It is truly a great time for television. While most of the focus of this version of the Golden Age of Television (and all of the previous versions) has been US-centric, there is an increasing interest in non-US made TV. So today we are going to look at some of the best TV made outside of the US.
British TV has always been slightly more accessible to Americans through PBS’s Masterpiece Theatre, but it’s really become popular thanks to Downton Abbey and Sherlock. BBC America has also brought over shows like Doctor Who and Top Gear and introduced them to a larger American audience.
Similarly, Broadchurch got so much positive attention for its first season that it is now being remade by FOX (which will hopefully introduce people to the original). Despite the common language, it’s not too uncommon for British shows to be remade in America. Sometimes, it is a horrible failure (see The Inbetweeners, Coupling, and Skins). Other times, the show comes into it’s own and departs enough to find a voice to appeal to its new audience (The Office, Shameless, and Queer as Folk).
My personal picks for favorite British shows are a little less known. First is an older comedy entitled Waiting for God. It takes place in a retirement home and revolves around the lives of Diana and Tom, two residents who have very different ways of seeing the world but find a solid friend in the other.
Second is a more recent comedy entitled Miranda, after its star and creator Miranda Hart. Miranda is the very tall, socially awkward owner of a joke shop (which she runs with the help of her best friend). Miranda is a bit eccentric and clumsy but a good person and she speaks to the part of us all that doesn’t quite feel like an adult yet.
Finally, there is Merlin, by far the best known of my favorites and as far as I am aware, the only one that also aired in America. Merlin tells the story of the famous magician and Prince (later King) Arthur as young adults. It is full of plot holes and characterizations that go a little astray, but when they get the relationships on the show right, they get them really right. The friendship between Merlin and Arthur is fantastic, as I have mentioned, as is the relationship between Merlin and Lancelot and the other Knights of the Round Table.
Recently, American audiences have been introduced to remakes of shows made in other parts of the world. In the case of the French show Les Revenants (The Returned), the original was aired with subtitles on SundanceTV and is in the process of being remade for A&E.
The Danish/Swedish show Broen/Bron (The Bridge) never aired on TV in America before its remake but is now available on Hulu Plus. It has also been made into the British/French show The Tunnel. Each features a different set of border relations, which has allowed the adaptations to be more familiar in their new country.
Finally, the German show Borgen has received a lot of positive critical attention in America. It only airs on LinkTV, but the episodes are available online for two weeks after their broadcast. The network seems to cycle through the show, starting back at season 1 when they finish season 3. The first season just started again and I do intend to start watching, so if anyone else wants to join me, I’d love to have more people to discuss it with!
I’m excited by the availability of TV from around the world and look forward to watching the shows I’ve mentioned that I haven’t gotten a chance to start yet. The TV nerd in me wants to see what other countries are doing and look at the differences and similarities to the shows I’ve grown up watching.
What are some of your favorite shows made outside of the US?