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Borgen

Release Year:         2010
Studio:         MHz Networks
Format:         Colour; Widescreen; NTSC
Rated:        Not Rated
# of Discs/Episodes:         4 / 10
Running Time:         606 minutes
DVD Release Date:         March 12, 2013
Screenwriters:         Tobias Lindholm, Jeppe Gjervig Gram
Directors:         Soren Kragh-Jacobson, Rumle Hammerich, Annette K. Olesen, Mikkel Norgaard
Actors:         Sidse Babett Knudsen, Birgitte Hjort Sorensen, Pilou Asbaek
E:Top Picks Rating:        10/10

MHz Networks Write-up:
Cited by Stephen King as his favorite television series of the year and winner of the Best International TV Series at the 2012 British Academy Television Awards, Denmark’s blockbuster political drama BORGEN explores the insular world of high-stakes Danish politics. Sidse Babett Knudsen stars as Birgitte Nyborg, the idealistic head of the moderate party who becomes prime minister of Denmark through a political fluke and has to quickly learn the ways of power, all in the glare of a relentless Danish press corps that covers her administration in incessant news cycles. Shes an altruistic public servant in an old boys’ club and must master the art of the deal overnight, manage her image and understand that she has advisers but no real friends. She must also perform the impossible juggling act of maintaining a family life while serving as Denmark’s first female prime minister. The rigors of public life and journalism may attract some of Denmark’s finest, but they also exact a high price from all those who participate in an open democracy.

Jon Ted Wynne Review:
Advance word on BORGEN was that it is absolutely riveting. Hearing this, I was hopeful that would be the case, but also a little bit cautious–at ten 1 hour episodes in length, that’s a lot of program to get through, and if it proved to be half as good as expectation claimed, then I had to be prepared to devote a lot of time close together to watch it.

Yes, life can be difficult! For a period of almost a week I struggled to find the time because guess what, folks, BORGEN is as good as it gets. It IS riveting, and finding time to watch it (oh, the luxury of back-to-back episode viewings!) was a challenge but also a nice problem to have.

Imagine that. A show most of us have never heard of, with actors most of us have never heard of, about Danish politics which most of us know nothing about. Superior writing, direction, acting and plotting, however, as well as the fact that human beings are basically the same wherever one lives in the world, explain BORGEN’s immense appeal and immediate place in the pantheon of outstanding political drama.

BORGEN is refreshing for a number of reasons. The two principle players, Sidse Babett Knudsen and Birgitte Hjort Sorensen, are empowered but flawed women competing in a man’s world. Both are beautiful but in different ways, and are much more than merely pretty faces. Ms Knudsen is an immensely appealing forty-something who battles to control her waistline even while running the country. (She banishes Danish pastries from official meetings!) The contrast between the seemingly trivial (to us) dietary considerations and the responsibility of leadership is one way Knudsen’s Prime Minister remains believable but also accessible to the viewer. Ms Sorensen’s news anchor is younger and more obviously beautiful, but she is also smart, ruthless and fragile. The way the lives and professions of the two protagonists intertwine is the meat and potatoes of BORGEN.

Equally fascinating though, is Pilou Asbaek as Prime Minister Birgitte Nyborg’s spin doctor, Kasper Juul. Michael J. Fox (“Spin City”) he ain’t! Juul on the surface appears to be unscrupulous and deceitful, but is he really? He gradually became my favourite character through a demonstration of his sensational daring and guile, which contributed to a key plot point late in this first set of episodes. This is the most compelling aspect of this show, the way the characters unfold, grow and change–and surprise when you least expect it.

Another fascinating aspect of the show for North American viewers is the opportunity to glean an understanding of Danish politics–made interesting and comprehensible through the drama and the well-rounded characters. How the Danes view the rest of the world, particularly the United States, is both amusing and enlightening.

The show is 95% in Danish with English subtitles, though occasional scenes appear in English. The marvelous English actor Nicholas Wodeson plays the President of the fictional East European country of Turgisia in one important episode. Wodeson’s facility with accents and ability to be truly different in every role he plays (while being noticeably himself) is truly amazing. The Danish actors more than hold their own with Wodeson and throughout the series. Sidse Babett Knudsen in particular is effective in her portrayal of gradual and subtle change as the Prime Minister’s life and circumstances evolve. For such an empowered woman, her PM still retains her vulnerability and thus her likeability, which is a key element to the show’s international success and appeal.

BORGEN’s ultimate achievement, however, is that it leaves you wanting more. With season two and a final season, number three, in the can, one can only hope that the balance of the show’s episodes will prove to be as richly compelling and entertaining as season one.

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