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4.7 out of 5 stars
Borgen - Season 1
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61 of 64 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
I first became aware of the Danish political drama "Borgen" when Stephen King listed it as the best TV program he had watched in 2012 in a year end edition of Entertainment Weekly. This caused me to seek out the show which has actually aired in a few major U.S. markets. Until now, though, it hasn't had an official North American DVD distribution deal. This four disc set has all ten episodes of Season One which debuted in Denmark in 2010 (the show is currently airing Season Three over there). In 2012, "Borgen" won a BAFTA as Best International TV Series. In a finely honed balance of the personal and the political, "Borgen" is grounded by an extraordinary leading performance by Sidse Babett Knudsen as Denmark's first female Prime Minister. You can draw certain comparisons to the "West Wing" for the juggling of an immense cast and rapid fire storylines or even to Geena Davis' short lived "Commander in Chief" for its depiction of a female leader negotiating the demands of power with those of family. But "Borgen" doesn't really need those comparisons, I just mention them as similarly themed endeavors as a reference point.

Season One picks up shortly after the new Prime Minister takes her position, but her power is not locked in initially. She must navigate the inherent pratfalls of her unexpected ascension with the help of a wily spin doctor (Johan Philip Asbæk), while the media watchdogs police her every move and decision. Aside from getting to know the Prime Minister from a more personal standpoint, the show lets us inside the decision making processes within the cabinet. And a fair amount of time is spent within the press corp. Another major player in the set-up is Birgitte Hjort Sørensen as a reporter who also happens to has past ties with the man at the Prime Minister's side. The first episodes of Season One are totally captivating, we learn about the way things work in the Danish government as Knudsen attempts to break into the boy's club. As she settles in, though, late episodes tend to include an issue that must be wrapped up within the hour.

While I firmly support and recommend "Borgen," I'd say there is a bit of unevenness in the area of subplots and peripheral characters. Obviously, the program is in Danish with English subtitles. It is a show that both requires patience and rewards it, and should be appreciated by adult audiences looking for something intelligent and incredibly well acted. This is a solid ten episodes and a great introduction, but the show does experience a few growing pains. This is only Season One, though, and I hope that the other seasons will follow shortly. In Season Two, "Borgen" really capitalizes on its strongest assets and becomes absolutely riveting. Impressively produced, this is a show that benefits greatly by a tremendous cast that you want to follow. And its issues are surprisingly credible, even expected. If you have an interest in politics, media or just good adult TV, this is certainly one to check out. KGHarris, 2/13.
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
I just experienced a marathon: I just watched an entire season of a television show I was entirely unfamiliar with from the get-go. If you're wondering, it's an import. It hails from Denmark. It's called BORGEN, and it was the winner for the "Best International TV Series" at the 2012 BAFTA Awards. For the record, I normally don't do this. I don't normally run-off an entire program in a single sitting. Like fine wine, I like my television dramas to breathe a little, so I'll usually sip them a few episodes at a time, allowing the experience to sink in a bit, to intoxicate me fully (or not, if it's an inferior wine), to give me something to think about and mull over while I'll looking for something to help wash it down. The problem I had with BORGEN was that - for reasons that I'll try to make perfectly clear by the end of this review - I simply couldn't look away.

Yes, it was THAT captivating.

(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of character and plot. If you're the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I'd encourage you to skip down to the last two paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you're accepting of a few modest hints at `things to come,' then read on ...)

Birgitte Nyborg (played with graceful conviction by the lovely Sidse Babett Knudsen) serves as the head of a moderate political party. By a curious set of circumstances, Nyborg ignites a cultural firestorm in a debate performance that inevitably delivers her into the role of Prime Minister of Denmark. Coming to grips with the reality that this job was far from her life-time's ambition, she's forced to learn some very difficult lessons very difficult. Over the course of these ten episodes, the stakes are continually raised for her and her family, most significantly for her husband Philip (Mikael Birkkjær) and `spin doctor' Kasper Juul (Johan Philip Asbæk). Make no mistake: the woman we're treated to in the closing moments of her first year in office is a far cry from the idealistic one who entered into with some homespun enthusiasm. To paraphrase another political euphemism, Mrs. Smith may've gone to Washington, but she suffers a grim reality that ain't all sunshine and roses.

