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TV Acres Newsletter

This month TV ACRES looks at: 

...The Scandinavians

    This month we salute the fine folks who "come from the land of ice and snow, from the midnight sun where the hot springs blow" (per Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song"). Namely, the Danish, the Swedish and the Norwegians. Their ethnic groups have never been highly represented on TV through the years, but they have left some wonderful TV memories like the Norwegian family on I REMEMBER MAMA, the Swedish nanny on THE FARMER'S DAUGHTER and witty remarks of Danish pianist Victor Borge. The following is a list of Scandinavian TV characters to have appeared on American TV from the 1950s to the present over the last fifty years. Enjoy

 *   - Indicates the person was the star or co-star 
**  -  Indicates a regular or a recurring actor 

**(Inga Swenson) Inger Borgstrom, the Scandinavian wife of rancher Ben Cartwright who lived outside Virginia City, Nevada in the late 1800s. Inger was the mother of Ben’s second child Eric, aka “Hoss” (Dan Blocker). In a tale told in flashback, Inger delivered Hoss but was killed by Indians before she could raise her baby boy. She was Ben’s second wife. After Inger’s death Ben remained in Nevada and built the Ponderosa ranch. His son Hoss grew up to be a 280-pound gentle giant. As Eric once said, "Most people just call me Hoss." His nickname is derived from an old Swedish mountain expression which means "big, friendly man." The name was suggested by Eric’s uncle Gunnar.

**(William MacDonald) Christopher Blaser, (a.k.a. the “Swede“), a rough-hewn Canadian postman in his 30s who delivers mail to all corners of the Klondike with his dogsled team. Swede personality is like the countryside he travels through - quiet, and lonely. Actor William MacDonald is Canadian.

*(Inger Stevens/costar) Katrin "Katy" Holstrom, a sexy, Swedish-American farm girl from Minnesota who came to Washington, D.C. and ended up working as governess for widowed Congressman Glen Morley and his two children. Other cast included Walter Sande as Lars Hosltrom and Alice Frost as Mama Holstrom. The series character was based on the movie The Farmer's Daughter (1947) starring Loretta Young. Glen and Katy married on the November 5, 1965 episode.

*(Matthew Perry/costar) Chandler Bing,, twentysomething data processing executive living in New York City near a group of close friends. Chandler once remarked that his “Grandfather was Swedish and that his “Grandmother was a cute little bunny.” Morgan Fairchild appeared as Chandler’s famous novelist mother who penned the steamy romance pulp “Mistress Bitch.” Chandler's father was a gay drag queen.

*(Peggy Wood) Marta "Mama" Hansen, the matriarch of a family of five Norwegian immigrants living in San Francisco at the turn-of-the-century. The happy family unit included Judson Laire as "Papa" Lars Hansen, a carpenter; Dick Van Patton as the elder son, Nels; Rosemary Rice as elder daughter, Katrin; and Iris Mann/Robin Morgan as little sister, Dagmar Iris. Other regulars were Ruth Gates as Aunt "Yenny" Jenny; Carl Frank as Uncle Gunnar Gunnerson; Alice Frost as Aunt Trina Gunnerson; Malcolm Keen/Roland Winters as Uncle Chris; and Patty McCormack as Ingeborg.

**(Roger Torrey) Nils Torvald, a huge Scandinavian crewman working with the Buffalo Pass, Scalplock and Defiance Railroad line as it built its way west during the 1880's.

**(Ken Peters) Olson, Swedish immigrant attending night classes in Chicago to improve his English.

**(Richard Bull) Nels Oleson, a Swedish-American merchant who operated a small general store in the town of Walnut Grove, Minnesota during the 1870s. His family members included Katherine MacGregor as Harriet, his wife; Jonathan Gilbert as Willie, his young son; Alison Arngrin as Nellie, his spoiled daughter; and Allison Balson as Nancy, an adopted orphan. Karl Swenson appeared as Lars Hanson, the Swedish-American owner of the town lumber mill.

*(Scott Thomas, Bonnie Bedelia) Christian and Anna Larsen, hardworking married Swedish immigrants who moved from their homeland to the rugged frontier wilderness of Solna, Minnesota in 1858. Their children included Todd Lookinland as their nine-year-old son, Tuliff; and Debbie Lytton as their eight-year-old daughter, Anneliese. Neighbors included Kurt Russell as Bo; Donald Moffat as Reverend Lundstrom; and Gwen Arner as his wife, Molly. The series was a spin-off of two Swedish theatrical movies The Emigrants (1972) and The New Land (1973).

