Stream on Norsemen Netflix
What is it? A Norwegian comedy charm offensive with killer performances and amazing plaits.
Why you’ll love it: Norsemen owes as much to Monty Python as it does to Asterix and Game of Thrones. A bunch of brilliantly talented Norwegians have made this ludicrously lovely sitcom in English (they made a Norwegian version too), so that we may access their dry-as-a-bone humour more easily.
It’s written and directed by Jon Iver Helgaker and Jonas Torgersen, and set in the village of Norheim in the year 790. The comedy comes from the juxtaposition of their ancient, brutal struggle for survival and the minor concerns we all obsess over nowadays.
Acting village chieftain Orm (the superb Kåre Conradi) orders all villagers to surrender their weapons to make them into an art installation, leaving the community cultured but defenceless. He is a scared little man – like all the best sitcom buffoons – running from his own shadow while his muscle-bound wife Frøya goes on raids and joins in the pillaging.
Orm is sitting in as village leader while his brother (the much more impressive Olav) leads his warriors on a pillaging mission to bring back treasure and slaves. A dissatisfied captive kicks up a stink about the lack of facilities on board and gets a punch in the face. “That’s not really me,” confides Olav to one of his warriors, “… that fear-based leadership style”.
Norsemen is often disgusting, gory, brimming over at times with widdle and plop, full of graphic violence and imbued with the spirit of stinking, bloody life in eighth century northern Europe. You can almost smell Norsemen, so juicily do the cast tuck into their parts.
And the soundtrack’s epic Throneslike quality makes the ineptitude even funnier as Orm fires arrow after flaming arrow at a retreating funeral boat, missing every time. “Try firing an arrow with really cold fingers before you start booing,” he whines to the disgruntled villagers as the boat drifts out of sight, unlit.
When events conspire to leave him in charge more permanently, Orm makes terrible decisions, including hiring a former slave as his “creative director” and tasking him with putting Norheim on the cultural map.
David Brent-like in his self-delusion, he has a whiff of Captain Mainwaring when marshalling his troops and a hint of Basil Fawlty when he’s covering up another boob. Conradi’s performance is the impressive comic totem around which the others caper, rolling their eyes. “This one’s mine,” he growls, arriving late to a battle all but finished by his colleagues. He then proceeds to beat up a 10-year-old girl - before she gets the better of him, obviously.
If you are left uncharmed by Norsemen you are both heartless and immune to their heartily irreverent approach to situation comedy. Lighten up and let the men in plaits beguile you into stupid, helpless giggles.
Length: Six 30-minute episodes, available to stream now.
Standout episode: Episode four, in which Orm “leads” a raiding party to Britain to rob the locals.
If you liked Norsemen, watch:
Viking Apocalypse (Netflix), Chelmsford 123 (All4).
Oodles of violence graphic by men in plaits