As election season heats up, a crop of new and returning political dramas are filling our Twitter feeds, TV review columns and DVR queues. In the midst of the buzz over new and notable political dramas on American cable television, it can be easy to miss the Danish show that many critics are praising as the best political drama on TV.
“Borgen”(translated to: “The Castle”) won 2012 International British Academy of Film and Television Academy Award and has been hailed by Newsweek as “the best political show ever.” The series is a compelling portrait of national politics in Denmark featuring vicious parliamentary politics, international relations fraught with colonial history and complex media relationships among other issues.
The first season opens on an election well underway and follows Moderate Party leader Birgitte Nyborg’s rise to power during and after the election. Accompanying this main plot thread are a number of well-developed subplots including a young female reporter’s role as a political TV host as well as her off-screen relationships that leave her trying to conceal her role in an emotionally wrought headline news story.
The show weaves together the public and private lives of its well-drawn characters to create a powerful portrait of the Danish political scene and the politicians, media leaders and private interests who populate it.
The central issues “Borgen” examines, such as honesty and authenticity in political discourse and the role of the media establishment, are questions that are familiar to American audiences.
At the same time, the series showcases a multi-party political system that operates very differently from the American two-party system, which helps the American viewer to gain a more nuanced understanding of how a European parliamentary government compares and contrasts with the US system.
Originally aired on Danish TV in 2010, “Borgen” was eventually syndicated by the BBC in the U.K. and was finally brought to the United States via online broadcast on Link TV spoken in Danish with English subtitles. Episodes are available on Link TV for two weeks after they originally air.
Just can’t get enough? cast your ballot for these American dramas old and new:
Vintage ’90s Presidential Politics: “The West Wing” aired on NBC from 1999-2005. Current DePaul students may have only vague memories of the show’s original popularity but this long-running network drama chronicling the work and lives of White House staffers set the standard for the fast-talking political drama. Shows like “Borgen”are in debt to writer Aaron Sorkin’s artful blend of policy and personality in crafting the wildly popular political drama. All seven seasons are available on Amazon Prime Instant Video.
Spy Thriller with a Twist: “Homeland”debuted to much acclaim in 2011 featuring Claire Danes (Romeo and Juliet, Temple Grandin) playing CIA agent Carrie Matheson opposite Damien Lewis’s (Band of Brothers) Nicholas Brody, a wartime hero returning from Iraq after eight years of imprisonment. The first season follows Matheson as she follows a hunch that Sergeant Brody had become a secret terrorist operative in his time as a prisoner while she also struggles to keep her bipolar disorder under control. The suspense is constant as the season unfolds, keeping the audience guessing at the truth and revealing new mysteries as old ones are solved. The first season is available on Amazon Prime Instant Video and the second season premieres September 30 on Showtime.
Local Flavor: Another sophomore show is “Boss,”which entered its second season in late August. The title fits for a series that is about the notoriously corrupt world of Chicago politics. The first season chronicled the efforts of the Mayor of Chicago Tom Kane, played by Golden Globe winner Kelsey Grammar, to maintain power in the city while concealing a degenerative neurological disorder. Filled with names and places that will be familiar to the average Chicagoan, “Boss” brings the political genre close to home. The first episode season is available on Amazon Prime Instant Video and new episodes air on Fridays 8 p.m. Central Standard Time on Starz.