Borgen-Season 4-Episode 1

They don’t make television like this in the United States.

And they certainly don’t make movies. Hollywood is patting itself on the back over the success of “Top Gun: Maverick.” I haven’t seen it, but I did see the original, because back then movies still mattered, the stars weren’t on TV, they were shooting for something more. I hear it’s a special effects movie that’s a tribute to the military. More serious reviewers have panned it, even in the L.A. “Times,” but the public loves it. On RottenTomatoes it’s got a score of 97/99, the first being the critics  and the second being the public, not that there’s a cadre of trusted critics anymore, both Siskel and Ebert are dead. Movie criticism barely means anything more than music criticism, and since there’s no longer the advantage of free records, and anybody can express their opinion online, music criticism means nothing these days. It, like movie criticism, especially on front line, highly touted product, is essentially cheerleading. The critics don’t want to lose their access. And money trumps art. Our national standards have dropped. Say something sucks and the blowback on social media is that you suck. To a great degree people don’t even know what great is anymore, they don’t have contact with it.

Great doesn’t play to the audience. When all the hit records are done by the same producers and songwriters, with the acts essentially buying insurance, why should the audience care? It truly is product, with no lasting effect. A great record, a transcendent record, exists in its own atmosphere, you find a slit in the globe, step in and are amazed. You can’t wait to tell people about the experience, one you’ve never had before. But that’s not what drives the business today.

You know why TikTok is so powerful? Because it’s new and different, it’s tapping the talent of the hoi polloi, with essentially no restrictions. The gatekeepers have rules, the gatekeepers say no, whereas the creators of the app say yes, they’re delivering tools for you to create. It’s the humanity that is attractive in TikTok, something that’s certainly been squeezed out of mainstream music, and a whole hell of a lot of television too. As for movies with that element, the studios don’t even release stuff like that anymore, the risk is big and the payback odds are extremely low.

But the numbers were never this big in foreign countries. Actors were part of the fabric of society, not held high above the regular citizens.

Now before watching the first episode of “Borgen,” we finished off this season of “Hacks,” which ends leaving you believing the series is over, done with, but doing research online one finds out that’s far from the case. They get the Hollywood pitch meetings right, Jean Smart is better than the rest of the cast put together, she’s a marvel, and ultra-believable in the role, but everybody else is essentially a cartoon. The production values are great, but so much of the rest is predictable, two-dimensional cardboard.

But not “Borgen.”

I’m waiting for the innovation on the other streaming services. Disney giving us another “Star Wars”? What next, more “Hello Kitty”? This is evidence of brain dead profiteering. Sequelitis. Without the original “Top Gun” the new one would have done a lot less at the box office. But in a world where so much is unsatisfying, where it’s hard to build from scratch, the purveyors keep going back to the well, again and again and again. And believe me, it’s about innovation, especially in tech, where there is no catalog, which is keeping the major labels alive.

You must read this article from Bloomberg:

“Mark Zuckerberg Is Blowing Up Instagram to Try and Catch TikTok – The CEO of Meta Platforms needs Reels—his short-form video feature—to fund his metaverse, and you can smell his desperation from Beijing.”:

And you should take the time to click through, even if you don’t use social media. Because this is about more than advertising to young people. Turns out Zuckerberg was a one trick pony. Facebook, which even he didn’t come up with. He bought WhatsApp and Instagram, brilliant moves, but this can’t happen again, just like content creators are wary of making deals with Apple, they don’t want to give up control of the game. All Zuckerberg seems able to do is copy, in most cases poorly. Which means his metaverse play…will probably fail. Because if someone talks about something ad infinitum, it seems to never happen in tech. It’s always some left field nobody who twists the concept and delivers what people want. Yes, there will be a metaverse. But will it be about owning land and buying clothes and tchotchkes? Probably not.

So let’s see, supposedly declining to death Netflix has the latest “Stranger Things,” TV sequelitis, that I gave up on with season two. And it’s got “Squid Game”… The other outlets have nothing similar. And we keep hearing it’s about their catalog. When in truth, catalog is important, but it’s front line, new product that creates all the buzz and the sales, that drives your business.

And now Netflix has the new season of “Borgen.”

Maybe you never watched the original. Your loss. The Israelis and the Danes make the best television, and “Borgen” is Danish. And in truth, I spent two years watching the cream of the crop on TV and now am mostly subjected to B level material. Like the people listening to the umpteenth track by the Weeknd produced by Max Martin, or one of the albums Jack Antonoff is involved in, their sights are lowered, they don’t expect revolutionary, but you know it when you hear or see it.

Like “The Bureau.” The French “CIA” show. It’s got more tension than the movies in the theatre, and with your giant OLED TV the image is just as good. You’re involved, you’re invested.

