What's this? A summer sitcom with subtitles? And I thought this was the season for lazing about. Now we get homework with our TV?
Actually, NBC's Welcome to Sweden (Thursday at 9 p.m.) is doubly taxing. Not only do you have to read the translations of Swedish dialogue, but it will make you laugh hard. Benny Hill never demanded this much of us.
The new show is based on the experiences of its leading man, Greg Poehler, who left New York to live with his girlfriend in her native Sweden. (Greg's famous big sister, Amy, is the executive producer.)
The reading component isn't onerous, by the way. Ninety percent of the dialogue is in English. And that other 10 percent is really funny because Poehler's character, Bruce, emigrated without bothering to learn the language. So the supporting cast can make all sorts of disparaging observations about him without his having a clue.
Actually, his girlfriend's brusque mother (Lena Olin) carves him up pretty good in both languages.
Bruce's problems go deeper than linguistics. He's having trouble with the local customs, particularly the Swedes' notorious standoffishness. But with his flair for the inappropriate, he seems like the kind of guy who wouldn't be too comfortable in any setting.
Welcome to Sweden makes sure you won't get homesick. A number of American celebrities make appearances in the first handful of episodes, including Will Ferrell, Gene Simmons, and Aubrey Plaza.
It's surprising to learn that Poehler's costar, Stockholm's Josephine Bornebusch, has a background in sketch comedy because her delivery is so dry and brisk, but she more than holds up her end of the bargain as the girlfriend.
Claes Månsson plays Bornebusch's distinguished but befuddled father and Christopher Wagelin her boozy brother with the stilted hip-hop vocabulary.
In later episodes (the series has already aired in Sweden), Patrick Duffy (Dallas) and Illeana Douglas will turn up as Bruce's Midwestern parents.
Though not charismatic, Poehler is a likable star. With his self-deprecating, sometimes stumbling style, he's reminiscent of a mellower Greg Kinnear.
Welcome to Sweden is engaging for its exotic Scandinavian setting and warm visual style. It's a winning mix of low-key charm and robust humor.
Welcome to Sweden
9 p.m. Thursday on NBC10