The number of procedurals on TV these days is ridiculous, yet Anno 1790 is the most intriguing show on television, if only for taking the genre and completely twisting it about.
Anno 1790, set in Stockholm in 1790, is smarter, sexier, and generally more appealing than any of the CSI variants currently running on the TV.
Johan Gustav Dåådh served as an army physician during the Russo-Swedish War (1788–1790). Honouring the wishes of a wounded soldier, Simon Freund, he accompanies him back to his home where he recuperates from the injuries he sustained on the battlefield. While there, Dåådh is enlisted by Wahlstedt, the Police Chief, to serve as District Commissioner.
Taking Freund on as his sidekick/partner, Dåådh brings his surgical skills and his modern way of thinking (he’s an athiest, republican, and general free-thinker) to every murder mystery.
In his investigations, Dåådh brings his 1790-era surgical skills and his 1790 understanding of pathological examinations to find clues on the victims bodies. At the same time, his progressive views continue to get him into trouble as he seeks the truth a traditional world that has no time for his freethought philosophy.
Is it worth your time?
My word, yes. At a base level, Anno 1790 offers a wonderful gimmick. It takes on the tropes of the genre and the genre expectations that one has as a viewer and melds them beautifully into the time period. Anno 1790 is a joy to watch for that alone. But, what makes it really sparkle is the way that it incorporates the theological views of the era and builds upon that to inform the choices made by all of the characters. It’s one clever little show, yet it isn’t too demanding on the average viewer. Despite the grounding of the show being so far removed from the experiences of us as a viewer in 2012, the views of the characters are all perfectly relatable. it’s no more complicated than an episode of The West Wing.
Anno 1790 is also a great looking show. The cinematography is lush and beautiful, and the set design feels realistic (and not too “TV). The cast are also mighty good looking. I can imagine many a lady fan of Damien Lewis-type ginger men will swoon for leading man Peter Eggers. It’s easy to see why the show has sparked the imagination of so many online.
Where to see it?
The series 10 episode run started in Sweden on Oct 24 and has just wrapped up a run on PBS in the US. Anno 1790 is available to buy on DVD, but there are no mention yet of English language subtitles. So, unless you’re willing to go down the path of using fan-sourced subtitles online, you may be best to wait for a US DVD release.