Cable Series Review: Lilyhammer

Lilyhammerby Brad Nelson   7/18/14
My guilty pleasure of late in terms of a TV series is the Netlix original, Lilyhammer. It stars Steven van Zandt as Frank Tagliano, an Italian-American ex-mobster who has since joined the witness protection program. The program has placed him incognito in Lillehammer, Norway, of all places, because Tagliano once saw the Winter Olympics on TV and liked the looks of the place.

But the reality of Lillehammer is somewhat different. It’s now just a small, sleepy town where there isn’t much going on…until Frank appears on the scene full of bluster born of both his mobster background and from being just what we used to call a normal American. The ex-mob operative comes out of the gate itching for some action. And if he can’t find it, he’ll make it. This creates for many comic moments of the “fish out of water” variety.

This is also a series in which you’ll be frequently wondering if they are parodying “stupid” or are just actually stupid. I think it’s usually the former, especially given the constant send-up of politically correct, multicult Norway. Some of this stuff makes such fun of Progressives and socialists that I’m shocked that someone is doing comedy with this kind of an edge. For conservatives, it’s worth watching if only for this aspect.

This series is an extended version of Dumb and Dumber combined with Goodfellas. Frank Tagliano starts out with very little (other than a wad of cash he somehow is able to take with him) and finds that he has been inserted into a rather modest house by the witness protection program. But he begins to work his way up, using his forceful tough-guy mob approach. He is a wolf amongst sheep and has no trouble getting his way as he blackmails and cajoles his way to getting a penthouse apartment for himself, a bar, and involves himself in various other ventures.

And he takes a few of the Norwegian locals (who look like they came right out of The Great White North, but with Norwegian accents) along for the ride. In some cases, he’s helping a few of these socialist weenies “man up” as they get out from under the dull and vapid life of multiculturalism and into something more exciting, not to mention profitable (if not exactly legal).

None of this is Shakespeare. It’s often pretty low-brow stuff. But at least through season one, it holds together into a watchable series. I believe it falls further to the side of dark comedy/satire than just stupid. But you do get both.

The first two seasons are, of course, streamable on Netflix. And note that for some odd reason, most of the Norwegians speak in Norwegian, so you basically have to approach this as a foreign film in which you’re dependent upon subtitles. Even so, the Norwegian characters often switch from Norwegian to English, and back again. It gets a little strange.


Brad is editor and chief disorganizer of StubbornThings.
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Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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2 Responses to Cable Series Review: Lilyhammer

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    I seem to recall that Mary Higgins Clark did a book on someone in witness protection a few years back, though of course she was writing a serious mystery, not a comedy. (I should note that her Christmas novels, co-written with her daughter Carol Higgins Clark are a bit lighter, as well as reflecting serious religious conviction. One even involves an angel on probation, eager to help out if only because he misses Christmas carols.)

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I recently finished season three of “Lilyhammer” which is now available for viewing on Netflix. I recommend seasons one and two, but unless you get hooked (as I was), you can skip three. It turns much darker, jettisoning the quirky/semi-retired hoodlum schtick that was light and humorous.

    Plus they take some really stupid turns, having one of the main characters (spoiler alert, but it really doesn’t matter in the scheme of things) seeing ghosts…which turn out to be manifestations of a blood clot in his brain. But after surgery, he’s fine…except at the very end of the last episode in season 3, he starts seeing things again. Very amateurish writing in the entire season.

    It was a very delicate balance in the first season, which I thought ultimately was a triumph of tongue-in-cheek and wit. Season two turned slightly darker, but was still in the same vein: A former mobster escapes to Norway and can’t help but dabble in his old trade, mostly harmlessly so, and in doing so shows the naive multiculti Norwegians a side of life they’ve never seen before, and one with which many become enamored.

    But season three almost completely threw this shtick overboard for more of a violent gangster approach.

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