Bitchin' Channels

A blog about television and radio with Paul Casserly

Paul Casserly: The best holiday DVD box set

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Sofia Helin and  Kim Bodni as Saga Norén and Martin Rohde in The Bridge.
Sofia Helin and Kim Bodni as Saga Norén and Martin Rohde in The Bridge.

Let's face it. Everyone needs a box-set DVD for Christmas/New Year. Either as a last minute present or as an insurance policy for the inevitable shitty weather. There is only a limited amount of Monopoly you can subject yourself to, although it is fun while you're winning. Like sun block, a good novel and cold meat, a holiday bag needs at least one good DVD box set.

This year I have been recommending one DVD set more than any other, it's called The Bridge and it's a rewarding 10-episode experience.

You will have to turn off your iPad or phone though because it is a Swedish/Danish co-production, which means subtitles. There are many who just won't go there but even among the more up themselves, smug bastards, who do, myself included, a show has to be extra good to deserve that level of attention. Ironically it's probably a factor that can really make a show, as it forces you to concentrate.

Non spoiling synopsis: A body is found in the middle of a rather spectacular bridge that connects Sweden to Denmark. Naturally that brings two cops from the two police forces together as they search for the killer. The first murder is not all that it seems but the gory realisation that is soon made is just the beginning of a bloody cat and mouse game that never fails to entertain.

I made the tactical error of watching the US version of another Scandinavian murder drama Forbrydelsen (The Killing), which good as it was, lacked much that made the original so great, not least because of a plot which only barely survives the conversion. Even the killer is different in the US version.

One unkind review of the US version suggested that a studio exec had caught an episode of the original on a plane and wrote the rest of the series on the back of an inflight magazine as he was squeezing one out in the restroom. But having said that, there was much to commend the US iteration, not least the excellent acting of its two co-stars and heightened production values and helicopter shots that only cold hard cash can bring.

From the outset, The Bridge is already more American in tone than The Killing so a translation is inevitable. The main characters are superb - one an autistic genius, the other a dirty old root-bag -but it's a more of a roller coaster, it's more fun, occasionally replacing subtlety and grimness with action and some nicely played comedy.

I won't ruin things by going on, but I do urge you to see it before the American version gets in your face. Quite simply this is the box-set to get you through the dark days ahead. It would also be good as a last minute present. But be careful, a friend of mine who was sick of me banging on about how it good it is asked his mum for a copy for Christmas. She rang him up when it arrived in the post and said, "I've got your present, don't know why you want an old war movie for." Turns out she'd bought Bridge Over the River Kwai. There's also a rather good but pretty depressing doco of the same name about the Golden Gate and a German war movie about child soldiers. So keep your wits about you.

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