20 votes

What are the best, most interesting TV shows from outside the US?

Emphasis on interesting, please. Obviously subjective, but I'll say I don't generally find dramas qualify unless they also examine a system or make a commentary in the process, e.g. The Wire, The Newsroom. Just about anything else is fair game.

Any language welcome. Fiction, non-fiction, whatever.

25 comments

  1. [4]
    Bezarius
    Link
    The German show Dark is incredible. I just finished watching the first season this evening and it's the most perfect season of television I've seen in a long, long time. Literally the only thing I...

    The German show Dark is incredible. I just finished watching the first season this evening and it's the most perfect season of television I've seen in a long, long time. Literally the only thing I would rate alongside The Sopranos or The Wire. It has it all - complexity, deep philosophy, theoretical physics, horology, sci-fi elements, brilliant characterisation/acting, unpredictability, great dialogue and masterful pacing. Check it out.

    11 votes
    1. [3]
      culturedleftfoot
      Link Parent
      I just finished the first season last night. This show is amazing! Thank you so much for the recommend, you were spot on and I'm loving it so far.

      I just finished the first season last night. This show is amazing! Thank you so much for the recommend, you were spot on and I'm loving it so far.

      5 votes
      1. [2]
        Bezarius
        Link Parent
        Surprised to have gotten a reply to this, haha. No worries! Glad you enjoyed it.

        Surprised to have gotten a reply to this, haha. No worries! Glad you enjoyed it.

        2 votes
        1. culturedleftfoot
          Link Parent
          Yeah, I finished the second season two days ago and can't wait for the third. This is exactly the kind of thing I was looking for: so much to chew on, and so well made.

          Yeah, I finished the second season two days ago and can't wait for the third. This is exactly the kind of thing I was looking for: so much to chew on, and so well made.

          1 vote
  2. ThatFanficGuy
    Link
    Deustchland 83 is a German series about an outstanding guy who's recruited into East Germany's espionage and sent to West Germany on an undercover mission. Hands down the best television I've seen...

    Deustchland 83 is a German series about an outstanding guy who's recruited into East Germany's espionage and sent to West Germany on an undercover mission. Hands down the best television I've seen so far, on par with Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. Solid characters, interesting plot, great atmosphere, and quite a bit of insight into what it's like to be a spy in that day and age.

    Glukhar' is a Russian TV show that follows Sergey Glukharyov, nicknamed Glukhar' (Russian for both "grouse" and "a cold case"), a Moscow police investigator, as well as the rest of his police division. Was very popular in Russia when it aired, ended up creating its own mini-franchise: two sequel series, one feature film, and two spin-off TV series. Gives a great look into Russian life – and that of the police in particular. Procedural but in a very Russian fashion: low-key, atmospheric, with plenty of humor mixed in with serious and dramatic moments.

    You can add Sherlock to the mix if you consider the Sherlock Holmes fandom to be a system of its own.

    7 votes
  3. patience_limited
    (edited )
    Link
    Don't miss Babylon Berlin, which is one of the most interesting series I've ever seen. Though it's not aiming at the same purposes and politics, I'd rate it up there with The Wire, particularly in...

    Don't miss Babylon Berlin, which is one of the most interesting series I've ever seen. Though it's not aiming at the same purposes and politics, I'd rate it up there with The Wire, particularly in its interwoven commentary on authoritarianism and gender.

    The genre is mystery/police procedural, with heavy Noir influences. There's vast material here for Weimar-era German history fans, leaning into what made Berlin such an astonishing and vital locus.

    I've never seen more seamless CGI for settings, meticulous costuming, and amazing props. The political machinations are plausible and compelling. The characters are exceptionally well-drawn, to the extent that even the blackest villains are sympathetic. The plot occasionally gets more convoluted and implausible than necessary, and Season 3 marks a worsening of the problem, but overall I highly recommend it.

    [Content warning for nudity, explicit sexual fetishism, and gruesomely realistic violence.]

    7 votes
  4. [2]
    fifthecho
    Link
    I mean, given that you're looking for interesting programming, I feel like the British comedy panel quiz show QI (which is short for "Quite Interesting") fits the bill.

    I mean, given that you're looking for interesting programming, I feel like the British comedy panel quiz show QI (which is short for "Quite Interesting") fits the bill.

    5 votes
    1. culturedleftfoot
      Link Parent
      Heheh. Good call, it is indeed quite interesting.

      Heheh. Good call, it is indeed quite interesting.

      1 vote
  5. UniquelyGeneric
    (edited )
    Link
    So it may be a bit biased because I work in advertising, but I find Gruen to be both highly entertaining while also interesting/informative. They pick apart marketing and advertising, show the...

