It has been said we're living in a new golden age of television, because wherever you turn there's Six Feet Under, The West Wing and The Crown. Assuming this is the second golden age, that means the first brought us The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Lost in Space and Maude. Or maybe it's the third if you count Dynasty and L.A. Law?
What is certain is that we are living in an age where there are lots and lots of TV shows. A record amount are churned out of the US every year. And yet while we would lavish these Netflix-rich times with the gilded edge of a gilded age, it's probably also true to say that far less of them are as brilliant as they seem.
A sort of television equivalent of water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to drink.
And then along comes a show like Midnight Sun (streaming now, SBS On Demand) which upends everything and shames even the very best of the top shelf shows. Imagine a show that could make The West Wing and The Crown look like Benson and The Royals.
Midnight Sun – or Midnattssol, as it is known in its native Sweden – is the latest Scandi noir from writers Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein, the two chappies who brought you The Bridge, the compelling crime series which kicked off with a grisly murder on the Øresund Bridge, linking Sweden's Malmö and Denmark's Copenhagen.
The Bridge is in many ways the high watermark for the genre, though Borgen, the political thriller starring the utterly fabulous Sidse Babett Knudsen, easily gives it a run for its money. Midnight Sun, without getting too excited, leaves them both in the shade.
The series is set in a remote corner of Sweden and follows a murder investigation in which French police officer Kahina Zadi (Leïla Bekhti) is partnered with Sami policeman Anders Harnesk (Gustaf Hammarsten). The crime itself is particularly grisly – aren't they all? – and tears open a wound in the native Sami community.
Though the blend of damp air, faded colours and indigenous mysticism seems to give the story its otherwordly flavour, it also leans heavily on the stunning setting, at the top of the world where, as the title suggests, the sun never goes down.
Heaped onto that are production values which plainly make this a cut above. Stunning cinematography and extraordinary filming locations make a visual feast of the kind not seen since David Lynch's Twin Peaks, where you could turn down the volume and still be mesmerised by the painting-like imagery.
There is a genuine art in using such a vast stage – giant mountains, huge lakes, seemingly infinite wilderness – and still managing to bring the tension into tiny moments, small exchanges, a sort of dramatic fine print which makes more compelling reading than the contract itself.
Midnight Sun was the talk of the television market Mipcom this year, a rare feat for a television drama not produced in English, but it's more than the year's best show. It's that rare creature – Love My Way springs to mind here, so too Frontline and Wentworth – that permanently elevates the bar.