Lilyhammer 2: This Time (Just like season 1) It’s Personal

With surprisingly little fanfare, Netflix dropped the new season of Lilyhammer into the my Netflix queue, giving me a difficult choice on how to prioritize my viewing considering the 190 plus other shows waiting for my attention.  I had reviewed the first season here and with season one I was left a bit unsure how I felt about the show. I ultimately decided to go ahead and power through it and if I hated it, just drop it out of season two.

Well I didn’t hate it.                 

In fact I loved it.  There was a major jump in quality, story, and comedy from season one to season two.  Part of that is that season one spent so much time putting all of the pieces in place that it distracted a bit from the story. Also, as an American viewer, I centered on the sole American character, Frank Tagliano, aka Giovanni “Johnny” Hendrickson, as played by Steven Van Zandt. But after a season, the Norwegian characters are coming into their own, particularly Torgier, Frank/Johnny’s business partner, second in command, and general idiot. Johnny and Torgier’s relationship evolves quite a bit from a simple business relationship to a fairly loyal friendship.  Torgier makes some huge errors along the way which jeopardize Johnny’s various businesses, but Johnny can’t seem get too angry with him.

As season two opens, Johnny’s capture of the Lillehammer criminal underworld (such as it is) is nearly complete.  He’s welded the tools of extortion and blackmail to such an effect that he’s got much of the town owing him a favor. Although his relationship with Sigrid is over, they have a cordial relationship and Johnny is stepping  up to do his part as dad to his infant twins, as long as it doesn’t interfere with time at the club and “business.”

I don’t want to really give anything away for season two, however it involves English hooligans, daycare, a Moose and a murder, a bank robbery by multiple Justin Beibers that put Johnny’s real identity at risk, a gay African cook from the refugee center, a Khat addiction, another murder, a cult, an engagement, reindeer games, and finally a fairly satisfying season finale that takes place back in New York, which pits Johnny’s new Norwegian mafia against the New York mob.  In terms of a season wrap up, that was probably one of the better season finale’s I’ve seen.  Too many times I’ve found myself disappointed with season finales.  This one hit all the major points I look for.

My only complaint is that the storyline with the new sheriff seems to be incomplete.  After blowing into town and taking the job of new sheriff, she unaccountably sleeps with Torgier; a man with at best average looks and no game.  She then introduces herself to Johnny by pulling him over and smashing out a taillight, in true southern sheriff fashion.  Although Johnny hands her a tin victory to try to get her off his back, it felt as if that storyline just stopped with no resolution.

Hopefully there will be some resolution in season 3.  Yes there will be one.  Netflix has a far better grasp on how many people are watching their shows than a regular Nielsen dependent network does, so there must be many more people who agree with me.

My Netfix Review: Lilyhammer

What happens when you take an average gabba goul eating Goodfella; transport him to Norway, and let him try to blend in with the locals?  Well antics ensue of course, and that’s the premise of the Netflix original series Lilyhammer.  Yes I know it sounds preposterous, but the premise of this limited series seems pretty clearly to have come from some late night drinking.

“We take this mafia guy who joins witness protection, but instead of being relocating to Southern California or someplace, he wants to relocate to… I dunno, Norway?”     

Publicidad de Netflix

Publicidad de Netflix (Photo credit: Daniel_Afanador)

“Put the bottle down, you’ve had enough.”

It’s interesting that Netflix, for its first original project, chose this idea over what I’m sure were a multitude of others.  I can only assume that someone among Netflix’s higher ups really missed the Sopranos, since this show has all of the markers of a Sopranos’s sequel, Silvio on Ice.

Steven Van Zandt, who played Silvio in The Sopranos, plays much the same character again, only with a different name.  When he suspects (via an attempted hit) that he’s on the outs with the new boss, he decides to turn State’s witness against him in exchange for relocation… to Lillehammer, Norway.  Why Lillehammer?  Eh, he liked the way it looked during the 1994 Olympics.

Really.

It’s a bit of a bizarre fish out of water tale, but this fish actually adapts fairly well into the community, quickly becoming a successful club owner in a country where proper permitting and licenses can take years, Van Zandt’s character manages it in days thanks to his ability to bring his mob business tactics to the rigid Norwegian bureaucracy.  Naturally, he manages to also attract some unwelcome police attention.

Although that’s part of the cross cultural stranger in a strange land story, the way the show handles the language barrier is also unique.  The Norwegians speak Norwegian and Van Zant’s character, Frank Tagliano, speaks English.  The conceit of the show is that Tagliano, shown listening to language tapes on his way to Norway, can understand the language, but can’t speak it.  So he speaks English, the Norwegians speak to him in their language, and he understands.  It’s a weird way to have a conversation, but it mostly seems to work, if you can accept the premise that a guy can understand the language perfectly, but can’t speak a word; so half the show is subtitles.  Now some people just will not accept subtitles (yes I’m referring to my fellow Americans) under any circumstances, so if that applies, this show isn’t for you.

More interesting than the show is the business model that got this show on the…air.  Netflix intends to use original programming to attract subscribers.  Their logic is that the old advertising model that has funded on the air and cable television is on the way out.  The multiplication of TV channels and the alternative options to regular television mean that the audience is getting smaller and smaller for each channel.  The days of getting 106 million viewers for a single show, like the series finale of MASH, are, with the exception of major sports events, gone forever. As the television audience becomes more bifurcated, the revenues these channels can get for advertising shrinks.

Netflix ignores advertisers.  It’s only interested in attracting new subscribers.  Will Lilyhammer help with that?

I’m guessing no.

Although it did garner enough viewers to justify a second season, I doubt the show actually did much to pull in new subscribers to the service.  However for its next show it’s decided to go after an already established fan base.  It’s producing 10 new episodes of the show Arrested Development.  Like Community, which I wrote about here, Arrested Development has an established, loyal fan base that could be tempted to sign up for a Netflix account to view the shows.  Other properties that Netflix was considering, like Terra Nova, did not.  There is even talk about reviving Firefly on Netflix (please oh please!)

When the second season of Lilyhammer comes out next year, I’ll probably watch it.  Hey I’m invested in the story now and want to see where it goes, but I don’t think the potential audience for a show like this is particularly big.

That’s why it’s on Netflix.

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