Foreign TV: It’s Better

Joe Kottke, Editor-in-Chief

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I am so tired about hearing people rave over Friends, How I Met Your Mother, and The Office. They’re not that good! My boredom with America’s tireless cycle of annual sitcoms and dramas was relieved by Netflix originals. What seemed like an overnight growth in popularity has now turned into over 100 Netflix originals series and films. Some of the shows produced abroad caught my eye and I decided to give them a try. This began my foreign TV addiction. Netflix makes it easy to access great content produced by people all over the world. I would still recommend watching shows in their native languages with English subtitles because the voice actors do not do the original actors justice. These are my top five foreign shows at the moment, with four out of five being Netflix originals.


1. Elite

Set in a mountainous town of Spain, Élite is the perfect teen drama. The story is centered around a group of students at “Las Encinas,” which is described as the most exclusive school in Spain. Three students from the middle class end up attending, due to a shady construction accident. The progressive school offers a prize to the most academically successful student: the ability to study in the United States. We learn within the first scene although that something happens, shifting everyone’s attention away from this award. Élite features an outstanding soundtrack and will introduce you to new music. Personally, “Hundred Miles” by Joshua Lemon and “I Hear the Day has Come” by Matt Maltese are my favorites from the series. The show’s all around spotless production is shown through sets, camerawork, and avoidance of typical cliche teen dialogue (for example as seen in Riverdale). Finally the cast is composed of some of the most attractive people you’ve seen, which is always a plus.

2. Derry Girls

This Irish comedy is the most refreshing thing on Netflix right now. Set in Derry, Ireland during the 1990’s, the show follows a group of private Catholic school girls who seem to always be getting in trouble. James, a Brit, is the only boy who attends the school and is the punching bag of the group. The humor and unique plot line will lead you to binge. My only complaint is that there are only six episodes, with each being 20 minutes long. I need more. Luckily, Derry Girls is being renewed for a second season. I would also recommend watching with subtitles to catch all the jokes. Their accents are pretty thick.

3. Skam

Both Élite and Derry Girls are easily accessible, being a Netflix original. My third pick, Skam, is only available on Daily Motion— a free site—with English subtitles. This Norwegian series takes place in Oslo, following a group of friends through Gymnasium (secondary school). Skam become wildly popular with its release in 2015, spawning four European remakes. The soundtrack tops Élite’s, and the characters are all loveable— especially by season two. Skam follows a more typical teen drama plot, with whole seasons worth of plot focusing on cheating, breakups, and lying. The show ended in 2017 after season four, leaving fans disappointed without showing the main characters during russefeiring: Norwegian secondary students’ final semester, which is filled with partying and celebrations. Overall, Skam will hook you in to continue watching and will make you want to visit Oslo.

4. Skins

Skins is the diamond in the rough on this list. Set in the United Kingdom, Skins is broken down into volumes, not seasons. Each volume follows a different generation of teenagers, with an episode based on each character. The episodes are 50 minutes, but usually feel longer. It is the furthest thing from a feel-good show, with every episode including some sort of trauma or alcohol/substance downwards spiral. Yet, you want to keep watching. Skins was scrapped in 2013 after low ratings and controversy, but it is still available on Netflix. It is undeniably unique and if you are interested in edgy teen shows, it is definitely for you.

5. Baby

Capping off the list is another Netflix Original, Baby—set in Rome, Italy. Much like Élite, Baby follows a group of private school students in the richer neighborhoods who desire more. This show has everything: a good cast, beautiful sets, and unique cinematography, yet it lacks originality. Sometimes when I’m in the middle of an episode I’m like, “really?” It felt like a Walmart version of Élite, trying to tackle the issue of socioeconomic differences, including a token closeted gay relationship, and emphasizing on tacky private school uniforms. Baby is still worth a watch, but only if you exhaust all your other options.

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