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Saturday Night Fever -Take Me Out And Borgen

Posted: 30/01/2012 16:51

Saturday night's alright for fighting, so claimed Elton John. But while I'd pay good money to see The Rocket Man in a fight outside a kebab emporium, my Saturday nights are more often than not spent beach whaling on the couch watching the television. Although, my programming of choice on the night make for an unorthodox pairing.

On the face of it, and for that matter everywhere else, Take Me Out is not a show I should enjoy. It's all bright lights, fnarr fnarrs and mild, chronic humiliation. But I absolutely love it.

Now into its third run, Take Me Out has run right through the obstacle course of the first season (Poor Don't Scare The Hare collapsed of exhaustion midway through the first wall climb) and past the difficult second series into established mainstreamdom, the kind of show that could feasibly have a novelty summer single with a video shot on location at Fernando's, "No Likey No Lighty" on t-shirts and a Christmas special where Peter Andre comes down the love lift to be judged by a group of his variously desperate peers.

It's also earned that other hallmark of mainline success: significant media attention. Prior to this season there were a slew of reports surrounding the behind the scenes antics on the show, the type of thing that suggested the next series would be moving from ITV to Babestation. But, all publicity is good publicity, and it only makes it all the more interesting when Jake from Aldershot looking for a date turns out to be the resident stripper on an oil rig. Or something.

As it happens though, most of the male contestants fit into three neat categories - fussy haired, muscly and bowtied - whereas the girls are either attention-seeking, dense as Mexico City (or in such a zen-like state of meditation they don't realise some of the things they're saying) or the ones you feel sorry for being stuck there an uncomfortable amount of time.

Essentially, Take Me Out is Blind Date adjusted for inflation, with Paddy McGuinness acting as a bombastic composite of both Cilla and Our Graham. But, as long as people are morbidly curious about the inherent awkwardness in publicly pursuing romance, there will always be a place for enjoyable malarkey like it.

Within an hour or so my frivolity is washed away as I put on my concentration cap for my undisputed favourite TV show of the moment: Borgen. A Danish political thriller that is yet another example of why Scandinavia is super awesome (along with half a century of social democracy and The Cardigans), it places itself adeptly on a crowded terrain between The West Wing and All The President's Men. It has filled the big Yorkshire house-shaped hole in my dramatic viewing since Downton Abbey packed up for the season. And since it's subtitled, it also makes me feel really smart.

Never mind the fact Borgen is gripping, tense, clever and topical with well-drawn characters and well-layered plots, the most remarkable element of the show is its portrayal of an incredibly equal Danish society. The Prime Minister is a woman, several featured ministers and party leaders are women, the only competent journalists in the national broadcaster's news station seem to be women.

And not just is Danish society equal but also rather informal: there don't appear to be any hallmarks of privilege at all. The Prime Minister's husband, an ex-CEO, looks like a man getting beer at a Bruce Springsteen concert, while girls looking for internships just pop up at the PM's house like they're in Home And Away. Stranger still, all news interviews are conducted standing up at a table, like they're having lunch in a busy restaurant.

But if some of their Scando-tropes are a bit hard for us to grasp (Could you imagine friendly teens going round to Margaret Thatcher's house going, "Eeeey, Mrs T!"? Does Huw Edwards even have legs?) the show's universal truth isn't. It takes in a brilliant swish of process stories and problems for the sympathetic and shrewd Prime Minister Birgitte Nyborg both personal and political, some handled more adeptly than others. BBC4 are showing the concluding episodes this Saturday, 4th February of the first season (gloriously, they decided to double bill them), but it's already gearing up for a third series in Denmark later this year, with plans of a US remake in the offing as well. Though I can't understand why they'd want to remake it when it's ideal as it is.

 

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