It's Greg vs. Amy Poehler: How Does 'Welcome to Sweden' Compare to 'Parks and Recreation?'
We've come to expect a lot when it comes to comedy and the Poehler family. It's almost not fair; Amy Poehler is one of the funniest people on the planet, with years of experience on The Upright Citizens Brigade, Saturday Night Live, and Parks and Recreation. Her brother, Welcome to Sweden star Greg Poehler, is a newcomer to showbiz, having been an intellectual property lawyer before relocating to Sweden with his wife. The experience gave him the idea for a sitcom about — what else? — an American (in this case, named Bruce) who moves to Sweden to follow his girlfriend. Greg created the show, and Amy Poehler signed on to co-executive produce Welcome to Sweden , but is it unfair want him to live up to the comedic expectations of his sister?
In some ways, he already has. The first, 10-episode season of Welcome to Sweden was designed to air in both Sweden and and in the United States. It performed so well in Sweden, it's already been given a second season there. According to the New York Post, about half everyone with a TV in Sweden has seen Welcome to Sweden .
And now that the first episode of Welcome to Sweden has aired in the states, how does it hold up?
It Looks Like Parks and Recreation
The show has the same single-camera, cinema verité look that The Office and Parks and Recreation has, but without the mockumentary format. While the talking-head interviews are becoming cliché for television shows, it takes some adjustment to see something shot in that handheld style without them. (Why is the camera so shaky?) Sweden looks more picturesque than Scranton and Pawnee, though, and there are some beautiful shots of Swedish scenery.
The Comedy Is Low-Key
Even though Welcome to Sweden has the same single-camera format as Parks and Recreation, the energy is much more subdued. It isn't a very gag-heavy show. Instead of being packed with broad jokes, the humor on Welcome to Sweden is much more situational, preferring to wring humor out of something like Bruce's discomfort conversing with his girlfriend's family while they're all naked and in a sauna. It's still funny, but there are fewer laugh-out-loud moments.
It Has a Strong Ensemble Cast
Greg Poehler doesn't keep all of the laughs for himself. Josephine Bornebusch is certainly charming as Bruce's girlfriend, Emma, and Lena Olin is especially funny as Emma's disapproving mother. And yes, Amy Poehler gets some of the spotlight, too, since she makes a cameo (as herself, no less, albeit a much more self-absorbed version of herself).
The Subtitles Aren't Too Distracting
It's rare to see a network sitcom with so many subtitles; a lot of the conversations in the premiere episode were in Swedish. At first, I was afraid that they'd step on the comedy, since I'd be too busy reading to really take in the performances. This turns out not to be the case, and much of the dialog is pretty funny on its own.
Greg's Bruce Is Not Unlike Amy's Leslie
They're both eternally optimistic, and believe in doing crazy things in the name of love. In this case, it's a welcome family resemblance.
Image: NBC; Benjamin Thuresson/NBC