The dark, disturbing style of HBO’s Louis CK seems to have crossed the pond and landed in Scandinavia in the form of brand new Norwegian sitcom Dag (Sky Arts, Fridays). Many people hate watching foreign shows with subtitles, but trust me, this series is well worth the effort.
Dag (Atle Antonsen) is an obsessive compulsive marriage counsellor who doesn’t like people and hates the very concept of marriage. He gets through life by sucking Valium out of a panda-shaped Pez dispenser and spends his evenings Chubb-locked away in a tiny apartment, obsessively eating bacon and eggs (and seemingly nothing else). For Dag, solitude is heaven – a trait he seems to have inherited from his hermit-like father with whom he is only able to communicate through a closed door.
Dag is a total f*ck up of a human being, so the only way the writers are ever going to make us like him is to introduce a character who’s even more of a disaster than he is. Enter James Cordon look-alike Anders Baasmo Christiansen as Dag’s womanising and deeply psychologically damaged friend Benedikt. Dag seems almost normal next to Benedikt and thus the door is opened for us to at least try and identify with the show’s complex and introverted central character.
“Living together, you’re only as happy as the least happy person there,” Dag tells one of his patients, while outside the office his beautiful receptionist Malin (Agnes Kittelsen) secretly listens in on the intercom and quietly swigs whisky to stop herself from going insane. None of this sounds even remotely funny, does it? But it is. Very funny, in a way that Louis CK now seems strangely reluctant to be. While Dag is very dark indeed, it’s not afraid to throw in a little slapstick from time to time and as viewers we are taken seamlessly from cruelty and depression to moments of memorable, laugh out loud comedy.
Having firmly established our hero’s grim day to day life in the first couple of episodes it’s soon time to shake things up a bit, and Dag’s life quickly changes when his well-meaning sister Marianne forces him to go on a blind-date with her friend Eva (Tuva Novotny). This intrusion into Dag’s ordered life hits him like a stream train and when Eva asks to temporarily move in with him it’s hard to see how his life will ever be the same again.
A big slice of the humour in Dag comes from the characters who attend his marriage guidance clinic. Like a nun who’s having problems with her marriage to Christ, or in one of this week’s episodes a sixteen year old girl complaining that her 13 year old boyfriend won’t have sex with her. This is what some writers like to call “cringe comedy” and it’s definitely not for everyone, but it’s got me hooked and is now one of the highlights of my week’s viewing. Give it a try. I think you’ll find that Dag might be your bag too.