We met her in the worldwide hit Danish dramedy Rita. Now Rita’s fellow teacher, Hjørdis, has a show to call her own — Hjørdis — and it’s streaming right now.
As I’d mentioned here, I came to adore the character of Hjørdis over Rita‘s three seasons. So when the spin-off miniseries, Hjørdis, recently debuted, I was one happy viewer.
Played by Lise Baastrup, Hjørdis is one of the most sympathetic and likable characters in Rita, starting off as a junior teacher often beset by issues with parents more so than students, and by Season 3 growing into a woman who’s coming into her own.
And in Hjørdis, she still is.
In the opener of the four-part miniseries, Hjørdis decides to put on a variety show to cap off the school’s two-week-long anti-bullying campaign. Her partner on the project is the German music teacher, Gert, played by Martin Brygmann (Jesus & Josefine, Italian for Beginners — the brother of Lars Brygmann of Unit One).
Eight students have volunteered to perform in the show, including Bo (Marius Due), who’s overweight; Johanne (Nicoline Sharma Rubow), who doesn’t like to speak because of her deafness; Malaika (Jasmin Bart-Williams), Johanne’s body-conscious BFF; and Kristoffer (William Rützou), a young boy who would rather play a princess than a prince.
None of them are talented, in fact they’re terrible, according to Gert. But for Hjørdis, that isn’t the point. Letting these and all students know that they’re okay the way they are is.
Only the situation isn’t okay for principal Helle (Ellen Hillingsø). For her, the show must have some talented students in it, because the Crown Princess of Denmark will be attending the performance. So Helle (now wearing even more, um, creative outfits) pulls rank and forces on Hjørdis four students from another school, one of whom is August (Nicky Andersen), who, talented as he is in dancing, gets crippled by stage fright.
You can see where this is going. Bullying happens, both overtly and subtly, leaving Hjørdis in a predicament, the show in jeopardy, and her students disappointed. But, as we’ve seen before, Hjørdis doesn’t remain defeated for long, and an ah-ha moment leads to a risky idea that could backfire and upset a lot of people. Will she be able to pull it off?
(If you’re not crying and clapping during the conclusion, well then…)
Does Hjørdis work as a stand-alone series, sans Rita?
Created and written by Christian Torpe, the writer/creator of Rita, Hjørdis is as much a character-driven drama as the series from which it was spun off, and Lise Baastrup does a fine job of carrying the weight of the show on her shoulders with her touching and humorous portrayal of the caring, dedicated, insecure, accommodating, vulnerable, put-upon, yet still hopeful and strong Hjørdis.
Bringing Martin Brygmann to the cast as Gert, rather than a teacher from Rita, is one indicator that Hjørdis is not Rita but its own program, one born from Rita. Thus, its setting at the same school with the same principal, and cameos by Jakob Fauerby (Borgen) as Helle’s assistant and Pauli Ryberg (Unit One) as Hjørdis’ father — but with fewer scenes involving parents and other students, and without Hjørdis’ boyfriend Uffe altogether (which makes me wonder if they’re still together).
The biggest point of difference between the two shows is, Hjørdis is fare that is family-friendlier, whose maturity rating of TV-14 (versus Rita‘s TV-MA) broadens the potential viewing audience (and could create a new generation of Euro TV fans) in the US, UK, and elsewhere. But the storytelling is similar, despite the fewer episodes and shorter run-time: Messages about societal and personal issues are delivered in ways that are authentic and accessible but not preachy, and the main storyline and sub-plots are deftly written, directed, and acted.
Taken altogether, the differences and similarities combine to make Hjørdis a thoughtful and engaging watch with a cozier feel.
So Hjørdis is worth a watch, then?
For all the reasons above. Plus, each episode is under a half-hour and you can easily binge-watch the entire series in one sitting (which I did).
Hjørdis, a Netflix Original Series, is now streaming on the SVoD service across all of its territories.