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3.22.2017

5 Obscure Foreign Binge-Worthy TV Shows

If you feel like you’ve watched literally all of the TV in the world, hold up a minute. Have you actually? Are you really the useless repository of episode plots you proudly claim to be? Chances are, you haven’t caught a bunch of the best non-American series out there, and especially not the ones made during the actually-kind-of-a-long-time-ago-now, early aughts. Weird, witty, and all-together whimsical in that way that only foreign things are, these picks are the ones you just can’t miss. Now get back in bed, step up your streaming game, and let us take you on a journey through our top five foreign shows that you need to binge.

“The Inbetweeners”“The Inbetweeners”, a British sitcom that aired from 2008 to 2010, delivers all of the comfort and nostalgia of a very slightly dated teen coming-of-age series, mixed with the idiosyncrasies of a cult comedy that’s based solely on the humor of British schoolboys. The show follows the lives of a group of suburban British teens as they navigate all of the things a teen navigates, according to pop culture: bullying, painfully awkward sexual encounters, preposterously out of touch families…you get the jist. Somehow it really works here, probably because the most cringe-worthy moments are oddly insightful, and any sexist male chatter or antics are raised to heights of the absurd. At one point in Season 2, one of the boys punches a fish to death after catching it, out of concern that it won’t survive if he releases it. Manliness at its finest. In Season 3, the most irritable and cynical member of the group participates in the school fashion show, and unwittingly does his cat-walk strut with one of his balls exposed. It’s fantastically asinine stuff that really wants to be watched (read: binged) all in a weekend.

“Hibana: Spark”“Hibana: Spark” premiered on Netflix in 2016, as a TV adaptation of the novel Hibana by Naoki Matayoshi. The novel won Japan’s most prestigious literary award, the Akutagawa Prize, and you can feel that the series was borne from nuanced and complex storytelling.  Although it’s about two fledgling comedians trying to make it in Tokyo’s stand-up comedy circuit, the series is surprisingly melancholy and meditative. It gives a peek into the traditional stand-up comedy form in Japanese culture, Manzai, a comedy style which consists of two performers, a straight man and a funny man, trading jokes at high speed. The Manzai routine of the series’ two main characters provides a sort of allegorical backdrop for their doleful tale of friendship and continual disappointment in the media industry. We have a feeling this is going to blow up.

“Degrassi”“Degrassi” had its moment, but it seems like of late that everyone’s forgotten about the beloved Canadian drama franchise. We vote to bring back the craze, in a non-ironic way, for the show that gave Drake his big debut. “Degrassi” follows the lives of a bunch of kids in Toronto, Ontario, who have, literally the. worst. luck. ever. Throughout the series, there’s a healthy dose of teen pregnancy, suicide, gang violence, murder—your usual high school fodder. Binge this when you want a soap opera experience that brings you back to your TeenNick days. This show also gets bonus points for its early aughts fashion inspo. You might be tempted to get chunky highlights, perhaps even with a single color streak playing up your side bangs. As the saying goes: go big, or go home.

“Black Books”This show epitomizes dry-as-hell, laughter-at-the-expense-of-someone-screwing-up British humor. Broadcast from 2000 to 2004, the British sitcom takes place in the eponymous London Bookshop, owned by over-the-top grinch-y and spiteful alcoholic Bernard Black. His assistant is the incompetent Manny Bianco, a formerly stressed out accountant who, early on in the series, accidentally swallows a self-help book titled The Little Book of Calm (rendering him a totally chilled out, optimistic, and ineffectual character). Each episode is a self-contained disaster, which sees Bernard engage for a moment with the outside world, only to retreat, moodier than ever, back into his cave of books. If anything, it’ll make you feel that much better about your own life. Now that’s what we call a win-win.

The CodeThis Australian series, aired in 2014, begins with a seemingly isolated car accident in the Australian outback. What follows is an expansive network of conspiracy theories, corrupt political staffers, and a secret bio-tech research project. Think majorly overlapping story lines and a high-tech whodunit vibe. The show will satisfy your thirst for hack-tivist cyber-drama and the “human stuff” that happens around it. It’s also a visual masterpiece—it was filmed, in part, in the New South Wales Outback, so expansive landscape shots are visually interesting counterpoints to the tech visuals and code that also have time on screen. So much is going on in this show that even binge watching it starts to feel productive.

Images Via Channel4, Netflix, Vice, and Deadline Hollywood

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