It was the hit cookery show that he hosts with his brother James that got him on to the Danish version of Who Do You Think You Are? Can Price first explain how on Earth he came by the recipe for a show about a feminist fantasy figure, a heroically idealistic leader of a centrist party who finds herself running Denmark?“In the beginning DR was very reluctant,” Price concedes.
I think I won them over by appealing to their black public-service heart – ‘Imagine if we can do a series that would actually stir political interest and be entertaining: now that would really be something…’ ” They took the bait.But Borgen’s hypnotic power hasn’t solely rested on the thrill-ride of plots about, say, Danish pork production.She has even compared herself to her fictional counterpart in one magazine interview, insisting that she wouldn’t dream of missing a parents’ evening.Price enters, a large blue-suited presence with Viking blond hair.And just to ratchet up the tension, the writers have forced the audience to watch power and wealth fall into Nyborg’s lap while everything else is stripped away – marriage, the mental health of her daughter – until in the current season they’ve given her breast cancer to cope with. The illness was always going to be the price the Borgen creator would extract in the event of a third series being commissioned. It gives us that ‘I’ve had that feeling: I might not have been the prime minister of Denmark but I’ve also let down my kid and I’ve also sometimes lied to my husband’.” There is another form of recognition in Borgen.
“If in the first circle of hell you lose your marriage,” Price reasons pitilessly, “and the second circle your child, the inner circle of hell: it must be her life that’s on the line.” She’s still not out of the woods. Much of the cast seems to have been bussed in from The Killing.
Birgitte Nyborg, an entirely made-up female stateswoman, is the most visible Danish leader on these shores since Canute.
The success of the implausibly gripping Borgen, which has dramatised the ups, downs, ins and outs of multi-party government in a small, civilised corner of northern Europe, just goes to show that nobody in television knows a thing.
It sounds like one of those legendarily bad programme ideas pitched to the BBC by Alan Partridge. The third and final series of Borgen has only two more hours to run on BBC Four and it’s election time in Denmark. Let’s just say that the final two episodes do not disappoint.
And you can bet she would have negotiated a canny deal to hold back that tide. Nyborg’s last task is to take on the opposition having just recovered from a potentially fatal illness and leave us sated while also wanting more.
Price argues that Nyborg is “a flawed hero and she loses a lot of her humanity on the way”.