From its first minutes, there's a gentle charm and wit to "Welcome to Sweden." Based loosely -- very loosely -- on Greg Poehler's real life, it shows an amiable chap, moving to his wife's homeland. The second season will reach NBC in July, but this one really should be savored from the start. The first season begins DVD sales Tuesday (May 19); here's the story I sent to papers:
By Mike Hughes
In a logical world,
Greg Poehler might be an American comedy star, like his sister. Or a
lawyer like ... well, like he was for a while.
Instead, he's a
Swedish comedy star, with brief incursions into the U.S. Now the
first season of his amiable “Welcome to Sweden” starts DVD sales,
shortly before the second season reaches NBC.
Poehler, 40, became
a Swedish citizen this year, but grants that he'll “always be an
outsider.” That's good, because it's a key source of some of his
In “Welcome,” he
plays a likable American transplant, almost fitting in. “So much is
done in English here,” Poehler said, by phone from Sweden. “Then
all of a sudden, everyone will switch to Swedish.”
All he can do is
shrug and take it in stride ... which is the Swedish way.
“They have a great
sense of enjoying life,” said Illeana Douglas, who plays his mom.
“It seemed like every night, there was a party celebrating
That still leaves
the question of why he didn't do American comedy. It goes back to his
They grew up in
Burlington, a Massachusetts town of 25,000, with both parents
teaching in high school. Amy, three yeaers older, studied comedy with
Second City and improvOlympics, in Chicago.
That's where he saw
her in a show. “Here were a bunch of waiters and receptionists, and
they were hilarious. I thought, 'Hey, if they're that good.I wouldn't
have a chance.'”
As it happened,
these were more than casual wannabes; the novice performers that
night included Tina Fey, Steve Carell, Amy Poehler and more. “They
were comedy royalty,” he now realizes.
He abandoned any
comedy notions and took a standard route -- Boston College, Fordham
Law School, a New York job. There he met his now-wife, another
lawyer, and agreed to move to her homeland.
In the show, he
heads to Sweden with no job, no future and no idea what her parents
or country are like. In truth, he'd already visited there five or six
times, liked it and could still do law work.
And in the show,
towering Swedes keep commenting on how short he is. That started when
Josephine Bornebusch and Lena Olin (each 5-foot-10) were cast as his
wife and mother-in-law, with Claes Mansson (“a real giant”) as
In truth, Poehler
says, he's a perfectly normal 5-11. “When they meet me, people say
they're surprised by how tall I am. It's sort of the reverse Tom
Poehler had been in
Sweden for years before taking his first stab at stand-up comedy.
Soon, he was making TV appearances and writing his comedy pilot for
When his sister read
it, she decided to produce it and briefly play a perverse version of
herself. Soon, others – Will Ferrell, Aubrey Plaza, Gene Simmons,
Malin Akerman – were also playing themselves.
But the most
important casting – by Swedish standards – was Patrick Duffy as
his dad. “'Dallas' is very big there,” Douglas said. “It was
(art-film master) Ingmar Bergman's favorite show.”
She and Duffy did
two episodes in the first, 10-episode season, and will do about the
same in the second. They were happy times, she said, with constant
pauses for snacks. “I loved it .... If we didn't have this show, I
think I'd be performing in Greg's basement.”
There's no danger of
that for now. As the first season goes on sale, NBC prepares to run
the second one this summer. In a roundabout way, Greg Poehler is
becoming an American comedy star.
-- “Welcome to
-- DVD of the first
season goes on sale Tuesday (May 19); EntertainmentOne, $34.98.
-- Second season,
also 10 episodes, will be 8 and 8:30 p.m. Sundays, NBC, starting July