Even though Netflix has started to cancel its underperforming series in earnest, that doesn’t mean it lacks for programming. In fact, its slate of offerings is fuller than ever, which makes it difficult for viewers to choose when faced with an embarrassment of bingeable riches.
Netflix’s foreign series, however, rarely get promotion amidst all of the other American shows that have been produced. Although IndieWire has previously provided handy lists of foreign-language series a couple of times, including other imports, that is only a hint of all offerings available.
By now, you’ve already seen Brazil’s excellent dystopian series “3%” or the unforgettable “Chewing Gum” starring Michaela Coel, but what’s next? In an effort to continue helping viewers discover new or lesser-known foreign TV shows, we’ve compiled another list of those series worth bingeing below:
”Case” (In Icelandic: “Réttur”)
Premise: The body of teenage ballet student Lara is found hanging in a theater, but detective Gabriela suspects foul play, not a simple suicide. Many of those closest to Lara are hiding shady dealings. As the investigation deepens, another group of rogue snoops are looking into her death, complicating matters.
Why You Should Watch: This is classic Nordic noir in which dark secrets are uncovered and no one appears to be spotless, not even the victim. What’s refreshing about this series in which the usual misogyny is highlighted and the victim is of course female, is that Detective Gabriela (the excellently implacable Steinunn Ólína Þorsteinsdóttir) looks like an ordinary woman, neither fetishized as a cop who wears heels nor gussied up to be the 10 but with hair pulled back “normal” for TV. Also, the first episode dispenses a lot of exposition or introductions, which can drag down a plot anyway, but if you endure a bit of flailing and trying to figure out who’s who, the plot gels by the end of the first of nine hour-long episodes.
Premise: In this Australian thriller, two aboriginal teens involved in a car crash go missing, and journalist Ned Banks (Dan Spielman) and his hacker brother Jesse (Ashley Zukerman) stumble across a horrifying and incriminating video. What it amounts to is a mounting body count and massive cover-up that leads to serious consequences for those who investigate too closely.
Why You Should Watch: The six-part season flies by with plenty of intrigue to spare, and mixes the slick cyber world of hacking with remote, uninhabited vistas. The series also co-stars New Zealand national treasure Lucy Lawless as the teacher of the two students, Adam Garcia as the editor of an internet news journal, and David Wenham as the Deputy Prime Minister. Engrossing and terrifying, Season 1 of “The Code” is currently available for streaming.
Premise: The Laguna Negra boarding school is set inexplicably out in the remote woods, and soon the students realize that there are dark secrets and danger afoot. Although most of the action follows a group of students, the adults in the school have plenty of action and sordid pasts themselves.
Why You Should Watch: A mix of mystery, romance, supernatural and thriller, once the show gets past the initial setup, it’s an addictive ride full of almost any sort of ridiculous but highly entertaining TV trope imaginable. Ghosts? Cloning? Evil parents? A former orphanage? Secret mothers? Nazis? All of that and more. Brisk and often hilarious writing, especially where the youngest kids are concerned, give the very game actors plenty to work with. All seven seasons are available for streaming.
”Hinterland” (In Welsh: “Y Gwyll”)
Premise: On his first day on the job in Aberystwyth, DCI Tom Mathias (Richard Harrington) investigates the disappearance and later the death of an elderly woman who is found dead in a ravine without her teeth.
Why You Should Watch: This Welsh crime series scratches that itch for Nordic noir like “The Killing,” while delivering the promised remote hinterlands as a backdrop. Dark, disturbing and occasionally depressing, the series unflinchingly delves into the human psyche and comes out the other side with grim purpose. A fun bit of trivia: The series was made as a commitment by the director of BBC Cymru Wales to to show more Welsh language life and culture on the mainstream BBC channels. Every line of dialogue was shot twice in order to create a Welsh and English version of the series. Sadly, Netflix only provides the English version for our shores, but certain portions of the series remain in Welsh with English subtitling. Three seasons are available for streaming.
Premise: Hjørdis, a fellow teacher seen in the hit Danish series “Rita,” spins off into her own miniseries. This time, she’s attempting to put on a show about anti-bullying with the misfit kids at the Islevard School with extra pressure from the school principal because the Crown Princess Mary is going to attend.
Why You Should Watch: True to Hjørdis’ less experienced, more gentle nature, this series is more family-friendly (read: no sex) than “Rita” is. That is not to say that its sweetness should be mistaken for shallowness though. Watching Hjørdis struggle and grow alongside the students she’s mentoring, all while sending a message of tolerance, may lead to a predictable outcome, but it’s heartening nevertheless. Performances, especially by Lisa Baastrup as Hjørdis and the kids, are top-notch. It’s a very welcome quick, low-commitment respite from adulthood and today’s politics.
”Tales by Light”
Premise: This Australian documentary series follows photographers as they explore remote and unfamiliar regions of the planet, capturing glimpses of other cultures and breathtaking nature and vistas.
Why You Should Watch: This should fill the “Planet Earth”-shaped hole in your heart, although it should be noted that this isn’t a nature program. Instead, it takes sort of the “Chef’s Table” approach by getting to know some of the inspirations and photographic techniques told through the lens (ha!) of top photographers.
Premise: It’s like the Japanese “Real World” but without the drama. Three young women and three young men live in a fabulous house and get the run of the city driving Toyota vehicles. They can leave the show whenever they want and are replaced by another young person. Midway through the episode, a panel of colorful people who are apparently watching the show comment on it, which adds a bit of spice.
Why You Should Watch: If you’re already embraced the gentleness of “The Great British Baking Show,” then this might be for you. On a show where nothing of consequence happens and there’s no competition, the house inhabitants are left to their own devices, and that’s just being cool, nice, and polite kids. The gorgeous house, the low-stress interactions, and a peek into the everyday culture of Japan is soothing and addictive all at once. Sugoi! (Amazing! Wow!) Start with the first iteration, “Boys & Girls in the City,” before moving on to the latest version of the franchise, “Aloha State,” set in Hawaii.
Premise: Vincent (Ed Westwick) is a total wanker and knows it. No really. In his narcissism, he breaks the fourth wall often in order to enlighten us mere mortals that he is one of “the show-offs, the posers, the ‘I’m better than you. Fuck everyone and everything,’ twat type of wankers. I prefer the term ‘ambitious.’” He leads a team of two other salesmen who are occasionally as unscrupulous and smarmy as he is in a glamorous life of overselling double-glazed windows and taking advantage of customers in 1980s Essex.
Why You Should Watch: New to Netflix, this BBC series is a disappointing follow-up to Damon Beesley’s “The Inbetweeners” and tries very hard to make Vincent a comedic anti-hero who’ll get his comeuppance, but falls short of actual humor. Why recommend it then? Westwick, whatever the hell he’s doing here, is always engaging, especially when he’s looking viewers straight in the eye, and former “Inbetweeners” stars James Buckley and Joe Thomas have great chemistry as warring salesmen. The nostalgia factor can’t be beat, with the a blaring 1980s soundtrack and cars and clothes to match.