Rita: A Danish Series about a Teacher

Rita premiered 2012 on Danish TV and has run for three seasons so far.

The poster for Rita

The series stars Mille Dinesen in the lead role as Rita, a free-spirited teacher and single mother. Netflix in the U.S. currently has all 3 seasons of Rita available. Season 3 was actually funded by Netflix!

Rita is a 40-something woman with 2 adult children and another still in his teens. She’s a rebel, an anarchist, and a wonderful teacher. She’s a pretty good parent, but is sometimes more of a mess than her children are. She’s a train-wreck in the personal realtionships department. Her sex life is a disaster, she’s a bitch to her mother, she does absolutely everything she can to break every rule put before her. She smokes, something that was highly criticized in Denmark as being unsuitable for the children who watched. I would think watching her sex life would be more unsuitable for children. But that’s my American brain thinking, I’m not up on Danish moral standards.

I love Rita. She’s a well developer character with many moving parts and a wonderful charm about her. Other characters in the story including her children, her lovers, her ex-husband, her mother and many teachers at her school are less developed but no less interesting. Each of them do have their moments when we see into who they are in more depth.

Lise Baastrup as Rita’s fellow teacher Hjørdis, for example, grows through the 3 seasons from an unsure new teacher to a woman who is in command of her job and effective with the kids.

Writer and Director Christian Torpe created a 4 part mini-series featuring Hjørdis, which is now available on Netflix.

Themes addressed in the series include acceptance of gay children, treatment of immigrants, integrating “inclusion” students (we call it “mainstreaming” in the U.S.) in the regular classroom, abortion and pregnancy, priorities in education, sexual mores, parenting, drug use and other topics. Rita does something in regard to standardized testing (a big topic here in the U.S.) in season 3 that creates a wonderful cliffhanger at the end of the season.

Unless you are an educator like me, you probably won’t be as interested in the Danish school system as I was. I found it really fascinating to peek into how the school ran, what the students did, and how the teachers (and students) dressed. I realize it’s TV and not “real” school, but the differences were interesting.

The series has accumulated over 17 nominations for best drama, best actress and actor, best production and more. Mille Dinesen scored one win as Best Actress in the Golden Nymph awards. Watch the Facebook page for updates and to check out dozens of photos from the show.

Related:

Watch the trailer

Here’s a season 3 preview. Sorry there are no English subtitles.

Images from IMDB

43 thoughts on “Rita: A Danish Series about a Teacher”

  1. What a nice, refreshing, satisfying surprise this series is! I don’t have any friends who enjoy anything other than American shows (which I really don’t care for, in general), so I am happy to have found this website. Keep up the good work!

  2. I love love love this show. I love foreign every thing and came across this show while watching Netflix. I have finished both seasons and cannot wait for the 3rd season. Rita is so refreshing, it’s rather cool to look into how the school system is in Denmark. I am in the American school system. All of the characters in this show is great to watch. The actress is fantastic – she’s a lot messy, but loves and cares for her kids, students and others who are treated wrongly.

  3. I have watched 4 episodes now. I, too, am a teacher in the US and have observed several behaviors of Rita that would get me fired. She totally missed an opportunity with Rosa. If she had handled her kindly, she would have been able to help the girl much easier. Sex with strangers? Sex in the actual school building? Insubordinate to her supervisors? The only teaching techniques I’ve seen are teacher-led, lecture, and reading from text. It seems to me that she only advocates for students when there is an extreme situation. This is still entertaining but I really hope that Rita doesn’t represent the teachers of Denmark.

    1. I agree that what she does as a teacher is unrealistic and very much made-for-TV. However, I love her heart and her free spirit. I hope you continued watching the entire series (as least what we can get on Netflix so far) and enjoyed Rita as a character.

    2. Patty Of course, all the things you have listed would get a teacher fired anywhere. This is a show about an idealist who breaks all the rules for the sake of protecting the weak while defying power. It shows how generous of heart she is,although very flawed in her own personal life, to the point of sacrificing her own job to benefit the children. That is the moral of the show.

