In Sweden: Aired starting in March on TV4 in Sweden
In the US: Thursdays, 9/8c, NBC
Three episodes into the TV4-NBC English language co-production, Welcome To Sweden, and the big problem I had with the first episode is still true: it’s just not as funny as it should be.
The show does pretty much everything right in terms of production in this romcom based on American Greg Poehler’s real-life attempts to adapt to life in Sweden when he emigrates there to be with his girlfriend. It’s shot in Sweden, has Swedish writers and has Swedish actors. It’s got a decent array of characters. It has a bevy of guest stars, from both sides of the Atlantic, including Will Ferrell and most of the cast of Parks and Recreation. It plays with stereotypes but knows enough to transcend them. It’s not afraid to have half the show in Swedish, half in English. There aren’t even any male-female stereotypes to deal with, despite its being a romcom.
But the joke count in both Swedish and English is remarkably low, and most of the situations on the show can be found in any romcom, whether it’s “having sex in the room next to the parents” to “passing the immigration department’s tests”, without really doing anything innovative with one. Each episode gives perhaps one or two laughs at most, usually from the Swedish side rather than the American side, although episode two saw Poehler having to pretend to be Canadian when some American-hating Iraq war refugees turn up at his language class. And when the laughs aren't coming from the Swedes joking about Poehler’s height, it's from the guest stars playing versions of themselves, whether it’s Will Ferrell’s hopelessly well adjusted, Swedophile who learnt Swedish by listening to husky-toned language tapes, or Parks and Recreation’s Amy “Greg’s sister” Poehler and Audrey Plaza playing themselves as self-centred, vapid druggies.
In other words, the central set-up isn’t that great; it’s the few things in each episode other than that that actually provide the very gentle comedy.
If you like Parks and Recreation’s first season, you’ll probably love Welcome To Sweden. If you speak Swedish, you’ll probably love Welcome To Sweden. Otherwise, you’ll almost certainly want to love Welcome To Sweden, but you just won’t find it that funny.
Rob’s prediction: Unlikely to get a second season, but funnier things have happened