Acorn TV, aka “the Best British TV,” expands its Euro TV offerings with Easy Living, the critically-acclaimed, award-winning, audience-favorite Finnish crime drama.
About two years after its launch in 2011, Acorn TV, the SVoD service known best for its curated selection of British TV titles, premiered the French mystery series Les Petits Meurtres d’Agatha Christie (The Little Murders of Agatha Christie), stylized adaptations of the famed author’s stories.
Acorn TV’s parent company, RLJ Entertainment, owns 64% of Agatha Christie Limited, which manages the global literary and media rights of Agatha Christie’s works, thus the addition of the English-subtitled Les Petits Meurtres makes perfect business sense. Programming-wise, the show complements Acorn TV’s existing offerings of Agatha Christie’s Marple and Poirot and other mystery and crime drama titles.
Now Acorn TV is set to go Nordic noir with the hit Finnish crime drama Easy Living (Helppo elämä), whose first series is about to premiere in the US. This gives stateside Euro TV fans another show to savor, along with the international hits Beck, Rita, The Bridge, and The Returned, each of which has a dedicated and still-growing fan base in the US.
The addition of Easy Living to Acorn TV’s offerings also makes sense. The company’s subscribers include many Euro TV viewers, and within the US’s Euro TV-watching segment are consumers of British TV programs, including Acorn TV users. So, as English-subtitled shows from across the Atlantic have continued to attract more and more devotees in the States since shows such as Detective Montalbano and Spiral began taking viewers by storm, just as British TV shows have done since the early ’70s, the overlap of these viewing populations should also grow.
Said Matt Graham, Vice President, Acorn TV:
“Easy Living is the kind of critically-acclaimed crime drama that audiences have come to expect from Acorn TV. It has all the hallmarks of our most popular shows – world-class writing and acting, unique plots, and unforgettable characters. And the Nordic region’s reputation for superb crime thrillers will also likely encourage many viewers to watch the series. Since there are great dramas being made in many non-English speaking countries, we’re excited to see how our audience responds to first-rate subtitled programs like this and hope to add more international detectives and crime dramas in the future.”
Relished by critics and viewers alike, Series 1 of Easy Living was the top-rated primetime family drama on MTV3, Finland’s largest commercial network, winning its time slot with a 38% share of all viewers. The show went on to win the Best Drama prize at the country’s Golden Television Awards and Venla Awards, Finland’s version of the Emmy® Awards.
Part crime drama, part family drama, Easy Living is 100% character-driven. It centers on Tapio Mikkonen (Venla Awards Best Actor winner Carl-Kristian Rundman, Kansan mies, Klubi), a family man-turned-criminal owing to debts totaling more than €4 million. Not that he’s a spendthrift with visions of grandeur; his isn’t. His wife Jaana (Venla Awards Best Actress winner Anu Sinisalo, The Sandhamn Murders, Arne Dahl), however, is, but she isn’t the primary cause for his being bankrupt and millions in hock.
The massive debt is the result of a can’t-lose deal gone bust that Tapio made with his shyster brother Timppa (Pertti Sveholm, The Girl King, Nymphs) 15 years ago. Since then, the two have barely spoken, and Tapio has been pulling scams and doing dirty work for mobster Eki Julkunen (Taneli Mäkelä, Tellus, Maigret) to keep himself and his family afloat. (Note that he has done nothing during this time to repay the millions he owes.)
For a decade and a half, the well-meaning but wussy Tapio, and the self-entitled and deceptive Janna, have maintained a grand charade — of his being an entrepreneur (he is, but a failed one, several times over) and her being a busy housewife, mother, and community volunteer (she is, just not busy for others’ sake) — to both outsiders and their children, 16-year-old daughter Päivi (Sanna Toivanen) and 17-year-old son Jari (Antto Orasmaa). No one, except the couple and Eki, knows that Eki is the actual owner of the huge house the Mikkonens call home.
Then the façade begins to crumble and lives start to unravel.
The children get wise to Tapio’s ways. The new Mercedes Jaana tells the neighbors she’s getting for her birthday turns out to be an embarrassing used Toyota. A certain stunt that Tapio had pulled a while back comes back to bite Päivi in the most humiliating of ways. And Jari, having decided it’s cool to be a criminal, takes part in a heist that ends in disaster.
For his part, Tapio feels the strain of the pretense and wants out from under Eki, but scamming isn’t bringing home much, if any, bacon, and his thoughts turn to getting a proper job. Summarily dismissing the idea is status-conscious Janna, whose own aim is to chair the PTA, a post held by her self-righteous neighbor. When things between the two women get ugly, so does Jaana, who’s as calculating, ruthless, and vengeful as, say, Game of Thrones‘ Cersei Lannister. Meanwhile, the Mikkonen marriage is in trouble. Tapio and Jaana recognize that they bicker constantly over money, but both seem unaware of just how unhappy they are, and he openly questions whether his happiness is even important to her. Their seeing a marriage counselor of sorts is farcical, and Janna, who takes no prisoners when it comes to her own happiness, finagles an affair with a moneyed man.
The first series of Easy Living is a revealing look at how no one is above taking dishonorable and dishonest measures when it comes to maintaining one’s sense of self, life, and place in the world. Nor above blaming others when things don’t go the way one wants. To a greater or lesser extent, every character demonstrates the dichotomies and hypocrisies that human beings embody, the self-absorption that gives individuals the contexts for their actions, and the lengths to which people will go to get what they want, need, and believe they deserve, not the least of which includes compensating for some unacknowledged emptiness within.
Tapio tries to instill in his children that adulthood is hard and staying on the straight and narrow is the way to go; he even attempts go legit himself. Yet he bends his own rules and sense of honor by scamming strangers, using his mother, and being one of Eki’s henchmen when money is at stake. Conversely, he exclaims shame at Jaana’s blaming neighborhood kids for a bit of revenge she took, and she accuses him of growing a conscience overnight. Smart and cunning as she is, though, Jaana is blinded by her desires for power and the good life, unwittingly taken in by lies and used as much as she does the same for personal gain. By turns supportive and disparaging of Tapio, she gets an earful from Päivi, who pretty much calls it when she asks why her parents don’t just get a divorce. And Jari, a flat-out punk with a violent, hair-trigger temper, spends his ill-gotten gains with abandon until he realizes the cops are after Tapio and Eki for the heist, tries to get his dad off the hook for the money he’s spent, and lives to regret the damage he’s done. A little too late, as it were.
Outside of the immediate family, neither Tapio’s siblings, who take pains to care for their mother, nor Eki, who has a soft spot for godson Jari, are beyond resorting to threats, thieving, cheating, and stealing to get what they each want, even from Tapio.
If there’s a voice of conscience in Easy Living, it’s Päivi, although she didn’t start out as such. Initially a popularity seeker who seemed to have taken on some of her mother’s tendencies, she grows into the only member of the Mikkonen family genuinely interested in something deeper and more meaningful in life than money, power, and their trappings.
The 12-episode first series is rich and absorbing, cynical and humorous, and quite binge-watchable, with episodes that run 40-45 minutes each. It also ends with a cliffhanger, so my fingers are crossed that Acorn TV will bring Series 2 and 3 to this side of the fjords, as well.
Easy Living: Series 1 premieres Monday, 5 October 2015, exclusively on Acorn TV.