Grace Dent on Television: The Bridge, BBC4
Spoiler alert: The Bridge may be a dinner-party talking point, but I'd rather watch the Steps reunion
Like me, you've possibly been cajoled by friends to watch BBC4's Scandic crime series The Bridge.
Like me, you've possibly chuntered inwardly, "oh chuffing hell, not another, slow-moving, allegedly cerebrally stimulating, subtitled gloomfest". You might have even thought, "I don't want to be mentally stimulated! I'm happy watching The Voice. Let me watch Will.i.am promising gullible buffoons that they'll be "Intergalactic Singing Emperor of the Moon" by Spring 2013! Let me enjoy moderately gifted idiots, wearing flammable fibres as they're styled on a BBC budget, honking at each in a boxing ring. It makes my brain feel squidgy and untroubled."
Well, I sympathise, and these philistine thoughts may win you friends "down at the pub". But don't come crying to me when your draft papers arrive to appear on BBC2's Friday night Review Show, and you're sat downwind of Paul Morley, Martha Kearney and a female professor from UCL wearing a flappy skirt, too many pewter skull-rings and an impervious stare.
These people love Scandi crime drama. These people don't series link Steps: On The Road Again (Sky Living). They certainly don't play the Steps drinking game, where one blocks a shot of Frangelico every time Lisa Scott-Lee has a strategic diva-weep about "not feeling valued" and two shots when Claire Richards boo-hoos that she can't fit into her hotpants due to "genetics", then pops off to record her section as a judge on Lorraine Kelly's Cake Club.
Luckily, on your behalf, I ploughed through many hours of The Bridge this week, drinking in its poorly lit, macabre, long-game beauty and assembling a dinner-party cheat-note for slackers. I have attempted this without spoilers, but if you are the sort who gets tremendously stompy and weepy about "spoilerz", you could a) try not starting a column about The Bridge, or b) maybe get nanny to lie you in your day-bed with blankie to try to forget about the "meany TV review lady who done gone spoil your wurld".
So. The first thing to know about The Bridge is that it begins when a woman's body is found in the middle of Oresund Bridge, exactly on the border between Sweden and Denmark, leading to female detective Saga Noren from Malmo CID and male detective Martin Rohde from the Copenhagen police department being called to the scene. Noren is a charmless monosyllabic grump with translucent skin. Rohde is a Norwegian John Thompson from The Fast Show lookalike who has sore testicles due to a recent vasectomy.
It may be that a sore scrotum just isn't as funny in Sweden or Norway, so they can pepper the script with serious references to it, um, willy-nilly. This must be a cultural thing. I can't imagine an episode of Morse where Inspector said to Lewis, "let's get these false teeth down for forensic Lewis, but go easy on the speedbumps, my nadgers are giving me gyp".
The second thing to say about The Bridge, when faced with Kirsty Wark, is, ahem, "the juxtaposition between the cultural idiosyncrasies of the Danish and Swedish police forces is most hilarious". Never admit your concern that, as a Brit watching with subtitles, you're possibly missing 70 per cent of the plot. Try not to give away that, until now, with Swedish culture, your only points of reference are Ace of Base, Swedish House Mafia, and Chef from The Muppets. Never voice your concern that if The Bridge was set on the M6 and everyone was speaking Home Counties English, essentially you'd just be watching Silent Witness, and you bloody hate Silent Witness.
Salient point three: "It's sooooo great," you think, "that these new cop dramas like The Killing, Homeland and The Bridge are creating strong roles for women." Gloss over the fact that a lot of the leading women in these shows are actually either certified mentally ill (Carrie in Homeland) or simply somewhere on the spectrum of the emotionally unavailable (Saga Noren, Sarah Lund in The Killing). Gloss over plot points like episode one of The Bridge, where a child-free businesswoman stands in a hospital demanding the heart of a dying man for her husband's transplant. "I have no children! My husband is everything. I need this heart," she growls, like a less affable Lady Macbeth. As a woman, I found this slightly unrealistic.
Other plot points to check off: there's a man who strides about in flares and a kipper tie who appears to be in a completely different decade to everyone else. Also: about twice an episode the killer will ring up and rant wildly about: "Knowing the truth! About society! All the secrets that the government doesn't want THE PEOPLE to know." He sounds like a terrific bore.
Brilliant, a whole cop-series revolving around one of those dullards who devotes his free time leaving comments on internet news items. I'd rather he killed me quickly than make me read his damning evidence about how "Ronald Reagan planned 9/11 and triggered it via his cryogenically frozen head!!!" I feel death may be preferable to watching any more of The Bridge. Just don't tell Kirsty Wark or Martha Kearney.
Grace's marmalade dropper
...Jacob Rees-Mogg, MP, livening up BBC Parliament with his spiffing Gulliver's Travels assessment of Ed Miliband as "a socialist Yahoo". I love Rees-Mogg. Any time he's allowed out on screen is TV gold.
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