    So it may be a bit biased because I work in advertising, but I find Gruen to be both highly entertaining while also interesting/informative. They pick apart marketing and advertising, show the tricks they are employing on their audience, and actually have given me a deeper appreciation for the effort taken to make an ad. They also showcase bad ads and quickly demonstrate how the right ideas with the wrong execution can be a failure.

    The name originates from the Gruen Transfer, wherein a shopper entering a mall gets disoriented, forgets what they came there for, and immediately becomes an impulse buyer. Named after the architect of the first malls.

    You can find many episodes on YouTube as well. My favorite segment is when they give a pitch to real advertising firms to "sell the unsellable" and it's interesting to see the different techniques they employ to grab attention and make a call to action.

    Oh, and it's Australian so they have a lot of cheeky humor and aren't afraid to curse, which as an American, makes it all the more enjoyable.

    4 votes
  6. Omnicrola
    Link
    A few things I've run into on Netflix: Money Heist - this is an incredible Spanish show. It's basically a heist movie, except the plot is spread across 30+ episodes (more coming). Acting is...

    A few things I've run into on Netflix:

    Money Heist - this is an incredible Spanish show. It's basically a heist movie, except the plot is spread across 30+ episodes (more coming). Acting is excellent, the characters are deep and three dimensional.

    Cleverman - this is a modern day retelling of stories from Australian Aboriginal mythology. It has a kind of superhero aesthetic to it, but it's pretty secondary to the main plot point which is that there are another species of humans that have revealed themselves and are treated like second class citizens (the Hairies, because they have a lot of body hair).

    4 votes
  7. [2]
    Arshan
    Link
    I highly recommend Kingdom. Its a Korean period piece that is set during the Josean era. It is beautifully shot, and all the costumes are amazing. Season 2 also just came out, so I highly...

    I highly recommend Kingdom. Its a Korean period piece that is set during the Josean era. It is beautifully shot, and all the costumes are amazing. Season 2 also just came out, so I highly recommend catching up.

    2 votes
    1. patience_limited
      Link Parent
      Also, Mister Sunshine, another Korean period drama set at the end of the Josean era. Stellar cinematography, impossibly beautiful people, and a really fascinating, complicated time in Korean and...

      Also, Mister Sunshine, another Korean period drama set at the end of the Josean era. Stellar cinematography, impossibly beautiful people, and a really fascinating, complicated time in Korean and world history. The romance gets irritating, but otherwise it's completely worth watching.

      1 vote
  8. DanBC
    Link
    Not dramas: Prison, a documentary from Channel 4 in the UK. Six episodes split across two series. The first three look at men in prison. The second three look at women in prison. It focuses mostly...

    Not dramas:

    Prison, a documentary from Channel 4 in the UK. Six episodes split across two series. The first three look at men in prison. The second three look at women in prison. It focuses mostly on how prisoners respond to prison life. https://www.channel4.com/programmes/prison/episode-guide/series-1

    Crime and Punishment from Channel 4 in the UK. Weirdly, this has now been erased and Channel 4 have deleted their page for it. It was a comprehensive look at the English criminal justice system, and gave useful information about some of the problems caused by some of our sentencing, especially the "IPP" sentences. https://www.channel4.com/programmes/crime-and-punishment https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2019/sep/16/crime-and-punishment-review

    2 votes
  9. mrbig
    Link
    Killer Ratings is a Brazilian documentary series about a TV show host with a gruesome secret. It’s on Netflix. Not for the faint of heart.

    Killer Ratings is a Brazilian documentary series about a TV show host with a gruesome secret. It’s on Netflix.

    Not for the faint of heart.

    2 votes
  10. zonixum
    Link
    I can't give it a hard recommendation, but I found the french Ad vitam on netflix to be interesting. It is a sci-fi drama, but it does want to genuinely examine one big change in society which has...

    I can't give it a hard recommendation, but I found the french Ad vitam on netflix to be interesting. It is a sci-fi drama, but it does want to genuinely examine one big change in society which has vast implications. That thing being that people can live forever, as long as a person periodically take a bath in a sort of vat bath. If you can enjoy dry, detective story, contemporary, hard sci-fi then you might enjoy it.

    1 vote
  11. tomf
    Link
    Gomorrah is killer. It's all about the 'mafia' -- etc. Wide array of excellent characters that doesn't get bogged down.

    Gomorrah is killer. It's all about the 'mafia' -- etc. Wide array of excellent characters that doesn't get bogged down.

    1 vote
  12. Eric_the_Cerise
    Link
    The Returned (Les Revenants) (Yet again, US made a subpar remake/copy ... 'nuf said). Two seasons, released in 2012 and 2015. Very creepy. People who died start coming back home, months/years...

    The Returned (Les Revenants) (Yet again, US made a subpar remake/copy ... 'nuf said). Two seasons, released in 2012 and 2015. Very creepy. People who died start coming back home, months/years later, not zombies (I guess), just ... not dead anymore (?), but also not quite right, either.

