Invading the vikings
Steve Van Zandt once said to People magazine that he had no desire to play any other role than the one he was playing of Silvio Dante in The Sopranos. It was his first foray into acting as he was already in the E Street Band with Bruce Springsteen, had won umpteen awards and toured internationally – it wasn’t like he had anything more to prove. So what has Lilyhammer got to tempt the man who has it all to break his word to People magazine?
Well, to start off with, chief protagonist Frankie the Fixer is not a million miles away from Silvio Dante. Now, I’m not saying this is the new Sopranos, because that would be foolish, but it is a consideration of what might happen should, say, someone not dissimilar to one of The Sopranos’ main hot shots, find himself turning rat and heading into the Witness Protection Programme.
Frankie, it seems, has been drawn to the location ever since it played host to the Olympics in the 1990s. So he packs his suitcase and heads off to Norway with the Feds’ blessing and a warning to keep his nose clean, as he’ll get no help if he tangles with the local law.
“ He’s a fish out of water, and the fish is packing heat”
Culture clash doesn’t even cover it. You ain’t seen nothing until you’ve seen a New Jersey mobster take off his cashmere coat to reveal a reindeer jumper that would have looked the business on Sarah Lund of The Killing. Frankie finds a sheep’s head in front of his house on his first morning there, and just when he starts to think he’s been spotted, the local police lady hails him to thank him for finding her dinner – it must have dropped out of her shopping bag. He’s a fish out of water, and the fish is packing heat.
The meeting of cultures and environments makes for a good yarn, with his Frankie – or ‘Johnny’ as he prefers to be called in his new home – coming up against an actual wolf terrorising the rural community, and having to go to job club. You’d never think anyone would have the nerve to offer him pizza delivery employment. Have you seen that hair? It’s not getting caught under a moped helmet. He does have his own plans for the future however, and it’s seeing these unfold and adapt that’s half the fun.
A drama with comic twists, a potential ‘what if’ that likes to think it comes from a much-loved and no longer running American series, and a general culture clash mixing elements that have so enchanted many BBC4 viewers lately.
Lilyhammer is all this and something of its own too. It’s not necessarily gripping from the off, but gently entertaining and engaging. It’s not a thriller, it’s a drama, so that’s how it should be. And who knows what’ll happen when Frankie’s fully integrated in his new environment? Maybe herring is the new veal parmigiana, and this is the start of a beautiful friendship.
Lilyhammer, BBC4, Tuesday 11 September 2012