A FUNNY thing happens when Birgitte Nyborg speaks English. She does this when she has to save the world, or at least save Africa.
BBC4, Saturday, 9pm and 10pm
Storyville: The Queen Of Versailles
BBC4, Monday, 10pm
Channel 4, Wednesday, 10pm
Listening to her, it’s like I’m hearing our language for the first time. OK, maybe it doesn’t sound new, but definitely more beautiful.
This is a woman who can make even Danish sound beautiful. And she does, every Saturday night. Except now Borgen is finished. Lort, lort, lort (that’s Danish for “shit, shit, shit” – come on, keep up).
To switch to English, the language of the international peacekeeper, Nyborg slows down and becomes very precise. This should be stilted but it isn’t. This shouldn’t be sexy but it is. I’m reminded of the first bulletins by our women newscasters who, doubtless anticipating a male backlash, spoke in a similarly deliberate way and probably weren’t aware that the poor blokes couldn’t concentrate on the current affairs (because we’re all such fans) for Anna Ford’s husky intoning of “Mujahideen”.
English or mother tongue, Nyborg is always discussing politics. Jings, at one point last night she was talking about an upcoming summit – topic: mineral exploration; key participant: the premier of Greenland, who presumably is Santa Claus – that was even boring her. But, as played by Sidse Babett Knudsen, Nyborg’s no ordinary woman and, as the second season has confirmed, no ordinary prime minister either. She lays traps for those who don’t back her moderates-led coalition! She bonks her chauffeur! She kicks down doors! She mends bicycles! And she’s got a special way of saying “Kasper” to summon her spin-doctor that I’m still mastering. It’s not yet as good as my impersonation of The West Wing’s Josh Lyman summoning his assistant (“Donna!”) but give me time.
Give me more Borgen (one more series to come), because this is mesmerising stuff: intelligent adult drama amid fearsomely tasteful furnishings, occasionally soapy, although nothing wrong with that. It’s an ensemble piece, stretching (and I do mean stretching) from lovely, willowy Sanne in the PM’s office to the even more elongated monster raving tabloid editor-reptile. I like Katrine, the ace news gopherette, but I also like seen-it, done-it, drunk-it Hanne – the two forming a smart double-act this time, on high feminist alert.
I must admit I’d forgotten about Kasper’s shocking childhood abuse until it was revisited in the outstanding episode of the run. As a consequence, he doesn’t want a family of his own (or didn’t until last night’s closing scenes).
Nyborg, on the other hand, tried to have it all until her family fell apart spectacularly. Great characters everywhere but it’s her show. The nose has a sweep as elegant as any of the modernist furniture. The smile dazzles the paparazzi right back when their flashbulbs pop. And have I mentioned what she sounds like? Talk Danish to me. Say anything you want.
In Storyville: The Queen Of Versailles, Jackie Siegel’s concept of having it all was 30 bathrooms, the old house only boasting 17. And for the first half of Lauren Greenfield’s brilliantly jaw-dropping film, the third wife of US timeshare king David Siegel seemed to be getting her way. Regularly visiting what was to be America’s largest house, under construction in Florida, the ex-beauty queen would swan about going: “This is the staircase I’ll use when I’m visiting the children.” But then: CRASH!
Not the sound of her toppling over on account of her pneumatic figure, but the sub-prime mortgage meltdown which imprisoned the family in relative 17-bathroom hell while David, 74, battled to save what was left of his empire and Jackie, 30 years his junior, struggled to shop on a budget (previous annual spend: $1 million; typical purchase: ostrich-feather Gucci pants), boil up pasta since the cook had been paid off and understand what the man at Hertz meant by there being no chauffeurs with the hire cars. We should no longer be surprised that people consent to such films. The Siegels must have thought it would portray them as a great American success story, celebrating their wealth and taste (“This is what $5m worth of Chinese marble looks like… Whaddya call those eggs from Russia? Fabergé, but we’ve got the giant ones”).
It’s our good fortune they decided to keep the cameras running, right through to David barking at the kids to turn off the lights and save electricity (17 cludgies is, after all, 17 cludgies) and one of them admitting after the sad demise of a starved pet: “I didn’t even know we had a lizard.”
Like many, I’ve been disappointed with Ricky Gervais’s comedy recently, but I’m going to stand up for him regarding Derek. I don’t think that it exploits the mentally disabled and there are some sweet moments. It just isn’t very funny.
PICK OF THE WEEK
Dancing On The Edge
BBC2, Monday and Tuesday, 9pm
Stephen Poliakoff’s big-screen foray, Glorious 39, got less than glorious reviews. This is his return to TV after six years and he’s still mining the 1930s in this saga of a black jazz band in London. It’s 1933, and in the first scene a panic-stricken Louis Lester (Chiwetel Ejiofor) announces: “I need to get out of the country, Stanley.” This is Stanley Mitchell (Matthew Goode), hustler-hack with the Music Express. We then flash back 18 months to the pair’s first meeting and a drab scene. “The most overbooked band ever,” wails Stanley about the best hotel’s regular combo. “The dullest music
in London.” He gets Louis’
lot a booking, but after a
look round the room the bandleader isn’t sure. “They’ve never had a coloured band here before, have they?” Stanley: “Oh, it’s better than that. I don’t think they’ve ever heard jazz music.”
When Albums Ruled The World
BBC4, Friday, 9pm
Guy Garvey, singer with Elbow, calls it “breaking the veneer of the hip joint employee”. He’s describing the moment when your favourite intimidating record shop accepts you. “All it is really is a kind of ‘Uhuh’ but you’re like: ‘I own this town!’ That’s how it felt to me.” A documentary recalling the heyday of vinyl music emporia – once everywhere, soon to be nowhere.
BBC4, Saturday, 9pm
The terrifically dank and sleazy French crime drama begins each new season with a charred body or a bloody one. For series four there will be blood. Meanwhile, we await the latest instalment of the show’s great struggle between the handsome prosecutor and the sultry lawyer. Him to her: “Josephine, you respect nothing. Except money, of course.”