Archive | International TV

An archive of blog entries about international TV programmes and production.


July 25, 2014

Third-episode verdict: Welcome To Sweden (TV4/NBC)

Posted on July 25, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

BarrometerWelcomeToSweden.jpgA Barrometer rating of 3

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.

Rating: 3
Rob’s prediction: Unlikely to get a second season, but funnier things have happened

July 22, 2014

News: Xena: Agent of SHIELD, The Rock to play Shazam, Joseph Fiennes' Nostradamus, more Fargo et al

Posted on July 22, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

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July 21, 2014

Why I don't watch Greek TV

Posted on July 21, 2014 | comments | Bookmark and Share

So obviously many of this ‘ere blog’s readers – well, perhaps one or two – will be wondering exactly what shows I include on this blog and review, and which ones I don’t. Basically, I look at scripted shows (that is, comedies and dramas) from around the world that catch my attention and I can get to easily.

However, my time being limited and the world quite big, I can’t watch everything. More to the point, neither can you guys, which is probably why you’re here anyway, hoping that’ll I winnow out the rubbish and find the good stuff for y’all.

Now, there’s not much point my reviewing UK shows, beyond one or two. You – and I’m assuming most of my readers are from the UK (although, actually, it’s about a third UK, a third US and a third everyone else) – can find those for yourselves, either by looking through the EPG or looking at all the other excellent web sites out there.

I do get some offers of previews from the BBC and Channel 4. In fact, I get an email every night at 11.30pm from the BBC to let me know there’s TV on its preview site that I might want to watch:


BBC Previews

Helpful, hey? They never tell me exactly what it is that I might want to watch, only that it’s there. So I have to go hunting through their web site and then, if I actually find the new show, I have to ring the number of the PR person in charge of that show to get permission to view it.

Which not only is a pain in the arse but means I have to find a computer to sit in front of for 30 minutes to an hour and not do anything else. The short, end result is that I don’t bother.

Channel 4 send me emails, too, but unfortunately, it’s almost always for shows that aren’t scripted or are complete rubbish.

Overall, then, that’s why, with a few exceptions, I don’t really bother discussing UK TV.

So instead, I usually focus on English-language TV from the rest of the world – in particular, US, Canadian and Australian/New Zealand TV. In part, that’s because I speak the language; in part, it’s because it's relatively easy for me to get this content and the previews people in the US that I’m in touch with actually have a sensible preview system, too; and in part, it's because there’s a good old chance it’ll end up on UK TV and that you readers will be able to watch it at some point in the future.

The last part is important. There’s no point to my reviewing a brilliant show that’s airing on South African TV if there’s no chance you’ll ever be able to watch it. That’s a waste of my time and will stop me from watching and reviewing something else that more than two of you might actually be able to watch some day.

If we look at the countries from which the UK does import TV, we can see that I have to restrict myself, since between BBCs 1-4, Channel 4, More4, Channel 5, and Sky Arts 1 and 2, that list is pretty short: Australia, New Zealand, the US, Canada, France, Germany, Belgium, Scandinavia, Iceland, Israel, Ireland, Italy and Spain. You occasionally get a few stragglers from elsewhere – the Africa Channel, for example, imports from Zambia and the like, and there’s bound to be some Japanese, Indian and Chinese shows I’m missing up in the nosebleeds of the EPG, too.

But there’s no guarantee that it’ll end up on UK TV screens and, since they’re in languages other than English, subtitles are usually important. I’d love to review Swedish TV more often. But I don’t speak Swedish and there aren’t subtitles. Oh well.

Now I do speak French pretty well and German reasonably well – in fact, I used to do the occasional bit of translation work – but French and German TV are pretty dreadful normally and Mr Thierry Attard is far better equipped and placed to cover them anyway. You want to know about TF1, you mentalist – go read his blog. If it arrives on UK or US TV, I’ll do my best to cover it, but I’m not going to put myself to any great effort, particularly in advance because – and to hark back to a previous point – still not much French and German TV ends up on UK TV.

Engrenages and Braquo are basically the good shows on French TV, bar a couple of strange Agatha Christie adaptations that replace Miss Marple and Hercules Poirot with some home-made French detectives. German has plenty of wacky fun on it, but we never get to see that: we get to see stuff set during the First and Second World War and that’s it. Because it’s still the case, unfortunately, that in the UK, if we hear ‘Germany', we think 'World War’, despite the fact WW2 finished 70 years ago. The last German show of any note that wasn’t about a war that I can remember airing on British TV was Gambit, back in 1987.

Which in a round-about way leads me finally to the title of this post: why I don’t watch Greek TV. Now, although the main UK channels don’t really offer much by way of opportunity to watch Greek TV, it is surprisingly easy to watch a whole slew of Greek-language channels in the UK, not just from Greece-proper, but also from Cyprus and Crete, on iOS devices using two free apps: Vision TV Net, which also offers other foreign language channels; and Greek TV Live.

And I do speak Greek reasonably well. So although there’s the obvious issue of a lack of English subtitles, you’d think that I’d be a least mentioning it from time to time, such as with ΑΝΤ1’s forthcoming Lost-alike Εκδρομή (aka The Excursion), which doesn’t look too bad.

Εκδρομή ΑΝΤ1

The trouble is that Greek TV is largely repeats, US shows dubbed or subtitled in English, discussion and game shows, and adaptations of other countries’ TV.

To give you the best example I can think of of why I don’t cover Greek TV more/at all on this blog, I’ll leave you with this image of what was on RikSat during prime time last night.

Rik Sat

Yes, that is a repeat of a 1990s TV drama that sees a man spanking a teenage girl while an old, stereotypically dressed Greek woman cooks in the kitchen. But no, I have no idea why there is a motorbike parked in their front room.

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