AFP

COPENHAGEN-After the international success of TV dramas “Borgen”, “The Killing” and “The Bridge”, Denmark’s public broadcaster is launching a character-driven series about how the liberated, self-fulfilling sixties transformed family life.

“The Legacy” follows the lives of four grown-up siblings after their mother, an eccentric artist, dies and leaves her country manor Groennegaard to a previously unknown daughter who was given up for adoption. The show is “a modern family portrait. A description of the ‘68 generation and their children,” the Danish Broadcasting Corporation (DR) says on its website. “The serial follows Veronika’s four grown-up children, whose free and chaotic childhood at Groennegaard has left its mark on them in very different ways,” it says.

For international viewers, “The Legacy” marks a change of gear from the gritty murder mysteries of “The Killing” and the political intrigue of “Borgen”, but international broadcasters are banking on attracting a loyal audience for it. Illustrating the widespread popularity of previous Danish TV productions, the series has already been sold to Australia, Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg and Britain. “The Killing”, which began airing on BBC Four in 2011, was credited with paving the way for other foreign-language shows in Britain. “Because ‘The Killing’ and ‘Borgen’ were so successful sales-wise, there’s been a lot of interest and the market has bought the series before seeing any of it,” said DR drama boss Nadia Kloevedal Reich. “We felt that there was a story that hadn’t been told, namely what the sixties and the seventies changed in our understanding of the world and what constitutes a family. Family relations and inheritance disputes are universal phenomena that viewers anywhere can relate to.

However, Kloevedal Reich argued that part of the reason for DR’s success overseas was its tradition of planting its storylines firmly in Danish society — such as the coalition politics of “Borgen” and the city council drama of “The Killing”. Other national broadcasters trying to break into an international TV market dominated by the United States and Britain should make sure their series have “a clear cultural perspective”, she said.

In particular, international viewers were drawn to “Borgen” because they were fascinated by the gender equality of the Nordic countries, she said. “Women here have come far. They have been in the labour market for many years, they are well educated, they are beginning to take on jobs that were previously the preserve of men,” Kloevedal Reich said. “And we are consistent in our storytelling, because we’re saying that regardless of whether you are a man or a woman, the basic storyline is: Can you win power without losing yourself?” she added.

As an example, she cited a scene in “Borgen” where fictional Prime Minister Birgitte Nyborg’s husband is unhappy because his career-driven wife has become too distanced from him.

“He has a lover and she has moved out but comes home again. And we wrote that as if she’s a man. “She comes home and tells her husband: ‘I understand that you have to seek intimacy elsewhere. That’s fine, as long as it’s discreet. I’m about to open parliament, and I would like us to do that together, and I would like you to go on TV tonight and tell them how happy our marriage is’,” she said.

“In a lot of places they would have thought that was terrible, and that a woman can’t act that way, or that she should think of her children,” she added. Another reason for DR’s success has been investing in the development of manuscripts, allowing a small team to realise the author’s vision over a relatively long period of time. “Don’t involve too many people,” said Kloevedal Reich, who has not had to contend with the steep budget cuts faced by some European broadcasters in recent years.

The drama unit’s airy offices are housed in a sprawling 4.7 billion kroner (630 million euro, $854 million) DR complex that was completed in 2010 and includes a concert hall designed by French architect Jean Nouvel. Still, international success has not prompted the corporation to boost the department’s coffers. “The Legacy” has a smaller budget than “The Killing” did because “character-driven fiction is cheaper to produce than plot-driven” dramas, Kloevedal Reich said.

The series has been well received by critics after it began airing in Denmark on January 1. “DR once again manages to capture the zeitgeist,” the BT tabloid wrote. Danes’ TV licence fees are among the highest in the world, and a poll this month found that 45 percent of young people would stop watching public service TV altogether if it would spare them the 2,436 kroner annual fee. Kloevedal Reich was unperturbed. No matter what happens, drama will most likely “be prioritised, because it works very well in a public service context,” she said.