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Review: ‘Borgen,’ in All Its Political and Psychological Glory, Is Back for Season 3

Review: 'Borgen,' in All Its Political and Psychological Glory, Is Back for Season 3

Politics is the art of the impossible in America this week,
but, in a fictional Denmark, it is still, thankfully, the art of the possible.

Borgen,” which Newsweek once called “The best TV show
you’ve never seen” and the Los Angeles Times has labeled ”compelling,” starts
its third season on KCET  at 10pm tonight, a week after the second season ended with Denmark’s beleagured female
prime minister scheduling an election that may or may not end her reign.

Few drama series can tolerate 30 episodes in a row without
fraying a little at the edges. Wasn’t
that plot move predictable? And won’t
the tangle of health care reform bills and party realignments eventually lose
their suspense?

“Borgen” did fray a little toward the end of Season 2 with
the psychological toll on two women competing against men in a man’s world
turning into a somewhat soapy subplot about a teenager’s mental breakdown.  But, from the opening minutes of Season 3,
“Borgen,” in all its psychological glory, is back. Those opening minutes take place
two-and-a-half years after the election that Nyberg called. Ex-Prime Minister Birgitte Nyberg (the
brilliant Sidse Babett Knudsen) is in demand and highly paid as a speaker in
countries as far away as Japan. The
ambitious television news anchor Katrine 
Fonsmark (Birgitte Hjort Sorensen) has the baby she longed for, but her
relationship with his father, Nyberg’s emotionally crippled spin doctor Kasper
Juul (Pilou Asbaek) is over.

How do you keep a series from growing stale in its third
season? “Borgen” shocks. Before the second episode is over, Nyberg has
decided to do the unthinkable and form a new political party. This audacity, which might be praised if she
were a man, brings together the two women who are at the heart of the program
and who, because they are women, cannot ever have it all — success in the
outside world and success in the private world of the family.  At the end of Season 2, the man who would
replace Nyberg as prime minister had asked snidely if the country wanted a “PM
who is a good mother.”

KCET offers no statistics about the total viewers who watch
this program broadcast in Danish with English subtitles. But “Borgen” has definitely been a blessing
for the former PBS station.
The Season 2
repeats on Monday night at 10 p.m. jumped 32% in average households and 14% in
total viewers over Season 1.  And web
viewers, who may be less resistant to subtitles than older television watchers,
have flocked to KCET’s “Borgen” pages. According to Ayn Allen, senior manager of corporate communications,
“’Borgen’ is responsible for roughly a 10% increase in page views for the whole
site, and it currently makes up 29%  of
our total video views.”

One other thing about “Borgen” is clear.  The writers have much more of the
duplicities, intrigues and occasional idealism of politics to offer.

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