Lilyhammer: Norwegian Sense of Humor Crosses Borders

TELEVISION- Norway, with its fjords and majestic landscape, has recently attracted many movie producer’s interest as a filming location. The Frozen, Dogville, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and even Die Another Day are the most prominent ones of tens of the action and horror films which were “empowered by Norwegian nature”. But, comedy genre was somehow out of sight in Norwegian context until the hit Norwegian comedy “Lilyhammer” turned into an international success.

Even before the launch of the second season in December, Netflix has ordered a third season of the series, the Norwegian comedy,  starring Steven Van Zandt and being co-produced by Norway’s Rubicon TV AS.

A worldwide radio show playing Norwegian rock ‘n’ roll

When Lilyhammer premiered in February of 2012, few people realized it would mark the beginning of a brand new era of television. Although the show originally aired in Norway, it was the first time that Netflix offered exclusive content. The experiment worked, paving the way for hugely acclaimed shows like Orange Is the New Black, House of Cards and the long-awaited fourth season of Arrested Development, noted RollingStone.

Talking to Collider, Steven Van Zandt says they are thrilled by how it’s performed, not only in the U.S. but in other territories. “It’s a very international show with a very domestic feel,” adds he.

In an interview with the online magazine, Zandt tells how the idea of the TV series emerged.  He had a worldwide radio show, and was playing a lot of Norwegian rock ‘n’ roll. He also has a record company, and he was in Bergen, Norway producing a Norwegian band. 

Another gangster role

One day, somebody told Zandt that the husband and wife writing the screenplays wanted to say hello, so he met with them and they gave him the one-sentence pitch, which was, “A gangster goes into the witness protection program and chooses Lilyhammer in Norway”.  First of all, he thought he just played a gangster for 10 years and he really shouldn’t do this again.  Then, he thought again, “What a wonderful idea this is.”

Zandt describes Norway a very, very conservative country.  They are very much a mono-culture that’s very, very civilized, with very little crime and no poverty.  It’s a very, very interesting place, and it’s a very mysterious place, says he. 

So, he thinks he can not only have a wonderful fish-out-of-water story in Norway, with a one man crime wave, coming into a place where there is no crime but can also have fun with these cultural differences.

Crazy Idea of Moving to Norway

Despite the irresistibility of the offer, it was not an easy decision for Zandt. All of his business people called him crazy for the idea of going to Norway after one of the greatest shows in history.  

Everybody was questioning it, as a career move.  But, once they wanted me involved as one of the producers and writers, I felt like, “If I can control the scripts and have some say in the production, then I feel confident enough that I can make this thing work,” says he to Collider.


Norwegian sense of humor

To the question of whether there is any difference between Norwegian sense of humor or character development, Zandt answers yes and adds that he, as one of the writers, believes it was a wise choice to make it more Norwegian. He says he wanted it to be as Norwegian as possible and wanted to know everything that is eccentric about Norway, and everything that is different, funny and unique. 

“If you focus on nuance and detail and the things that have local interest, those are the things that are most universal.  Those are the things that people gravitate towards and love to see.  People love learning about different cultures and detail and how other people live.  I think it’s just human nature”, says he. 

About Lilyhammer

Lilyhammer is a Norwegian television series, starring Steven Van Zandt, about a fictional New York gangster, Frank “The Fixer” Tagliano, trying to start a new life in isolated Lillehammer in Norway.  The budget makes it the biggest TV series ever produced in Norway.

A second season was commissioned after the success of the first. However, Van Zandt’s schedule with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s Wrecking Ball Tour delayed production. It was announced in January 2013 that guitarist Tom Morello would replace him for the Australian leg of the tour, so that filming could go ahead. Filming completed in April 2013, and included shoots both in Norway and New York City. Season two premiered 23 October 2013 on NRK, and 13 December 2013 on Netflix. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Van Zandt announced he has signed on for a third season of the show, with filming to begin 3 January 2014.

Lilyhammer premiered in Norway on 25 January 2012. On 6 February 2012 the show began streaming on Netflix in Canada and the US. From 11 September 2012 it was transmitted on BBC Four in the UK. The series was bought by several other broadcasting companies, including SVT in Sweden (for transmission in autumn 2012), and companies in Germany, Belgium, Australia, Denmark and France. The series has been sold to over 130 countries worldwide.


Frank “The Fixer” Tagliano (Steven Van Zandt), a former underboss of New York’s Italian Mafia, is put in the Witness Protection Program after testifying in a trial in the United States. Intrigued by the town when he saw television images of the 1994 Winter Olympics, Tagliano requests that he be relocated in Lillehammer, Norway. His new identity is Norwegian-American immigrant Giovanni Henriksen.

He soon befriends a teacher named Sigrid and her son, Jonas, whom he spotted on his first train journey to Lillehammer. Their friendship develops and she becomes pregnant after they spend the night together. She learns that she is to have twins. Their relationship progresses throughout the series, but she is soon more and more provoked by his secrets, shady deals and long work hours. Frank/Giovanni is using his old ruthless methods to get ahead in his new life, using blackmail, extortion and violence to get permits for opening his own bar, the Flamingo, while also taking Norwegian classes. Soon, the local police begin to grow suspicious of his activities, as he expands to take over Lillehammer’s criminal underworld.

Are online drugstores permitted

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