You’ve never seen anything exactly like Stories from Norway: The Musical! Chances may well be you’ve never seen anything remotely like it either, although if you’ve seen Flight of the Conchords – and you should! – you’ve close kind of close. Norwegian brothers Vegard and Bård Ylvisåker take actual stories from Norway’s recent past, such as the building of a local council diving board that resulted in an extraordinary cost blow-out, or the time Justin Bieber short-changed a small audience of incredibly passionate Norwegian fans at a concert, and dramatise them as full-on mini-musicals. I kid you not. They shoot the episodes – averaging 21 minutes – in English, consisting of interviews with real people involved in the real events and elaborately staged recreations, sung-through with original songs. The whole package is extremely funny and rather jaw-droppingly clever. Recommended unreservedly; truly entertaining and surprisingly informative.
Bad Banks is less original – it’s a fast-paced financial Euro-thriller, so it follows that money by following, among others, Follow The Money – but it’s no less entertaining, its thrills achieved chiefly through sheer pace of storytelling. This show burns through plot like Donald Trump burns through staff. Some of it is ludicrous, but that’s part of the ride. We’ve had plenty of financial malfeasance thrillers; this one differentiates itself by adding psychological disturbance to the mix, not as plot development but as character starting line. Banking doesn’t make these people corrupt, broken, maladjusted and amoral, the show seems to be saying; it’s such people who want to be bankers. All the characters, save for our heroine, played by the stoic but subtly subversive Paula Beer, are over-the-top banking maniacs and they’re all a whole lot of fun. Plus, it’s set and shot in Luxembourg, Frankfurt am Main, and Berlin. What more do you want?
In Australia both series are available for free on SBS On Demand.