NBC should be grateful they have Amy Poehler and her brother, Greg Poehler, creating new comedic projects for the network based on their knack for unique ideas. Perhaps they should be hired to create all of NBC’s future sitcom block in order to get away from anything cookie-cutter and into the realm of the creatively unusual again. There probably won’t be any other sitcom in a while that’s as different as “Welcome to Sweden.” Despite being a summer series, it’s either going to be a smash or one that has people scratching their heads.
This show is already different from the ordinary because it’s one that’s already airing in Sweden where Greg Poehler has lived with his Swedish wife for a decade. After at least five decades of American TV pillaging from the Brits for sitcom ideas, this time they’ll be borrowing from the Swedes for the first time ever. And it may spark a new wave of interest in television over there that’s sometimes as daring as British TV is.
While Sweden has their share of drama and reality shows like we do here, they’ve also have some interesting comedies that some might want to check out in the chance they show up on Youtube.
“Help!” (“Hjälp!” in Swedish)
While it might sound pretentious to name a sitcom after a Beatles song, this sitcom in Sweden had a strong three-year run. Reruns still air there and it’s about a professional therapist who helps a recurring wheel of patients. It might sound similar to HBO’s defunct brilliant series “In Treatment”, except this one is a comedy. It’s a plot idea we haven’t seen on American TV for a while, at least not since the days of “The Bob Newhart Show” or “Frasier.”
Mental therapists, though, haven’t really been taken on in sitcom form here in the states. Will NBC eventually tap their newfound Swedish sitcom chest and adapt this into a sitcom down the road? One interesting connection to NBC with this series is that Chevy Chase appeared on it through a recurring role, playing a down-on-his-luck journalist. This was before he landed his regular casting gig on NBC’s “Community.”
“One Four-Room Flat for Three” (“En Fyra för Tre” in Swedish)
This sitcom only lasted one season back in the mid 1990s on Swedish TV, yet it’s rerun there perpetually and considered a favorite. It was basically a Swedish version of the sitcom classic “Three’s Company” here in America. Why the Swedes decided to take on the same concept years after “Three’s Company” ended its run in the mid 1980s is a bit of a mystery. Nevertheless, there’s plenty of irony there because the original concept for “Three’s Company” came from the Brits in a show called “Man About the House” from the early 1970s.
Would America ever dare take the Swedish slant of “Three’s Company” and try to revive the concept in the future? The old “roommate in an apartment” concept is still alive here in the states, and you could say it’s already being rehashed, without all the wink-wink dirty double entendres that now can be uttered out loud.
A Different “Welcome to Sweden”
Another show aired in Sweden starting back in 2007 called “Welcome to Sweden”, and this one was a comedy reality show. Starring Richard Kiel (the giant known for playing Jaws in the James Bond movies), and Verne Troyer (Mini-Me from the “Austin Powers” franchise), this strange concept had the idea of two American celebrities trying to figure out Swedish traditions. With the lame comedy intention of showing the contrast between a giant and a midget, the show wasn’t much unlike what you’ll see in Greg Poehler’s “Welcome to Sweden.” The only difference is that you’ll have real comedians in the latter, which Kiel and Troyer were far from.
The fish out of water reality show idea is already starting to pop up here in America. BBC America will be airing “Almost Royal”, a satiric reality show about two offspring from British royals trying to navigate America. But would NBC take from the original “Welcome to Sweden” and have two Swedes try to live and figure out American traditions?
NBC can probably do better, though you can be sure they’re on to Swedish programming now and will use it as a creative well. This includes some of their dramas and reality shows there that manage to go their own daring way without copying from any American programming templates.