Friday, August 31, 2012

September 7, Towery column Something ‘good’ in the state of Denmark Forgive my word-play on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, where Marcellus says to Horatio: “Something is rotten in Denmark.” This is about something very good from Denmark. Let me back up. The way countries do ‘government,’ has never been one of my concerns. But getting a taste of Denmark’s parliamentary system through a television series upped my interest. This came while watching episodes of the award-winning television series from Denmark. It’s title “Borgen” is the Danish word for government. Having been to Copenhagen once and knowing some very fine Danish families, I began watching this series as ardently as my mother used to listen to radio’s “Stella Dallas.” When I realized there are more parliamentary forms of government in the world than the American style, I wanted to learn more. Our USA has a constitutional system where powers are vested (by the U.S. Constitution) in the Congress by three distinct branches: legislative, executive and judicial. Whereas a parliamentary government system gives the executive power to a cabinet composed of members of the legislature. These elected citizens are individually and collectively responsible to the legislature. (My ninth grade civics class had no access to Wikipedia.) The “Borgen” series from Denmark has been called: “The Best TV Show You’ve Never Seen.” This award-winning Danish drama series is about the fight for political power, along with the personal consequences of the characters involved. Not knowing Danish (except the words for ‘thanks’ and ‘good morning’), I had to depend on the finest subtitles ever seen on the screen. The acting is exceptional, headed by Sidse Babett Knudsen as Denmark’s first female Prime Minister Brigitte Nyborg. The series came from a novel and is fictional with very real-time problems, in home and office. It is evident that political power cannot be won without sacrifice. Newsweek Magazine calls it “The Best Political Show Ever.” Since political parties in Denmark need only 2% of the vote to get a seat, several parties win seats, making it all but impossible for one party to win the 90 seats required for a majority. No party has won an outright majority in either house since 1901. All Danish governments since then have been coalitions or one-party minority governments. Earlier shows can be seen on the idiot box. It would be great if our local cable channel providers would carry LINKTV where this series will begin it’s third season in September. Or go to and see episodes from the first two years. The third season begins in September and can be seen on DishTV and DirectTV. (I stumbled across “Borgen” by way of DishTV on LinkTV, the channel without borders, channel number 9410.) I thought HBO’s series “Newsroom” set a high standard for television drama, but it does not hold a candle to “Brogen.” This is an excellent political show without the Hollywood stuff we are used to. “Borgen is smart entertaining television,” writes Andrew Romano of Newsweek. “It pains me to report that the Danes, of all people, have recently overcome America’s home-field advantage. The Best Political Show Ever no longer hails from Hollywood, birthplace of The West Wing. It comes, instead, from Copenhagen, and it is called Borgen.” Rumor has it that an American version of “Borgen” is in the works. I hope if this is true that it will retain the honesty and openness of the American political scene. Shakespeare has Hamlet saying Denmark, -- “’tis an unweeded garden.” But for me it has the best television around. --30--