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by Alison Willmore
August 16, 2013 5:21 PM
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Stream Them Now: Five International Series to Check Out, From Gillian Anderson's Belfast Crime Drama to Guy Pearce's Melbourne Mystery

'The Fall' BBC

August is a quiet month for television, so after you've savored "Breaking Bad" on Sundays, why not take a look at one of the imports below? Thanks to the growth of streaming sites, shows from different countries that wouldn't always find a network in the U.S. are now available legally here. The five series listed below are from Ireland, Australia, Spain, the U.K. and Brazil, and while none have aired on American television, they can be viewed on different streaming services around the web.

"The Fall" (Netflix)

Netflix snagged this Irish/UK serial killer saga not longer after it premiered on television on RTÉ One and BBC Two in May. Created by Allan Cubitt ("Prime Suspect 2"), the five-part first season of "The Fall" is the particularly moody tale about the search for a serial killer in Belfast that cuts between the murderer, Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan, of "Once Upon a Time"), and the detective superintendent brought in from London to oversee the case, Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson). As the series progresses, we cut between Paul's life as the married father of two young children who stalks and strangles women in his spare time to the coolly competent Stella as she goes takes over the case and breaks a heart or two while pursuing her culprit.

As much as "The Fall," like many crime stories, is driven by violence against women, it also specifically engages themes of misogyny and double standards, with Stella emerging as the defender of the female choice not to have children or get married as well as the right to have casual sex without allowing it to be treated as something shameful or that creates an obligation. Anderson, whose role in "The X-Files" is something close to iconic, is a stand-out, as is Dornan, who plays Paul as a would-be wholesome family man who's hollow inside. The episodes available on Netflix might not offer as much closure as one would like, but the series has been renewed for a second season by BBC Two.

"Jack Irish" (Acorn TV)

Guy Pearce plays the title character in this series of Australian television movies based on the novels by Peter Temple. Jack Irish is a disreputable Melbourne-based former lawyer trying to get back on his feet after a client kills his wife due to what he saw as inadequate representation. There are two films so far -- "Bad Debts" and "Black Tide" -- both available on Acorn TV, a streaming site specializing primarily in British series, available for $4.99 a month or $49.99 a year.

The mysteries themselves are just fine, if a little convoluted, but Pearce is a lot of fun in the role of a part-time private eye who's particularly rough around the edges but has a sense of humor about it, as he spends the rest of his time debt collecting, drinking in old man bars, getting involved with some sketchy dealings at the racetrack and looking for solace in manual labor by apprenticing himself to a cabinet maker. The genuine grubbiness of Jack's existence is nicely realized, as he winds his way through cases involving a former client and one of his dad's old friends. The role marks Pearce's return to Aussie TV after starting his career there in soaps "Neighbours" and "Home and Away." A third Jack Irish film, "Dead Point," which like the first two is directed by Jeffrey Walker, is scheduled for 2014.

"La Fuga" (Hulu)

Created by Nacho Faerna, Spanish series "La Fuga" -- "The Escape" -- is a thriller set in a future in which natural resources have been exhausted and governments have become increasingly restrictive as society has threatened to become unstable. Daniel Ochoa (Aitor Luna) and Anna Serra (María Valverde) are lovers and members of an underground resistance who've been separated for five years after Daniel was arrested and sentenced to life in a maximum security prison on a former oil rig in the middle of the ocean. Anna's extensive plan to get him out involves infiltrating the prison as an official. The series was a social media hit for Telecinco, if not enough of one to get a second season renewal. While the series sometimes overreaches in terms of portraying its futuristic setting, "La Fuga" is an interesting mix of "Prison Break," the Erewhon Prison in "Face/Off" and sci-fi romance.

'The Syndicate'

"The Syndicate" (Hulu)

The upcoming fall ABC drama "Lucky 7" is an American remake of this British series, created by Kay Mellor ("Fanny and Elvis"), about five supermarket workers who go in together on the lottery every week and win the prize. It doesn't necessarily improve all of their lives. The series does present a look at life in the lower rungs of the economic ladder, where getting together enough money for an apartment is extremely difficult and job security is scarce -- and the rush of money and the scrutiny that comes with the lottery win doesn't mean that everyone's going to be able to handle easily making things better for themselves. Timothy Spall, Lorraine Bruce, Matthew Lewis, Joanna Page and Matthew McNulty star as the five syndicate members in the first season, with each getting an episode that focuses on and reveals their character's story. A second season, with a new group of characters, aired on BBC One in March and April but has yet to show up on Hulu.

