Reviews

Skäggprogrammen (1963)

Extent

Review applies to “Segment” and fragments from the other four, including the entire Battle of Lützen mockumentary from “Fasad”.

Subject

Six black-suited, bearded men (and from the second episode, one woman, then rather fewer men) dryly pitch and review a variety of ideas and pilots for possible new shows on national television.

Commentary

A TV comedy series of 5 approximately half-hour shows. The individual shows were called “Fasad” (facade), “Segment”, “Modul”, “Relief” (as in bas-relief, not the feeling) and “Fundament” (foundation) in that order. The series had no official overarching name, despite featuring the same actors as the same characters in roughly the same situation throughout. Popularly dubbed “The Beard Shows”, the show was controversial and gained young fans for its iconoclastic humour and taste. The Swedish word for a celebrity (or “celeb”; kändis) was coined on this show.

It is similar to Monty Python’s Flying Circus (1969) but much slower and more consistently framed. By running so much earlier than Flying Circus, and in Sweden—which was late to get TV—the series managed to appear on the only television channel the country had at the time, thus stealing the voice of authority. This added to the impact in a way that subsequent metatelevisual satire has not had the opportunity to replicate. One noteworthy use of this particular advantage was a segment revealing the identity of the killer in a handful of the latest best-selling crime novels, a stunt similar to John Cleese’s dream of gradually lowering the volume of the Circus’s sound mix and then jumping back up to maximum as a prank on the viewer.

The most obvious prototypically Pythonesque figure began appearing in the fourth program. It was an animated cut-out from an old French encyclopaedia, loudly burping, very much in the manner of Terry Gilliam’s interludes.

fiction moving picture series