Television review: ‘Welcome to Sweden’

Posted Tuesday, Jul. 08, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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Welcome to Sweden

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• 8 p.m. Thursday

• KXAS/Channel 5

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Welcome to Sweden, the low-key, charming and subtly hilarious 10-episode sitcom executive produced by Amy Poehler, lives up to its title in more ways than one. Based on the real-life adventures of Poehler’s brother, Greg, who moved to Sweden to be with his girlfriend nearly a decade ago, it’s a classic fish-out-of-water story.

But it’s also a heads-up to American viewers: this naturalistic half-hour, where the humor arises more from situations than big punch lines and there are often — gasp — subtitles, doesn’t have much in common with a lot of other broadcast-TV comedies, save for maybe a touch of Parks and Recreation and Community.

First aired on Swedish TV in the spring, the show feels like a bit of Europe is hijacking American airwaves once a week.

Greg Poehler, a lawyer turned stand-up comedian after he moved to Sweden, plays himself, sort of. In the show, he’s Bruce, a New York accountant to the stars (Will Ferrell, Gene Simmons, and Aubrey Plaza all make guest appearances as themselves in the first few episodes) who falls for Emma, a Swede living in Manhattan.

But she has decided to go home, so Bruce quits his job — Amy Poehler plays his incompetent boss — and moves with her.

As expected, the comedy comes from the cultural collisions, whether it’s dealing with Swedish bureaucracy (“It’s not like the Vikings had to fill out a bunch of forms and wait in line before they could start pillaging,” moans an exasperated Bruce) or unexpected Swedophile Ferrell extolling why he loves Sweden so much (“A year off if you have a baby, a year off if you don’t have a baby!”) And, yes, there are jokes about ABBA and Ace of Base.

Bruce has to deal with Emma’s parents, who’d rather their daughter meet a nice Swedish guy; standoffish neighbors who don’t know what to make of this back-slapping American in their midst; and merging his man cave-furniture aesthetic with Emma’s streamlined, minimalist Scandinavian sensibilities.

Then there’s the little matter of finding a job, learning the language, and working up the nerve to tell his new best friend, an anti-American Iraqi refugee who believes Bruce is Canadian, that he’s really from New York.

It takes a little while for the series to find its footing — the first episode is more of a mixed-bag than what follows — but Welcome to Sweden is a cool addition to what’s turning into a hot summer TV season.

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