In order to determine whether or not peak TV is still a thing, one need look no further than Swedish Dicks for an answer in the affirmative. An absurdist comedy created by star Peter Stormare, along with Glenn Lund, Peter Stettman, and Andrew Lowry, the series is, at first glance, the sort of project whose primary appeal lies in the extreme unlikeliness of its very existence.
Stormare is known to American audiences for his decades of film and television appearances in things like Fargo and Armageddon, and, more recently, TV series, like American Gods and FOX’s lamentably canceled L.A. to Vegas. He’s built a career playing memorable supporting characters who stick in your mind long after they’ve left the screen. It’s a good bet the image of Stormare stuffing Steve Buscemi’s severed appendage into a wood chipper is the first thing you think of when seeing his name in the credits, though there’s also probably a small contingent who can’t forget his turn as Lucifer in the Keanu Reeves-led Constantine, or as the congested criminal who sells Tom Cruise a pair of black market eyeballs in Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report. In other words, as an actor, Stormare is a known quantity, but he’s never really been cast as the lead, much less the lead in a series where he’s not intentionally trying to creep you out. But Stormare’s role as Ingmar, a former Hollywood stuntman-cum-private-detective, who is haunted by the ghost of his dead partner Tex (played by Keanu Reeves), is just one of the many reasons why Swedish Dicks makes for memorable TV.
The series also stars Johan Glans as Axel, a former DJ (also turned detective), who joins Ingmar in solving various cases in and around Hollywood. It’s not Entourage (thankfully), but the show seems to want to make some insider-like comment on the superficiality of the City of Angels. And yet, any potentially intriguing abrasiveness remains surface level. Instead, the series puts a premium on absurdist storytelling, playing up the silliness of the fish-out-of-water niceness of its Swedish detectives above all else. That makes for a half-hour comedy that’s remarkably easy to consume, but also just as easy to forget.
Still, to their credit, Stormare and Glans have solid chemistry, and the supporting cast, made up primarily of Vivian Bang as the detectives’ highly capable assistant Sun, and Felisha Cooper as Sarah, Ingmar’s daughter, help round out what is ostensibly a charming ensemble. Throw in occasional appearances by Traci Lords as rival investigator Jane McKinney and the aforementioned Reeves and it’s easy to see how audiences might glom onto Swedish Dicks for its appealingly incongruous cast, which tells you all you need to know about what sort of show it is.
Both Stormare and Reeves take their performances to the point of gleeful self-parody, underlining the show's slapstick quality. Stormare, in particular, manages to chew the scenery, while still leaving room for some playful banter with Glans. Reeves, meanwhile, clearly enjoys putting in his appearances (though whether he’s actually on set with the other actors is questionable), as he seems to be asking himself the very same question as those watching: What the hell is Keanu Reeves doing here? The answer, from what anyone can discern after watching a episode of Swedish Dicks is: “Who knows?” Though “Who cares, it’s Keanu Reeves,” also seems like a good enough response.
Aside from the laughs provided by Reeves’ sporadic appearances and the manner in which Stormare delivers his dialogue, however, the series itself often feels too thin, like there’s not enough there there. Cases in the first two episodes of season 2 concern a criminal street performer dressed as Zorro picking the pockets of hapless tourists, while the second features an appearance by Lori Petty, another of Reeves’ former co-stars, as a Hollywood medium who’s potentially bilking her clients out of thousands of dollars. Watching, you get the sense that there’s a joke in there somewhere, but perhaps Swedish Dicks forgot to write it, and instead felt the preposterousness of the set up rendered a punchline unnecessary.
That's a recurring issue for Swedish Dicks, which is entertaining enough, but often makes it difficult to discern what, if anything, the series is about and why anyone should feel compelled to watching.hat’s not entirely a bad thing. The inability to understand the necessity of a thing doesn’t automatically preclude that thing from providing enjoyment, as is the case here. Viewers’ mileage will definitely vary with regard to this absurd show, but its many idiosyncrasies may be enough to win some of them over.
Swedish Dicks continues next Thursday with ‘It Had to Be Lou’ @10pm on Pop.