"Threedom" (Hulu)

"Threedom" is a coming-of-age story of the sort that MTV occasionally ventures into when not delving into reality fare, except it's from MTV Brazil and set in refreshing São Paulo, where a trio of young people -- Teco (Thiago Pinheiro), Lud (Renata Gaspar) and Felipe (Marcelo Lourenco) -- end up meeting and sharing an apartment. Despite the title, it's not in love but into friendship they tumble, as each has been gifted with freedom, whether he or she wants it or not. Teco's planned stint as an exchange student in London ends abruptly when he's deported as soon as he arrives and he's too embarrassed to tell his parents and so doesn't go home. Lud's roommate leaves her stranded in the city to which she's just moved with an apartment she can't afford by herself when he finds work elsewhere. Felipe has to rethink his life when his girlfriend breaks up with him. The series is soapy and nothing groundbreaking, but it's an enjoyable look at twentysomething life in urban Brazil.

12 Comments

  • jean | April 19, 2014 3:42 PMReply

    The Fall is so good Gillian Anderson is brilliant so is the rest of the cast..

  • Steve | September 10, 2013 6:46 PMReply

    Check out Love/Hate and Jack Taylor BOTH from Ireland.
    Vincent from UK, Van Veeteren and Irene Huss from Sweden.

  • JulieW | August 18, 2013 10:29 AMReply

    BORGEN is an all time fav...HBO bought the rights a couple of years ago and has been trying to develop it..but nothing yet..I believe it's on Region 2 Blu Ray to buy on Amazon..sadly they made a wonky streaming/tv deal here in the states and it's not readily available to binge on..it's a shame because it's from the people that did the original Danish..The Killing and I believe it's been more successful. Also there's a series (5 episodes) called The Inside Man available on Vudu (and possibly other places..not sure) about a heist inside a money counting facility in UK. Great cast and show.

  • Bryan | October 2, 2013 11:41 AM

    Borgen, Season 3, is available on Link TV online, starting this Friday, Oct. 4. Personally, I'm jazzed. :)

  • Jeffrey Sweet | August 17, 2013 2:45 PMReply

    A Danish series called THE PROTECTORS on Netflix is quite good. Also a Swedish series of WALLENDER. I wish one of the online outlets would give us the original Danish versions of THE KILLING and BORGEN. I've seen them, but I'd like it if others would have the opportunity.

  • Bryan | October 2, 2013 11:40 AM

    The Protectors is no longer on Netflix, sadly.

  • Sareeta | August 17, 2013 10:06 AMReply

    Not sure if Top of the Lake counts as international (I think it was a BBC co-production with Sundance), but I found it quite enjoyable. Braquo, Prisoners of War, and Spiral are good so far (on Hulu and Netflix).

  • francois b. | August 16, 2013 11:07 PMReply

    You forgot my favorite: "Spiral" ("Engrenages") an extremely gritty and addictive French tv show (available on Netflix). It's a police procedural that tracks the cooperation — and conflicts — between police investigators and prosecutors but it's above all a masterful character study that examines (among other subjects) top-to-bottom corruption in government, judiciary and police. The series revels in its characters' hypocrisy and denial, even as it presents them to us so fully, richly and believably that we end up in their corner -- rooting for even some of the sleazier among them. The series is centered on a solitary and fiercely dedicated heroine, the homicide detective Laure Berthaud (Caroline Proust), her team of policemen, and their relationships with the independent judge François Roban (Philippe Duclos) and the unexperienced prosecutor Pierre Clément (Grégory Fitoussi). Although in its fourth season abroad, Netflix only streams the first three here. Quel scandale!

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  • Clark Kent | August 16, 2013 6:23 PMReply

    Hi! Spanish guy here. "La Fuga" is quite crazy. It has a strong pilot episode but it does not hold up (basically falls apart by the fourth-fifth episode). The female lead, María Valverde, is someone to watch (she has done tons of spanish movies, check out "La flaqueza del bolchevique" if you have the chance, it may be her strongest role and film).

    "The Fall" is amazing but too short! Gillian Anderson is brilliant. I am very intrigued by "Jack Irish" (I would love to see Guy Pearce recover from his "Jim Carrey in Batman Forever" performance in "Iron Man 3").

    Nice effort, Alison! (if you want to watch another "could be great but it is just crazy" Spanish show you should try "El Barco")

  • Clark Kent | August 17, 2013 12:56 PM

    Sareeta: "Isabel" is an interesting take on Spanish history, "Desaparecida" ("Missing") is an engaging, who-dunnit one season series based on actual events that moved the whole country (the actor who plays the cop in charge of the case is terrific); and "Red Eagle" is this kind of historical superhero a la Batman without any real powers--- If you are looking for a comedy (with touches of drama here and there) "Los Hombres de Paco" is very funny.

  • Sareeta | August 17, 2013 10:05 AM

    There are so many Spanish series on Hulu I don't even know where to start. Any recommendations?