Dave, aka ackackattack, here. Last year I wrote about two tremendous, international TV series, Broadchurch and The Returned (Les Revenants). Ruth kindly asked that I write a guest post about what I’ve been watching lately.
In America it’s said we’re living in a ‘golden age’ of television here starting with The Soprano’s and The Wire going on all the way up to Breaking Bad and True Detective. Well frankly across the pond they’ve been having their own renaissance with their own original TV programming too. Especially of note is what is coming out of Britain, Sweden and Denmark. For those of you willing to brave thick accents, subtitled dialogue, different cultures and original programming you will be greatly rewarded. If you haven’t noticed, we Americans seem to be
stealing remaking foreign programs more and more lately… and not doing it nearly as well. Case in point FOX’s Gracepoint (Broadchurch), FX’s The Bridge (Bron/Broen), AMC’s The Killing (Forbrydelsen) and ABC’s Resurrection (Les Revenants).
In my 40+ years of consuming entertainment it’s getting harder and harder find original, challenging programming with well-drawn characters and compelling storylines. Especially in a world of sequels, franchises and remakes where the bottom line ultimately rules the day. But rather than be frustrated it just means is that I sometimes have to look outside the box to find what moves me. It just so happens that a lot of great content comes from TV these days… and not just here in America.
Some of these shows mentioned can be a challenge to find so I listed where they might be found at the end of each synopsis.
Rita stars the fabulous Mille Dinesen who plays a rebellious, flawed Danish schoolteacher trying to “save the children from their parents”. As a single mother of three older children she juggles everything to raise them the best that she knows how. Supposedly they remade it as a pilot for Bravo with Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad) that didn’t get picked up. It’s hard to imagine the US remake touching this lighthearted dramedy with its mature themes that Europeans are so comfortable with that we Americans are so afraid of confronting. Curiously enough Dinesen is a dead ringer for Linda Hamilton. I swear you’ll say that to yourself, in your head, at least once an episode. Seriously.(US/Denmark/Sweden Netflix.)
2. Happy Valley
It’s the story of a kidnapping gone wrong not unlike Fargo but without the all the “you betcha’s”. Actually the tone of Happy Valley is actually more reminiscent of Broadchurch. Sarah Lancashire stars as Catherine Cawood, the police sergeant of a small English valley, who gets caught up in this twisted case. Ratcheting up the tension more is someone from her past who turns up, complicating matters all the more for Catherine. It’s a standout performance from Lancashire that is well worth your time. (US Netflix)
3. Black Mirror
It’s like a very dark, twisted version of The Twilight Zone crossed with Tales of the Unexpected. If you’re a fan of those shows you will love this. Being an anthology series there’s a different cast, setting and even reality for each show which makes it palatable in small doses. It should came as no surprise that Robert Downey’s production company has optioned one of the episodes to be made into a feature film. The first of six episodes in this series, entitled The National Anthem, is one for the ages. It will certainly test your mettle. All I can say is you have to see it for yourself. (UK Netflix)
4. The Bridge (Bron/Broen)
You might know this series which was remade by FX with Oscar nominees Diane Kruger (Inglourious Basterds) and Damon Bichir (A Better Life). This is the original Swedish/Danish co-production titled Bron/Broen starring the wonderful Kim Bodina (Nicholas Winding Refn’s Pusher). The body of a Swedish politician is found, cut in half and deliberately placed in the middle of a bridge connecting Sweden and Denmark. Falling under the jurisdictions of both countries, two detectives must work together to solve this mysterious murder. Later it is found out that the corpse is from two separate bodies. Chaos ensues. (Denmark/Sweden/UK Netflix)
5. The Killing (Forbrydelsen)
The Danish strike again with The Killing (Forbrydelsen). In what would be remade by Showtime, whose US creator drastically changes some of the story (and not for the better), this where it all began. Detective Sarah Lund is looking forward to her last day in Copenhagen before she moves to Sweden when a high profile rape and murder case comes up. Over the next 20 days, with implications reaching high up into government, she decides to stay and delve into the case of a particularly dangerous and intelligent murderer. (Denmark/UK Netflix)
