Lilyhammer is the first direct-to-Netflix series… well, semidirect to Netflix, as it’s also seeing air in Norway. Watching it, it becomes clear why Netflix is starting with this as their first original series – they were probably able to get it cheaply, with little competition to co-underwrite this. That’s because the series is largely subtitled… which makes it a lousy series for my needs, because I need something that I can listen to while doing relatively mindless computer work, and ony look up when something important seems to be happening. Spending my time reading subtitles does not play into that.
The basic concept is that Mafia man Steven Van Zandt gets the Federal Witness Protection Program to place him in Lillehammer, Norway. The immediate assumption is that this will be about the city-raised guy who moves to the hinterlands and finds himself amongst a batch of wacky locals – perhaps not quite as broad as Green Acres, but something in the tradition exemplified by Northern Exposure and continued in such series as BallyKissAngel and Men in Trees. But that seems to be a wrong assumption. The locals don’t seem particularly wacky; they’re quite normal. Judging by the first one, it plays off the contrast of styles, the hard-nosed criminal in a world not built for such types, a straighter My Blue Heaven. There is some suggestion that it will get more into crime-based conflict. The first one was smoothly done, some nice touches… but it didn’t grab me.
Netflix is smartly making all eight episodes available immediately, showcasing the advantages of streaming over standard broadcast. If it weren’t for the subtitle problem, I’d probably graze through another couple of episodes before making a firm decision; in a general way, it’s better than my current grazing series, Stephen Fry as a small-town lawyer in Kingdom. But I think that I’ll drop that for something else, not for this.