The Danish Political Drama Borgen Is the Hottest Show in Europe: Here Are 5 Thing to Know

A little background on the political drama

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Mike Kollšffel / Link TV

A  television drama about coalition politics in Denmark? Hardly the stuff that hits are made of.  A one-hour political drama that ran for three seasons, Borgen tells the story of charismatic politician Birgitte Nyborg (played by Sidse Babett Knudsen) who unexpectedly becomes Denmark’s first female prime minister. It’s a thoroughly absorbing and smart show with a stunningly attractive cast, and it all takes place against the backdrop of beautiful Copenhagen.

Though not many people in the U.S. know about Borgen, the show has been drawing in enthusiastic fans all over Europe. It’s even become so popular in the U.K. that BBC Radio 4 recently launched an English-language spinoff.

The show has even attracted a handful of American fans — Stephen King among them. LinkTV has been airing the show’s entire run and some episodes are even available to legally stream online. The first two seasons are available on DVD — season three will be released in the U.S. next month. So if you’re looking for a new series to binge on over the holidays or have been searching for a new political drama ever to fill that The West Wing-size hole, Borgen is worth checking out. For total beginners, we’ve prepared a primer on the show:

[01]  About that title: it means “the Castle”

Borgen means “the Castle,” a nickname for Christiansborg Palace, which is the house of Denmark’s three powers: Parliament, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Supreme Court. Basically, it’s where most of the show’s drama unfolds.

[02]  Yes, it’s subtitled

Being set in Denmark and all, Borgen is a Danish-language series. But it does have English subtitles. Though this might be a hurdle for some viewers, the subtitles really don’t detract from the show’s great acting or political tension. Though there may be the stray phrase that strikes American viewers as odd — the drama doesn’t get lost in translation.

[03]  Real-life Danish politics have followed the show’s lead

Denmark’s real-life prime minister is also the first woman to hold the position, but she didn’t inspire the show. Helle Thorning-Schmidt — you’ll recognize her as one of the politicians taking selfies with Obama at Nelson Mandela’s memorial — took office in Oct. 3, 2011, after Borgen had already filmed two seasons. After Thorning-Schmidt was in power Knudsen told the Guardian, “I’ve made a point of not watching her too closely just to make sure I’m not too influenced by her. If anything, it sometimes feels more as if life is imitating art.”

[04]  The show is part of a Danish-television boom

Borgen was produced by Denmark’s public broadcaster DR, which has been behind several other recent popular dramas. The original version of The Killing, (called Forbrydelsen in Denmark), was produced by DR and aired in Denmark before being adapted for the U.S. on AMC. Then there’s The Bridge (co-produced by DR, along with Swedish partners), a crime drama, which was also adapted for American television, appearing on FX this year. It’s just been picked up for another season.

[05]  Borgen might be adapted for American television

While American rights to the series were purchased by NBC in 2011, an adaptation was never made. But that doesn’t mean an American version wouldn’t happen sometime in the future. Borgen-creator Adam Price told the Press Association in November that, “It’s in consideration at HBO and it’s actually BBC Worldwide who’s going to [produce] it. I’ve heard that HBO wants to do it and they’re currently looking into who’s going to be the showrunner.” Of course, there’s no telling when — and, indeed, if — the new show would actually air. (Though during the lead-up to 2016, and a possible run by Hillary Clinton, would make sense.) Luckily, you can always pass the time by watching the original.