It’s quite refreshing to discover that not all Danish crime series are in the gloomy mode of the usual Nordic Noir. The Killing and The Bridge are fine complex series, but there was plenty of amused articles written a few years ago when it was revealed that one of the top shows on Danish TV was the cosy UK show Midsummer Murders. Dicte – Crime Reporter is hardly cosy, but it has more in common with fare like Waking the Dead and New Tricks than anything much grittier. Indeed, if Dicte – Crime Reporter was a show in English rather than Danish, its two-part “murder of the week” format would be right at home in the 9pm BBC1 schedule. It was broadcast on More4 in the UK edited into feature length episodes.
Iben Hjejle (High Fidelity) plays Dicte, the titular investigative journalist. Post divorce she has moved with her teenage daughter back to her provincial home town after years living in Copenhagen, reconnecting with old friends. She’s very good at her job and invariably gets to the bottom of crimes before the slightly arrogant, yet vaguely incompetent local plods get anywhere close.
It’s this element of the show, based on Danish novels by the author Elsebeth Egholm, which makes it curiously old fashioned. This is essentially Miss Marple – a local amateur proves that the police don’t know what they are doing. In fact the programme Dicte bears most structural similarities to is Murder She Wrote. This is particularly apparent as Dicte is always close by, like some unintentional angel of death, when any criminal scheme comes to light.
The plotting and pacing of the show are nicely put together although the logical aspects may seem a little jarring (exactly how many people read this newspaper with so few journalists?). There is an open freshness to the performances which makes the show compelling.
For fans of that kind of whodunnit investigative crime drama, there is a lot to like here – the characters are great archetypes and fun to spend time with. The regional aspect of the show seems interesting too (although apparently some Danish critics complained about the accuracy of the accents on display). But although fun, the two-part storylines are a little too self-contained to put Dicte on a par with the complexity of The Killing or The Bridge.
Dicte – Crime Reporter – Season One is out on DVD now.