BBC hopes Scandinavian TV import Lilyhammer, starring The Sopranos' Steven Van Zandt, will mirror success of Borgen
For viewers still reeling from the finale of BBC4's Borgen on Saturday night, it will sound like just the tonic. To many others it might sound like the oddest British television acquisition for some time.
Lilyhammer, a Norwegian comic drama starring The Sopranos' Steven Van Zandt, is the latest Scandinavian import to be bought by BBC4, currently on a high after critical acclaim and healthy audiences for a string of Danish and Swedish series.
Van Zandt, who played Silvio Dante in the US drama, stars as a New York mobster who enters the witness protection programme and starts up a new life in Lillehammer, the sleepy Norwegian town he fell in love with while watching the 1994 Olympic Games.
"Lilyhammer mixes sharp wit and American big city ways with the beauty of the Norwegian mountains and folksy nature of a small town – a perfect combination for a razor-sharp drama about cultural mores," said Richard Klein, controller of BBC4.
When the eight part series launched in Norway last month, it drew the highest ratings for a drama premiere. In the US it will be streamed by Netflix.
BBC's head of programme acquisitions, Sue Deeks, said: "Lilyhammer is fresh, funny and offbeat – it makes a highly original addition to BBC4's rich Scandinavian drama slate."
Like Borgen, a tale of power and its affect on individuals and relationships set amid Danish coalition politics, Lilyhammer will mark a move from the crime dramas such as The Killing, which have traditionally dominated subtitled European imports on BBC4 and beyond.
The Danish political drama has proved there is great appetite for quality foreign language TV beyond the crime genre – rating strongly despite lacking the whodunnit quality that ensures viewers return to a show – with audiences gripped by Sidse Babbett Knudsen's central performance as Denmark's first female prime minister.
BBC4 has also bought the second series of the show, which it will air next winter. Its next Scandinavian drama, the Danish/Swedish co-production The Bridge, will air in the spring.
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