Lilyhammer

The Sopranos taught us many, many things, not least how long running television drama can have the multiple plotlines and complexities of a great novel while being as layered as the best of cinema. One of the smaller things it taught us was that Little Stevie can do comedy; a facial expression here, a hand gesture there and a sigh and indentation of the neck when imparting a few words of wisdom to Tone.

Just thinking about it is enough to think about getting the boxed sets out again. We always have the option, but as an alternative Lilyhammer gave us something new. Little Stevie reprises a mafia role, this time as Jimmy the Fixer, an unlikely grass against the new boss in his organisation who has already tried to take him out. His safe house and new life is not in suburbia like Henry Hill but instead in Lilliehammer, Norway, due to the character’s memories of watching the 1984 Winter Olympics.

It’s a plotline we are fed in the first two minutes of the show and from then on Stevie gets to do fish out of water comedy, instantly becoming a hero as the man with morals who is an enforcer with menace. It is the grey area that was best examined in The Sopranos episode ‘Employee of the Month’, when the audience is willing a violent retribution from the anti-hero, if only he knew what we knew.

In these shorter episodes, with an emphasis on comedy as much as drama, there is little of the weighty depth given to the awkward situation the viewer is in; Jimmy the Fixer knows everything pretty quickly, and we are invited to laugh along in scenarios from workshops in job programmes to the progressive society that recognizes violence, from toy guns to school punishment, can be tackled through behavioural learning.

The premise of the comedy is a clash of cultures but really it relies on the old adage “it’s a small world” as coincidence is central to many of the plot lines. The little cast of characters are built nicely for the combination of comedy and drama to grow, from a young cop pent up with ignorant prejudice to the entrepreneurial architect with family problems, although the main theme is reliant on Jimmy the Fixer’s past.

There are some clever scenes, notably the reference to The Godfather II when one of the characters takes his rat of a brother for a ride in a rowing boat in a lake, and throughout the cinematography is predictably pleasant on the eye. And of course with Steve Van Zandt at the helm the music suits the show.

The development of the cast of characters and loose ends left in the personal life of Jimmy the Fixer aka Frank Taglinio means there is material for another season. But to maintain the edge another skeleton from Frank’s past life will need to appear. And for the programme to be as long running as The Sopranos  The Boss will have to take a break from touring with the E-Street Band and no one wants that to happen anytime soon.

MG

With echoes of Glory from American Cinema to Bruce Springsteen, and full of the flavour of Escape that European Travel brings, The Substantive Columnist Mel Gomes’ e-book ‘Glory Nights: From Wankdorf to Wembley‘ is available from Amazon and Smashwords. New, independent writing on popular culture, it is being backed by The Substantive.