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Matador is a Danish TV series produced between 1978 and 1981. It is named after a popular Danish term for a business magnate.

Directed by Erik Balling, Matador was the idea of author Lise Nørgaard who wrote the bulk of the episodes alongside Karen Smith, Jens Louis Petersen and Paul Hammerich. The series is one of the most well-known and popular examples of Danish television and represents the peak of longtime development of Danish TV drama by the public service channel DR.

The series has become part of the modern self-understanding of Danes, partly because of its successful mix of drama and a distinct warm Danish humour in the depiction of characters, which was portrayed by a wide range of the most popular Danish actors at the time; but also not least because of its accurate portrayal of Denmark from the end of the roaring 1920s and through Nazi Germany's occupation of Denmark in World War II, commonly labeled 'The Dark Years' in Denmark.

The distinctive and in Denmark celebrated theme tune of the series was composed by Bent Fabricius-Bjerre.

The series is set in the fictional Danish town of Korsbæk between 1929 and 1947. The story follows the life of various characters from high and low of town society, but is primarily focused around the rivalry between the families of - respectively - banker Hans Christian Varnæs, one of the town's most prominent citizens, and newcoming businessman Mads (Andersen-)Skjern, who arrives in town in 1929.

Matador originally aired on DR between November 1978 and January 1982, but has enjoyed repeated successful reruns in 1984-85, 1989-90, 1997-98 and 2006-07. The 1985 airing of the series finale still stands as the most viewed ever in Danish TV history, with appr. 3.6 million viewers on May 26th that year, this in a country of some 5 million people.

Additionally, the series has been released on VHS, and in 2001 on region 2 DVD. This first edition of 12 separate DVD's with two episodes each has been one of the most sold in the country's history, and surpassed a total of 1 million sold copies in 2005. [1] A second 2006 13-DVD region 0 box set also included English subtitles for a wider audience.[2] The series was widely popular in Norway and Sweden, and has been broadcast in more than 20 countries worldwide.[3]

List of Matador episodesEdit

(The English translitterations are only proximate, since many of the original episode titles are based on Danish puns and expressions.)

Season 1, 1978:

  • 1. "Den rejsende: 1929" ("The Traveller: 1929")
  • 2. "Genboen: 1929" ("Opposite Neighbour: 1929")
  • 3. "Skiftedag: 1930" ("New Shift: 1930")
  • 4. "Skyggetanten: 1931" ("Shadow Aunt: 1931")
  • 5. "Den enes død: 1932" ("One Man's Death, Another's Man's Bread: 1932")
  • 6. "Opmarch: 1932" ("Upmarch: 1932")

Season 2, 1979:

  • 7. "Fødselsdagen: 1933" ("The Birthday: 1933")
  • 8. "Komme fremmede: 1934" ("There Come Strangers: 1934")
  • 9. "Hen til kommoden: 1935" ("Back and Forth: 1935")
  • 10. "I disse tider: 1935" ("In These Days and Age: 1935")
  • 11. "I klemme: 1936" ("Tight Spot: 1936")
  • 12. "I lyst og nød: 1937" ("For Better, For Worse: 1937")

Season 3, 1980:

  • 13. "Et nyt liv: Efterår 1937 - Forår 1938" ("A New Life: Autumn 1937 - Spring 1938")
  • 14. "Brikkerne: Vinter 1938 - Forår 1939" ("The Pieces: Winter 1938 - Spring 1939")
  • 15. "At tænke og tro: Efterår 1939" ("To Think and to Believe: Autumn 1939")
  • 16. "Lauras store dag: Forår 1940" ("Laura's Big Day: Spring 1940")
  • 17. "De voksnes rækker: Sommer 1941 - Forår 1942" ("Adulthood: Summer 1941 - Spring 1942")
  • 18. "Hr. Stein: 1943" ("Mr. Stein: 1943")

Season 4, 1981:

  • 19. "Handel og vandel: Forår 1944" ("Today's Trade: Spring 1944")
  • 20. "Den 11. time: Januar - April 1945" ("The 11th Hour: January - April 1945")
  • 21. "Vi vil fred her til lands: Maj-Juni 1945" ("Come Peace: May-June 1945")
  • 22. "Det går jo godt: Vinter 1945-46" ("Things Are Going Fine: Winter 1945-46")
  • 23. "Mellem brødre: 1946" ("Between Brothers: 1946")
  • 24. "New Look: 1947" (Series Finale)

List of charactersEdit

  • Mads Andersen-SkjernJørgen Buckhøj- (born 1897) A stranger who comes to Korsbæk with his son Daniel in search of work in 1929. Seeing that the local clothing shop caters only to the interests of the well-to-do, he decides to start his own business, Skjern's Magasin, to provide clothing for the common people.

