Wednesday 13 December 2017

We're all turned on to these sexy Scandi cops

If the names Kurt Wallander, Sara Lund and Birgitte Nyborg mean something to you, you'll probably already know who Saga Norén is. If they don't, you're in for a treat.

All are characters from cult Scandinavian TV dramas including Wallander, The Killing, Borgen and The Bridge, part of a new wave of slick, sophisticated Swedish and Danish television which has flowed into the UK and Ireland over the last five years.

The popularity of such series has been phenomenal, sparking an English remake of Wallander starring Kenneth Brannagh and an American version of The Killing, as well as a strange spate of jumper worship. Sara Lund's sweater became an object of desire among The Killing fans.

Such popularity led to huge demand and all Scandi-TV fans have imagined the day when a hybrid of all your favourite series would be developed in one super series, a drama that would combine all the best elements of both The Killing and Wallander, with a sprinkling of the media-political drama Borgen for good measure. Until now, that was an idle fantasy to pass the time between new series of the aforementioned. Up until now.

The Bridge, a new Swedish-Danish co-production, has just hit the BBC's screens and sees the dream realised. One million viewers certainly had high hopes as they tuned in for the first episode.

The drama starts with a murder split between Sweden and Denmark (the body is left on the Oresund bridge, which connects the two countries).

In the two Malmö and Copenhagen police officers assigned to the case, Saga Norén and Martin Rohde, we have two new compelling TV cops.

The characters are just getting started but, to date, we can tell that Rohde and Norén are opposites. He's an easygoing, fun guy with a conscientious streak. A former ladies' man, he has settled down, and is currently recovering from a vasectomy. (One of the best lines from the first episode went, "I'm tired, hungry and my dick hurts. I have a very short fuse".)

Meanwhile, Saga Norén is initially a giant pain, has clearly had a sympathy by-pass and is so by-the-book she makes a complaint about Rohde when he lets an ambulance pass through her crime scene.

It's hard to think how you could come up with a new archetype to fit the cop genre but they've done it. She's blonde, she drives a vintage Porsche, she wears leather trousers and it seems undeniable that she is somewhere on the autism spectrum.

This creates tension as she breaks news of murder victims to loved ones with breathtaking directness and is unaware of where the lines of personal appropriateness stand as she changes clothes at her desk in front of her colleagues.

We also discover a touching desire to be more considerate. The two have the potential to become one of the greatest cop combos in TV history.

The show has a touch of Borgen as the murder victim is head of Malmö City Council and a cocky journalist is involved in the case.

It's early days yet but this really could be the ultimate Scandi TV series. As always, there is some light relief to be found in the gorgeous homes on display, from wooden and glass structures to Saga's modern open-plan apartment, where she beds strangers before returning to her laptop to browse pictures from the morgue.

The good Scandi fan must ask themselves where will this all end? Will this genre implode in a parodic climax of cheekbones, frosted blonde hair and midnight sun?

To date, Swedish and Danish TV has resisted the urge to do so, and as long as they can keep developing such compelling drama, we'll keep watching, subtitles and all.

The Bridge is on BBC4, Saturdays at 9pm.

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