THE SHOW "Welcome to Sweden"
WHEN|WHERE Premieres Thursday night at 9 on NBC/4
WHAT IT'S ABOUT Bruce Evans (Greg Poehler, Amy's brother) is a New York accountant to the stars who decides to chuck it all and move to Sweden to be close to his girlfriend (Josephine Bornebusch).
Upon arrival, he must meet the parents (Lena Olin, Claes Månsson), and younger brother (Christopher Wagelin), a Swedish version of the complete slacker.
Challenges await Bruce besides the culture and language: His old clients (Will Ferrell, Gene Simmons, Aubrey Plaza, Amy Poehler) keep bothering him, and soon enough, his own parents (Patrick Duffy, Illeana Douglas) do, too.
At least Bruce makes a friend (Basim Sabah Albasim), an Iraqi who hates Americans. Poehler, who lives in Sweden, created this bilingual -- there are plenty of subtitles -- series for Swedish and U.S. TV.
MY SAY "Welcome to Sweden" draws from the oldest form of sitcomery, the fish out of water, who flops around while he/she attempts to navigate the oddities and eccentricities of one culture while inadvertently discovering those of his/her own.
Such fish can easily turn into flounders, of course, if cynicism or hackery is deployed. You'll be happy to know there's none of that here. "Welcome to Sweden" is the all-too-rare NBC comedy with heart and brains.
Poehler, who is very good, is actually upstaged by the excellent cast -- all Swedish and all very funny, Bornebusch especially.
The cameos here are deft, never ostentatious and work effectively to establish one clear part of the story: Like Michael Corleone, Bruce wants out ... but these celebrity twits keep forcing him back in.
Each episode is drawn from Poehler's own life in Sweden -- where he lives with his wife and three children -- and follows a routine setup. Meeting the parents, moving into a new apartment, hanging with his wife's friends, trying to get a job, figuring out the difficult language and so on.
What is not routine is how Bruce's little predicaments are ultimately resolved ... or not.
BOTTOM LINE All charm and smarts, the best new NBC comedy in a long time. A winner.