It was originally a Danish Julekalender
that ran in 1991, but a Norwegian and a Finnish versionnote
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:
- Adaptational Attractiveness: Inverted; the Danish actors are on the whole notably better-looking than the Norwegian and Finnish actors. Compare, say, the Danish and Norwegian Hansi — the Danish Hansi is downright handsome, while his Norwegian counterpart... is less so. (He's a great singer, though.)
- Adaptation Name Change: In the Norwegian version, Oluf has been renamed Olaf, likely because "Oluf" is the name of a very popular Norwegian character. This is given a Shout-Out in the episode where Olaf is trying to call the hospital and the operator for some reason keeps mishearing his name as "Oluf."
- In the Finnish version, all the characters have been renamed.
- Alien Blood: In the Norwegian/Finnish versions, Nisses apparently have green blood, as shown in one episode, when Günther accidentally cuts himself.
- Alliterative Name: In the Finnish remake, Gammel Nok's name is Iki-Iäkäs.
- Animal Reaction Shot: Sometimes, especially during news, short clips of Oluf and Gertrud's dog are shown at appropriate places, so the viewer could see how the dog reacts to things that happen or (more commonly) are said.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: When the narrator asks what will happen in the next episode, the last question is usually something silly that doesn't affect the plot.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Günther is the sweetest, kindest and most mild-mannered of the Nisses — but he's the most gung-ho about confronting and beating up the Nåså. The other two have to physically restrain him to keep him from charging a drunk and sleeping Benny.
- 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.
- Black Magic: Practiced by Benny; he uses The Big Book to explode a coffee pot, raise taxes and torture one of the Nisses.
- 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 (although sometimes they seem to look at the viewer). 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.
- Cannot Tell a Joke: Benny, who rambles, forgets where he was in the story, and ends up just telling Non Sequiturs.
- Catch Phrase: The major characters have several each.
- Cover Version: In the sixth episode, the Nisses present a song named "Long Time Ago In Bethlehem" which is a cover version of Jester Hairston's "Mary's Boy Child". In the Finnish remake, the song is a Translated Cover Version and even its name is translated from English.
- Crosscast Role: Gertrud is played by a male actor in all three versions.
- Easy Amnesia: When Günther believes he's a German tracking dog.
- The Eeyore: Hansi, who's usually depressed or in a plain bad mood. The Norwegian version especially is a borderline Perpetual Frowner who hardly ever smiles.
- Embarrassing First Name: Benny doesn't like his real first name which is Brian, so he goes with Benny.
- End of Series Awareness: In the final episode, Gammel Nok insists he must read his lines from the script. The rest of the Nisses say it's too late for that since The Julekalender is almost over.
- Evil-Detecting Dog: Subverted. The dog may initially look at Benny in a suspecting way, but the two will soon get along and even end up sharing the bed.
- Fake Shemp: Oluf and Gertrud's dog in the Norwegian and Finnish versions is actually Stock Footage from the Danish one.
- Find Out Next Time: Parodied.
- The narrator will often ask a few serious questions followed by a silly one like "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?".
- In the end of episode 12, the narrator asks "What book has Benny got? Where is the Nisses' book? How is this connected?" as if nobody has figured it out.
- 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.
- Foreshadowing: In episode 9, when Benny sees a map Oluf found, he makes a creepy face and some unsettling music is played. He makes a similar face and the same music is played a few episodes later when his true form is shown.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Benny claims to work for a firm called "Kock Sokker". Kock is the last name of the founder, and "sokker" is Danish for "socks", but try saying that name out loud...
- Glad I Thought of It: A variation with Fritz; whenever Hansi or Günther has a good idea, he'll claim "that's just what I was about to say!"
- 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. And in norway, it's popularely called norwenglish.
- Gratuitous German: When Günther thinks he's a German-speaking tracking dog.
- Great Big Book of Everything: "The Big Book," which has the answers to almost everything — though occasionally the answers it gives aren't very helpful. For instance, the entry for what to do when you run out of gas is simply "get a petrol can and go look for some more gas." At one point the Nisses hear a noise from outside (which is Benny trying to get in), wonder what that was and decide to look in the book under "what was that?" The book says: "That was nothing. If you hear it again, see entry for 'There it was again.'" That said, it does have detailed instructions on how to destroy the world economy and perform strange magics, so it's extremely dangerous in the wrong hands.
