There is no doubt that video streaming platforms have considerably leveled the playing field with regard to episodic series. These interlopers (Netflix and Amazon most prominently, at least for now) have even garnered awards that were heretofore only in the realm of broadcast television. But as we gravitate more and more towards the screens on our smartphones and our tablets for entertainment, the market has grown up around us. I know many people who don’t even own a television anymore and likely so do you. For the first time since TV was invented, one does not need to own one to watch great programming.
Netflix’s first foray into this brave new world was Lilyhammer, a program that it exclusively acquired from Norwegian network NRK1 three years ago. Prior to that Netflix was a website that showed movies; with Lilyhammer they broke the mold and debuted the entire first season all on the same day – which changed the game forever and created binge-watching. The series, now in its third season, stars Steven Van Zandt as Frank “The Fixer” Tagliano. Season One started as Frank decamped from his native New York City to the fjords of Norway (a location he chose because he fondly remembered how pristinely beautiful it appeared on TV during the 1994 Olympics).
Van Zandt is a natural. He last wowed us as Silvio Dante on The Sopranos, where he was cast in a genius move by show creator David Chase (this in addition to his other multiple day jobs – record producer, coolest DJ in the world via his Underground Garage radio show and SiriusXM channel, and lead guitarist in arguably the best live band of all time, Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band). When Van Zandt is involved in something, he’s all in. Lilyhammer is no exception; he not only stars in it, he is also co-writer and he supervises the music. He also directed the final, pivotal episode of Season Three. The show is all the better for his involvement. In fact, it’s a stellar addition to the new world of non-broadcast series and deserves far more attention than it’s been getting thus far.
The show is at once fiercely intelligent and uproariously funny. Tagliano, known in his transplanted environment as Giovanni Henriksen, wastes no time in establishing a crew and a community for himself. In Season One he becomes a Norwegian citizen, starts an affair with his language teacher Sigrid, and commences to run a popular nightclub called The Flamingo. Season Two begins with Frank getting used to life as the new father of twins with Sigrid and dealing with ghosts from his past life as a New York mobster. Season Three ups the ante even further with multiple locations and fascinating storylines, featuring Van Zandt’s actress wife Maureen (The Sopranos), Tony Sirico (The Sopranos), and Bruce Springsteen in spectacular appearances relating to Frank’s own past.
Season Three has many stellar moments and, like the previous two seasons, is engaging throughout; in fact it’s the best season…