In the UK: Wednesdays, 10pm, Sky Arts 1
In Denmark: Aired on DR1 in January 2014. Season two starts January 2015
The Danes are apparently the happiest people in the world (okay, third happiest, having dropped off the top spot this year). You wouldn’t know this from their TV, of course, which is full of serial killers and murderers (The Killing, Those Who Kill) and political intrigue (Borgen), as well as sometimes a mix of the two (The Bridge).
Even their family dramas are a bit gloomy, it turns out. A case in point is the ten-part The Legacy (Arvingerne), which like Those Who Kill has been poached away from its natural Scandi home of BBC4 in favour of AN Other Channel (Sky Arts 1 this time). The series, which comes from the same production company as The Killing, follows noted artist, free spirit and multiple-partnered Veronika Grønnegaard (Kirsten Olesen), who has a less than happy relationship with her three children, who pretty much all hate her guts, but for entirely different reasons: daughter Gro (Trine Dryholm) is miffed at being judged for ‘only’ being a secretary at Grønnegaard’s own firm and for not having any kids; Frederik (Carsten Bjørnlund) has had a bust-up so epic that he hasn’t spoken with Veronika for a year and actively tries to stop his own son from seeing her; and Emil (Mikkel Følsgaard) is off on another continent altogether.
Then there’s Signe (Marie Bach Hansen) who doesn’t even know she’s Veronika’s daughter, despite Veronika dropping into her flower shop and giving her free paintings for no well explained reasons.
But Veronika, being an artistic type, decides to screw the whole lot of them over by failing to mention she has breast cancer and then promptly dying of a stroke, leaving her much sought after house and estate to Signe to divide up between herself and her newfound siblings. That’s going to end well, isn’t it?
The extent you’re going to find The Legacy tolerable is how much you can tolerate both happiness and sadness. Despite their bad relationships with Veronika, all the families seem to be largely happy and enjoying Christmas, dressing up as Santa, having family meals together and losing track of time as they play percussion instruments together out in huts. No one’s poor and even when revelations about infidelities, bad parenting, different parentage et al crop up, no one’s dischuffed enough to even raise their voice much.
True, in case Frederik’s case, that might well be because he’s a closet psychopath whose wife is intensely freaked out by his behaviour, but he’s still a psychopath who continues joking around in his Santa outfit after getting the bad news about his mum, just to make sure his son has a nice time.
If you find all that happiness and luxury nauseating and weird, steer clear of The Legacy. Equally, if you fear family strife, dying parents, illness, old people looking like they’re dementing, upset children, will contention and slightly psychopathic sons who really want the family home, steer clear.
There’s not much by way action, which I’m sure will change with episode two, as upset siblings glare at each other and talk in hushed tones when they’re really angry (okay, maybe not psycho Frederik). But it’s a good start with different characters from the usual set you’re probably used to in such family dramas. It’ll probably be a bit ‘eat your greens’, and I suspect I’ll have to force myself to watch these, even though I did quite enjoy the first episode, but we’ll see if the show manages to up the ante in subsequent weeks. Simple scheduling maths should tell you that people should be at each other’s throats at this rate by, ooh, round about Christmas. That’ll be something to look forward to, won’t it?