- Greed: Benny's motive.
- 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; except for episode 20. In Danish and Norwegian versions, that one starts with "it was a dark and stormy morning" whereas the line or any variation thereof is completely omitted from said episode of the Finnish version.
- Lampshade Hanging
- Large Ham: The narrator, who really tries to sell the drama in everything... even when he says the most absurd things.
- Leitmotif: The music played when the Nisses are in the cave.
- Medium Awareness: Gammel Nok in the last episode demands to read his lines and says he's a famous actor who hasn't come to the series just to lie in bed for 24 episodes.
- 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.
- Newscaster Cameo: In the Finnish version, the newscaster is played by Kaj Lindén who actually had been a newscaster before the production of the remake.
- 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.
- The Nineties: All versions are made in the 1990s and they have Shout-Outs to things that happened during the decade. In one episode, one of the Nisses says the exact date, including the year (1991, 1994 or 1997 depending on the version).
- No Name Given: Gertrud's sister.
- Over The Top Christmas Decorations: Oluf and Gertrud's house in the end of the series.
- Power Trio: Fritz, Günther and Hansi.
- 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. They never really do — Hansi tries to re-use one phrase in an episode, but by then Fritz has forgotten that he'd written it down in the first place and goes to write it down again. In the last episode, Fritz does take out his notebook and the Nisses fondly remember some of the phrases they've said in the series.
- Fritz telling Hansi to do something, Hansi asking why he always has to do it, Fritz justifying it with saying "because you are the one with the biggest teeth and ugliest clothes", and Hansi doing it reluctantly.
- Oluf playing Solitaire.
- Gertrud making constant references to the food processor she wishes for a Christmas present.
- In the first six episodes of the Finnish version, the dog quickly raises and turns its head sometimes when Brussels is mentioned in news.
- And in the Norwegian version, said dog reacts in the same way to the word "money."
- Oluf and Gertrud have almost the same discussion every time after listening to the radio.
- In the news of the Danish version, someone usually says they have "never seen/heard/experienced anything like that".
- Scare Chord: The dramatic music played in the end of all episodes except the last one and when Benny's true form is revealed begins with this.
- Setting Update: Almost all events of the Danish version take place on the peninsula of Jutland. In the Norwegian version, this location has been replaced with the Trøndelag region, and in the Finnish version, the primary setting is Keuruu, a small town in Central Finland.
- Shadow Discretion Shot: When Günther is knocked unconscious by Benny.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Fritz, who fancies himself the leader of the Nisse trio, but is without doubt the most useless of them.
- Speaks Fluent Animal: Günther, who in one episode has a conversation with the farm dog and understands it perfectly. Whether this is a shared Nisse trait or whether Günther is a special case (possibly thanks to believing he was a dog for a few episodes) isn't really made clear.
- Stock Footage
- The opening and closing scenes showing the music box. Both remakes use the material from the Danish version.
- There are only a few video clips of the dog, and they are played over and over again. The norwegian and finnish versions used the same stock footages, as the dog died pre-production.
- Benny walking in the darkness.
- Stock Phrases; The narrator uses a few:
- Take That: In the Finnish version, the news about the European Union's new Christmas directives can be thought of as a satirical poke at said union and its bureaucracy.
- Tap on the Head: This causes Günther to believe he's a German tracking dog and later cures him of the condition.
- That's What She Said: This line is said by the newscaster in episode 14 of the Danish version.
- The Dog Bites Back: After 22 episodes of being pushed around by Fritz, Hansi is so fed up he start singing a song, so hammy and epic, that Fritz can't say shit in return.
- 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.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Gertrud and Oluf's standard reaction when something weird happens. Peaks in Episode 14, when the coffee pot spontaneously explodes due to Benny practicing some dark magic:
Oluf: (with a mild "huh, that's weird" expression) The coffee pot just exploded.
Gertrud: (hasn't even noticed the explosion three feet away) Should I make some more?
Oluf: Yes, of course you should — the coffee pot just exploded.
Gertrud: (cheerfully walks to the kitchen) I'll go do that then.
- Villainous Breakdown: Exaggerated in the final episode, when Benny notices he took a wrong book and completely loses his temper as a result.
- Voodoo Doll: Benny uses a Christmas gnome doll as one to cause headache to Günther.