We always hear about Borgen and The Killing on DR1 being the pinnacle of modern Scandinavian Drama and the reason for the influx of foreign dramas coming to the UK and US. But often comedy is neglected in the TV import market. Because of the language and cultural differences it can sometimes be hard to understand a foreign show, but it seems one drama in particular has taken Netflix by storm. That show is Rita.
The Comedy Drama centers around the teacher Rita (Mille Dinesen), an informal nonconformist teaching kids via her own unique style of education. Acting more like a teenager than an adult, Rita races through life without a care in the world. However, the nonconformist is reminded that everyone else has to grown up – even her own children.
The episodes are a blend of Rita’s rebellious teaching attitudes mixed in with personal storylines of her and her children. For example, the first episode is about the engagement between her eldest son Ricco and his girlfriend Bitten. In a strange turn of events Ricco’s fiance’s dad is also the ex-boyfriend of Rita. ‘you might be brother and sister!” exclaims Rita – the same sense of humor that eclipses all three seasons.
Whilst we enjoy this idiosyncratic family, other serious self-contained narratives progress throughout the series. The second episode introduces her mother and how she neglected Rita when she was much younger. Further on she tries to protect a kid suffering from ADHD after he burns down a school shed. And most notably episode seven when Rita is teaching a group of young children about fairytales only to find out her own life is reflected in the children’s sad story. It’s the unique aspect of the production which breathes a new fresh perspective to these family dramas. Instead of inciting a flashback to Rita’s childhood, it’s acted out as a play by the children – an ingenious way of presenting a minor storyline without it dipping in and out of the past.
These types of shows often target 18-35 years old’s (as stated by Camilla Hammerich) and Rita does just that. A family drama that isn’t shallow enough to be just a light watch with the family. It stands beside the giants of Scandinavian Drama but boasts a unique twist of being – first and foremost – a coming-of-age comedy. The darker drama elements serve as a bleak contrast to her life and plays well into the social realism of a teacher who doesn’t quite have the maturity of an adult.
The reason it has become a Netflix original programme is because it co-funded the third season which premiered this spring alongside the release on TV2. “Without the involvement of Netflix, season 3 of Rita likely would not have happened” said Thomas Gammeltoft, Director of the Copenhagen Film Fund. 842,000 people on average watched the first season in Denmark. To put that in perspective, that’s a 40% share of the population. Netflix knew it had the viewers in Denmark, but whether the success would grow internationally on their streaming service was unbeknown to them until season three was released this year.
When talking about International programmes it’s hard to pin point why exactly people watch this over US or British shows that dominate the market. However, for those who do, it often becomes a diamond among the coal. Danish Drama has become impossible to ignore, and Rita is one of those that’s now ever-present on Netflix.
Rita is currently available on Netflix and the Spin-off Hjørdis is now available too.