Thursday, 10 January 2013

Borgen still on form

It was good to see that Borgen has not suffered the second-series fall-off that afflicts so many innovative dramas. "Homeland" and even "Forbrydelsen" are recent examples. Admittedly, the dilemmas in the first two episodes were resolved rather too neatly and the dialogue was occasionally clunky, but these traits were noticeable in series one.

Episode one certainly came in with a bang, almost literally. I didn't notice much discussion among my Facebook friends on this one, possibly because prime minister Nyborg came to a different conclusion about her troops in Afghanistan than they would have done. Incidentally, there was no nonsense about protecting hard-working families on the streets of Denmark in Birgitte's speech of justification to the nation; the troops were there to help bring peace and democracy to Afghanistan.

Episode two tackled the EU and introduced a thread which I suspect will develop through the series: the growing estrangement between the PM and her party rank-and-file. It is tempting to see parallels with Nick Clegg's position, but it is more probable that the scriptwriters are drawing on their own country's history and that of their neighbours. After all, continental Europeans have been at this coalition lark longer than we have.

Proportional voting apart, Borgen portrays a political system much more like our own than that other favourite of politically-aware viewers, The West Wing. Do the Danish parties have conferences like ours, I wonder? If so, I hope that is a subject the writers have tackled.

I say "have tackled", because Radio Times announced in its preview of this series that series three has just finished shooting, and will be the last. DR has been canny in not letting their dramas outstay their welcome. No doubt UK TV executives have commissioned scripts for a Westminster equivalent, but history suggests that "me-too" will fail in this case. Borgen works because it is sufficiently distanced from British politics to be intriguing, though the personal situations are all too familiar. The British TV audience can lap up satire ("Yes, Minister", "The Thick of it") or thrillers ("House of Cards", "State of Play") based on Westminster, but more serious drama has not caught on. There has been no successor to "First Among Equals" since the dramatisation of Jeffrey Archer's novel was aired 26 years ago.

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