Saturday, June 29, 2013

Borgen


Season 1 of Borgen finished on Wednesday night here in Australia on the "minority needs" channel SBS. Borgen gets about 40,000 viewers each week in Melbourne which represents about 1% of the population of the Greater Melbourne Area. Borgen gets even lower viewing figures in Australia's other capital cities. (For some reason all the quality shows get their highest ratings in Melbourne, while the lowest common denominator shows get their highest ratings in Sydney - make of that what you will...) Borgen's low ratings were a real shame because while it was running it was the best show on TV in Australia and whether SBS will run Season 2 has now been called into serious doubt. Low ratings are a double edged sword aren't they? You want them to be low enough so that the show you're into doesn't become a pop culture phenomenon but you don't want them to be so low that the network takes the show off the air. I have to say that I liked Mad Men, Breaking Bad and the novels Cormac McCarthy better when I was the only person in the neighbourhood who had heard of them.
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Borgen is about the Danish parliament and machinations of Denmark's first female Prime Minister, her permanently unshaven annoying husband, her sprightly spin doctor, her dour cabinet colleagues and a spunky - slightly irritating - TV news reporter and her colleagues. More realistic than either House of Cards or The West Wing it's a political drama without much melodrama or hacky stories. Aaron Sorkin's downfall on West Wing wasn't 9/11 or an interfering network it was Spielberg Disease whose symptoms manifest themselves in deafening musical scores that seek to cover up what James Joyce called "unearned emotion". Borgen doesn't usually have that difficulty because the problems that get solved each week are so banal and ordinary. Banal and ordinary yet weirdly and utterly gripping. When it tries to preach Borgen does fail: the Greenland story was oh so politically correct but still fascinating as I don't think I've ever seen any other TV drama have an episode that was shot in Greenland.
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The whole thing is in Danish, of course, subtitled into English. I read on a TV blog that subtitled programmes do very badly in Oz because the Australian TV viewer is a multi-tasker who likes to surf the net with the TV on in the background. Yeah well, people should learn to stop doing that when there's something good on the box. (Remember the lessons of the zen Buddhist monks who spent 10 years meditating in a cave in order to learn to be able to do just one thing at a time.) Trust me Borgen is worth an hour of your undivided attention even if you're not a political theory geek like me; so please do seek out Borgen wherever it is showing in your area. Takk.