"Welcome to Sweden" is a welcome change for a network comedy, but at the same time, one would be forgiven for thinking that it probably wouldn't have happened had it not been brought to the small screen by big names. Given the involvement, I'm guessing that the series probably also wouldn't have lasted more than a few episodes if it didn't attract even a moderate-sized audience. "Sweden" managed to capture a decent crowd of viewers and was quickly renewed for a second season.
"Sweden" is sort of the "fish-out-of-water" formula and while not quite as memorable as "Northern Exposure", the series clicks more often than not. The series is actually based loosely on the real life story of Greg Poehler, the brother of "Parks and Recreation" star Amy. In real life, Greg was a celebrity lawyer who dropped everything to move to Sweden with his wife, Charlotta and start anew. Eventually he tried stand-up and then wrote "Sweden", which was a hit in its home country.
In the series, he's a celebrity money manager named Bruce who also drops everything to move to Sweden with his girlfriend, Emma (Josephine Bornebusch). The series could have gone the route of over-the-top humiliation (the "Meet the Parents" series), but thankfully "Sweden" remains fairly subtle. Of course, Emma's mother (Lena Olin) and father (Claes Månsson) are not initially that welcoming (or at least are quite skeptical) of their daughter's new husband, who has one problem after another trying to fit in.
The supporting cast is also a delight, including Gustaf (Christopher Wagelin), Emma's brother, who spends most of his days slacking. The comedy could have gone the sharp route, but instead goes for subtle, light situational humor. I'm more a fan of the joke-dense comedy ("Happy Endings" being a recent example), but "Sweden" is different, refreshing and occasionally rather charming. Some of the show is in Swedish with subtitles, which actually does work rather well for comedic effect.
The series does try to throw in some guest stars, including Amy Poehler's former "Parks and Recreation" co-star Aubrey Plaza, as well as Gene Simmons, Will Ferrell and - of course - Poehler herself. As one might expect, it does feel a little as if Amy got some friends to show up to support the series, but it works: the bits are cute and occasionally very funny - Ferrell is particularly amusing.
As for the core cast, while Poehler was formerly a lawyer, his comfort as a stand-up seems to have translated to the small screen - he's comfortable and funny in the role. Olin is another highlight as Emma's somewhat disapproving mother. Overall, while not exactly my favorite brand of humor, "Welcome to Sweden"'s light humor is engaging and fun.
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Video: The series is shown off well by this 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation. The scenery looks sharp and detailed, while colors look crisp and natural. No artifacting or edge enhancement is seen throughout the show. Overall, a very nice presentation that should please fans of the series.
Audio: The show is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. Still, as one may rightly expect, the series is largely dialogue-driven. The surrounds do offer some light ambience at times, but little else. Audio quality was quite nice, with clear dialogue and no notable concerns.
Extras: Zip. That's really too bad, as audio commentary from some cast/crew members or even a "making of" that told more of the real-life story would have been fun. Oh well.
Final Thoughts: "Welcome to Sweden" is different and mostly refreshing - it's a charming effort from Greg Poehler. It'll be a little difficult to keep the concept fresh for a number of seasons, but for the time being, the show's quite likable. It's not a laugh-a-minute series, but a pleasant series of chuckles with solid performances. The DVD offers very good video/audio quality, but the lack of extras is a disappointment. Recommended.