There’s a lot of good TV out there in the world. And to be frank — a lot of it is really, really quite good. (Crazy that Hollywood doesn’t have a lock on that, right? We kid.) In fact some of it so gosh-dang delicious we’re admittedly more than a bit jealous. Because UGH why can’t we just have everything all the time, amirite? Living in the 21st century is hard because we’re both constantly inundated with stuff and things, but also keenly aware of that which cannot be not ours. So we’ve got a little bit of TV FOMO — which is totally normal!
Unless you’re hip to Internet piracy (tsk tsk tsk!), have an International friend with the hook-up (that’s better), or know what you’re looking for when the random titles come around to Netflix (yay!), there’s a chance you may not even know where to begin. Well fear not, my friends — that’s why we’re here. To share the unbridled love we have for some of the rest of the world’s greatest TV accomplishments of the past year (or so. Give or take. The past few! So sue us) in order to give you a new small screen adventure to go on.
So let’s get started, shall we?
Les Revenants [Canal+; France]
Like the premise of ABC’s Resurrection but wish it was better? Try the French thriller Les Revenants on for size. Not only is it fairly available (it aired on Sundance here in the U.S.), it’s truly masterful television drama. It even won the International Emmy for Best Drama Series in 2013. So, you know: it’s got the chops. And while the premise sounds simple enough in sentence form — a small French town wakes up one day to find its dead have reappeared — what unfolds next is truly supernatural and exciting. We won’t give any more away, but trust us: it’s great. Watch the thing. (Do it!)
My Mad, Fat Diary [E4, U.K.]
There really is nothing quite like those unendingly awkward and painful teenage years. Particularly when you’re not part of the cool crowd and don’t look the typical teen part. Such is the life of Rae Earl, a recently de-hospitalized teen girl in the ’90s (she tried to kill herself), who’s having a bit of trouble fitting in and dealing with her mother. Her incredibly rich (and hilarious) inner life is used to add a level of levity to the proceedings and really crank things up to eleven. Daydreams and nightmares come to life with comical abandon — and the show does not shy away from her sex drive and life, even if that’s something television (and movies, and pretty much EVERYTHING) wants to pretend doesn’t exist. So for that we couldn’t be more in love with My Mad, Fat Diary. It is brilliance!
The Fall [RTÉ One; Ireland]
We were SO glad when Netflix brought the first season (and soon the second!) of The Fall over to the states, because oh, is it brilliant. Gillian Anderson has never been better and Jamie Dornan is perhaps the most terrifying (and yes, handsome) serial killer on television. Stella Gibson (Anderson) is a truly original woman as far as TV characters are concerned: she’s damn good at her job, wholly secure in her place there and in life, and isn’t afraid to have a couple one-night-stands here and there when she’s the one in control. How the cops (and audience) respond to this is both fascinating and telling. But she uses her understanding of sex and desire to not only ruffle Paul Spector (Dornan)’s feathers, but hopefully reel him in. It’s utterly thrilling.
Black Mirror [Channel 4; U.K.]
What is there to say about Black Mirror that hasn’t already recently been said? The Twilight Zone of these modern times has everything you want in a television series: shocks, twists, turns, absurdity, cautionary tales. It is the sum of its parts and then somehow more than all that. It’s been added to Netflix so you’d do well to watch it tout de suite — and it’s an anthology series (each episode is a standalone) making it an easy choice to binge. Just be careful to do it slowly, otherwise you might end up a puddle on the floor weeping for the future of humanity.
Please Like Me [ABC; Australia]
Josh has no idea that he’s gay. Well, he didn’t until his girlfriend dumped him and he started to figure things out. This awkward coming-of-age-again dramedy is equally as charming as it is boundary-pushing. Luckily this one has made the leap stateside — on Pivot — and was recently renewed for a third season. So get caught up now, particularly if you’re a fan of You’re The Worst, Looking, and other slice-of-life comedy fare. It’s sweet and funny and dramatic and fully encapsulates some of the best things television can be.
Peaky Blinders [BBC Two; U.K.]
A historical drama based on a real-life criminal gang based in Birmingham called the — wait for it! — Peaky Blinders, this post-World War I bit o’ TV magic is not only magnificent storytelling, it’s chockablock with truly gangbusters British actors. Do you like Cillian Murphy? How about Sam Neill? Charlotte Riley? Mister Tom EFFING Hardy? Yeah, we didn’t think we needed to say more after that one. So far there’s been two seasons with a third recently commissioned, so the time to get familiar with this bleak and engaging drama is now. Now hurry up and hop over to Netflix!
Happy Valley [BBC One; U.K.]
Don’t let the title fool you — a comedy this is not. Sally Wainwright’s blistering drama about a cop in the Yorkshire valleys is as heartbreaking as it is thrilling. Catherine Cawood has just barely come to terms with her daughter’s suicide, but right when she thinks she’s better she spots the man, Tommy, that raped her daughter, ultimately driving her to take her own life. There’s a bevy of twists and turns, including a kidnapping plot, but Catherine is onto their games. It’s very, very good television that you should totally watch. Oh all those sharp and suspenseful plots! Another Netflix-er, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Borgen [DR1; Denmark]
This one’s been around since 2010 but it’s a good one. In fact some people even compare it to The West Wing — and they’re right. Ultimately, it’s a show about power — how it changes people, what they do to get it, and what happens after you have it (or when its gone). But what makes it extra-special is the woman — yes, a woman world leader! — at the heart of it. Birgitte Nyborg starts out the series little more than a moderate female party leader before quickly and unexpectedly becoming Denmark’s prime minister, and the first female at that. How she operates the machine of power bestowed upon her is fascinating, as is all the political maneuvering that goes on around it. Nothing is easy, and the stakes are never low. But what is most exciting, to this particular viewer, is just how much of their personal lives these leaders must give up for the sake of “the job” and “the power.” And it’s truly riveting stuff. Word on the street is it’s airing on some PBS channels so check your local listings for that.
Moone Boy [Sky1; Ireland]
Do you enjoy laughter? How about adorable things? And what about Chris O’Dowd? Well then step right up to the wholly precious (in a good way!) and adorable Moone Boy. This comedy follows a boy named Martin Moone and his imaginary friend Seán (O’Dowd) as they wade through the waters of adolescence. What makes this show extra charming is just how that vivid imagination of Martin’s is — coming to life on the screen in flashes of animation brought to life from Martin’s own drawings. If you enjoy heart with your humor, you’ll go absolutely mad for Moone Boy — which is great because Hulu’s recently brought the series to the states!
Toast of London [C4; U.K.]
We loved The IT Crowd (who didn’t right?), so of course we were thrilled to see Matt Berry’s latest cuckoo creation, Steven Toast. A middle-aged actor who seems to spend more of his time dealing with his issues WITH the stage than actually performing on it, Toast skewers so much about the business of show that seems wholly intolerable. His voiceover work is hilarious and his surreal life borders on a level of visual and tonal absurdity that only British series seem able to pull off. So if you like laughing and making fun of actors, this is sure to be the show for you. Plus, that moustache, right? You can watch the pilot on Vimeo right now!
What are some of your other favorite international series? Leave ’em in the comments, please! (We love discovering new things!)