~ Posted by Robert Butler, April 30th 2012
One more reason for watching the compelling Scandi noir series "The Bridge", now showing on Saturday nights on BBC4, is the comment thread it sets off in the Guardian. After the episode finishes at 11pm, the Guardian's TV editor posts her engagingly frank response and then the first of hundreds of comments appears. This weekend there were 700 in a day and a half, and some are remarkably alert to tiny plot details. The story itself may be full of callous murders (Saturday night's count: 10 homeless people are poisoned, one kidnapped victim bleeds to death, and one policeman is shot), but in the speedy exchange of views that follows on the thread, the crime that shocks the most is saying something that gives the plot away. Or, in fact, gives nearly any plot away.
There is a genuine risk of this. "The Bridge" has already aired in Sweden and Denmark, and Swedes and Danes join the thread to explain local details, such as how many minutes' walk it is from the blonde detective's home to the newspaper office, whether you can walk across the Öresund Bridge that connects Copenhagen to Malmö, and why it is the detective Martin doesn't pull the bedroom curtains at night (Swedes like privacy, someone explains, but they like sunlight even more). One heedless remark could spoil the whole series.
People on this thread are so sensitised to spoilers that there are complaints about giving away details from other series that have already finished their run on the BBC. (Not everyone watching "The Bridge" has seen "The Killing" or "Borgen", or even, as someone joked, "Z-Cars", and they may still plan to catch up on DVD.) An understanding has emerged that you're allowed to refer to characters and production values in other series. It's OK, for instance, to lust after the actor who plays Brix in "The Killing" and Bjorn in "The Bridge", or to lust after a certain design of chair that appears in Martin's house in "The Bridge" and also (as someone pointed out) appeared in the office of Greenland's Prime Minister in "Borgen". But you're not meant to say whether a character's behaviour in "The Bridge" reminds you of the behaviour of another character in another series and whether that time round your suspicions were warranted.
For all the gruesome events in "The Bridge"—and it starts with a corpse on a bridge that's been cut in two and that's only half the surprise—the commenters themselves seem to represent civility in action. There have been complaints on the thread that both the BBC, with its synopses, and the Observer, with its TV preview, had given away key details. Crime aficionados, on the other hand, look as if they can police themselves.
Robert Butler is online editor of Intelligent Life