The 10 hourly episodes (11-20) of Season 2 of the much acclaimed TV series Borgen are available online for only a little over one more week. Last November on the Hollywood Progressive site, I wrote about the first few episodes of Season 1, strongly recommended them, and informed readers of the technical details of hooking your computer up to your TV so as to watch the series on a bigger screen. Subsequently, I watched the remaining 8 episodes of Season 1and have now watched 5 episodes of Season 2. In July 2012 The Daily Beast/Newsweek ran a piece entitled “Borgen: The Best TV Show You’ve Never Seen.” Interested readers can read the article for insights as to why the series is so good, “The Best Political Show Ever.”
Here I’ll just make just a few observations about the first 5 episodes (11-15) of Season 2. Most significantly, they demonstrate many points emphasized in Anne-Marie Slaughter’s much-read and commented-upon essay that recently appeared in The Atlantic, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.”, Danish Prime Minister Birgitte Nyborg Christensen (the riveting Danish actress Sidse Babett Knudsen) is not only trying to direct a complex coalition government, but also be a good mother to her two children, while at the same time dealing with a marriage that has unraveled partly due to the demands of her job.
Episode 11is entitled “89,000 Children.” It refers to the increase in the number of Afghan children under age 5 who were being kept alive because of advances in medical care in Afghanistan after the overthrow of the Taliban. A USA Today article in 2007 cited this figure, and the number is conveyed to the prime minister as she contemplates withdrawing Danish troops from Afghanistan. One of the factors that makes Borgen so compelling is that it deals with the complexities and messiness of politics and life generally. One of the great lessons that history teaches us is to beware of simplistic explanations and solutions. Life is complex. So is politics, including international affairs. Those who advocate the withdrawal of all American troops from Afghanistan immediately should at least consider the effects that a Taliban return to power might have on Afghan children and women.
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Episode 15, “Plant a Tree,” also speaks to the complexities of politics, specifically to the necessity of balancing political idealism and compromise, a subject I have previously treated in regard to U. S. politics (see, e.g., here). The prime minister has to deal with her environmental minister who is reluctant to compromise his Green Party’s demands, but she realizes that some compromise is necessary to win over other members of her coalition government. Episode 13, “The Last Worker” deals with a somewhat similar situation, only this time with her foreign minister, who also is the Labour Party leader. He is reluctant to make the compromises regarding early retirement policies that she thinks must be made to gain broad coalition support for future policies she is pushing. One interesting sidelight for U. S. viewers is how enthusiastically she speaks of the necessity of maintaining and improving the “welfare state,” a term no U.S. politician desiring election or reelection would dare speak of so favorably.
In all the episodes her press adviser Kasper and his former-lover, journalist Katrine Fønsmark, are central figures, and the government’s relations with the media are central to the series. Considering the effects of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire in Britain and the United States (including Fox News), Borgen’s treatment of media sensationalism (e.g., setting-up and exposing a gay politician) and Katrine’s attempts to maintain journalistic integrity are certainly timely (see here for the latest on the Murdoch media scandal in Britain).
There is much more that could be said about this enlightening and very entertaining series, but since time is short to watch Season 2 episodes for free, I’ll end here. If you miss them, you may have to buy or borrow the DVD set.
Walter G. Moss