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Danish TV Drama Sparks Discussions On Wills


Wow. For all we know this could be the next European TV program to become a hit in the United States. You've heard of "Downton Abbey," this program goes a little more continental. The program by the Danish Broadcasting Corporation is spreading to other countries, sparking a discussion of the edgy subject of inheritance.

Sidsel Overgaard reports.


SIDSEL OVERGAARD, BYLINE: An eccentric baby boomer artist, her four grown children, a country manor, and a will favoring the daughter given up for adoption, that's the background for "Arvingerne," translated as "The Legacy." The dramatic fallout: That is the starting point for what's become a national run on legal advice in Denmark.

BODIL RAVN: This mess we're watching on TV right now, we have to make sure that's not going to happen in our family.

OVERGAARD: Attorney Bodil Ravn says she's been hearing that a lot as people call her office looking for help with wills.

RAVN: Just one day, there were seven new cases, and I would think that would normally get for a whole week.

OVERGAARD: Denmark's largest legal chain, Advodan, says online inquiries about inheritance issues are up by 143 percent. And while lawyers aren't revealing dollar figures, it's fair to say "The Legacy" and a simultaneous documentary on this subject have sparked a little gold rush for family attorneys here.

Very few Danes have wills when compared to the U.S. That's partly because the country has more built-in rules about inheritance. But as family structures get complicated and parents have more to give, says Ravn, it all gets tricky.

RAVN: The need for a will is a lot bigger today. And the issue has gotten a lot harder, because it's a lot more difficult to make a will when you have my children, your children and maybe children together.

OVERGAARD: In that sense, she says, "The Legacy" symbolizes a new chapter in the unfolding story of the baby boom generation. And it's a discussion that's likely to spread. The series has been sold to the U.K. and other European countries, and as far away as Australia and Mexico. Danish Broadcasting is also working out a deal that could bring "The Legacy" to American TV screens soon.

"The Legacy's" sales success is largely based on the stellar reputations of earlier Danish series like "Borgen" and "The Killing," both of which were shown in the U.S. But the corporation's head of drama, Piv Bernth says this program was meant to be a change of direction and even she has been surprised by its reception.

PIV BERNTH: It seems that there was a need for it in the audiences. You know, they really wanted this very close, emotional family drama.

OVERGAARD: A drama that could translate into extra business for family lawyers elsewhere in the world.

For NPR News, I'm Sidsel Overgaard in Billund, Denmark.


INSKEEP: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

After taking a semester off from college to intern with Vermont Public Radio in 1999, Sidsel was hooked. She went on to work as a reporter and producer at WNYC in New York and WAMU in Washington, DC before moving to New Mexico in 2007. As KUNM’s Conservation Beat reporter, Sidsel covered news from around the state having to do with protection of our earth, air and water. She also kept up a blog, earth air waves, filled with all the bits that can’t be crammed into the local broadcast of Morning Edition and All Things Considered. When not interviewing inspiring people (or sheep), Sidsel could be found doing underdogs with her daughters at the park.