Borgen, which is Danish for ‘The Castle’, is from the producers of The Killing (Forbrydelsen). It’s the story of a charismatic, female Danish prime minister faced with suddenly coming into power. It’s been favorably compared to the best seasons of The West Wing. Stephen King named it his favorite piece of pop culture of 2012. I know this is hard to believe but HBO is in the works to develop this series. (Available through Link TV on satellite via Dish Network or DirecTV)
Sean Durkin follows up his impressive debut film, Martha Marcy May Marlene (Elisabeth Olsen, John Hawkes), with this British series Southcliffe. It tells the nonlinear story of a series of deadly shootings in a fictional, rural English town. Starring Shirley Henderson (Trainspotting, Intermission), the truly underrated Eddie Marsan (The World’s End, Happy Go Lucky) and Sean Harris (Prometheus, Showtime’s The Borgias) who won a BAFTA for his chilling portrayal of the shooter Stephen Morton. (US/UK Netflix)
8. Hit & Miss
It’s a British drama, set in Yorkshire, about an Irish, transgender contract killer. The story begins when he comes to England after finding out he’s been named guardian of a son that he didn’t know he fathered. Despite its implausible sounding premise the show is remarkably quite compelling. It’s anchored by Chloë Sevigny (Boys Don’t Cry) who does the best work of her career here. Guys out there, be forewarned, it’s quite conflicting watching the lovely Sevigny play a pre-op transgender woman in this (think The Crying Game). LOL. (US Netflix)
9. Orphan Black
It’s hard to avoid seeing Tatiana Maslany’s name on the internet these days. Particularly for how she’s been snubbed by the Emmy’s for her work on this fascinating sci-fi show hailing from Canada on BBC America. The writing/directing team from the movie Ginger Snaps, Karen Walton and John Fawcett, created this fun, smart sci-fi series about cloning. To watch Tatiana Maslany portray no less than 7 distinctly different clones and then have them pretend to be one another while still in their original character is something you have to see. As one reviewer put it “she’s her own special effect.” BBC America On Demand. (UK/Denmark/Sweden Netflix)
Lastly I wanted to highlight two US shows that are excellent in their own right and are truly like nothing else currently showing on American TV.
Jeffrey Tambor should be on the Emmy shortlist next year for his performance as a father that comes out as transgender to his severely dysfunctional family. Amazon Prime has really stepped up with its first original series. Based on the life experiences of creator Jill Soloway’s (Six Feet Under) family. The large cast is quite extraordinary. It’s as unique as anything you’ll see this year. (Amazon Prime Video)
To say there is nothing like Rectify on American TV is an understatement. It’s a deliberately paced, southern Gothic story of redemption and the loss of one’s self. After 19 years on death row, Daniel, who was convicted of sexually assaulting and killing his 16 year old girlfriend, is released from prison after new DNA evidence surfaces. Struggling to fit into a small town that doesn’t want him and a family that doesn’t know how to accept him, he tries to adjust to his new found surroundings. Did Daniel actually do it? You won’t find out until well into the series and it’s really beside the point anyway. I can’t recommend this sleeper enough. Created by the actor Ray McKinnon who was best known as Rev. H. W. Smith on Deadwood. (The Sundance Channel OnDemand and Netflix)
Special thanks to our new *official* TV contributor Dave W (aka Ackackattack) whom many of you have *met* on the comment section here at FC 😀 Check out Dave’s profile and see if you share his fave movies and/or filmmakers/actors.
So have you seen any of these shows? Well, which one(s) are your favorite?
37 thoughts on “Tube Watch: 11 Great TV Series You Should Be Watching Right Now”
Nice dissertation ad some excellent choices for series to watch.
Huge fan of ‘Orphan Back’ and Tatiana Maslany. Especially her Cosima and Soccer Mom from hell. And Felix trying his best to keep Clone Club in check and beyond the reach of trouble.
Getting back into my BBC groove with ‘MI-5’, ‘Line Of Duty’, ‘New Tricks’ and ‘Raising The Dead’.
‘The Killing’ has a strong ‘Se7en’ vibe with its constant rain and depressing skies last season. While ‘The Bride’ is starting to get spread out too thinly.
