The Danish series Borgen, or Government, as they are subtitling it internationally, begins with "Decency in the Middle." Moderate Party leader Birgitte Nyborg (Sidse Babett Kundsen, Proof, Juletestamentet) is forced to take back her support in the upcoming election from Michael Laugesen (Peter Mygind, 4-stjerners middag, Anna Pihl) of the Labour Party after he makes a racist statement. Birgitte's "spin-doctor," Kasper Juul (Johan Philip Asbæk, R, Worlds Apart) finds dirt on the incumbent, the Liberal Party's Lars Hesselboe (Søren Spanning, Park Road, At the Faber), but Birgitte refuses to use it. So Kasper leaks the info to Laugesen, who doesn't share Birgitte's scruples. Thus, the two major party leaders end up squabbling publicly, opening the door for Birgitte, who after making an impassioned, heartfelt speech, secures her party's control of the government. And that's just episode one!
Borgen actually translates as "The Castle," a nickname for Christiansborg Palace, where Denmark's Parliament conducts there business in Copenhagen. Perhaps the producers thought that "Government" would have a broader appeal, but at least in the United States, "The Castle" would have worked just as well. Americans understand how many politicians see themselves as above the people, and rule from their high seat in the center of power. Thus, the nickname would work on many levels here, too.
Borgen's portrayal of Denmark's political system has much in common with the U.S.'s, making the series immediately and easily accessible for a stateside audience. Well, other than some Americans being lazy about subtitles, necessary for the mostly Danish dialogue, which one should be able to look past, especially for a remarkable, thrilling drama such as this one. While the Danish system has more parties than the U.S., and the Prime Minister is not directly elected by the people there, the fighting between the opposing sides, not to mention the dirty plays of politics, is inherently familiar. In fact, the Danish system seems superior in some ways in "Decency in the Middle" because quite a few Americans wish that the Republicans and Democrats, who constantly argue like children, would self-destruct, making way for a centrist to step up.
Birgitte Nyborg is a heroic figure. Standing by principal, even when she worries that her party will not appreciate it, she really cares about the average citizen. It is obvious she is into politics for all of the right reasons, wanting to help people, rather than just further her own image and popularity. The press materials for Borgen state that this series is partially about how power can change a person, so it's not certain that Nyborg will stay this idealistic leader. But she's off to a good start, refusing to get down in the muck, and fire off personal attacks. Plus, Borgen gets many comparisons to The West Wing, whose president also strayed from time to time, but always stepped up in the end, so hope is not lost.