The latest BBC4 Scandinavian import, Lilyhammer, centres around a crime boss in hiding – but if you're expecting the chilly understated noir of The Killing, or even the subtle character development of Borgen, think again. The most noticeable thing about the first episode is how, well, daft it is.
Or perhaps that's the second most noticeable thing – for many viewers, it'll be the casting of Steven Van Zandt, familiar as Silvio Dante from The Sopranos. He's playing firmly to type, as a Frankie the Fixer, a New York mobster. That's about the only predictable bit, mind. The set-up is this: Frankie gets so upset that Lily, his pet West Highland terrier, has been shot, that he testifies against his Mafioso colleagues, fleeing the country under an FBI witness-protection programme. To Lillehammer, Norway. Because he liked the look of the Winter Olympics there in 1994.
All this is swiftly established; by the end of the credits, we're following a train through Norway's snowy hills. But we've not even arrived in Lillehammer before Frankie takes justice into his own hands, doling out threats to disrespectful teens (we must be in Scandinavia; even the thugs wear cosy knits). Soon, he's trying to bribe public officials and upsetting his neighbour – and (uh-oh) chief of police – by illegally hunting wolves.
So begins a comedy of cultural differences, and there is a certain light humour to Van Zandt's escapades. But the plotting feels extremely forced: that wolf was sent to swim with the fishes in order to impress a pretty blonde, whose sheep it attacked … yes, we really are in the world of ovine revenge jobs. Van Zandt – who also helped script the series – is an enjoyable man to watch, however, his fleshy features looking permanently unimpressed by Norway's snow'n'socialism, like some stop-motion Plasticine figure.
There are more cartoonish capers in another new series, Moone Boy. It's also co-written by its star, Chris O'Dowd – formerly best known for The IT Crowd, now popping up in Hollywood movies all over the shop. Moone Boy is based on his upbringing in a small Irish town, but this ain't exactly a misery memoir. O'Dowd plays the imaginary friend of Martin Moone (David Rawle), a 12-year-old living in Boyle in 1987, and what japes they have! Moone Boy is as bright and uncool as the pair's matching red bobble hats, as upbeat and mildly irritating as its theme music, Sultans of Ping FC's "Where's Me Jumper?".
The plot is slight; Martin is bullied by the Bonner brothers, so he seeks protection from a bigger bully, who agrees – in exchange for a feel of Martin's sister's boobs. What's odd, though, is that O'Dowd's character isn't really used for anything – he seems to be there mostly to provide voiceover, and to play banjo to block out the swearwords when Martin's sister goes on a foul-mouthed rant. It's one of many elements that make it feel like children's programming, the final slot on the CBBC schedule; with jaunty animated sequences and rapid editing, Moone Boy is a bit Beano. Presumably meant to be nostalgic, sweet entertainment for adults, it's perhaps too successful at inhabiting the kidult mindframe.
ITV gets gold stars for effort, at least, with its recent dramatic output. It seems to be trying to up its game with the likes of The Last Weekend, The Scapegoat, The Bletchley Circle … and now Leaving. Scripted by Tony Marchant (The Mark of Cain, Garrow's Law), it stars Helen McCrory as a hotel events manager, and Callum Turner as a well-bred young chap who, struggling to get a job that uses his degree (or any job at all), winds up working at the self-same hotel. Mrs Robinson comparisons at the ready …
It's handsomely shot, and McCrory manages to add a mischievous twinkle to a character who would otherwise be an unappealing mix of hoity-toity jobsworth and closet romantic (she mouths along to other people's marriage vows). But while Turner looks the part – all sensual pouting, lustrous hair and an air of entitled confident charm – their interactions rarely convince; they act past each other somehow, rather than connecting. A three-parter, it's also hard to see how it's going to develop – any will-they-won't-they curiosity wears thin in the first episode. Really, it's enough to make you pine for a farm-animal murder sub-plot.Reuse content