I remember Jeffrey Tambor dabbling in cross dressing decades ago on ‘Hill Street Blues’. And have no wish to revisit that off putting weirdness.
I was a big fan of MI-5 or as they call it over there Spooks for the first three seasons. It was like 24 for smart people. LOL. The way they ended season 3 was pretty daring. SPOILER ALERT: I mean losing all three main characters… I don’t think I’ve ever seen that happen on a show over here. I don’t know if they all wanted to leave the show but wow!
Yeah Transplant is a challenging show. If I remember correctly in “… And Justice For All” Tambor caused a cross-dresser to kill himself because he didn’t show up for his trial causing a guilty verdict.
It’s a shame Maslany doesn’t get more love for her work on Orphan Black. Battlestar Galactica, when it was on, was one of the best shows on TV. The way it wove in themes of religious fanaticism, the removal of civil liberties and the war on terror was just brilliant. Sci-fi can’t seem to get any love.
Science Fiction isn’t considered “serious television” for some stupid reason. Yet, if there were no ‘The Outer Limits” or “Twilight Zone” in the 1960s. There wouldn’t be the wealth of well trained, exercised and polished talent of the 1970s (James Coburn, Warren Oates. Robert Duvall, Robert Redford, Bruce Dern, Caroll O’Connor, Barry Morse, Cliff Roberston, Richard Jaeckel, etc). Beyond. And into contemporary times.
Ms. Maslany is an incredible talent being given the opportunity to develop and explore characters are a slight to heavy variation of her runaway theme. And she does it incredibly well!
Still waiting patiently for David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch to cut loose and play erudite Alan Rickman style bad guys! A class well occupied by more blue collar, grittier Mark Sheppard.
‘MI-5’ is a nice place to visit and reacquainted with former ‘Doctor Who’ alums like Sophia Myles (‘The Girl In The Fire Place’) an their newly acquired “Old Hand”, Connie. Who’s very much in the original ‘Tinker. Tailor…’, Beryl Reid/Connie Sachs!
Impressive list here Dave!! Wow I’m ashamed that I haven’t watched a single episode of any of these but as you know, I’m so horrible catching on shows, I barely even catch up w/ Downton Abbey! 😦
Out of this list, Southcliffe, Borgen and Rectify intrigue me most but that last one looks SO tough to watch. OMG, I don’t think I have the nerves to handle the tension but the actor playing Daniel looks like he’s got the chops.
Don’t let that trailer dissuade you. I will say it handles religion unlike any other show I’ve seen. It’s not preachy nor is it demeaning toward it. It’s quite a remarkable show if you don’t mind a slower pace. There are a lot of quiet, reflective moments on the show. This scene best exemplifies what a lot of the show is like:
I am with Ruth. Very glad you pointed out some worthy shows. Orphan Back looks good!
The Bridge is one of my absolute favourite TV shows. Neither the US remake nor the UK/French ones have been able to stick with my like the original, because they have just got the characters and the mood just right in that show. Funny thing is, apparently there are lots of things us non Swedish/Danish speakers miss because there are lots of little in-jokes between the two countries! Still, love that show.
Black Mirror, Southcliffe, Orphan Black – great shows. US TV has been letting me down of late!
Hi Jaina, that reminds me of Lars von Trier’s The Kingdom back in the mid 90’s for Danish TV. There was a Swedish doctor that hated working in Denmark and Lars just tortured him on that show and made him the butt of all the jokes… which I’m sure was no accident. LOL.
Honestly I don’t even watch the major networks anymore except for maybe Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. At least pay cable and the internet are still coming up with interesting stuff.
Think the only network show that has be glued is Hannibal, and that’s not back until next year. None of the new shows have hooked me. All about pay cable that’s for sure. New shows like The Knick and Manhattan are such a breath of fresh TV air!
You know as a fan of Mads Mikkelsen I’ve been wanting to check out Hannibal. I missed the first season so I’ll have to catch up. The Knick and Manhattan I haven’t gotten to yet but anything by Soderbergh is always worth a look.
