Comment • reviews • Nordic Noir • whimsy
On an iMac in Suffolk there are 15,000 words written about Borgen, and I’m not really sure what they mean. Anyone who knows me will be aware that I don’t usually talk about anything I’m writing until I’m happy with it, so what’s with this unusual and very self-indulgent confession?
When the first series of Borgen finished showing in the UK, I wanted to talk about it all the time. Some of my friends are fans, but not enough are fanatics. I couldn’t find anywhere to just let off steam. Vicky Frost’s excellent Guardian blog (here’s a link to the most recent) attracts brilliant comments in their hundreds but the format can make it hard to follow single discussions, Vicky is forced to tackle two episodes at a time because that’s how BBC FOUR likes to show them, and comments close after a while so that’s the end of the chat.
When it comes to Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing, we’re spoiled for choice. I think I’ve got half a dozen books about the show (my favourite is the companion by Keith Topping) kicking around the house, and that’s not to mention the brilliance of the resources at the Television Without Pity website – organised forums for chat topped off with hugely detailed recaps of each episode. But for Borgen, not as much. There were plenty of one-off reviews, or even regular reviews over a series, but nowhere to obsess about detail. The fact that a previous post on this blog (which I no longer completely agree with) was until yesterday in top slot in Google for ‘borgen west wing’ and is this blog’s most visited page, told me the sorry tale.
I have no background in TV criticism but I do spend a lot of time writing, so I thought it would be interesting to try my hand. My first attempt was a TWOP-style recap. After three hours I’d got as far as the Mulberry incident in episode one (which occurs about five minutes in). And, worse, what I’d written was rubbish.
So then I tried to be more focused – shorter recaps, longer pseudo-analysis. Occasionally the odd joke about professors of rhetoric. I have looked at each of the major themes – the first family and so on. And I got to the end of series 1, though the recaps got longer and longer. Actually, I don’t mind that, because it kind of reflects the mood of the show, which also changes as the series continues. I like the idea of the work waxing and waning along with its source material.
But what is this work? The original plan was that it would become a website, but at some point it changed into a potential e-book and that is still the plan – when I am happy with the content.
But something has happened. It was pretty easy to write the first series material as I was in my own little bubble. Now I’ve seen series 2 but haven’t written anything at all about it yet. And that’s partly because series 2 has coincided with some kind of UK Borgenmania. There have been all sorts of fairly shallow reviews. Vicky is still blogging strong. And I have finally found a fantastic community of Nordic Noir aficionados on Twitter. The Borgenistas take being a fan seriously. They weren’t too pleased when Rachel Cooke wrote a trolling review in the New Statesman. But generally the atmosphere is warm and the conversations witty. Andy researches and writes about fan culture. Lizzie blogs about film and TV, including some fine reviews of Borgen itself. Both their writing is higher-brow than what I have in mind for my magnum opus. It would take too long to run through everyone’s contributions but in essence, unlike my keen but rather passive excitement about The West Wing (though I have taken time out from writing this to send a quick tweet to the fictional Josh Lyman), or my weird appreciation of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (bought the book, received the T-shirt, went to a convention, met the lead actor), here I have suddenly found myself part of a community of people all actively engaging with the material, playing with it, analysing it, ENJOYING IT, bringing different things, and taking different things out. This is more akin to being a Palace fan, where every shade of opinion is welcomed. On the other hand I have not yet come across anyone who finds the idea of Pernille Madsen appealing.
What I am finding interesting is that my strict formula – here’s the bit about Kasper, or whoever – is being stretched and as we move into series 2, I’m hoping to test it to destruction. And equally interesting is the shift in my approach to the task: from something static to a journey. It’s still my own journey, I think, but I’ve found a few more people on the train.