As our TV viewing habits have adapted from changing discs during a boxset binge to on-demand streaming in high definition, one of the most interesting developments has been the boom in foreign language drama on our screens.
It all kicked off with BBC Four’s screening of Forbrydelsen, better known to English-speaking viewers as The Killing. The mystery surrounding just who killed Copenhagen teenager Nanna Birk Larsen reached a fever pitch of Laura Palmer proportions, won over more viewers than the channel had ever seen, and turned Detective Sarah Lund and her jumpers into a new crime icon.
Choosing to watch subtitled TV can prove to be a very rewarding experience, forcing your attention off your mobile phone and focusing it on the action on screen.
As part of its global expansion and drive to become the world’s favourite channel, Netflix offers many foreign language TV series for your viewing pleasure. Here are our top picks of what to try:
Les Revenants/The Returned
This 2012 French drama first premiered on Canal + in 2012, but gained a cult following in the UK and Ireland after it was picked up by More4. The atmospheric slow-burner tells the story of a small French town in the mountains, where dead people, seemingly alive and healthy, suddenly reappear and start to rebuild their lives.
Las Chicas del Cable/Cable Girls
The first Netflix original produced in Spain, this period drama is set in Madrid in 1928. Four young women take up jobs with a modern telecommunications company, operating the switchboard. With the first 15 minutes of the show offering scheming, murder and sexual tension, the lavish costumes and intriguing story mean you won’t be switching over anytime soon.
What started off as a pilot episode for Brazilian television in 2009 has become Netflix’s first original production in the South American country. A dystopian thriller, the show is set in a future where people are given the chance to leave the devastated Inland for the comfort of the wealthy Offshore, with only 3% of the candidates making it.
This Danish comic-drama is far from the Nordic noir crime thrillers that launched our fascination with foreign-language TV, but offers a different look at another Danish institution – its schools. Mille Dinesen plays Rita, a single mother and unconventional teacher who must balance her school and family life.
A melancholy Japanese farce, this series tells the story of an aspiring stand-up comedian who becomes an apprentice of a seasoned performer of manzai, a type of comedy in Japan involving double-talk and puns. The series is an adaptation of a novel by the same name, which one the Akutagawa Prize, Japan’s most prestigious literary prize.
Netflix’s first ever European production is this French political thriller, based in the Mediterranean city on the Cote d’Azur. A slick drama full of intrigue, dodgy dealings and va va vooming liaisons, Gérard Depardieu plays the city’s mayor, whose search for a replacement meets more hurdles than he was expecting. It doesn’t help when he finds out his daughter, a journalist, is digging into his ties to the mafia.
Created by bestselling author Jo Nesbø, this Norwegian political thriller is set in the near future, where the US has abandoned NATO and the EU asks Russia to invade Norway in order to resolve a global energy crisis. When Russian forces take the Norwegian Prime Minister captive, he is forced to allow Russian forces to take over the country, leading to months of occupation as a resistance movement tries to liberate the country.