N.Y.P.D. BLUE/ABC/1993+
*(Ricky Schroder) Danny Sorenson, up-and-coming police detective of Norwegian descent who works out of the 15th precinct in New York City. On the 1999-2000 season episode “Who Murders Sleep” Danny reveals a disturbing nightmare to his Polish partner, Andy Sipowicz. The dreams have Danny trying to save his sisters from a fire but can’t. The episode also mentions Danny holding the hands of his sisters as they arrived by plane from Norway. He was only six-years old at the time. His parents had recently got a divorce. Danny was murdered while working undercover in May of 2001.

*(Victor Borge) Victor Borge, a Danish entertainer who hosted this comedy variety series in the early days of television. He was born Borge Rosenbaum in Copenhagen on January 3, 1909. While touring in Finland in 1940 (part of his act satirized Hitler), the Nazi's took over his country of Denmark forcing him to relocate to America where he soon became a regular with Bing Crosby on THE KRAFT MUSIC HALL. Examples of his humor: "To be honest with you, I only know two numbers. One is "Claire De Lune," and the other one isn't." or "I will now play Rachmaninoff's "Second Piano Concerto." Number two. It is by Rachmaninoff, who also wrote the music. It's for piano and a concerto."

*(Jerome Courtland) Leif Ericson, the Norse explorer who traveled the seas in search of adventure during the medieval ages. Also featured were Walter Barnes as Finn, Stefan Schnabel as Firebeard; and Buddy Baer as Also. Filmed in Europe (the snowcapped mountains of West Germany) with same sets and costumes used in the motion picture "The Vikings" (1958) starring Kirk Douglas.

**(Donna Dixon) Swedish blonde bombshell, who attended a citizenship class at a Los Angeles night school with a variety of other new arrived immigrants.


*(Gunilla Knutson) Swedish-born spokesmodel Gunilla Knutson, starred as an attractive eighteen-year-old blonde woman who teasingly urged men to "Take it off, take it all off" with Noxzema Medicated Instant Shave Cream (1966-73). Accompanied to the tune of David Rose's rousing pop hit melody "The Stripper", the commercials showed shaving sequences of a man scraping off Noxema shaving cream in neat, clean rows as the Noxema Girl said "Take it off. take it all off!" and "The closer you shave the more you need Noxema." The commercial ended with the beautiful blonde caressing an aerosol can and then the cheeks of the now clean-shaven man. The ad campaign was created by William Esty Advertising Agency in 1966 which later produced fifteen similar spots including ones with contemporary sports figures like Carl Yazstremski, and Joe Namath ("Ladies, want to see Joe Namath get creamed?"). Gunilla Knutson (a former Miss Sweden) later became spokesperson and vice-president of sales for Rose Milk skin cream and the author of Beauty and Health the Scandinavian Way. In the 1990s, she worked as a wine taster for Sabrina Wine Importers and a gymnastic instructor at the Buckley Elementary School in Manhattan.

A group of gorgeous blonde babes featured in a series of Old Milwaukee beer spots during the early 1990s. According to the TV commercials, when males vacationing in the mountains, on the beach or in the water became bored and thirsty, the Swedish Bikini Team miraculously arrived to rescue them from their doldrums by providing them with Old Milwaukee Beer and the companionship of beautiful bikini clad beer bimbos. Although received fondly by many appreciative male viewers, The Swedish Bikini Team was maligned by those who felt the commercial alleged message "It doesn't get better than this" associated "sexual conquest with drinking." In 1991 the Center for Science in the Public Interest pronounced the ad "unfair, misleading and irresponsible." Female employees of the Stroh's Brewery filed a lawsuit against their employers stating that their ads (which portrayed women as "giggling, jiggling idiots who have large breasts and small minds") helped foster a work environment that encouraged sexual harassment. Members of the Swedish Bikini Team (who were actually actresses wearing wigs and pretending to be Swedish) included Peggy Trentini (Eva), Heather Parkhurst (Hilgar), Jean Frances (Ula), Anna Keller, and Avalon Anders.

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