Starring: Steve Van Zandt, Trond Fausa, Viktoria Winge
“We don’t have these problems in Brooklyn,” sighs Steve Van Zandt’s raven-quiffed Frank Tagliano. As you’ll no doubt recall, he’s an ex-mobster who’s been given a new identity and transplanted to the remote Norwegian town of Lillehammer, where he fits in… actually, surprisingly well.
The second season of this inspired fish out of water comedy finds Frank the proud daddy of twins and undisputed town kingpin, but he still has his troubles. Some of these are to do with the bunch of screwed-up Vikings who work for him, as when they crash a borrowed Ferrari into a moose; some are to do with the smothering nature of the Norwegian nanny state; but he also has to worry about the arrival of a gang of East End thugs, a tough new police chief and the possibility that his real identity might be exposed.
As before, the crux of the show is the contrast between the flashy, extrovert hood and his introverted and yet highly strung new countrymen. One day, perhaps, the show will run out of jokes at the expense of Norwegians, but that day is nowhere near, and this season we have all kinds of pokes at the heartless political correctness of their educational and immigration systems. Meanwhile, Frank’s hopelessly inept right-hand man Torgeir gets in a stew when he gets a visit from his embarrassing mum.
Taking everything in his stride and capable of great kindness, Frank is a bit too good to be true, and some of the individual plot twists in these season are a little fanciful and half-baked, but what keeps the series constantly fascinating is the interplay between Van Zandt’s very broad performance and the naturalism of the excellent Norwegian cast. Meanwhile, underpinning everything is a warmth which springs from Frank’s affection for this calm, peaceful land and its dysfunctional inhabitants. Such is the show’s confidence, it can even indulge in a Godfather parody and get away with it: “Some day, and that day may never come, I’ll call on you to shovel some snow…”