But you won’t get hooked right away.

There’s all this crap about people’s short attention spans. But we know that everybody’s got time for great, that’s what bingeing is all about, which is why HBO and Apple are so stupid releasing their product week by week. It’s the experience, the immersion that turns us on, that gets us to testify. Watching one of these series dripped out week by week is like taking a break after foreplay, and then after you go to the bathroom, there is penetration. And just when you’re getting into it, there’s a break for dinner… Would you ever get off under these circumstances? Of course not. As for you offended by sex analogies, the whole world runs on sex. As does TV. You can be puritanical, like a politician standing up for morality and then stepping out on his wife, or you can stop pooh-poohing sex, after all it’s human nature.

So Netflix has dropped all eight episodes of season 4 of “Borgen” right away, today. And if people didn’t know I was a fan of the show and tell me, I might not have known it came back. Because it’s impossible to reach people. And hype is so twentieth century. No, today the product stands on its own, and the goal is to make something so good that it sells itself.

Like “Borgen.”

So I’m not going to tell you the new season of “Borgen” is immediately riveting. You’re playing mental games trying to remember where the last season left off, after all it was years ago. But Sidse Babett Knudsen is so serious, so involved, not wanting us to look at her, but doing her job, that we’re drawn right in.

Everybody’s just doing their job on “Borgen.” It’s not movie stars saying LOOK AT ME! And the amazing thing is they make being in government, and media, look exciting, like legal TV shows. But the law moves slowly and media moves fast and the government is somewhere in between.

It’s a career. Forget the stunting, the election of the unseasoned, inexperienced, most people in government are lifers, especially the non-elected. And you’ve got to choose your path wisely. Say no to one gig and yes to another. Playing the game is half of the job.

So, do you yell or treat everybody nicely.

This is one of the reasons American business is messed up. Executives are so busy being nice to their workers that they lose focus on the ultimate goal. I’m not talking about sexism, I’m not talking about abuse, what I’m really talking about is competence. An executive wants to believe everybody can do their job, is dedicated to their job, knows what they’re doing, and if they criticize someone for being substandard it’s not the ultimate faux pas. When you’re responsible, you care. And when an underling screws up, I’m not talking a mistake, everybody makes those, but is unprepared or does a lousy job or…it makes you go nuts. Which is why founders are replaced by managers with MBAs that know how to run the company, but just can’t innovate. A founder is riding on the edge, he or she wants their team to ride on the edge with them.

Oh, you think I’m touching the third rail here.

But let me put it this way. Some people take their jobs very seriously, it’s life and death, and for all the b.s. that we should take time off, disconnect, it’s oftentimes this game, this work, that gives meaning in life. Try not working, it’s depressing. And a lot of people want to make a difference with their job, like Sidse/Birgitte Norberg.

As I referenced with Ari Emanuel, all these big shots have PR teams, they see the press as a tool. And that is evidenced in “Borgen.” A truth not in American TV.

And the issues are real and up to date. Climate change. Putin invading Ukraine. These are the issues of our day, not the Mandalorian.

So I’m watching and I’m involved. The rest of the world falls away. You have to pay attention or you miss it. And I don’t want to miss anything. That’s how you get ahead in life, not missing anything. As for those smoking dope, which is for some ridiculous reason seen as cool, try remembering what happened while you were stoned. Hell, half of the game is just observing, you’ve got to know the landscape, where the bodies are buried, people’s weakness, to even play the game.

It’s not a great continuum from the everyday to the elite. There’s a huge gap between the two. Which is why regular folk revere and criticize, gossip about the elite. They have no access. But at the top of every company/organization, there’s a game. And the people playing it are smart. And it’s hard to stay in. And if you’re asleep, you lose. You’ve got to not only play, but think ahead.

This is all in “Borgen.”

It was palpable, the experience of watching “Borgen” as opposed to the rest of the dreck I’ve been consuming recently. I could feel it immediately. Not only was it a good ride, there were lessons to be learned.

Americans are fed bread and circuses. So they’re not even aware of situations, never mind the truth. But “Borgen” does a better job of delineating the issues behind climate change than the media in America. It’s simplified, but not simple. This is the power of the visual image. To send a message. The images bring you in, you get hooked on the story, and while you’re on the ride you’re picking up all kinds of information.

That is not in a Marvel movie, irrelevant of its grosses.

It’s not on the gossip sites.

This is real life.

And in “Borgen” everybody is not beautiful, as everybody in government is not not only in Denmark, but the USA.

“Borgen” is what it’s all about. When they started teaching film in universities they were thinking about stuff like “Borgen,” not the crap in theatres today. This is serious business. Which causes you to take it seriously.

This is what I live for.

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