    1 vote
  13. pvik
    Link
    Guess I am a little late to this thread. Misfits [UK]: Not a typical superhero show. The main characters don't really posses any heroic characteristics. Signal [Korea]: Interesting premise and...

    Guess I am a little late to this thread.

    • Misfits [UK]: Not a typical superhero show. The main characters don't really posses any heroic characteristics.
    • Signal [Korea]: Interesting premise and well written show.
    • Hero Yoshihiko [Japan]: It's a parody live-action RPG style show. One of the few shows I have laughed out loud multiple times every episode.
    • The Almighty Johnsons [Australia]: I imagine this show was conceived by a bunch of Norse-Mythology majors who got drunk and decided to write a show. Has an interesting premise, hilarious and well written.
    • Wellington Paranormal [New Zealand]: This series was created by Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement. I found it pretty hilarious. (I've seen only the first season)
    1 vote
  14. [7]
    moocow1452
    Link
    Well, if we're counting ~anime, I would recommend A Place Further Than The Universe as an "I want to watch an Anime" show, as it's 13 half hour episodes, a relatively recent show, well animated,...

    Well, if we're counting ~anime,

    I would recommend A Place Further Than The Universe as an "I want to watch an Anime" show, as it's 13 half hour episodes, a relatively recent show, well animated, and it's pretty well insulated from "Anime Bullshit." Violet Evergarden is similar, and if you want deeper recommendations, Anime Feminist has you covered.

    1. [6]
      culturedleftfoot
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Ehh... thanks, but I'm very, very, very skeptical when it comes to anime, especially the ones that can fit into the Teen/Young Adult category. I've heard of both your recs but haven't yet been...

      Ehh... thanks, but I'm very, very, very skeptical when it comes to anime, especially the ones that can fit into the Teen/Young Adult category. I've heard of both your recs but haven't yet been convinced to watch either. Would you put either of them in the same league, quality-wise, as a show like The Wire?

      Basically, if it's not on the level of something like Haibane Renmei, Aku no Hana, Shigurui, or Cowboy Bebop, it's highly unlikely I'll invest the time. I've probably seen too much anime as it is.

      Edit: At least when it comes to shows. I give anime films a little more leeway.

      3 votes
      1. [3]
        moocow1452
        Link Parent
        I'm going to see your fighting words there, and raise you that I've tried The Wire, and it just wasn't for me. I get that it's the greatest show ever made and every day I haven't seen it is a day...

        I'm going to see your fighting words there, and raise you that I've tried The Wire, and it just wasn't for me. I get that it's the greatest show ever made and every day I haven't seen it is a day I'm missing a piece of my soul that lets me understand the pain in the world, but I just couldn't get past the first three episodes and it's a lot of show to commit to watching.

        I still back Place and Evergarden as surprising and mature shows that don't talk down to children, or indulge the base impulses and wish fulfillment that Pop Anime is known for, but if you want something that's kind of more mature and in the same vein of The Wire as a cop show in a difficult world, an underrated gem I loved was Concrete Revolutio, sort of a X-Men situation in 1960's Japan, where a team of superhumans and myths work with humanity to try and keep the peace in an era of incredible cultural change. If you want Magical Girls riot busting student protests, Yokai arguing with Zoning Boards about tourism and gentrification, and Sealed Demons and Space Titans arguing for and against a superhuman registration act, it's that sort of show that may not even be to your taste, but uses Anime Tropes to explore viewpoints and messages in a way that only Anime can and I kind of love it for trying.

        1 vote
        1. [2]
          culturedleftfoot
          Link Parent
          I'm not looking for a similar type of show as The Wire. I'm just saying an anime series has to be exceptional to get my attention, not merely good.

          I'm not looking for a similar type of show as The Wire. I'm just saying an anime series has to be exceptional to get my attention, not merely good.

          1 vote
          1. moocow1452
            Link Parent
            That's fair. I stand by everything I mentioned.

            That's fair. I stand by everything I mentioned.

      2. [2]
        pvik
        Link Parent
        Talking about anime, I think Darker than Black is an exceptional one. I love the premise and story-telling in it.

        Talking about anime, I think Darker than Black is an exceptional one. I love the premise and story-telling in it.

        1. culturedleftfoot
          Link Parent
          Hmm. I'd checked it out a bit before - read reviews, watched the first episode, even heard it summarised as 'Chinese electric Batman'... I'd have never figured it's that good. Have you seen any of...

          Hmm. I'd checked it out a bit before - read reviews, watched the first episode, even heard it summarised as 'Chinese electric Batman'... I'd have never figured it's that good. Have you seen any of the four anime I mentioned? Does it stack up to those?