The Norwegian television show “Norsemen” is designed for an audience that can appreciate slapstick comedy combined with the intensity of the Viking lifestyle. Originally premiering on Norway screens in 2016 as “Vikingane,” the show was picked up by Netflix in 2017. This series is peppered with subtle puns and giggle-inducing awkward moments, offering laughs in an unfamiliar place, time and culture.
Filmed with the same cast in both English and Norwegian, American viewers enjoy a dub-free series depicting the lives and adventures of a small Viking community in the year 709 AD. Season three of the English language version is under production according to an interview with director John Iver Helgaker, and the Norwegian version is slated to premiere on Feb. 21, 2020. Both using the same set, it consists of a reconstructed Viking farm in Norway, adding an air of authenticity that is reminiscent of “Game of Thrones” or “Vikings.” This fast-paced satirical drama is designed to look historically accurate, but the 20th-century dialogue reinforces the humor of the series. If you’re looking for historical accuracy, stick to the History Channel because the Norsemen are here to raid and remix the stereotype of ancient Vikings.
While the series could be considered a satirical rendering of “Vikings,” The Guardian’s Julia Raeside coined the show as “The Office” meets “Monty Python” meets “Game of Thrones,” a comparison that has gained traction among fans. “Norsemen” offers a fresh take on dry humor that is ludicrously funny and manages to comment on issues like gender equality, identity and religion. It creates a hilarious juxtaposition between the villagers struggling for survival in a harsh rural landscape and the often entertaining everyday anxieties of the average Viking.
There are some moments of nudity and violence as the lifestyle of the Vikings revolves around pillaging and raiding, but this content is not comparable to drama “Game of Thrones” in that aspect. The irreverent approach to comedy brought forth by this talented team of Norwegian industry professionals is rough around the edges but charming and funny in all the right places.
The show mainly focuses on bringing life the absurdity, dry humor, and awkward tension that is reminiscent of the comedy of “The Office,” with Orm’s incompetency being reminiscent of the antics of Michael Scott, and a love triangle between his wife and a fellow Viking that brings Jim and Pam to mind.
“Norsemen” revolves around the lives of bumbling chieftain Orm, who is attempting to create a cultural capital out of the village, his intimidating and fearless wife Freya played by the talented Silje Torp, a slave who refuses freedom, extremely self-aware warriors, and many more complex and comical characters. Orm is played by acclaimed Norwegian actor Kåre Conradi, a graduate of the Norwegian Academy of the Dramatic Arts and an accomplished stage actor in his own right.
Almost as funny as the inept chieftain Orm is his right-hand man, Rufus of Rome. Played by actor and director Trond Fausa, he is the epitome of a “true actor.” His interactions with the Vikings are condescending, and his flair for dramatics results in a sticky situation or two. His belief that he is infallible, combined with his sense of superiority over the Vikings after being captured in a raid, makes for an endlessly entertaining journey on his part. Fausa has been honored with several awards throughout his career. Among these include a Best Actor award at the Golden Screen, Norway awards in 2012 for his role in the film “Lilyhammer,” but he shines as the intellectual, sophisticated and slightly delusional Rufus.
In addition to the rising popularity in the United States, these Norwegian actors are highlighted as masters of their craft in their home country. Thus, it comes as no surprise that the first season had more than one million viewers in a country of little more than five million people. The show’s considerable popularity in Norway has been reflected in multiple award nominations and the winning of Best Comedy at the Golden Screen, Norway awards. The New York Times acknowledged “Norsemen” as one of the top ten international TV series in 2017, further propelling viewership in the U.S. Season three of the English version has been confirmed on Netflix, and though a release date has not yet been set, fan anticipation is high. The actors are gifted in portraying characters are both reliable and surprising, navigating everything from family discord to brutal raids.
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