Ride Upon The Storm, Channel 4

WHEN British television tackles the clergy we tend to get things like The Vicar of Dibley, about which the less said the better, or Rev., a likeable enough sitcom set in a London diocese which starred Tom Hollander as put-upon Anglican priest Adam Smallbone and Olivia Colman as his wife, Alex. It featured a series of running jokes about how hopeless the church is and wound up with Smallbone going a little loopy and meeting God – played by Liam Neeson as a beer-swilling, shellsuit-wearing jakey.

On the basis of this 20-part drama, Denmark takes religion slightly more seriously. Or at least the show’s writer, Adam Price, sees in the country’s established state church something other than mere comedic potential. He sees a struggle between modernity and tradition, he sees contradictions, hypocrisy and gender inequality, and most of all he sees politics. So if you’re wondering why the creator of smash hit Borgen has turned his attention to a family of Lutheran pastors – yes, it’s that Adam Price – there’s your answer. The subject offers rich pickings and acts as a prism through which to examine the state of the nation, while also functioning as a vehicle for a powerful personal drama pitting father against son and brother against brother. Put like that, it almost sounds biblical.

The father in question is Johannes Krogh (The Killing’s Lars Mikkelsen), a domineering prelate from a long line of domineering prelates who was standing for election to the bishopric of Copenhagen when episode one opened. Political incorrectness and some intemperate views on Islam led to him being passed over in favour of a female rival. He was consoled by his wife, Elisabeth (Ann Eleonora Jørgensen, Mikkelsen’s co-star in The Killing), and by his sons: August (Morton Hee Andersen), a fast-rising cleric and army pastor, and Christian (Follow The Money’s Simon Sears), a smarmy business student who had deserted the family “firm” in favour of something more worldly.

As in Borgen, everyone has their kinks. Johannes responded to his disappointment by going on a two-day bender that included a frantic sexual encounter with a woman who wasn’t his wife but who seemed to know his name and wasn’t too surprised to see him turn up drunk in her garage. Christian was caught cheating on his dissertation. August struggled so much with his goody-goody reputation that he turned down a promotion in favour of a trip to Afghanistan, leaving behind his young wife Emilie (Fanny Louise Bernth).

Borgen struck a powerful chord at Holyrood and won high-level fans from the First Minister down, begging the question: why can’t we in Scotland make that sort of state-of-the-nation political drama? Like Denmark, we’re a small Northern European country whose national church still has a role to play in public life, so Ride Upon The Storm asks the same question again but with a different inflection. There’s still no answer. The talent’s here, it just seems to be the will that’s lacking. Until that day comes, enjoy this superior drama.