It’s pretty standard at this point that TV series have two types of viewers, those who watch in real-time or close to it, and those who are a season or more behind because they watch it after the fact via streaming services or DVDs. Lilyhammer is neither type. It’s a Norwegian-American production with its USA and Canada rights owned by Netflix. Netflix debuted the series on Monday, less than two weeks after the Norwegian premiere, and immediately made the entire eight-episode season available for streaming (yes, in a reversal of the Downton Abbey problem, we get the show first).
The distribution details are almost the most interesting thing about Lilyhammer, but only almost … it’s more fun than I expected. You have to buy into the premise, about which more in a moment, but if you do, you’ll find a series that is nowhere near the level of the best TV has to offer, but entertaining enough to warrant watching it in your accustomed manner (all eight episodes at once, or spread out over days or weeks).
OK, the premise. Steven Van Zandt of E Street fame and, more importantly in this context, formerly of The Sopranos, plays a New York mobster who goes into the witness protection program and chooses the city of Lillehammer in Norway as his new home, because he thought it looked pretty on TV during the 1994 Olympics. The role isn’t much of a stretch for Van Zandt: it’s Silvio Dante with a new name, getting his own Fish Out of Water series.
If that sounds fun to you, you’ll probably like it. It doesn’t make much sense (duh) … the language barrier is especially weird, since Van Zandt’s character is shown learning basic Norwegian (“how are you?”), yet entire scenes take place where the locals speak Norwegian, Van Zandt understands them, and replies in English, which they in turn understand (although, as often as not, they reply in Norwegian). Grade for premiere: B, but a “B” I’ll continue to watch.