New TV Perspectives

One interesting effect of the pandemic is that TV programmers are having to get creative while TV production has had to slow down. Last year, there were all those specials with performances by people in their homes or in limited sets outdoors. I enjoyed getting these little concerts without all the bells and whistles. Now PBS has filled a programming gap by getting shows from places other than England.

Right now, they’re showing the series Atlantic Crossing on Masterpiece, and it’s a Norwegian production about how the Crown Princess of Norway and her children (including the very small boy who is the current king of Norway) took refuge in the United States during World War II after the Nazis invaded Norway. Even Sweden, where the princess was originally from and where her uncle was king, wouldn’t let them stay there, for fear of enraging the Nazis and risking their neutrality. But Franklin Roosevelt, who’d met the prince and princess during an earlier tour, offered to let the family come to the US, and so, after a harrowing escape, they ended up staying at the White House. Meanwhile, her husband and father-in-law were in Buckingham Palace during the Blitz. She gets a lot of pressure to try to influence FDR to get the US into the war or to at least try to help free Norway.

The interesting thing about this production is that the characters speak the languages they would have been speaking in those situations, with subtitles. When they’re in Norway or when Norwegians are talking to each other, it’s in Norwegian. When they’re in Sweden, they’re speaking Swedish. When they talk to the German ambassador, it’s in German. Once they get to America and England, it’s in English (unless the Norwegians are talking among themselves). American actors play the American characters (Kyle MacLachlan plays FDR), and it looks like they have British actors playing the British characters. I’m more accustomed to American and British shows in which everyone speaks English, and you can tell they’re supposed to be foreign people because they speak English with a foreign accent.

I’ve been learning Norwegian, so this has been great practice in listening for me. I don’t think I’d understand it fully without subtitles, but I pick up on a lot of words, and I seem to do better with each episode, either because I’ve learned more in the meantime (last week’s lessons were particularly applicable to this story) or because my ear is getting better attuned to it (probably both). It’s also an interesting perspective on the war, looking at it from the point of view of people whose country was invaded, and they have to wrestle with the dilemma of whether to stay with their people or get away and try to do some good where they can while staying out of Nazi hands. Meanwhile, there’s also the human story of a family that’s been separated and finding a sense of home in a new place. Apparently, the current king of Norway still speaks English with an American accent because he spent a good chunk of his early childhood in the US, and FDR was like a godfather to him.

I wouldn’t mind PBS picking up some other foreign productions beyond the usual British fare. I don’t mind reading subtitles, and it’s interesting seeing the other perspectives.

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