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Lilyhammer: Season 1 (2012)

DVD Cover (New Video)
Crime Drama, Gangster Show, Prime-Time Drama, Psychological Drama

6.1 / 10 - 2 votes

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Review by Chad
Added: February 11, 2012
I know that seemingly everybody on the planet loved The Sopranos, but personally, I had to tap out after the third season. Maybe it was just a weak season, but it was so weak that it completely turned me off to the show and I never went back to it. However, when I heard about the quasi spin-off show Lilyhammer, I thought that it sounded pretty interesting and decided to check it out. A day later, I've sat through the entire first season. Yeah, it's pretty good.

Lilyhammer centers around New York mobster Frank Tagliano (Steve Van Zandt), a high-ranking goombah who snitched on one of the leaders of the group. The FBI put him in the witness protection program, and where does he decide to go? Well, Frankie recalls enjoying the 1994 Winter Olympics, and thus, he decides to live the rest of his life in the small country town of Lillehammer, Norway. However, there's a small issue here: he's not a Mafia guy anymore, he's just another immigrant in a small town where he has no connections, no pull, and no influence. That will have to change if he is to stay afloat.

He quickly takes a liking to teacher Sigrid (Marian Saastad Ottesen), and their relationship together turns into one of the selling points of the show. There's also his friend and partner in crime Torgeir (Trond Fausa Aurvaag), a dimwitted yet faithful henchman, as well as potential roadblock Jan (Fridtjov Såheim), the immigration consultant who quickly takes a disliking to Frank. Of course, this is to say nothing of the local police. Police chief Laila (Anne Krigsvoll) and the Elvis-impersonator Geir (Kyrre Hellum) soon find reason to suspect that something is a little off with the new arrival, and they set out to get to the bottom of it as quickly as possible. Of course, this will be of little importance once the Mafia back home find out where Frank is living, and they send out two goons (Greg Canestrari and Tim Ahern) to take care of their snitching little friend.

Imagine The Sopranos by way of Fargo, and you'll get a good idea of how this show plays out. It is a fish-out-of-water story about a man used to getting his way through sleazy dealings and strong-arm tactics moving to a peaceful little town where illegal hunting is the worst crime on the books, and it shows how he uses his "old world" tactics to gain power in his new home. It's certainly nothing that is terribly original, but the characters make it work exceedingly well.

Steve Van Zandt was not a huge part of The Sopranos, but I loved his character on there nonetheless. He gets a name change for this show, but other than that, he is the same damned character. That's not a complaint by any means, and giving him his own show was a smart choice. He carries it with ease, and he is very convincing in the role as a tough-as-nails wiseguy with a soft side... sort of like Tony Soprano, only, with a humorous streak and a heart of gold. His co-stars are equally entertaining, and honestly, I couldn't point out a single character that didn't bring something to the table.

What sets this apart from The Sopranos, aside from the obvious, is the humor that is injected into the show. Now, I'm not saying that it's a full-fledged comedy, but it definitely has a touch of black comedy thrown in. Watching Frank react to the radically different culture was pretty funny in its own right, but it is his way of dealing with certain issues that really pulls a couple of laughs. Take the first episode as but one example: seeing him deal with a hoodlum on the train was comedic gold, and there's not a soul out there that can tell me they didn't cheer when they saw how Frank dealt with the situation.

My only real complaint about the show was that there were a few spots where the writing was a little weak, and problems were solved with minimal effort on the part of the characters. For example, Frank had a problem with a guy that seemed impossible to overcome, and what do you know: a set of blackmail photos just happened to fall into his hands. This sort of thing doesn't happen too terribly often, but it is annoying when it does pop up and dragged the entertainment level down just a little.

Still, I enjoyed the hell out of the show and will definitely tune in to the next season. Sopranos fans who don't mind subtitles (it's about seventy percent Norwegian and thirty percent English) will love it, and you'll probably get a kick out of it even if you're like me and weren't such a huge fan of that infamous New Jersey family. As of this writing, you can catch it weekly on television if you live in Norway, and everybody else can watch the entire first season exclusively through Netflix. 8/10.
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