by Mackenzie Arnolds
Photo courtesy of Chika Okoye
It’s Friday night and you glance at the clock. An hour has passed since you’ve started sorting through TV shows for something to watch on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime or even all three. Titles are beginning to blur into unintelligible globs of letters and you’re quickly losing hope. You want to give up, to slam your computer shut and—and what? What else is there to do on a lonely Friday night?
We’ve all been there. Despite the hundreds of shows and movies available across multiple streaming services, sometimes it’s hard to find exactly what you’re looking for. In fact, your options can even begin to seem monotonous and repetitive after a while—which is why you should branch out and explore some of the amazing foreign TV shows that are at your fingertips. Check out the list below for some of the best foreign-produced shows that you can start out with!
1. “Peaky Blinders”
“Peaky Blinders” is a British series on Netflix that traces the rise of Birmingham crime boss Thomas Shelby (Cilian Murphy) and his family in the wake of World War I—so technically, it’s a foreign show. Still, for viewers that aren’t quite comfortable with subtitles, “Peaky Blinders” might be the perfect fit. It’s a gritty, sexy and intelligent rags-to-riches epic that brilliantly unfolds in only six episodes per season. Thomas Shelby is also one of the most intriguing and well-written characters on screen today. If the wonderful writing doesn’t convince you to give this show a chance, then perhaps the star-studded cast comprised of Golden Globe nominee Cillian Murphy, Helen McCroy, Oscar nominee Tom Hardy and Oscar winner Adrien Brody, will.
As the first German Netflix original series, “Dark” does not disappoint. Released in 2017 to critical buzz, the sci-fi drama reminded many of Netflix’s American hit series “Stranger Things,” as it begins with the mysterious disappearance of a young boy and contains a considerable amount of flashbacks set in the ’80s. The similarities between the two shows begin to drift from there, as “Dark” lives up to its title by literally taking on a much darker tone than “Stranger Things.” The series is extremely hard to look away from and manages to weave a gripping and suspenseful tale about family, morality and time travel that is too good to miss out on.
“Skam” began as a Norwegian web series that quickly became an international sensation. Each of the four seasons focuses on the perspective of a different teen student as they navigate love, school and friendship among their peers. “Skam” deviates from your typical teen drama by taking a raw look at topics like bullying, sexual assault, gender identity, sexual identity and religious identity. Its startlingly accurate portrayal of teen life in the modern world garnered a massive online international fan base; and even though the original series has ended, countries around the globe—including France, America, Italy, Germany and Spain—have started remaking the show in their own languages, all of which you can find online.
4. “My Brilliant Friend”
“My Brilliant Friend” is an HBO series based on a book of the same name by Italian author Elena Ferrante. It explores the turbulent lives of two friends, Lenu and Lila, as they grow up in the violent and sexist slums of 1950s Naples, Italy. Lenu, the narrator, takes you along as she miraculously earns the right to an education—a rare feat for a poor Italian girl in the ’50s—while the beautiful, wildly intelligent Lila is condemned to a fate of poverty and servitude. The dichotomy between these two girls captivatingly unfolds as the series progresses and they too grow older, forming a gripping tale of survival, jealousy, violence and, above all, friendship. You can—and should—watch the first season of “My Brilliant Friend” on HBO now, before season two premieres in early 2020.
“Élite” is like a Spanish Gossip Girl, but with the added bonus of murder and mystery. It’s a Netflix original series that premiered in October 2018 and garnered so many fans that it already has two seasons available for streaming. The show unfolds in cuts of flashbacks and police interrogations about the murder of the rich and idealistic Marina Nunier, which occurred after the admittance of three working-class students to the exclusive and luxurious Las Encinas private school after their own school was destroyed. If you’re looking for something undeniably (and perhaps guiltily) entertaining, “Élite” makes for a deliciously soapy and sexy drama that is guaranteed to satisfy.