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Welcome to Sweden

'Welcome to Sweden' series premiere recap: Take a chance on me

Season 1 | Episode 1 | “Day One/Välkommen” | Aired July 10, 2014

It wasn’t long ago that Greg Poehler was sitting around a table with his wife’s family as a new transplant in Sweden. It took him seconds to conclude that this new life would probably make for a great sitcom. He sent a rough script to his sister, who just happens to be comedic goddess Amy Poehler, with the hope that she would give him tips on important issues such as font types and sizes. Instead, Amy signed on as an executive producer.

When the show became a full-blown hit in Sweden, NBC gave it the green light for a slot in its summer lineup. It’s a love story above anything else. No matter what the external odds, our couple is going to make it through this transition. Once you get past the fact that Greg Poehler looks exactly like Greg Kinnear, it becomes a lot easier to concentrate on the delightful charm of this show. It’s got some growing to do, but I’m definitely rooting for Welcome to Sweden to make it.

Mainly because I have a ton of IKEA jokes.

Welcome to Sweden S1E1Bruce (Poehler) is a big-time accountant in New York City. In fact, he has been known to count beans for a celebrity or two in his day. Take this morning, for example: Just as Amy Poehler was firing him for “making too much money” and “having to pay taxes on that money” and “people knowing she has all that money,” Bruce was actually turning in his resignation. He’s made the bold decision to move with his girlfriend to her homeland.

After the opening scene and credits, we find Bruce in Sweden. Bruce is battling an onslaught of emotions mixed with a wicked case of jet lag. Is he crazy for giving everything up to move across the world? Did he just tell the Swedish TSA agent that he tokes a little recreational reefer? Will he ever fit in here?

All is right with the world when he sees Emma (Josephine Bornebusch) waiting for him near baggage claim. I was expecting a huge hug, but I guess that was impossible since she was ready to toast their new lives together with two glasses of champagne. That’s my kind of celebration! Cheers indeed!

Emma explains in the taxi that her place is still being rented out for the next two weeks. They will have to stay with her parents. At the mention of Emma’s mom and dad, Bruce giggles, telling her it’s funny that her father’s name is “Burger” (read: Birger). Then he makes a lame Birger King joke that was about as funny as that weirdo king that used to show up in Burger King commercials back in the day when we watched commercials. Emma warns him that her mother is the one Bruce should be worried about. She’s just so—Swedish.

I took that to mean she has pale blond hair and eats meatballs all day while listening to “Dancing Queen.” We’ll see if I’m right.

Birger (Claes Månsson) meets them at the car and warmly greets his daughter and her boyfriend. Sadly, Bruce has no idea what he’s saying, because Bruce speaks zero Swedish. Emma and Birger have a heated conversation that sounds eloquent to those of us who don’t know the language. Thank you, subtitles! Birger is appalled that this little man has lived with his daughter for over a year and never attempted to learn her native tongue. He throws on his Swedish-flag-themed life vest and steps in the family motorboat.

Uh-oh. Bruce “is not very good with boats.” He hurls over the side the entire time as Emma strokes his heaving back to comfort him. When they arrive at the dock, Bruce takes a moment to coax the color back into his cheeks before meeting Emma’s mother, who has just pulled up in a car.

Bruce: You can drive here?
Birger: Yes. I wanted to show you the beautiful way.

Emma’s mom, Viveka (the lovely Lena Olin), makes her way down the dock, spouting encouraging accolades with the sincerity of a used-car salesman. She didn’t have hair of gold, and she wasn’t eating pickled herring. Interesting. In fact, she’s Sydney Bristow’s mom Irina Derevko from Alias! It took me a while to wrap my head around the fact that this woman was not going to karate-chop Bruce before shanking him with a large knife she keeps hidden in her ample bosom. But I adjusted quickly.

Viveka tells Bruce that she is so excited to meet him before smoothly transitioning into Swedish, inquiring why the love of Emma’s life is so short? Is she not attracted to tall, virile men like her father? According to Viveka, Bruce is the size of a child or an Asian person.

As Bruce brings up the rear, he is hijacked by Emma’s brother, Gustaf (Christopher Wagelin), for a welcome party of their own. He drags Bruce into a nearby shed, shares a few shots with the extremely tired American, kisses him and sends him on his way back to the main house—when a convertible Mustang skids into the driveway with a ridiculously dressed man behind the wheel.

“Yippee-ki-yay mother BLEEP!”

Oh, I can already tell I’m going to like this character the best.

Uncle Bengt (Per Svensson) loves America. His star-spangled denim jacket is an homage to the great country he admires, yet has never visited. Since Bruce is from the United States, it is imperative that they become best friends so he can practice his American lingo on someone who knows how Americans talk. Most of his phrases were plucked from blockbuster movies between 1983 and 1999. You talkin’ to me? Fuhgeddaboudit.

Welcome to Sweden S1E1Emma leads Bruce to another room so he can get a quick nap in before dinner. Just as he’s about to doze off, Gustaf comes in to change clothes. He settles in on the end of the bed and launches into a lengthy conversation about his latest career endeavors. He wanted to be a shepherd, but there are no sheep in Sweden. Now he’s thinking of becoming an entrepreneur.

Bruce: In what?
Gustaf: What?
Bruce: An entrepreneur in what?
Gustaf: Nothing. Just an entrepreneur.

They brainstorm after Bruce explains that you have to sell something or at least have a great idea to pitch to potential investors. Gustaf wants to drive a taco bus and just eat tacos all day long. Bruce advises that he sell the tacos from the van. It’s a eureka moment.

Dinner is another event entirely. Viveka is curious: What will Bruce do? He’s left a big-shot career that paid him lots of money and allowed him to rub elbows with Leslie Knope, for goodness’ sake. Now he’s in Sweden with no friends and no job, and he doesn’t speak the language. Bruce takes a moment to let this soak in as the others slurp crawfish brains.

It’s after-dinner sauna time! All eyes are raised when Bruce rambles into the sauna wearing first a towel and then his swim trunks underneath. Birger tries hard to convey in broken English that he is excited Emma is finally home. There was a lot more to the soliloquy, but I was distracted by the modesty blurring of Swedish junk. Thank you for that, NBC.

Bruce passes out from the heat exhaustion. Or maybe from all of the liquor the Swedish folks have been pouring down his throat. Of course, it could have been plain old jet lag. Regardless, he wakes up in the loving arms of his girlfriend, assuring him that she still loves him and hoping he feels the same.

Welcome to Sweden, Bruce.


Welcome to Sweden, rated TV-14, airs Thursdays at 9/8C on NBC.



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