Entertainment TV Six foreign TV shows you should be watching
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Six foreign TV shows you should be watching

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Sometimes Home and Away just doesn’t cut it.

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If you can’t afford an overseas holiday this year, escape through your television with one of these foreign series.

Borgen (Denmark)

All three seasons of this Danish political drama achieved a level of success disproportionate to the tiny country it’s filmed in. Scandinavia is known for its nordic crime series but thanks to Borgen it also tapped into the political thriller market long before House of Cards was a thing (it debuted in 2010, House of Cards didn’t surface till 2013).

The show follows Birgitte Nyborg, Denmark’s first female Prime Minister, and her triumphs and struggles inside Borgen, the nickname for the palace that houses Denmark’s parliament. Other key characters include ambitious reporter Katrine and spin doctor Kasper. Their interwoven lives make for compelling viewing laden with drama, sexual tension and moral issues.

From the same network as The Killing, it’s no wonder Borgen made its way out of Scandinavia and into the global entertainment consciousness. Rumours are it might even get adapted for American television, but rest assured nothing will compare to the original.

Where to watch: DVD

If You Are The One (China)

If you thought The Bachelor was brutal, you ain’t seen nothing yet. China’s quirky, meme-friendly dating show takes rejection to a whole new level, with a panel of 24 women judging one man who has put his pride on the line in the hope of finding a girlfriend. The show pulls 50 million viewers in China for the often hilarious and always scathing appraisals of its contestants.

“Sorry, you look like an alien to me,” is a direct quote from the show, and that’s not even the worst of it. Now is the time to become a fan because, for the first time ever, the show is accepting applications from Australian contestants. You’ll need money for a plane ticket, basic Mandarin and seriously high self-esteem.

Where to watch: SBS 2, Saturdays at 7.30pm or on demand

Prisoners of War (Israel)

Known as Hartufim in Hebrew, this psychological drama was the inspiration for mega-popular American series Homeland. Like Homeland, it focuses on the after-effects of conflict by following three Israeli soldiers released after 17 years of captivity in Lebanon. Two of them return alive, while a third is believed dead. The surviving men must re-integrate into society as heroes while grappling with the traumas of their time as prisoners.

Meanwhile, an investigation attempts to piece together the circumstances of their capture and whether or not the men have been at all influenced by the captors. The answers are far from simple.

Where to watch: Netflix

Rita (Denmark)

While dramas like Borgen and The Killing have been highly successful in the UK and United States, comedy has been neglected from the import TV market. Whether due to language or cultural differences, it is often difficult to translate the humour from a foreign show. That is, until Rita took Netflix by storm. A dramatic comedy hailing from Denmark, it follows the exploits of a dry, quick-witted teacher and single mother named Rita.

Rita is a coming-of-age comedy that blends the title character’s rebellious and anarchistic teaching attitudes with her successes and failures as the single parent of her idiosyncratic family. It is hard not to love non-conformist Rita from the first scene, as she smokes a cigarette in the school bathrooms while correcting the spelling of the graffiti written on the cubicle wall.

Where to watch: Netflix

The Almighty Johnsons (New Zealand)

In the spirit of other Kiwi offerings like Flight on the ConcordsThe Almighty Johnsons is clever, hilarious and wonderfully weird.

On his 21st birthday, Axl Johnson discovers the male members of his family are all reincarnated Norse Gods. As if that weren’t enough, Axl learns his family’s fate depends on him – they cannot gain full control of their powers until he finds his soulmate. Unfortunately, a group of Norse goddesses are working against him and he’s not exactly a whiz in the romantic department.

The show gained such a loyal following that when it was cancelled after two seasons fans rallied online to have it renewed for a third season, and succeeded.

A little bit crude, a little bit quirky and completely unique.

Where to watch: Netflix

Hinterland (Wales)

Also known as Y Gwyll in Gaelic, this dark Welsh crime drama centres around detective Tom Mathias, a troubled British man searching for redemption whilst solving crimes in remote Welsh villages. Interestingly, the series was filmed in both English and Welsh so it could be screened on the BBC and Welsh-language channel S4C.

In the same vein as Nordic noir like Wallander or The Fall, or bleak Brit mystery like BroadchurchHinterland offers little in the way of humour but its 90-minute episodes are loaded with plenty of gripping suspense. But, as is the case with many of the best crime shows, the biggest mystery lies in the dark past of its brooding protagonist.

Where to watch: Netflix

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