Borgen is a Danish political drama from DR, the public broadcaster also responsible for The Killing. The series depicts a shift in the mood of the people of Denmark who opt at an election not to vote in either of the two dominant parties, but rather one of the smaller parties – a centrist party who were focussed more on serving as a moral barometer of the dominant parties than any belief that the party could form Government.
The politics of Denmark, as depicted in Borgen seem wildly simplistic, yet the show still manages to be wildly compelling.
What happens in the first episode?
It is days before a Federal election. The Prime Minister is called from a meeting to assist his wife who is having a meltdown in a department store where she wants to buy a handbag, but is repeatedly having her card rejected. It is implied that his wife is unstable and that the PM is trying to keep that fact hidden from everyone. At the store, he doesn’t have his own wallet at hand, but pays for the bag using his Govt credit card. And so sets into motion the events that will change his career and the politics in Denmark forever.
Birgette Nyborg is the leader of the Moderate Party, a centrist political party with a very slight lilt to the left. Meanwhile Katrine Fonsmark is a rising star at the TV channel she works at as a political journalist. The secret that Fonsmark has kept from everyone is that she is currently sleeping with one of the media advisers who works for the Prime Minister. After the media adviser dies of a heart attack in the bed they had just shared, Fonsmark calls her ex-boyfriend for help. Her ex, Kasper, also just happens to work as the main adviser to Birgette. Kasper cleans the evidence that either of them were ever present in the room, but whilst tidying, he discovers the receipt for the handbag in the advisers belongings.
Nyborg refuses to use the evidence against the PM, prompting Kasper to provide it to the leader of the Opposition. During a televised debate, Nyborg wins the hearts of the voting populace with a heartfelt speech just prior to the leader of the Opposition citing the handbag purchase.
While the show doesn’t directly mention any exit polling information, the implication is made that at the election, the dirty tricks and ego of the traditional two dominant parties were off-putting to voters, prompting them to vote for the now greatly loved Moderate Party leader Birgette Nyborg. Nyborg is now the Prime Minister.
Is it worth your time?
It’s difficult to gauge by this episode whether the show is rather clever, or if it is a light drama masquerading as a higher-brow drama series. I’ll admit to complete unfamiliarity with the Danish political system, but all of the dialogue surrounding the politics in the show and the general rhetoric associated with it seems to have been written by someone with just as vague an idea as I have. Based solely off the subtitled translation, everyone in the world of Danish politics (politicians, advisers, and the media) all appear rather simple. I wonder, however, whether this is reflective of the show itself, or rather a tone that exists purely within the translation done for the BBC airing of the show.
That said, Borgen is fun and slightly meaty light entertainment. While the dialogue is skewy, the wish fulfilment aspect of seeing the apple cart upset with a brand new approach to Government established is a lot of fun to watch and engage with. The casting also lends itself to heightening the charm of the show. Sidse Babett Knudsen is delightful as the newly installed Prime Minister, while Birgitte Hjort Sorensen is wildly appealing as the TV journalist/presenter struggling to deal with her dark secret while suddenly thrust into the limelight.
If you approach the series as some general entertainment, you should do well with this show. While it’s hardly The West Wing, it’s on par with shows like Party Animals and Commander In Chief.
Where to see it.
Borgen will be available on DVD in Australia on June 06, 2012.