By Leah Rozen
Forget everything you know about brooding Danes. Hamlet has his place but it isn’t in a contemporary Danish TV series.
Danish TV, with its quirky sitcoms and sophisticated thrillers, is influencing US television in a major way. Two highly regarded American series, The Killing (first on AMC and now on Netflix) and The Bridge (on FX), are remakes of Danish series. More are in development.
Best of all, you no longer have to travel all the way to Denmark—though it’s always fabulous to go there—to watch Danish TV. Here are three terrific Danish shows, all with English subtitles, available for instant streaming on Netflix or Hulu:
Think of this sitcom about a divorced schoolteacher as the Danish version of Bad Teacher, only much smarter. Rita handily establishes its likable, nonconformist title character with its opening scene: Rita Madsen (played with saucy smarts by Mille Dinesen) enjoys a smoke in a school bathroom while perusing graffiti on the cubicle wall. After grabbing a pen from her purse, she helpfully corrects the spelling of a student’s slur against her. It only gets better from there.
The body of a dead woman, neatly sliced in half at the waist, is discovered precisely in the middle of the Øresund Bridge, which connects Copenhagen to Malmö in Sweden. That means that Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia), a heavyset, easygoing Danish police detective, must cooperate with persnickety and demanding Saga Norén (Sofia Helin), a Swedish cop who is his exact opposite, to solve the case on this compelling crime show (remade as The Bridge on FX). Dark, complex and brimming with intriguing characters, the series is perfect for binge-watching.
If you want to dive deep into the oddball and occasionally questionable Danish sense of humor, try this eccentric sitcom. Modeled after Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, it stars comics Frank Hvam and Casper Christensen, who play themselves. They awkwardly stumble through life, marriage and various everyday situations, inevitably embarrassing themselves at every turn.
Sadly, Borgen and Forbrydelsen, the two Danish shows that have most excited critics and viewers, can’t be streamed currently in the US (at least not via legal sites). Don’t despair, however. Borgen, a stylish political drama that makes House of Cards seem like a ham-handed Three Stooges episode, and Forbrydelsen, a noir crime thriller remade as The Killing, are both available on DVD.
—A former film critic at People magazine, Leah Rozen is a freelance writer in New York City.