'The Bridge': Scandinavian invasion brings fresh ideas to American TV

yKim Bodnia (left) is a Danish police detective, Sofia Helin (right) a Swedish detective in "The Bridge."
yKim Bodnia (left) is a Danish police detective, Sofia Helin (right) a Swedish detective in "The Bridge." (MHz Networks)
Posted: June 28, 2014

Their last invasion of English-speaking lands came via Viking ships more than 1,200 years ago. The Scandinavians are at it again, this time laying waste to the domestic TV landscape and replacing our old tired network shows with spectacular, fresh mysteries and procedurals.

Wallander, The Killing, and Those Who Kill all have inspired English-language remakes. Now comes The Bridge.

Considered one of the best European TV shows in decades, The Bridge (originally titled Broen/Bron) is a truly unique Danish-Swedish coproduction that first aired in 2011.

The 10-episode series is about a mysterious man who kills people in spectacular, headline-making ways. Called the Truth Terrorist by the media, he kills to voice his protest against specific social ills - the rising numbers of homeless, the sad state of mental health care, the use of slave-labor Western multinationals in less developed countries.

The pilot opens with the discovery of a body on the Danish-Swedish border in the middle of the magnificent Øresund Bridge, which connects Copenhagen to Malmö in Sweden.

There actually are two bodies: The killer has joined together the torso of a Swedish politician with the legs of a Danish prostitute. A joint task force, led by one detective from each side, is formed to find the fiend. This amazing piece is now available on DVD from MHz Networks.

So successful was The Bridge that British and French TV partnered on their own version, called The Tunnel. Here the body is found in the center of the Eurotunnel. Sadly, it's not available on DVD for the American market.

America got in on the act last year when FX began running its own version, titled The Bridge. (Season 2 will premiere July 9.)

Here, the body halves - the torso of a Texas politician and legs of a Mexican teenage prostitute - are found in the middle of the Bridge of the Americas which connects El Paso, Texas, to Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Diane Kruger and Demian Bichir costar as the American and Mexican detectives in charge of the case.

What's terrific about the FX show is that while it repeats certain images, plot twists, and themes, it is not just a copy of the original. Series writers have created a compelling story about issues specific to the Americas, including the shocking disparity in crime rates between the two nations. El Paso sees fewer than 20 murders a year (16 in 2011, five in 2010); Ciudad Juárez has one of the highest murder rates in the world with estimates ranging between 730 and nearly 1,000 a year.

This is intelligent, gripping stuff.

The Bridge: Season 1 (Bron/Broen) is out from MHz Networks ( www.mhznetworks.org; $49.95; not rated)

And the American series The Bridge: Season 1 was released Tuesday by Fox ( https://www.foxconnect.com/; $39.98 DVD; $49.98 Blu-ray; not rated)

Other titles of note

Lost Girl: Season 4. Anna Silk returns as sexy succubus private detective Bo in the latest offering of this fun, frothy, and scary Canadian supernatural show on Syfy. ( www.funimation.com; $44.98 DVD; $49.98 Blu-ray; not rated)

Resurrection: Season 1. ABC's adaptation of the Jason Mott novel stars Omar Epps as a federal agent who discovers that people from the small hamlet of Arcadia, Mo., are returning to life, sometimes decades later. A mystery, a heartfelt yarn about family and love, a supernatural thriller. ( http://abc.go.com/; $29.99; not rated)

Picnic at Hanging Rock. The Criterion Collection presents a gorgeous edition of a newly remastered high-definition edition of Peter Weir's mystical masterpiece from 1975. Based on the novel by Joan Lindsay, which itself was inspired by true events, this painterly film is about several Australian schoolgirls who disappear during an outing. This boxed set includes the film on DVD and Blu-ray, a booklet with critical essays, and a paperback copy of the novel. ( www.criterion.com; $39.95; rated PG)


Most titles also available for digital download from major retailers.

tirdad@phillynews.com

215-854-2736

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