The stories run the gamut - from the personal to the professional - and I'll give a quick summary for those who wish to know more. The first two episodes primarily deal with Nyborg's elevation to the seat-of-power, along with her struggling party. Her first political crisis explores the shenanigans of defectors who withdraw party affiliation to become "independents." Then, the crisp, brilliant writing explores such topics as political prisoners, terrorism, government cronyism, workplace equality, and even illegal government surveillance; and - all the while - the narrative is built around these exceptional talents tinkering behind-the-scenes in the halls of true power.

Where BROGEN stumbles just a bit is in exploring the personal sides of its players. For example, Kasper's on-again-off-again love interest - a budding investigative journalist for TV1, Katrine Fønsmark (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen) - suffers from just that (the on-again-off-again vacillation of their relationship). Despite their characters' best interests (and the efforts of the writers), there's no doubt at all that these two cynics will never end up happily together. Even worse, Fønsmark is given a lesser love interest - an aerobics instructor - that comes off haphazard and ill-conceived; thankfully, he's gone almost as quickly as he surfaces, and we're all none the wiser for his departure. Still, there are some plotlines - such as Kasper's road of self-discovery when he confronts his tortured childhood - that work despite the fact that they feel a bit out-of-sync with the rest of the series.

Where BORGEN excels is in its creative and frank depiction of how the beast that is the political system either deliberately or unintentionally changes everything it touches, and, usually, these changes are not for the better. The show offers a constant reminder that, in politics, everything comes at a price. Sometimes that price is heavy; sometimes it's little more than pocket change; but, nonetheless, the toll is always heavy on the hearts of those who pay-in-full.

What's increasingly sad is that about the time the audience figures that the Prime Minister is going to come to her senses and do what's right based on her established personal convictions, we're shown how once again she's lost her way - never quite the victim of circumstance as she is the victim of an institution long accustomed to having its way with whomever enters its influence. Watch for the heartbreaking conclusion to the season-long arc involving her unappreciated secretary Sanne (Iben Dorner); let me know if it makes you as angry as it made me.

BORGEN is produced by DR Fiktion. DVD distribution (stateside) is being handled through MHz Networks. As for the technical specifications, the show looks and sounds impressive; clearly, the programs earns high marks in its production. For those who need it spelled out for them, this is a Danish-spoken language set with English subtitles available. Also, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that BORGEN has also 2010 Prix Italia Award for Best TV Drama; has also won the 2011 Biarritz FIPA Award for Best TV Series and Serials; and Ms. Knudsen has won the 2011 Monte-Carlo TV Festival Golden Nymph Award for Outstanding Actress is a Drama Series. As is often the case with these imported programs, there are no special features to speak of ... but I've no doubt if you're watching the show closely you won't miss `em at all.

HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION POSSIBLE. It's politics - meaning that it's heavily political, folks - so don't expect it all to be wrapped up nicely in a bow, and you'll probably enjoy the performances at the heart of BORGEN as much as I did. At times, it'll please you. Other times, it'll frustrate you. You'll question the logic of the choices these people make, and that's because there's a lesson in here for us all: politics - regardless of its outcome - is a dirty business. It chews people up whole, and then it either eats them alive or spits them out entirely. You may not agree with all of it (such is life), but it'll keep you captivated from start-to-finish nonetheless.

In the interests of fairness, I'm pleased to disclose that the fine folks at MHz Networks provided me with an advance DVD screener of BORGEN by request for the expressed purpose of completing this review.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 9, 2013
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
I am so happy that "Borgen" has been released in Region 1 NTSC. I first read about it in in the UK Guardian. Season one of this ten-episode series, which is distributed on four disks, introduces the characters and plot. It therefore might seem a bit slow, and even confusing, if one is not familiar with the dynamics of a coalition government, but do persist. By episode two you ought to be thoroughly hooked (I watched six episodes in one sitting, and the other four the next evening). The series is so good that I want to go back and watch it again and pick up the details that I missed the first time around.

Sidse Babett Knudsen plays Birgitte Nyborg, who rises from political obscurity to become head of her political party. When the voters (in an idealistic scenario) recognise her sincerity and reject the political shenanigans of the conservative Prime Minister and the leader of the Labour Party, Birgitte's Moderate party receives a majority of votes. The Queen therefore asks her to form a government. It is fascinating to see the wheeling, dealing and compromises that she has to make in the process in order to achieve her goal.