  4. I love Rita, the character and the show, and am eager for season 3 to start streaming next week. I am a community college English instructor, and I think it’s great how she teaches her high school students. Wish American teachers could do that. We might have college students with better critical thinking skills. 🙂
    The episode where she taught 2nd graders was priceless. She starts to explain and analyze fairy tales like she would to her high school students, and then sees that she has to have a completely different approach for that age. I laughed and laughed.

    1. I live in California and watched seasons 1 and 2 of Rita two weeks ago on Netflix streaming. Season 3 is supposed to start streaming on June 15. Each season is 8 episodes. Hope you can view season 2 wherever you live.

  5. We really enjoyed Seasons 1 through 3. Is there any possibility of this continuing into Season 4? We were trying to figure out an entry – perhaps a newspaper taking up the story and a public cry for her to return.? Just hoping.

  6. Is there any particular person and email address to write to to lobby for a 4th season of Rita? Thanks! I love this show!

  7. W/J. Teitelbaum – in Denmark the tv-show is pretty popular 🙂

    And to another, who said, that the person does not hope that the teachers are like Rita in Denmark – so no, they are not 🙂 they are probably more a good mix of Rita and Hjørdis. 🙂

  8. Incredibly entertaining! Please give us a season 4. We love these characters. Mille Dinesen is outstanding and unforgettable.

  9. My wife and I love this show. We hated to finish the third season. We wished it continued. She clearly was unorthodox in her methods but she related very well to the kids. She helped the downtrodden kids, but her own life was Ames. Ironic

  10. This show is amazing. NO she shouldnt have sex in the school but I love how she speaks her mind to parents. Things would be a lot better if we could do that in the US. People need to fix what is happening at home and then more success can be brought into the schools. I think this show is eye opening, entertaining, and all around awesome.

  11. I think this show would appeal to anyone who likes Nurse Jackie. Rita isn’t quite as flawed as Jackie, but there are parallels. And Hjordis is similar to the Zoey character. Good stuff!

  12. hi everybody,
    i am a high school teacher from India, and was able to watch the 3 seasons during my visit to USA>. I too am a big fan of Rita and Hjordis. Well, back home in India even 5% of such behaviour can bar a teacher for life from teaching..that apart, i loved her methods specially relating to poems, essays etc… I fervently wish that we have more such seasons or soaps on the work done by teachers……Rita we love you, come back .. Of course hoping to get to see it in India, coz in India many things are still censored

  13. i agree Virginia, the kind of cool she keeps in adverse situations
    with regard to specially enabled students is really an eye opener,and the way students respect her despite all her societal irregularities.. love the show..

  14. I loved Rita. And as I watched it, I thought “If they were to try to translate it to America, it should be set in Minnesota; we’ve got the same sort of passive-aggressive political correctness, and a teacher like Rita Madsen would go over about the same here!”

    1. Well, as far as I’ve heard, Minnesota has the largest Scandinavian minority in the states, so I suppose that’d make sense. All the sex and smoking obviously couldn’t happen in a real Danish school, but quite a lot of what happens in the series is actually spot on. Danish teachers work in tandem with the parents, and the level of education is very respectable. I think there’s a very real lesson to be taught abroad. Sadly this also means that an American version of the Rita simply wouldn’t work. It’d be too alien, and therefore hard to relate to. And also we’re allowed a few more “treats” in primetime than you lot, so all the sex, drugs, drinking and smoking would have to be cut. Ironic really, because I’m fairly confident that the inspiration for Rita was the American movie “Bad Teacher” which was released a year earlier.

          1. Did it actually get made with Anna Gunn as Rita? It sure disappeared fast if it did. Christian Torpe was there as a producer, but the writer was Krista Vernoff. Thanks for the link. This is all news to me.

  15. I loved Rita. I really enjoy shows that allow me to view a different culture. so much about the interactions between characters seemed genuine yet different than what i would expect from American characters. while i would enjoy another season of the show, much as you note with Dicte, the storylines seem to be resolved by the last episode of season 3. one of the things i like about foreign series is that they dont seem to have a need to continue indefinitely, as much as we might want them to – they tell a character’s story and then they are done.

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