Definitely check out Hannibal if you’re a Mads fan. Not for the faint of heart, things get pretty horrific! Kinda surprising it’s on network TV for that matter!
The Knick is one of those TV shows that is not only brilliant storytelling but it’s a feast for the eyes. Every damn shot.
Nice list! Definitely a few I should look into. I must say that Black Mirror was very different and quite heavy. I liked it, makes you think.
Yeah Zoë ,”heavy” is a good word to describe Black Mirror. I was always a big fan of The Twilight Zone, Tales of the Unexpected so this was right up my alley. Can’t wait for more.
Good work here. Of your 11 –
I loved Borgen – thought it was just terrific.
Equally pleased with Happy Valley, although it was a short mini-series just six episodes.
I have recently purchased the first season of The Killing but haven’t watched it yet.
In the US Transplant is called Transparent – I watch this one, and going in I was a bit unsure of continuing, but this is so much much more than just Tambor. Each of his three kids have issues as well, and in summary this made for a compelling TV show.
Would like to watch The Bridge and Southcliff.
I started Orphan Black but did not stay with it. If you read this Ruth, please find some time for Borgen. It was simply extraordinary.
Yeah Transplant was a typo. Glad you got to see some of this stuff. I just get so bored with American TV. Especially since a lot of it is just a remake of a show that was already done much better.
I was a fan of the early years of The West Wing so Borgen was a no brainer. Great stuff Mike.
Black Mirror looks very interesting since I’m a huge fan of The Twighlight Zone, I’ll have to look for it online somewhere. I only watch a few TV shows regularly, The Walking Dead, Justified, The Americans and Hannibal are the ones I can’t miss.
Nice list Dave!
Hey Ted, at some point perhaps you could do an appreciation post for Justified? 😉
Oh yeah, I’ll remember to write something about Justified when its last season premieres in a couple of months.
Yeah Ted, Black Mirror is the show that most resembles American TV although much,much darker. You’ll like it if can find it.
Some great recommendations there Dave – I’ve only seen a couple of shows so know you’ve got some good ones there. One of them, Happy Valley, I really, really enjoyed – a terrific thriller set and shot very close to where I live.
You’ve got some great stuff over there Dan. You guys do serious better than us I think. Even to the point of being bleak. LOL.
Then on the flip side your comedies are unlike a lot of the sitcoms we have here. Peep Show, Spaced, The IT Crowd, Little Britain, The Inbetweeners, Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, The Office, The Mitchell and Webb Situation, The Thick of It… some of those are older I know but still they’re brilliant. What I really love is that your celebrities aren’t afraid to take the piss with other celebrities and politicians on the panel and chat shows. When Ricky Gervais did the Golden Globes a couple of times over here he just skewered everybody and you’d have thought every celeb in Hollywood was going to explode. They’re a little full of themselves and boy they sure can’t take a joke. Your celebs are so much more fun. David Mitchell, Rob Brydon, Lee Mack, Steve Coogan, Jimmy Carr, Richard Ayoade, Miranda Hart, Nick Frost, Matt Lucas, Graham Norton… those guys just crack me up.
Interesting post Dave. I live in the UK but I haven’t had chance to catch Southcliffe or Black Mirror yet. I must rectify that soon!
You guys have some of the best stuff on TV.
Great post! Southcliffe, The Bridge and Hit & Miss sound great.
I’ve started watching The Bridge! 🙂
I take it you’re gutted that it got cancelled?
You mean the American version? Naw. The original Swedish/Danish production of Bron/Broen is the one I’d recommend watching first. I only mentioned FX’s remake to highlight what I said above “Americans seem to be s̶t̶e̶a̶l̶i̶n̶g̶ remaking foreign programs more and more lately… and not doing it nearly as well. Case in point FOX’s Gracepoint (Broadchurch), FX’s The Bridge (Bron/Broen), AMC’s The Killing (Forbrydelsen) and ABC’s Resurrection (Les Revenants).” The same could be said for Fincher’s remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo or Matt Reeves remake of Let The Right One In. Of course that’s just my opinion. Here’s some thoughts on The Bridge/Bron series and even the UK/French series adaptation called The Tunnel. http://www.indiewire.com/article/television/the-bridge-bron-broen?page=1
Adapting European programs to America’s sensibilities just isn’t that easy. HBO is trying to adapt Denmark’s political show Borgen which I can’t see them pulling off. We’ve already had The West Wing and House of Cards (which is a remake of the British show from 1990) which are just so different from Denmark’s more subdued political climate. I mean the Danish prime minister rides a bike, unaccompanied, to work each morning from her house that she owned before she came to power. Can you imagine? LOL.
