For a generation, Matador is the most fondly remembered series on Danish television. A generously budgeted period drama that followed the lives of people in the fictional town of Korsbæk between 1929 and 1947. Against a backdrop of rivalries and class conflict , the series dramatized key moments of national history that were still within living history.
Taking its name from the Danish version of the board game Monopoly, Matador was created by Lise Nørgaard. A journalist and novelist in addition to a screenwriter, she drew from her own experiences of living through The Great Depression wartime occupation to create a show loosely inspired by the British series Upstairs Downstairs. The template of a relatively self contained community adjusting to changes in society against the backdrop of turbulent historical episodes has recently been dusted down and used in Badehotellet (Seaside Hotel) with press and the public commenting on the parallels between the two series.
Travelling salesman Mads Andersen-Skjern (Jørgen Buckhøj) arrives in Korsbæk with his son and soon sees scope to expand his business interests. A rigid social order and refusal to embrace social and economic opportunities has left the town looking like a relic from the nineteenth century. Andersen-Skjern’s plans for a new clothes shop stocking the latest lines is seen as a threat to the town’s traditions. Local banker, Hans Christian Varnæs (Holger Juul Hansen) refusal to finance the venture ignites a fued which will span decades and force friends and family members to choose sides.
Denied funds to establish a new emporium the merchant refuses to be beaten by this rejection and strengthens his resolve to secure financing for this venture.
Tradition and family loyalty are challenged by modernity alongside the threats of wider social and political changes in the wake of the Wall Street Crash and war in Europe.
Despite only running for twenty four episodes, the series continues to resonate in contemporary Danish society. An estimated one in four Danish viewers is reported to have watched at least two repeat screenings. In 2011 the thirtieth anniversary of the series’ launch was marked by the publication of a book covering every every conceivable detail of the production history and packed with reminiscences from cast members. This was followed by an exhibition of surviving props and costumes by Film Nordisk.
Prior to the launch of a repeat in the spring of 2012 it was revealed that DVD sales were in the region of 3.6 million. Despite the success of VHS and DVD releases, forty per cent of the nation were willing to tune in and catch the seventh airing for this chronicle of key moments in recent Danish history. This rerun proved so popular the main rival station hastily rescheduled its flagship programming to avoid being annihilated in the ratings.
With each repeat Matador gains a new generation of fans who are possibly able to connect stories told by their grandparents with plot-lines or set-pieces. This tale of class conflict and modern Denmark’s birth pangs continues to provide comfort for fans of nostalgia and unites the nation with each transmission.