A comedy-crime-drama set in Lillehammer, the show stars (and is co-written by) E Street Band guitarist Steven van Zandt as New York mobster Frank Tagliano who goes into witness protection after testifying against his former boss. Frank (under the alias Giovanni “Johnny” Henriksen) struggles to stay on the straight and narrow, often using his old mob tactics to help him settle into Norway.
I find this show to be very witty, even if most of the humour is very Crocodile Dundee style, in that a lot of the comedy comes from the differences in culture and stereotypes; the contrast between New York and Lillehammer, the contrast between Frank and his often hapless partner Torgeir, I even find the contrast between English and Norwegian interesting because that alone says a lot about Frank’s character. He’s slowly learning how to speak the language, he could easily hold a conversation with his partners and love interest, Sigrid, but he instead chooses to speak English the majority of the time because everyone else can speak fluent English.Lilyhammer uses a classic representation of a New York gangster, for example, Frank is rarely seen without a suit and he and his former associates speak with the stereotypical broad Italian-American accent, it’s like he’s been taken directly out of a Grand Theft Auto game. His former associates are the same, with Jerry Delucci being a very volatile mobster, and Robert Grasso being a more professional, old-school kind of mobster, who won’t shoot unless he’s absolutely sure of the target. Low and behold, another contrast!
The show is kind of a tourist guide to Lillehammer, the establishing shots of Norway are beautiful and the reason Frank chose to be relocated to Lillehammer in the first place is because of their Winter Olympics, so it only seems fitting that he extorts information out of people by pushing them down a ski slope or by giving them an ice bath. Frank’s “methods” are amusing because he is not a big person, it’s rare to see him tower over anyone, but Van Zandt has a presence on screen, he walks and speaks with authority and is very resourceful. Van Zandt is putting on an acting masterclass here.
The show rarely has tense moments, but it has enough amusement and engaging character traits to keep you watching. It’s a show about differences, and it’s also a redemption story. As a viewer I’m happy that Frank hasn’t quite got the hang of redeeming himself yet, as I wouldn’t mind this show going on for a bit longer.
Season 2 of Lilyhammer will be on Netflix starting December 13th.