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