"All for Sweden": Minnesota woman wins Scandanavian reality show
On a lazy December afternoon back in 2019, Sally Franson, still in her pajamas, decided on a lark to apply for a Swedish reality show.
- Twenty-six months, a gauntlet of wacky challenges and a heartfelt family reunion later, the Twin Cities professor is embracing newfound reality stardom (in Sweden, at least) after being crowned a winner of the popular program.
Wait, what? Yes, you read that right. On Sunday, Franson, a novelist and visiting English professor at Macalester College, was revealed as one of the two winners of "Allt för Sverige," a long-running show that seeks to reconnect Americans of Swedish heritage with their Scandinavian roots.
- Her prize: A reunion with newly discovered (and distant) relatives, which she called "one of the best days of my life, that like happened to be filmed and shared with 1.4 million people."
How it works: While the ultimate goal of the show is learning about Swedish culture and exploring family history — a genealogist is cast to help on that — a series of challenges adds to the entertainment factor.
- For Franson and her rivals, that meant tasks such as shooting BB guns, memorizing 30 Swedish pop songs in 30 minutes and drag-racing "a Volvo around a dirt track."
How she prevailed: After making it through a number of weeks "by the skin of my teeth," the professor dominated in a series of "brain puzzles."
- "The feats of strength I was kind of bad at ... then as soon as it was a battle of wits, I was like okay, I can do this," she told Axios. "I won because I knew the metric system OK and I'm good at math."
What she learned (besides how to shoot a BB gun): When filming began following a pandemic delay, Franson felt little connection to her ancestors. She'd never even been to Sweden and viewed genealogy as a "baffling" and hard-to-crack hobby.
- "But now I really get it," she said. "We all want to understand who we are and where we come from."
What's next: The novelist, who is returning to Sweden over her spring break, has some "irons in the fire" inspired by her experience. For now, though, she's soaking up her 15 minutes of "Z-list" fame.
- "It turns out when you win a European reality TV show, all you want to do is tell people about it," she quipped.
Editor's note: This story has been corrected to note that there were two winners of the reality show.
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