Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Piirka rules!

My latest comedy favourite is a Norwegian TV show called Borettslaget, depicting the lives of tenants in an Oslo high-rise; shown on Tuesday nights here in Finland on the Swedish language channel FST as Piirka och hans grannar ("Piirka and his neighbours").

Piirka Kellivoite (a misspelling of Finnish name Pirkka, and his family name is not that typical in Finland, either...) is a rogueish and asocial foul-mouthed Finnish immigrant whose unfortunate efforts as a pirate taxi driver, alcohol smuggler, hotel bellboy and grocery store clerk are followed in every episode. (Furthermore, Piirka does not actually speak Finnish but Swedish in Finnish accent, though some "perkeles" are heard every now and then, also Piirka's favourite swearword "helvata".) In "Pekka and Toivonen" jokes popular in Norway Finns are always depicted as hard-drinking, macho forest dwellers, and the Piirka character seems to follow exactly this same stereotype.

Nevertheless, I like the non-conformist Piirka very much: maybe these Norwegians have after all managed to capture some essence of being Finnish... the series has also a lot of great satirical characters (all played by Robert Stoltenberg, the same actor as with Piirka): a near-fascistic janitor Roy Narvestad guarding his apartment house with military-like discipline (we all must know the type), living with her shabby sister and being secretly sex-starved for a young female tenant Trude who goes to bible school; a father of Pakistani Silmandar family (who wants desperately to get their daughter married) and their happy-go-lucky son Ali; Linda Johansen, a spinster/widow character who never leaves her apartment, nurses her dog like it was her baby, obsessively observes every movement of her neighbours (we all must know the type, pt. 2), keeps watching soap operas and is not too fond of any non-Norwegians; Yngve Freiholt, a cissy-like (possibly gay?) hipster who works on fashion business and keeps re-decorating his apartment.

The tenants of the high-rise are followed in a pseudo-documentary way;
the type of humour here is very understated and deadpan, far from any canned laughter type of Anglo-American sitcoms and their predictable puns.