Greg Poehler a fish out of water in 'Welcome to Sweden'

Bill Harris, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:56 PM ET

Greg Poehler knows what it's like to have, um, a leg in two countries.

“My pants are too tight when I'm in the U.S., and they're too baggy when I'm in Sweden,” said Poehler, the star, writer and executive producer of the sitcom Welcome to Sweden, which makes its North American debut Thursday, July 10 on NBC and the Comedy Network.

“I speak with an accent whenever I go,” added Poehler, who lives in Sweden. “But I have three kids here, so I'm becoming more Swedish every day, I think.”

Poehler is the baby brother of Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation, Saturday Night Live). Amy also is an executive producer on Welcome to Sweden, and she has a recurring role, playing herself.

Despite all that U.S.-bred Poehler power, Welcome to Sweden was conceived and designed to air both in Sweden and North America. It was commissioned by Sweden’s TV4 as the network’s first English-speaking series, and all 10 episodes aired there in the spring.

Bruce Evans (Poehler) and Emma Wiik (Josephine Bornebusch, also a writer and producer on the show) seem to be on a cruise to romantic happiness when she gets a job back in her native Sweden and he decides to leave New York and go with her, quitting his job as an accountant for celebrities. Of course, many different culture clashes ensue (there's a funny bit in the second episode when Bruce defuses a situation by claiming he's from Canada).

“My character was based on myself, so it wasn’t as challenging,” Poehler explained. “It’s a fish-out-of-water show with an American in a strange land. But it's also a rom-com.

“I think especially in the U.S., there has been a little too much focus on me, I guess because I'm American and because of my sister. But it’s really a show about these two people. The show depends on the audience rooting for them and their relationship.”

I guess that's one of the issues I have with Welcome to Sweden. I know it's a sitcom, but the setup doesn't necessarily speak well for the two main characters, so it's a harder to cheer for them than Poehler might think.

Both Bruce and Emma are in their 30s but they act like wide-eyed kids. Emma moved to Sweden because she got some major banking job, but Bruce has absolutely no plan. He doesn't speak the language. They actually seem to know very little about each other.

At first blush, it appears they've made a fairly bad, or at least rash, decision. Bruce finds out that before he entered Emma's life, she never had a relationship that lasted longer than two weeks. “It's probably something I should have known,” Bruce says. Um, ya think? That and about a hundred other things (like, they've never talked about her parents before? She never has seen his furniture before?).

On the more positive side, Welcome to Sweden isn't as frantic and desperate as a lot of recent U.S. network sitcoms. It's going for more of a leisurely charm. And it has a deep cast, with the likes of Lena Olin, Claes Mansson, Illeana Douglas and Patrick Duffy. Besides Amy Poehler, guest stars playing themselves over the course of the season include Will Ferrell, Aubrey Plaza and Gene Simmons.

Greg Poehler confided that, “Every time I go to a wedding in Sweden, I'm either sitting next to someone who hates the U.S., or someone who really loves the U.S. (There's) no middle ground.”

A search for middle ground is the goal of Welcome to Sweden, romantically, internationally, comically and ironically.

Twitter: @billharris_tv

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

 


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