Stream on Norse­men Net­flix

The Guardian - G2 - - Reviews television -

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.

Where: Net­flix

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).

Ju­lia Rae­side

Oo­dles of vi­o­lence graphic by men in plaits

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