Last night saw the return of Lilyhammer [sic] to Netflix. I thought I would use this opportunity to write about some recent Scandinavian comedy series’, as we’re more familiar with dramas like The Killing, The Bridge, and Borgen.

Lilyhammer is an original Netflix series that made its way on to BBC4 at the end of 2012. Season one saw New Yorker Frank Tagliano (Steven Van Zandt) turn up in Lillehammer under witness protection, after ratting out his mob buddies in court. He chose Lillehammer for its obscurity and because he had fond memories of the place after watching the 1994 Winter Olympic Games. When he arrives in Norway, he is given the name Giovanni, which the locals quickly change to Johnny. He manipulates the system to get a licence for a bar and quickly makes friends with the natives, including single mother, Sigrid. However, the local police, being unaware of his past, instantly distrust him. He can’t stay out of trouble for long, and is soon raising suspicion on both sides of the Atlantic.

In episode one of season two, a Londoner named Duncan (Paul Kaye) arrives to hawk his Ferrari. Johnny’s hapless crew accidentally trash said Ferrari and Johnny ends up with a gun in his face. It also sees the baptism of Johnny’s illegitimate twins, whose names he attempts to change due to their meanings in English. The first episode was eventful but sort of fell flat if I’m being completely honest.

What I like most about Lilyhammer is Lillehammer. The location shots of Norway are beautiful, full of crisp, snow-filled landscapes and towering trees. It’s also nice to be immersed in another culture and language for an hour. However, due to Frank/Johnny’s nationality, there is a mix of both English and Norwegian.

NB This season, Van Zandt has added the co-writing credits to his name, as well as executive producer.

Night Shift/Day Shift/Prison Shift

Night Shift is a comedy series set in Reykjavik, which was first shown in 2007. It aired in the UK in 2011 on BBC4, after an influx of Scandinavian drama series. Its setting is a petrol station, where three employees – who could not be more different from one another – work the night shift. Pedantic tyrant Georg is the eldest and the manager. He is served by Daniel, a med school dropout, and Olafur, an endearing but utterly clueless no-hoper.

It’s a slow-paced comedy, which split opinions between friends of mine. As a night owl, I was drawn in to their nocturnal world and found it pretty amusing. It spawned two follow-up series, Day Shift and Prison Shift, as well as a film that was released in its native Iceland.

NB Jon Gnarr, who played Georg, is now the mayor of Reykjavik.



The easiest way to describe the main character in Rita is to look to another comedy-drama with a strong female lead. Picture Jackie Peyton in Nurse Jackie (minus the drugs), move her to Denmark and give her a job as a teacher. Her annoying colleague, Zoe, has strong parallels with student teacher, Hjordis (she even looks like her).

Rita is a single mother of three in her early forties. She navigates life’s trials – an estranged mother, an affair with the school principal, and supporting her brood’s problems – in her own special way. Straight-talking, quick-witted and dysfunctional in her relationships, she’s not afraid to break the rules. She’s also a damn good teacher.

Season one of Rita is available to watch on Netflix.

NB Anna Gunn (Skyler from Breaking Bad) is to play Rita in the US version.