You'll probably know Peter Stormare from somewhere. Maybe it's from the Coen Brothers' Fargo or The Big Lebowski. Maybe it's from Terry Gilliam's The BrothersGrimm orSteven Spielberg's The Lost World: Jurassic Park. If you're a TV fan, you'll probably remember him as John Abruzzi in the first two seasons of Prison Break. But he's been in a lot, lot more than that.
Since he has an accent, naturally he's usually cast as a foreigner to American soils, although such is US TV, he's been able to use pretty much the same accent to play Germans, Russians and Italians, without anyone noticing he's none of those - he's actually Swedish.
And for his latest role, which he co-created with his fellow 'Viking Brother' Glenn Lund, he's even able to play a Swede - or an 'ex-Swede' as his character prefers it, since the former stuntman is now living in LA and working as a private detective. Running his own agency, 'Swedish Dick', he's asked by a new client, a DJ, to track down his laptop, as it's been stolen by a rival DJ and it has all his sick new beats on it. Stormare quickly tracks down the thief, a young fellow Swede (Johans Glans), and retrieves the laptop. However, things aren't quite as they seem and by the end of the episode, the technically literate but fragile Glans has joined the more robust Stormare as a PI in the new retitled agency 'Swedish Dicks'.
The show aired on Swedish Internet channel Viaplay in September and has been picked up for global distribution by Lionsgate, with a US airing promised for early 2017 and maybe a UK Netflix/Amazon pick-up at some point soon after that. This isn't all that surprising, since like TV4 Sweden's Welcome to Sweden, it's clearly been made with a global audience in mind, since half the dialogue is English, half Swedish.
Oh, yes - have I mentioned yet that Stormare's arch-nemesis is his former partner, Keanu Reeves? Yes, Keanu Reeves.
Now that says global, doesn't it?
Unfortunately, the scripts still say 'Swedish', since the show is undoubtedly Swedish in tone: Stormare's gun is actually a hairdryer, the bad guys generally only want to be doing right by their sons and most of the jokes are in that favoured Swedish comedic artform - slapstick. Few of the jokes work in English and I only ever found myself gaffawing at the Swedish jokes. I mean this is the sort of level we're working at most of the time - even regular guest star Traci Lords can't save this:
Swedish Dicks is pretty gentle comedy at best, but it's not awful. Indeed, it's pretty amiable stuff, and Stormare and Glans are a personable, if silly pairing. It's not thrilling, though, and I certainly don't want to watch any more of it after having watched the first episode, not even for Keanu, since you can watch all his appearances in this 12-minute YouTube video.
But if that's whet your appetite, here's a trailer for the whole series and maybe the whole thing will be on your TV screens soon:
For most people in the UK, Hugh Laurie is Hugh Laurie. He may have played Gregory House in House for umpteen seasons, but he's also the guy from Blackadder, Bertie Wooster in Jeeves and Wooster, and Stephen Fry's comedy writing partner for most of the 80s and early 90s.
For most Americans, though, he's House. He is the grumpy, misanthropic, genius American doctor from House. End of. So you can kind of understand why Laurie would take on a two-season role as an eponymous doctor again, if only to cleanse American viewers' memories by playing something similar, but crucially different in one big regard: he's nice.
Based on the novel by Ken Humm (John from Cincinnati), Chance sees Laurie playing a consultant psychologist, who tries to sort out treatment for people who have neurological problems. When Gretchen Mol (Life on Mars) is referred to him with disassociative personality disorder, which she says started after her cop husband Paul Adelstein (Prison Break) began to abuse her, he tries to help her but soon the husband is coming after him.
Meanwhile, the non-confrontational Laurie is in the middle of a no-fault divorce from his wife Diane Farr (Numb3rs) and needs money. When he takes his antique desk to Clarke Peters (The Wire) to be sold, Peters tells him he could get nearly twice as much money if it still had the metalwork on it. Fortunately, Ethan Suplee (My Name is Earl) works for him and could add the missing metalwork if Laurie doesn't mind a little deception. In turn, Suplee doesn't mind a little bit of ultra-violence and is potentially willing to help Laurie out with his other problem…
I'll play a little game now. I'll list a few things and you have to say at which word you realised what the show's biggest influence is.
San Francisco. Psychiatry. Blonde. Femme fatale. Different personalities. Hitchcockian strings.
Well, if you haven't got it already, the answer's Vertigo, one of Alfred Hitchock's finest, in which Jimmy Stewart falls for Kim Novak who plays two women who turn out to be just the one. Certainly, Chance has huge ladels of both Vertigo and film noir spread all over it. There's also lashings of Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanours, with Suplee and Peters leading the normally ethical Laurie towards a life of escalating moral infractions towards possibly even murder.
But Chance is certainly a lot more than that and knows that you know what its references are. Certainly, Laurie doesn't do anything massively stupid, instead doing all manner of smart, prudent things rather than leaping in at the deep end. There's also a certain House of Cards - David Mamet's, that is - quality to it all which the show is also keen to highlight. Is maths tutor Mol really disassociative or is she faking it? Is Adelstein really doing all the things that he seems to be doing or is the surprisingly bright Suplee actually doing it all to lure Laurie into a huge con? Could they even all be in league with one another?
Chance wants you to be wondering all of these things, which is why, despite its depressing qualities, it's also compelling, very tense and claustrophobic (rather than vertiginous). The double meaning in the title, which becomes hugely important in the second episode, makes you wonder exactly how much of what's going on is genuine coincidence and what's not - or even if Laurie's character is facing a Sixth Sense discovery that he's had a brain injury himself. Even if you're not exactly sure what the trap is, you can feel the jaws slowly closing around Laurie, who's a good guy who wants to do the right thing.
It's a good, smart, well-paced thriller that's definitely worth a try.
Barrometer rating: 2 Would it be better with a female lead? No TMINE's prediction: Commissioned for two seasons
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A UK media blog focusing on the best scripted TV from around the world, with daily news, views, exclusive reviews and good conversation. There's a bit of a bias towards the latest and greatest US TV, but we also cover Scandinavian, Canadian, European and Antipodean TV, as well as UK TV ranging from new Doctor Who to old Z Cars, and BBC4 to S4C.
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I'm Rob Buckley, a freelance journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of, although you might have heard me on Radio 5 Live's Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I've edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for trade magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider and the equally short-lived Death Ray and Filmstar magazines; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it "web site for urban hedonists" The Tribe. I'm freelance now and have contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network and TV Scoop.