Looks like we’ve entered a new age as movie delivery/streaming service Netflix has delivered it’s first original series in Lilyhammer. The series stars who else but renowned E-Street Band guitarist/Sopranos actor Steven Van Zandt as the endlessly entertaining wise guy Frankie “The Fixer” Tagliano. After the death of a former Mafia associate, Frankie Tagliano enters the witness relocation program and testifies against his organization so that he can start over with a clean slate… And what better place to start over then in the humble city of Lillehammer, Norway?
Infatuated with the city ever since he watched the 1994 Olympics, Frankie imagines a life with crisp snow, fresh mountain air, and beautiful Scandinavian broads, unfortunately this isn’t the case. Under the new name of Giovanni “Johnny” Henriksen, Frankie finds himself in a freezing and relatively uneventful community where he now must attend immigration classes, job meetings, and other mundane activities. So surely enough Frankie, or should I say Johnny (as that’s what everyone calls him) returns to his old habits of blackmail, extortion, and violence, to open his own bar and start his own crime underworld in the sleepy suburbs of Lillehammer.
Along the way Johnny meets plenty of colorful characters including Torgeir (Trond Fausas Aurvag) a a dimwitted local who quickly becomes Johnny’s right hand man, Jan (Fridtjov Saheim) an adulterous Labor office employee, and Sigrid (Marian Saastad Ottesen) a kindhearted single mother whom Johnny forms a relationship with. The results are a full on black comedy that pokes fun both at the pompous attitudes of Americans and the docile, folksy lives of small town Scandinavians. It’s certainly quirky and if you have been intrigued by anything I’ve said thus far then you will probably like this show.
I was a little hesitant about Steven Van Zandt starring in a series as his role in The Sopranos always seemed minimal, but he’s hilarious. Sure the character is essentially the typical wise guy character, but Van Zandt takes it so over-the-top it’s hard not to laugh. Even Van Zandt’s physical performance, hunched over with a constant scowl is a joy to watch, he clearly enjoys playing this character and I enjoy watching him. Though what really makes the character work is the fact that he’s set in such a unique surrounding. Here we have this tough as nails guy from the Big Apple now in a town with these almost annoyingly helpful Norwegians, it’s the classic fish out of water story.
Aside from Van Zant, the show is cleverly written and finds a good balance between humor and drama. I’d still say the show is a comedy but it definitely has it’s darker moments, you simply couldn’t have a crime show without violence. My only complaint is that this show may be too over-the-top. It is a little hard to believe any of this could happen and Johnny is more or less an Italian stereotype with little depth. That aside this show is very funny with some well executed twists and turns to keep you interested. If you have Netflix streaming than I recommend you check it out and hopefully when Van Zandt is done touring with “The Boss” he’ll get back to work on this.