Personality: Industrious; almost ruthless businessman who does not "forgive and forget"; a stern and overbearing father who expects much of his son Daniel, but keeps a blind eye on Ellen; as his business grows, Mads is corrupted by his growing power and occasionally engages in questionable business practices. It is hinted that he comes from a religious upbringing. He is a firm opponent of abortion, then illegal in Denmark.

  • Ingeborg SkjernGhita Nørby- (born c. 1901) Wife of Mads Andersen-Skjern and daughter of Olaf and Katrine Larsen. She is also the mother of Ellen from a previous marriage. She and Mads eventually have a child named Erik.

Personality: Kind, loving; unlike Mads, she is far kinder to Daniel and manages to overlook most of his short-comings; still, she, too, turns a blind eye on Ellen as she grows older.

  • Kristen Andersen-SkjernJesper Langberg - (born c.1899) The younger brother of Mads Andersen-Skjern and the elder Anna Skjern. Kristen arrives in Korsbæk about a year after Mads, and eventually becomes director of Omegns Bank, a bank for the lower-class denizens of Korsbæk. When the Nazis occupy Denmark, he becomes active in the Danish resistance movement along with Dr. Louis Hansen.

Personality: An honest man; unlike his brother, he is willing to overlook class differences. He has an on-and-off relationship with Elisabeth Friis, sister-in-law of Hans Christian Varnæs, but after one falling-out between them marries Iben Skjold-Hansen, but in episode 23 he finally marries Elisabeth Friis (Skjern).

  • Hans Christian VarnæsHolger Juul Hansen- (born c.1894) The director of Korsbæk Bank and husband of Maude (formerly Friis) Varnæs, and the father of three children, Ulrik, Regitze, and Helle. He is the elder brother of Jørgen Varnæs.

Personality: For the most part, a competent bank director although his bank tends to look down its nose at those who are not members of high society; though usually a devoted husband, he once had an affair with his much-younger secretary Ulla Jacobsen.

  • Jørgen VarnæsBent Mejding Younger brother of Hans Christian Varnæs. He is a slick lawyer living in the fast lane. His wife leaves him when she learns about his affair with Gitte Graae and eventually his life takes a turn for the worse not least due to his alcoholism.
  • RødeKurt Ravn Communist rail road worker. He has political ambitions, but during World War II he is forced to flee to Sweden, when the Nazis start arresting Danish communists. He marries Agnes Jensen, but he disapproves of her entrepreneurship.
  • Waiter BoldtPer Pallesen Background character who serves mostly as comic relief.
  • Laura SørensenElin Reimar Faithful servant of the Varnæs family through many years.
  • Daniel SkjernJacob Dalgård (child), Niels Martin Carlsen (adult) The son of Mads Skjern and his first wife. His father wants him to join the family business, but he displays poor academic skills and can't live up to his father's expectations. Instead he wants to be a designer; a field where he later enjoys a certain success. Daniel is a homosexual, which is hard for his father to accept.
  • Viggo Skjold-HansenAxel Strøbye Flamboyant local lawyer who finds his way into local high society, where his blunt hell raising style is met with disapproval - not least by the Varnæs family. He is married to Musse Skjold-Hansen (the mother of his daughter Iben Skjold-Hansen).
  • Colonel HackelBjørn Watt Boolsen Pompous and gruff army officer who is rarely seen out of uniform. He belongs to local high society and is the father of Vicki Hackel.
  • Consul HolmKarl Stegger Background character. Belongs to local high society.


  • Matador is also the Danish name for the game Monopoly. A group of characters play this game in episode 11.
  • Matador was broadcasted in Bosnian TV during the 1990s Yugoslav wars, allegdedly because the theme of a war-struck Denmark related to the Bosnians' similar situation.
  • Matador was shot entirely on 16mm film, as opposed to video. Prior to its release on DVD in 2001, all the master negatives and magnetic sound tapes had to undergo a thorough physical and digital restoration. Technicians spend months restoring the sound score, physically removing dust and dirt from the image negatives with the use of ultrasound, while digitally correcting light, color, contrast, a redish tint, and holes and tears in the picture.

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