Sidse Babett Knudsen and Pilou Asbaek in Borgen
The long holiday weekends proved to be the perfect time to dive into Borgen, the Danish TV series from 2010-2013, lazily but not inaccurately pitched as “Denmark’s West Wing.” The 10-part Season 1 sets up two co-dependent camps: the government, as represented by a new prime minister, and the media, here a TV news organization.
The hook is that a relative newbie, Birgitte Nyborg (Sidse Babett Knudsen, from Westworld), has won the prime minister’s seat. Thus, there are procedures to be explained, mistakes to be made, compromises to be brokered and hard bargains to be suffered. At her side at the office is her slick and cynical “spin doctor,” Jasper (Pilou Asbaek); at home, there is a supportive but increasingly beleaguered husband, two adorable kids and a closet full of skirts that don’t fit. Chasing the news is the ambitious Katrine (Birgitte Hjort Sorensen), whose bedmates include some key political players. Toss in assorted staffers, a problem of the week and simply on-point neck scarves, and you’ve got a decent serial drama that neatly toggles between real-life issues and soapier entertainment.
One pointed theme is how heavily the work-family balance falls on women, even in such a socially enlightened nation as Denmark; the better Nyborg fares at running the country, the worse her home life suffers. (Though we are also getting a newbie head of state, Borgen cannot serve as insight into the Trump administration, alas.) It’s also fascinating to see familiar political and diplomatic issues filtered through another country’s perspective. The U.S. and its global military reach come in for a bit of a drubbing in an episode concerning the travails of Greenland and its disgruntled Inuit population.
You could do worse than to put on your coziest socks and vicariously enjoy a political sphere that seems almost magically more refined than ours — one where everybody works at standing desks, government ministers bicycle to work, lovers snuggle under puffy eiderdowns and fresh fruit rests in artfully shaped glass bowls.
Seasons 1-3 are available on DVD (including at the Carnegie Library), iTunes and other streaming services.