A children's advent calendar which turns to absurdity due to its incoherent plot
'Vertshuset den gyldne hale' translates to The Golden Tail Inn, and it is on that inn which this mini-series takes place. It is one of the Norwegian televised advent calendars for children, and naturally it consists of 24 episodes, one presented each day from the first of December to the twenty-fourth. NRK, the Norwegian broadcast company and also for decades the only Norwegian TV-channel, have been producing these televised advent calendars since the 70's. They are hugely popular with the Norwegian audience - so much so that just about every Norwegian child follow even the re-runs. Vertshuset den gyldne hale had a lot to live up to, and despite some good ideas it falls miles short of the expectations.
A Norwegian televised advent calendar is intended to be a pleasant family moment, steeped in tradition and with the cozy feeling one associates with reading Mother Goose in front of the fireplace. They are supposed to be so simplistic that even the youngest children can enjoy them, while at the same time holding a nostalgia which makes the parents want to be kids again. That list is, in other words, set pretty high.
Even so Vertshuset den gyldne hale had higher ambitions than this. This time deaf children were to be included in the audience, and so all speech was to be accompanied with the appropriate sign language. In fact, several of the actors are deaf and so speak solely in sign language. Yet they fail in this goal as they do not always translate the sign language to speech and not everything that is said is translated to signs, which utterly defeats the purpose of this otherwise fantastic idea.
Furthermore, they struggle with the 'cozy' bit as well. They try their luck with counting down the days by having 24 rooms in the inn and housing one more guest for each day. They deal with traditional subjects each day, mostly the baking and consumption of biscuits. And then there is the daily rubbing of a crystal ball where we get to view a segment of a separate story, something which the children can look forwards to while the main show is running. This potentially atmosphere of pleasant days waiting for Christmas, is ruined by a messy script and unpleasant characters. Especially Viktor, the proprietor of the inn, is a very Grinchy person who throws tantrums and is grumpy most of the time. Yet, unlike the Grinch, Viktor is on no path towards bettering himself, and, again unlike the Grinch, there seem to be no comedy about this character.
And now for the truly worst part about the series, the script. I watched this series as a child and I did so again this year, fifteen years later, and I still have no idea what is going on half of the time. Occasionally whole episodes go by where I am left wondering what happened. In particular I'm abhorred over the script of the episodes viewed in the crystal ball. Not only does it make less sense than Plan 9 From Outer Space, amongst the properly random plot is thoughtlessly presented things which should never be shown on children's television. Amongst other things a child is taken forcefully by a life-guard from a swimming pool and locked into a toilet because the child didn't know where to find her clothes, and another time there are children being strapped down by a mad dentist. Not to mention the suicidal illusionist which keeps repeating "I want to die!" This is truly one of the most unfortunate things I have ever encountered on a screen. Thankfully it only saw one re-run and there are no plans to release it for todays children to see.
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