It was originally a Danish Julekalender
that ran in 1991, but a Norwegian and a Finnish version were broadcasted in, respectively, 1994 and 1997.
A long time ago, the Nisses lived happily in their caves in Denmark/Norway/Finland. Then the Nåsåere
came. They drove the Nisses out of their caves because they tried to find "The Big Book"
, which would allow them to Take Over the World
. However, the Nåsåere never found the book.Today, the leader of the Nisses, Good Old Gammel Nok, is dying because the music box that plays the melody of his life is about to stop. There is only one key that can wind it up, but he forgot it when he was forced to flee from his cave. He gathers three of the remaining Nisses, Hansi, Günther, and Fritz, and tells them to find the cave and the key. He gives them The Big Book and warns them that it must never fall into the hands of a Nåså. The Nisses find the cave and the key, but when they flew to the cave, their plane ran out of fuel and crashed. The propel was broken and they can't return before they get a new one.
Meanwhile, a mysterious stranger visits a nearby farm...
Especially in Denmark, The Julekalender has become ridiculously popular, and almost all of the lines have become Memetic Mutations
among Danish people. It is probably also the only Julekalender that has really managed to appeal to both children and adults (though the demographic are actually adults) - children will like the cosy Christmas atmosphere and the colorful characters with their funny dialects, and adults will like the jokes that the kids don't get (which are many, especially the ones that have sneaked past the radar
) and satire elements.
In fact, it has become so popular that recently, it was decided that The Julekalender will be sent every single December, and it has been since 2010. It is the first Julekalender to get that honor, which has more or less made it the Danish equivalent of It's a Wonderful Life
and A Christmas Carol
(but much longer, with 24 episodes of each 10 minutes). So yeah, it's pretty well-loved.
It isn't entirely timeless though; the terrible English of the Nisses and the country bumpkin dialects of Gertrud and Oluf may sound funny, but in 1991 it was typical of provincial Danes to speak mediocre English and have thick dialects which were almost incomprehensible to Copenhageners (people living in the capital; Benny has a Copenhagen dialect for measure). Nowadays, this may still be true for Danes over 50 years, but the younger ones often speak fluent English, and dialects are not as thick and obvious as they used to be, which may make it hard for today's teenagers to understand the satirical elements of the series.
This Julekalender provides examples of:
- Acting for Two: The actors playing the Nisses also play Gertrud, Oluf, and Benny.
- Actor Allusion: Gammel Nok points out he was a famous actor in the final episode. He was played by Poul Bundgaard in the Danish version, who was a member of the Olsen Gang, from the famous movie series of the same name. Same for Arve Opsahl in the Norwegian versions of The Julekalender and the Olsen Gang.
- The Big Damn Kiss: Inverted/parodied. When Oluf finally agrees to kiss Gertrud, their lips barely touch, then the picture freezes.
- Bilingual Bonus: As well as the numerous cases of the Nisses' terrible English causing them to say something completely different from what they tried to say, there are also a couple episodes in which Günther thinks he's a German tracker dog that only speaks German.
- Blame Game: Happens when the Nisses think they've returned too late and that Gammel Nok has died.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: The Nisses all the time. "We could use that line in another episode". "You can't use violence in a Julekalender". "We've spent 24 episodes on this"... On the other hand, Gertrud and Oluf, who are actually a fairly realistic, if quite caricatured depiction of a Danish provincial married couple, don't seem to be aware that they are fictional characters. Neither does Benny even though he regularly moves between the human world and the Nisse world.
- Brick Joke: When Fritz heard a phrase that he likes, he writes it down in a book. In the last episode, the Nisses read the book and repeat the phrases.
- Catch Phrase: The major characters have several each.
- Crosscast Role: Gertrud is played by a male actor in all three versions.
- Easy Amnesia: When Günther believes he's a German tracking dog.
- Find Out Next Time: Played straight, but also parodied with some questions being ridiculous, for instance "Is this a julekalender?", "Can the Nisses sing, or is it playback?", and "Is it advisable to drink Christmas beer this early in a julekalender?".
- Find the Cure: An interesting variation. In this case, finding the cure is not a huge problem, but returning to the "victim" in time to administer it turns out to be much harder.
- Gratuitous English / Intentional Engrish for Funny: The Nisses speak a combination of English and Danish/Norwegian/Finnish. It's meant to make fun of bad English.
- Actually, the de facto Danish term for bad English with included Danish words/grammar/sentence structure has become "The Julekalender English" after the series' first couple of runs.
- Hypocritical Humor: When the Nisses call out Gammel Nok for his bad English.
- Insignia Rip-Off Ritual: Fritz does this to Günther during the Blame Game.
- Interspecies Romance: Hansi falls in love with Gertrud.
- It Was a Dark and Stormy Night: All the episodes start with that exact phrase.
- Mood Dissonance: The ending sequences feature creepy footage and music, the narrator asks what will happen next... then he proceeds to say something silly.
- Motor Mouth: Gertrud is a minor example. She doesn't speak that quickly, but she does speak for fairly long periods at a time.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In the Norwegian version, the plane crashes and the propel is broken because it ran out of fuel. It might have something to do with the fact that the Nisses took a massive unnecessary detour.
- Previously On: Except for the first episode, which begins with a prologue, all of the episodes open with this.
- Running Gag; Quite a few:
- Gertrud looking for her lost box of Christmas ornaments.
- Someone says a phrase that Fritz likes, and Fritz writes it down, suggesting that they can use it in another episode.
- Fritz telling Hansi to do something, Hansi asking why he always has to do it, Fritz justifing it with saying "because you are the one with the biggest teeth and ugliest clothes", and Hansi doing it reluctantly.
- Oluf playing Solitaire.
- Tap on the Head: This causes Günther to believe he's a German tracking dog and later cures him of the condition.
- Triumphant Reprise: The song "It's hard to be a nissemand" is played ten times in the series. Its lyrics consists of the Nisses complaining about how much they have to work and that they never get any free time. When Gammel Nok is saved, a remix of the song, "It's good to be a nissemand" is played. The lyrics now describe a nice Christmas night and how great it is to have some time off.