Personally I’ve rarely seen a remake of a foreign program, other than maybe House of Cards, that’s truly out done the original series. At least the US Office took a different bent from the UK Office which is why I think it worked so well in the US. But all that said don’t let me dissuade you from watching FX’s version which just got cancelled. Personally unless I feel a remake brings something new or supersedes the original then I’d rather watch something else. As the old saying goes, “I’ve seen this horse before.”
Wow, great list here! I’m totally intrigued, and I’m definitely wanting to watch some of these you listed. I just watched both Broadchurch and AMC’s The Killing this past summer/fall, and I really loved both. I agree with you regarding Gracepoint. I feel like it was a pointless remake. As for The Killing, I did realize it was remake, but I still really enjoyed it. I felt like the actors and the writing brought it up to another level. I imagine the original might be better, but I still think it’s a worthy show. I really enjoyed it. Thanks so much for this post! I had a great time watching all the trailers and reading your summaries on them.
Hi Kristen. A lot of people who had seen the original The Killing were really upset at how much showrunner Veena Sud changed the story. The acting was really good but I the found about the original and decided to see that. Here’s a good article about it. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/05/14/the-killing-how-amc-s-adaptation-of-forbrydelsen-went-wrong.html
Now that I’ve seen it and know how the story changed I can’t go back to the US version. Of cource the flip side of that is that sometimes it’s what you see first that you’re preferential to. Having seen Ridley Scott’s original Blade Runner like 10 times I now can’t watch the directors intended cut with Harrison Ford’s voice-over dialogue taken. Harrison even said he read it as dryly as he could hoping the studio wouldn’t use it because he just absolutely hated it.
Glad you enjoyed the blog post. Being in my mid-40’s and having seen everything I felt like sharing what I’ve found on the TV side that pretty much goes under the radar here in the US. As much as I adore movies TV is just killing it right now. Especially the stuff from Europe.
I couldn’t agree more! I love what European TV has to offer, and I often prefer it to American. I also agree that sometimes what you see FIRST often becomes your preference. I was so drawn in to AMC’s The Killing, that while I think I’d enjoy the original, I’d still might feel like I enjoy AMC’s more just because it’s what introduced me to it. Not to mention, if you REALLY think about it, AMC’s The Killing is probably considerably better than the majority of American network shows we’re offered. At least I think so.
That’s interesting about Harrison Ford and Blade Runner. I never knew that!
That’s a good point. Even though The Killing may not stand up to the original, what I saw of season 1 was better than most of what’s out there.
Just wanted to mention Series 2 of Broadchurch will be airing the UK in January 2015. Yea! Not sure when on BBC America. Of note Charlotte Rampling and Marianne Jean-Baptiste (Oscar nominated in Mike Leigh’s Secrets & Lies) have been added to the cast.
Haha, I appreciate that.
Ooo, that is super exciting! I loved the first series. Wow, sounds like they’re really ramping up by getting a great cast. I love David Tennant. I hope he returns for series 2.
Excellent post Dave. I’ve seen a few of these, mainly Happy Valley, Orphan Black and Black Mirror. Some scandanavian ones are already on my radar. The one that I’m intrigued most with is Hit and Miss. Sounds good!
You know the premise for Hit & Miss just sounds so ridiculous but I gotta say Chloe really holds up the series. I really like her, so I’m biased.
I’m a fan also. Havent seen her in a while. Thats what drew me to that series. Ill definitely keep my eye out for that.
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Ummm… I just want to know how I missed this post! I have seen almost all of these, but in their American versions. I should really check out the Killing one because I loved loved the American one. And seriously two of my fave series of last year were Happy Valley and Black Mirror.
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