of six thrillers with a refreshingly different point of view, that of the committed journalist who relishes the challenge of rooting out the Big Story, but who also values the journalistic integrity in reporting the news fairly and accurately to the public.

The second episode, “Prime Time”, has an Agatha Christie feel to it, as Annika attempts to uncover who, out of ten possible suspects, is the killer of a famous TV host.

Episode three, “Studio Sex”, is a real pulse-racer and goes a long way into deepening our understanding of Annika’s character.

These first three mysteries are packaged as one three disc box set.

The second box set continues Annika’s pursuit of journalistic distinction. The three episodes are “The Red Wolf”; “Lifetime”; and “A Place in the Sun”. The last is the most interesting as Annika travels to Costa del Sol, Spain, to cover a story involving a murdered Swedish family. The change of locale is welcome. It should be mentioned that ANNIKA BENGTZONZ is based on the series of best-selling crime novels by Liza Marklund.

Perhaps it is unfair to compare a relatively straight-forward crime show like ANNIKA BENGTZON with BORGEN, from neighbouring Denmark, but with the latter outstanding show still fresh in this reviewer’s mind, it is inevitable. After all, Swedish and Danish sound the same to me–and will to most North Americans. A subtitle is a subtitle. Still, if you enjoy crime thrillers, watching a beautiful young blonde Swedish woman try to solve the crime is not an unpleasant way to spend one’s viewing time.

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