The Legacy

Refusing to countenance any speculation that The Killing might continue beyond its third season Piv Bernth series producer and head of drama at Danish public service broadcaster DR was unequivocal in her statements that the time had come for the network to diversify, move beyond the police drama, and begin offering series which are uniquely Scandinavian thus pleasing the domestic audience and yet have enough elements to attract the interest of  international stations.

The Danish model of TV production which we are familiar with did not emerge fully formed with the introduction of Sarah Lund but was instead a gradual learning curve that developed over several years and involved a number of series including The Eagle, The Protectors, Taxi, and Unit One. Integrating American techniques within a Nordic televisual framework, the network has reaped the benefits of a more holistic approach to drama that moved away from the traditional notion of a solitary writer scribbling away in a garret to a system that still places the author at the centre of the process but she or he is now more directly involved with the mechanics of production through the use of on site writers’ rooms and the adoption of a lead writer/showrunner system.

With The Killing and Borgen now given the relative immortality of DVD box-sets Denmark’s next step in the evolution of its TV drama involves two new but very different series; 1864 and The Legacy. 1864 will be covered in a future edition of Cinema Scandinavia, for now let us turn to The Legacy and glimpse at the delights UK and Australian audiences will experience when they get to see the series later in the year.

Premièring on New Year’s Day, The Legacy was given a rapturous reception by the press and opened to incredibly strong viewing figures. Possibly due to word of mouth or column inches in the newspaper waxing lyrical about the show, viewing figures for the second episode saw a marked increase with nearly two million people tuning in. A not inconsiderate sum for such a small country.

Created by Maya Ilsøe, the show is a depiction of a fragmented family that has to deal with the consequences of secrets and lies spread across the decades. Offering a damning critique of the late 1960s hippie ideal The Legacy looks at how children of the “drop-out” generation may have become collateral damage and become conservative and repressed as a form of rebellion.

Taking place in a remote southern town,  renowned artist Veronika (Kirsten Olesen) learns that she has terminal cancer and with the pressure of her imminent demise being an ever present force she  attempts to atone for her mistakes whilst time is still on her side. Her children Gro (Trine Dryholm), Frederik  (Carsten Bjørnlund), Emil (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard) are unaware that they have a sister living in the community. Given up for adoption, Signe (Marie Bach Hansen) has no idea of the truth about her parentage…. A hastily written will has the power to unite or destroy the siblings but how will the children react to the estate’s division and the knowledge of a “new” family member?

The opening episode adroitly sets up the premise, peppered with hints of possible directions the series might take in later episodes but with such skilful and knowing screen-writing the viewer isn’t entirely sure if they are going to have the rug pulled from under them and be sent down a different route to the one they had anticipated. First rate talent in front and behind the lens have produced a show which consolidates everything learnt producing drama over the last couple of decades and distils that knowledge into the finest possible series the network is able to gift to its audiences. Out performing The Killing and Borgen in ratings at home, it looks set to be major cult hit when arriving in Australia and the UK.

The Legacy airs in the UK on Sky Arts from autumn 2014.

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