The characters are well developed, particularly those of Prime Minister Birgitte; Katrine, an ambitious young television anchor; and Kasper, Birgitte's slightly dodgy SPAD (special adviser) and spin doctor, who proves to be an unlikely common denominator between the two women. Knudsen's nuanced portrayal of a wife and mother whom circumstances thrust into the political limelight and who must consequently balance her very public life with her private life, is totally convincing, especially as she gradually realises that in order to be successful, she has to make compromises and concessions in both spheres.

The series presents parallels to the perilous relationship between politics and the media, the mischief done by tabloid press, political infighting, and what happens when media moguls attempt to influence policy.

Recommended for viewers who enjoy an intelligent drama, and who cannot get enough of politics.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 4, 2013
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
This series shows the political differences in a country with more than half a dozen political parties compared to the two party system in the US.

In particular it shows that whatever party is the largest it still needs to get into a coalition with and find compromises with a couple of other parties in order be able to form a government and to get something done. A good lecture for Americans.

It also shows how the media people can have a major influence on politics.

Excellent actress and actor performances. I also bought the second season, which is equally good.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 14, 2013
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
Can't wait to see season #2. Didn't really know what to expect when I bought this one. It's one of my favorites now!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 10, 2014
Format: DVD
Well written and brilliantly acted. Very addictive so I binged watched all three seasons over a few months. Even better than House of Cards and that was terrific. The Danes know how to make great tv and show respect for their viewers by keeping high standards with complex stories. Bravo!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 10, 2013
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
Exciting series on the daily ups and downs of a fictional woman Prime Minister in Denmark. I rooted for the irresistable Birgitte Nyborg (played by Sidse Babett Knudsen) from the first episode because she is nice, fun, cute and intelligent. Politics is about compromise, they say, and you wonder how the idealistic Nyborg is going to survive it in government. What is wonderful about the series is that very realistic scenarios are represented in every episode, where we are able to cheer on Nyborg from problem to problem and episode to episode as she trumps her opponents with skilful manipulation at every turn, staying loyal to her ideals. She compromises on some things, to achieve her more important goals. Cleverly supported by her media advisor, whose private passions give us some diversion from the politics.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
This is the best binge watching experience of late-(even though the actual quality of the CD is compromised-And I don't know how to fix it.) Politics, especially Scandinavian politics can give a viewer the sense that s/he is not rummaging in the trash. With the same abandon that one can regard the scandal that was the Tudors or tsk-tsk the machinations in the "House of Cards" , cloaked in respectable history, Denmark is a stand in for intellectual purience. And I am glad of it! Fabulous smiles, skinny heroes,stunning clothes, hard hitting journalists! And Copenhagen. Oh Borgen has everything!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2013
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
Starting watching Borgen earlier this year. It's outstanding. The Season 1 series gives you a full perspective from the beginning so you better understand the characters and relationships in later episodes. Three of the Series 1 episodes were shown again this year. Each episode stands on its own, so you can easily understand it, but knowing the backgrond and development of characters and relationships greatly enriches each weekly story. The English sub-titles are extremely well done. You hardly notice it. Also it's interesting seeing how the Danes govern and view things socially and internationally.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
Remember West Wing, some are relating this new Scandanavian series to the US West Wing. Never, in a million years did I think of West Wing while viewing this series.

Sidse Babett Knudsen plays Birgitte Nyborg, the leader of the Moderate Party, who wants to be prime minister. She is a beautiful woman, but knows her own mind and is an example of the 'perfect' woman leader. Bent Serjo, played by Lars Knutzon, is her PR, spin doctor, Kaspar, and her husband, Philip, played by Mikael Birkkjaer, is a professor. She's also helped by some horrible opponents. We think we have it bad with our Tea Party opponents, these people are much worse.

Borgen, is the nickname for Denmark's Parliamentary building. It's a sensational drama with performances that drag us right into the middle of this political process. Everyone who has seen this series develops a crush on Sidse Babette Knudsen, her character is so amazing in many ways. Her relationship with her husband and her family, ring true to life. The relationships of those who surround her are also titillating and combined with the adventures bring this first season to one that leaves us ready for the next year.

Recommended. prisrob 01-27-14
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