Even More TV Options: Non-US-Made Shows

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?



3 thoughts on “Even More TV Options: Non-US-Made Shows

  1. Does Orphan Black count as a non US show seeing how its BBC Canada? That would probably be my favorite. I also enjoy ‘Downton Abbey’ and ‘Sherlock’ as well.

    I also love a good anime. I have seen the full series of ‘Dragonball Z’, ‘Gundam Wing’, ‘Black Butler’, and of course, ‘Sailor Moon’. Now that media is so accessible I have the luxury of watching subtitled versions of the original Japanese series, but as a kid I was forced to watch English dubbed ones.

    As a kid, it never sat right with me that Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune were cousins, and when I learned later on in life that they were actually lovers in the original series, it all made way more sense and was way less creepy. I really wish that studios would realize that kids arent stupid. You cant just try to cover something up with minor dialogue re-writes and think they wont notice. I bring this up, because a part of me feels like this is similar to pretty much every non-english show that gets remade for an american audience. Studios feel like they need to prude/sex things up (weird how its both) and dumb things down in order for an American audience to enjoy them. And even more sad, they are probably right on some level. But like I said before, its great that we do live in an age where we do have access to the original content, and those of us that like to experience a show with a different culture point of view can do so.

  2. I can’t believe in one blog post you’ve added 3 shows I need to go check out and add to my list of shows to catch up on.

    I am a fan of Endeavor a quieter mystery series from Great Britain. My all time favorite import is the original Degrassi Junior High/High from Canada. I used to get it via PBS and it was literally the only television show that was about junior high and high school students who a) looked like students and b) looked like me and my friends. It was a poignant, acutely honest portrayal of what it was like to come of age and navigate school and I adored every moment of it.

    Also growing up Puerto Rican I have watched my fair share of telenovelas. However, some rise to the top. And for me one of the great things about them is that they have an ending. You watch for 4-6 months and they conclude, like a TV series would. My favorite of all time and one I would watch again instantly was Corazon Salvaje (Savage Heart). It is a great fantastical melodrama love story set in a period that resembles the 1800s. It’s a love story wrapped in a Cain and Abel story that includes a bastard son, dueling sisters and arranged marriage that manifests into true love. Yes it sounds (and was) incredibly over the top, but the actors were wonderful and the show was compelling. My entire family, cousins, aunts and uncles all watched. It was just that fantastic a show.

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