Peter Cavanaugh


The dog gets it first.

I was going to open with a “Spoiler Alert,” but Frankie “The Fixer” Tagliano’s treasured pooch, “Lily” is sadly caught in a hail of savage gunfire during opening seconds of Episode One, so that’s how everything starts - with an end.

This triggers Frankie’s retributive decision to accept refuge in a Witness Protection Program dangled by the Feds as enticement to turn on his assailants. Fondly recalling the 1994 Winter Olympics held in Lillehammer, Norway, and deciding to honor his dog’s memory, Tagliano chooses the pristine little town of “Lilyhammer” as his new home and the adventure begins.

“Lilyhammer” presents odd juxtapositions on any number of levels.

Here we have a European TV series starring Stephen Van Zandt, who is known to rockers around the world as “Little Steven,” the lead guitar and mandolin player in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. Steven appears as Frankie - essentially encoring and duplicating his eight-year role being “Silvio Dante” in HBO’s multiple award winning “The Sopranos.”

You can also catch Van Zandt’s outstanding DJ work hosting “Underground Garage” on Sirius/XM’s Channel 21, featuring the greatest Rock & Roll of all time. Steven picks everything played. He’s never wrong.

But “Lilyhammer” is as politically incorrect as one might possibly imagine. That’s the charm. If there might be any perceived harm, such would be solely due to lack of appreciation for brilliant execution (a perfect verb in this context) of an outrageously absurd, darkly comedic premise.

“Lilyhammer” takes a little getting used to. Much of the spoken dialogue is in Norwegian with English subtitles and, as gangster clichés pile up like a rugby scrum, a beautiful schoolteacher falls head over heels for our hard-core hero and curious, cultural clashes abound.

With breathtaking wintry scenes as background, Frankie (a.k.a. “Giovanni Henrickson”) pretty much gets his way with everything, but cruel fate intervenes at the most unlikely of moments time and time again, interspersed with more plot twists and turns than Chubby Checker on a Starbucks jag.

When “Lilyhammer” made its debut on Norway’s NRK25 in January of 2012, it scored 998,000 viewers. That would translate to one fifth of the country’s entire population. A similar rating in the States would be 60 million folks. Last week’s #1 program, NBC Sunday Night Football, drew less than a third that number. Producers knew they had an instantaneous smash with “Lilyhammer.” The series has now been sold to over 130 countries worldwide.

It’s a major Netflix hit here at home as it enters production on a third, eight-episode season in Norway. Rumor has it that Springsteen will be playing Frankie’s “Lilyhammer” bar this year. How cool.

I hadn’t heard of “Lilyhammer” until recently, and I quickly fell victim to its oddly attractive addiction. With unrelenting craziness and insolent insanity, it offers irreverent escape from all the true travails endlessly escalating in this “real world” of ours.

Will police vest cameras meaningfully curtail authoritative violence when a coroner-determined “death by homicide” is video recorded from start to finish and seemingly ignored by secretive Grand Jury proceedings that conclude no wrong was done?

What will it takes to meaningfully address the continuing collapse of our national infrastructure from coast to coast with disastrous catastrophic failure all but guaranteed within the next decade?

How can threats of yet another “government shutdown” with Yosemite closed once more be considered a viable political option by any but anthropoids?

It’s all beyond my understanding, but there’s one thing I know for sure.

If Frankie Tagliano needs to go on the lam again, I hope he chooses Oakhurst.

There’s a great big building on a hill nearby that needs fixing.