“Fitness advice, gig economy, binge watching Danish crime series, sustainability, sex when the kids watch cartoons, mobile bank ID, personal development 5:2 diet, anti-aging cream, Adobe updates, climate friendly travel, body activism,” Anders rants quietly to the camera, as he walks from his car to home in the equivalent of white picket fence Sweden at the beginning of Swedish Discovery Plus Original “Gotebia,” a half-hour dramedic psychological thriller.
“Exterior renovations, Roblox, mini Rodini hats, dinners from Fedora. Shared family calendar. Find us-time, life with kids, drainage pipes, hot yoga, performance review, changing the plumbing, pub crawls, doggy day care,” he goes on.
43, Anders is out of his depth at work where his company’s motivational speakers are no longer found in the newspaper or on TV but on YouTube, TikTok, Snap and Instagram. And suffering to keep up with the Joneses – in this case tennis player and neighbor Martin’s macho consumerism with his red sports car, new deep fryer and oven which doubles up as a microwave – Anders rebels via petty acts of violence, key ripping Martin’s car, head-butting an obstreperous cyclist and tipping his boss’ Entrepreneur of the Year trophy into the wastepaper bin.
Then when he discovers that his tween daughter is being bullied at school, something snaps.
The Discovery Plus Original is also set to air on Sweden’s Kanal 5 from March 2022. It stars a topnotch cast of Mattias Nordkvist (“Snow Angels,” also notable in Lone Scherfig’s upcoming “The Shift”), Sanna Sundqvist (“Bonus Family,” “Call Mom!”) as wife Filippa, Johan Widerberg as preening Martin (“Bäckström,” “Spring Tide”) and Helena Af Sandeberg (“Quicksand,” “Dough”) as his spouse, who’s over the moon at her kitchen makeover.
“Suburbia” also marks one of the latest series from top Swedish outfit FLX, majority owned by Nordic major SF Studios since 2019, which made its name in comedy series, such as the huge TV4 hit “Sunny Side” (“Solsidan”), now in its seventh season, before plowing into thrillers and dramas such as early Netflix Swedish hit “Quicksand.”
Produced by Lejla Bešić (“Max Anger – With One Eye Open”) and based on “Vi i villa,” by Swedish novelist Hans Koppel, the series reunites two “Sunny Side” talents, director Henrik Schyffert (“Run Uje Run”) who serves as concept director on “Suburbia” and also co-wrote with head-writer Tove Eriksen Hillblom (“Black Lake”), and episodic writer Maria Nygren (“The Hunters,” “The Lawyer”).
Variety talked to Eriksen Hillblom, who is nominated for the Nordisk Film and TV Fond Prize for screenwriting which will be announced at Sweden’s Göteborg Festival on Feb. 2.
Most series demand large research. I get the feeling that with “Suburbia” you and the other writers turned to your own lives, and those of friends and acquaintances for what you found funniest and most dehumanising of suburban middle-class life. But maybe I’m wrong?
Haha, no you’re – sadly – absolutely right. I think we’ve all had these dinner conversations and met these people. We are these people. It was such fun taking a stab at all of it (and masquerade some of our own shortcomings as those of other characters).
“Suburbia” kicks off as suburban middle-class satire but it grows and gains emotional depth in its portrayal of a touching father-daughter relationship, both of whom are victims of bullying. Could you comment?
Yes, the father-daughter relationship is definitely the emotional heartbeat of the show and Anders’ driving force. Anders’ and daughter Anna’s stories are sort of parallel to one another; he thinks he is trying to save her, but really he’s trying to save himself.
As satire, Anders points to a patriarchy of men as family providers, their masculinity is judged not only by prowess on the tennis and paddle courts but cutting edge consumer acquisition. But would you agree?
Yeah, for sure. Anders loathes the role play of middle-class adulthood and the patriarchy/antiquated expectations on men is definitely a big part of what suffocates him, epitomized by his antagonist Martin.
One of the series’ running jokes is a debate about Danish crime series and cop shows in general. Anders and a woman on the train maintain they’re all pretty much the same. The history of Nordic fiction in the last decade has been of diversification away from Nordic Noir into comedy, drama, thrillers. Do you see that diversification continuing?
I do think so, yes. There’s so much being made right now which allows for more voices to be heard, and a greater diversification in the types of stories being told – which I think is great. And the more new perspectives we see, that in turn opens up the next door and so on. It can’t all be about white middle-aged me….