a kind of parallel government


In parliaments and in the public square, European democracy appears to be on its last legs. The European Union, garlanded last month with an incomprehensible Nobel Peace Prize, has become ever more feckless. National governments pushing senseless austerity budgets are losing public favor by the day. But on TV, democracy is thriving, and nowhere more than in the Danish political drama Borgen. From Greece to Ireland, where political leaders have been reduced to glorified accountants, audiences have made a series about a peripheral EU administration the most surprising television hit in years. Borgen (“The Castle,” a nickname for Christiansborg, the Copenhagen parliament building) depicts the trials of a new prime minister, her squabbling coalition government, and an aggressive, scandal-hungry news media. A quarter of the nation watches the program each week, and Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the country’s actual prime minster, is said to be an obsessive fan. Borgen is more than a sensation; it is a kind of parallel government.

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