TV Review: ‘Welcome to Sweden’

Welcome to Sweden TV Review-Greg-Poehler

“Cute” isn’t always a flattering term in TV circles, but it happily applies to “Welcome to Sweden,” a classic fish-out-of-water concept created by and starring Greg Poehler, whose better-known sister Amy joins him as a producer. Despite rifling through all the usual and uncomfortable moments, the show has an understated charm and amusing characters, including a still-ravishing Lena Olin as the hilariously disapproving mother of the central character’s girlfriend. Summer might be the time to try this out, but with any kind of success, NBC could have an appealing utility player for next season.

Poehler’s Bruce is a successful money manager (his celebrity clients include, conveniently, a self-absorbed Amy Poehler, as well as other stars, like Gene Simmons in a later episode) who chucks it all to follow his girlfriend, Emma (Josephine Bornebusch), home to her native Sweden. Obviously, he hasn’t worked out all the angles, inasmuch as he arrives with no job (or prospects of one) or knowledge of the language, much to the irritation of his sort-of in-laws.

Said in-laws include not only Olin as the mom, a therapist, but Claes Mansson as her towering, taciturn husband, who joins his wife in talking about Bruce right in front of him. Then there’s Emma’s layabout brother (Christopher Wagelin) and her uncle (Per Svensson), who owns a videostore and loves quoting American movies. (He greets Bruce with a boisterous “Yippee ki-yay” from “Die Hard.”)

Culled from Poehler’s own experience (he co-wrote the show with Bornebusch and Niclas Carlsson), the situations are pretty standard  including the couple having a hard time finding a free moment to be intimate while initially staying with her parents  but they progress in semi-serialized fashion, with Bruce struggling to fit in, gradually trying to find his place in this strange new (well really, old) world.

As in any theatrical romantic comedy, the relationship will be tested, and to that extent “Welcome to Sweden” plays like an extended little movie, with Patrick Duffy and Illeana Douglas later coming for a visit as Bruce’s parents.

TV has always loved these kind of concepts (think “Northern Exposure”), but the familiar mishaps  like the awkward silence between Bruce and Emma’s dad  are enhanced by the language difficulties and European setting, which doesn’t appear on American TV often enough without a “Masterpiece” label. And while Poehler’s wide-eyed exasperation probably renders him the weakest link, there’s enough high-class support around him that he’s more than adequate to meet the role’s modest demands.

Extensively subtitled (loyal viewers might speak Swedish better than Bruce does before it’s over), “Welcome to Sweden” will no doubt test assumptions about just how receptive U.S. audiences are to such indie-style fare in a broadcast setting. At the very least, though, it’s the one genuinely recommendable show to reach our shores amid an NBC wave of summer flotsam.

And to that, much like the linguistically challenged Bruce, about the only thing I can say is “Skol!”

TV Review: 'Welcome to Sweden'

(Series; NBC, Thur. July 10, 9 p.m.)

Production

Filmed in Stockholm by eOne, TV4, FLX and Syskon.

Crew

Executive producers, Greg Poehler, Amy Poehler, Pontus Edgren, Carrie Stein, Frederik Arefalk, Felix Herngren; producer, Benjamin Thuresson; director, Carl Astrand; writers, Greg Poehler, Josephine Bornebusch, Niclas Carlsson; camera, Johan Holmquist; music, Andreas Grill, Nick Malmestrom. 30 MIN.

Cast

Greg Poehler, Josephine Bornebusch, Lena Olin, Claes Mansson, Christopher Wagelin, Per Svensson.

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  1. beth says:

    I really wanted to like this show, but in addition to the other comments here, the over-use of the colors blue and yellow in the set design (yes, I get it) was jus too much.

  2. Claire whitney says:

    Worst show I Have ever watched in my entire life…..hope to never have to suffer through another horrible show!

  3. Dumb show, jokes are boring and not jokes. Can’t get into it. It won’t last.

  4. Kathryn says:

    Cute show. I like it. I enjoy other languages and other countries, and I think it is nice to hear another language spoken, I have no problem with subtitles. They use subtitles on some shows filmed in America where people speak English! So what’s the problem? It’s a cute concept. The abrupt commercial breaks seem odd, but aside from that the characters are really funny.

  5. Ken says:

    I watched this show last night for the first time – hadn’t seen any previews but I thought I’d try it out. I didn’t like it – too many subtitiles, the funny parts weren’t that funny, and the story didn’t seem to go anywhere. I recorded it for my wife since she wasn’t able to see it. I told her that I didn’t care for it, but I encouraged her to watch it – in case I’m missing something. I’ll write more after she has a chance to see it.

  6. Turkmenbashy says:

    I watched this show (almost) in its entirety about a month ago… the 1st Episode because I was sure Amy Poehler wouldn’t put her name on something bad. Watched the 2nd just make sure the 1st wasn’t a ‘fluke’. The 3rd just in awe that any number of executives must have given this a green-light. The 4th & 5th was just to laugh about how lucky Greg is to have a sis’. I haven’t watched the 6th yet, but it’ll probably be for the same reason as 4 & 5, It’s one cliche after another… with no respite.

    I almost feel bad for saying this, because Greg seems like a really nice guy. However, I’m pretty confident that I could have written this show. And I’m very comfortable enjoying only those shows which I couldn’t have written.

  7. superhints says:

    Swedish critics were not impressed by Greg Poehler’ s show of endless clichés about Swedes after the show went on Swedish television. Poehler, furious at such ungratefulness from a small nation he has kindly taken an interest in, made an ass of himself in anonymously adressing those critics in a very low manner. Worse it did not take long before he was publicly revealed as the pen behind the slander.
    Hard cheese those Swedes.

  8. gelun says:

    That’s skål, not skol (which a Swede would pronounce like ‘school’).

  9. Dolores says:

    I don’t know why Gene Simmons pops up all over. This sounds like another NBC comedy that won’t last long. The station keeps trying these shows, but can’t seem to get it right.

  10. Tomas says:

    Looks horrible. Already hate the show from endless stupid commercials. Especially gene simmons

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