Hard to de­tect any real hu­mor

The new Pop com­edy ‘Swedish Dicks’ has a good heart, but there’s some­thing a lit­tle too for­eign in its style.

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - ROBERT LLOYD TELE­VI­SION CRITIC robert.lloyd@la­times.com

Things get lost in trans­la­tion, they say, and we are some­times the bet­ter for it. In the case of Pop’s new “Swedish Dicks,” a pri­va­te­eye com­edy set and filmed in Los An­ge­les and at the same time im­ported from Swe­den, where it has al­ready aired, one feels that an im­per­fect knowl­edge of the English lan­guage and the United States might im­prove the view­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, from the ti­tle for­ward.

That is to say, it might help to be Swedish, or just not Amer­i­can. I had no such ad­van­tage.

Peter Stor­mare, a Swedish ac­tor who has ap­peared in myr­iad Amer­i­can movies and tele­vi­sion se­ries over many years — mem­o­rably, he was the killer in the orig­i­nal “Fargo” and the Rus­sian cos­mo­naut in “Ar­maged­don” — plays Ing­mar, a movie stunt­man turned gone-to-seed pri­vate de­tec­tive af­ter the death of his best friend and col­league, Tex. Keanu Reeves, wield­ing a Tex-ap­pro­pri­ate ac­cent, plays his ghost and is in­deed a more ephemeral pres­ence than his in­clu­sion in the open­ing cred­its sug­gests. But Reeves is a movie star, and he is in this show; it’s only nat­u­ral to push those shy lit­tle facts to the front of the stage.

In the first episode, which pre­mieres Wed­nes­day, Ing­mar is hired to re­trieve what he is told is a stolen lap­top, though he will even­tu­ally dis­cover he has been sent to swipe it from its right­ful owner.

A semi-suc­cess­ful DJ, Axel (Jo­han Glans) is also Swedish as it hap­pens and, like Ing­mar, less than happy with his life. In nearly ev­ery other re­spect they are po­lar op­po­sites, an Oscar and a Felix, a dog and a cat. Ing­mar finds Axel ir­ri­tat­ing and Axel, a chatty ray of sun­shine, just wants Ing­mar to love him.

“You’re hon­est and you’re straight­for­ward, but you’re tough, like a dad,” Axel tells Ing­mar. “I never knew my fa­ther, do you want to be my dad?” He is drunk when he says this.

Naturally, they be­come part­ners. (That Axel was also the name of Ed­die Mur­phy’s char­ac­ter in “Bev­erly Hills Cop” is per­haps not a co­in­ci­dence.) Ing­mar has a hint of a death wish — not much of one, seem­ingly, given how of­ten he might ful­fill it and doesn’t — which Axel tries to al­lay by send­ing mari­achis to his door and also a man dressed as a ro­bot who begs Ing­mar not to kill him­self.

Like many en­ter­tain­ments from other lands, it seems to be­long to a dif­fer­ent time as well, a time when things that are meant to be funny here may have been fun­nier. There is what used to be known as di­alect hu­mor and hu­mor in­volv­ing a blind man and a rat hit with a rock. “The money or your tes­ti­cles” is a gag line. There are jokes about uri­nat­ing in a bot­tle and defe­cat­ing in one’s pants, which is not un­usual hu­mor in 2017 but it has been done bet­ter.

There is a ref­er­ence to Swedish fish and that they are not Swedish, but on the whole re­mark­ably lit­tle is made of Scan­di­na­vian cul­ture or per­son­al­i­ties.

Again, it seems likely that the show was de­signed more to make jokes about Amer­ica for Swedes than to make jokes about Swedes for Amer­i­cans — though you will learn that un­til 2014 it was le­gal there for a per­son to have sex with an an­i­mal; I have done the re­search, and it’s a fact.

I would like to find “Swedish Dicks” fun­nier than I do be­cause, the odd burst of taste­less­ness notwith­stand­ing, it is fun­da­men­tally good-hearted and there is some­thing to be said for a good heart in a wicked world. (It is pos­si­ble even to see that as the se­ries’ theme.)

There are nice per­for­mances not only among the prin­ci­pals but some guest and bit play­ers, in­clud­ing Traci Lords as the pro­pri­etor of “the No. 1 in­ves­tiga­tive firm in Los An­ge­les,” who for some rea­son finds it worth­while to take the time to hunt Ing­mar out and give him grief. (“I see you’ve been shop­ping for ex­tremely gay cardi­gans at H&M” is a thing she says to him; he is wear­ing a fringe jacket.)

Even when real peo­ple fail to emerge — and they are in no hurry to — there are en­ter­tain­ing at­ti­tudes and line read­ings.

It’s not im­pos­si­ble that the char­ac­ters and their relationships will ripen as the se­ries moves through its 10episode first sea­son; a sec­ond is al­ready on or­der, so noth­ing I say here will do it any harm. That is some­thing that of­ten hap­pens in com­edy, if you have the time to wait.

Pho­to­graphs from Pop

JO­HAN GLANS, left, plays Axel, a dis­il­lu­sioned DJ who part­ners with Ing­mar, Peter Stor­mare’s mess of a pri­vate eye in “Swedish Dicks.”

KEANU REEVES plays the ghost of Tex, a stunt­man who was best friends with the griev­ing Ing­mar.

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