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Three Cheers for 'Lilyhammer'
by Bruce Bawer
It's only a slight exaggeration to say that half of the comedy you see on Norwegian TV is anodyne whimsy about Norwegian dialects and the other half is P.C. mockery of the U.S. and/or of that most pro-American of all Norwegian political parties, the classical-liberal Progress Party. The very funny Norwegian-produced series Lilyhammer, then, most of whose humor derives from parody of Norwegian social democracy – historically an almost verboten comic target – as well as of the country's manners and mores, is a remarkable departure. Our hero is New York mobster Frank Tagliano (played admirably by Steven van Zandt of The Sopranos and Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band), who, after turning state's evidence, asks the Witness Protection Program to relocate him in Lillehammer, Norway, because he remembers watching the 1994 Winter Olympics on TV and being impressed by the "clean air, fresh white snow, gorgeous broads…and best of all, nobody's gonna be looking for me there." The fact that most Norwegians actually can laugh at cutting satire at the expense of their own society was proven by the show's massive domestic success: a fifth of the country's population watched the first season when it debuted in early 2012. It also performed well internationally on Netflix, on which its second season is now available.
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