'Lilyhammer' premiere puts bums on sofas

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Photo: Rubicon TV
16:58 CET+01:00
More than half of Norway’s TV-viewing public settled in to their couches on Wednesday night for the first episode of the much talked-about drama series ‘Lilyhammer’.

A "fish-out-of-water story" about a New York mobster starting anew in Norway, 'Lilyhammer' stars Steven Van Zandt, a guitarist in Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, as Frank 'The Fixer' Tagliano, who enters a federal witness protection program after giving authorities information about his boss.

Norway's national broadcaster NRK had planned to air the first episode on New Year’s Day, but delayed the debut after discovering that production company Rubicon TV had signed a string of product placement deals.

The broadcaster finally agreed last week to air the show several weeks later than planned after Rubicon submitted a re-edited version without the product placements, which NRK said breached the terms of its contract.

When the show finally hit Norway’s TV screens on Wednesday evening, 998,000 viewers tuned in to see what all the fuss was about, which NRK said gave it a 57 percent market share.

“We’re talking weekend figures on a weekday for our ‘odd’ mafia series,” said NRK chief analyst Kristian Tolonen.

The eight-part series will continue to air on Wednesdays on NRK1.

“We’re extremely happy that viewers seem to like the series and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that they’ll continue to watch it,” said NRK project manager Tone Rønning

The first episode of the show, which is set in Lillehammer, will be available for streaming online beginning February 6th by Netflix subscribers in Canada, Latin America, and the United States.

"I am very careful with my choices and this project was so exciting to me because of the wonderful writing, the rich characters and the fascinating culture of Norway," Van Zandt said in a release.

"Netflix is the perfect home for such a unique show," he added.

"A sports fan, Frank wants to make his new life in Lillehammer, the Norwegian town that hosted the 1994 Winter Olympics, or as he calls it 'Lilyhammer,'" Netflix said.

"Frank has visions of a paradise of 'clean air, fresh white snow and gorgeous broads' far away from the temptations of the Big Apple and from mob hit men," the California-based firm continued.

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Events in the show, of course, turn out to be spectacularly different, Netflix promised.

Sixty-one-year-old Van Zandt, whose birth name was Steve Lento, became a self-made actor by playing the right-hand man to the lead character in blockbuster HBO television series ‘The Sopranos’.

Van Zandt joined ‘The Sopranos’ in 1999 as Silvio Dante, a strip club owner and key adviser to the series' New Jersey-based Mafia boss.

The Sopranos became a US pop culture hit during a six-season run that ended in June of 2007.

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