Lilyhammer is TV that isn’t quite TV. And it stars Silvio from The Sopranos as Silvio, but not quite Silvio.

Despite the mild confusion, it is clear that Lilyhammer may well be the most interesting US TV show to ‘not air’ this year. Starring former E Street Band member and The Sopranos cast member Steve Van Zandt, Lilyhammer is best described as The Sopranos meets Northern Exposure. The series concerns Frank “The Fixer” Tagliano who rats out on his family after they attempt to kill him for showing disrespect to the new Don. Frank is put into the witness relocation program by the FBI and moves to Lillehammer in Norway. A fish out of water, Frank (who now goes by the name Johnny) struggles to adapt to life in his new home.

There are a number of aspects that make this show unique.

The first is that the show has been produced by Netflix to be made available exclusively (at least for the time being) on their streaming service. Having launched on February 6th, Netflix have taken an interesting approach to Lilyhammer. With the TV shows on Netflix all made available for gluttonous marathon viewing, they’ve taken the same approach with their original series. From that launch date, all eight episodes of the series are online and ready for viewers to devour. Its streaming roots also mean that there is far less piracy of the series taking place, with only a handful of torrents online.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YAx6zj1Sams&feature=fvst[/youtube]

It’s also worth noting that it’s curious that Netflix chose this series specifically to launch their Originals program. The move into original programming has been noted by many as an attempt to muscle in on the high-end scripted fare that has become the almost exclusive domain of the premium cable channels in the US. They’ve adopted almost an HBO model in their programming in using marquee shows to drive subscriptions to the service. Arguably, the TV show still best identified with the HBO brand is The Sopranos. And here we have Netflix launching with a show starring an actor closely identified with The Sopranos playing a character who is ever so much like his Sopranos character ‘Silvio’. It’s seems like less an attempt to emulate the success HBO had with The Sopranos and more a shot across the bow.

While Netflix is clearly a driving force behind the high visibility of this series, the show is actually a co-production by NRK (the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, AKA Norsk rikskringkasting)  from Norwegian Rubicon TV AS in association with Netflix and German-owned distributor SevenOne International. The show aired initially in Norway on broadcast TV on the 25th of January, but with the entirety of the show available immediately on Netflix, US viewers will be able to see it all before the series winds up in Norway. Lilyhammer is also set to air on BBC4 in the UK.

So far there has been no word on the series being made available locally in Australia. It’s a gorgeous-looking and highly watchable show that will hopefully find its way here sooner than later.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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