I have practically stopped watching films and now watch more TV than ever.
A good series can give you hours and hours of fun in decently-sized chunks while a film only gives you a couple of hours of entertainment and you have to concentrate for a bit longer. Maybe my concentration span is short, or maybe I just like quick resolutions, I want to find out fast what happens in the end. Of course, in some tv series, this doesn’t happen for another 20 episodes (and you’re left with a cliff-hanger anyway)…
So, if you’re looking for a box-set of high quality drama and don’t mind the subtitles, here are five TV series I would really (really, truly) recommend. Bearing in mind how much I like crime series and books, you won’t be surprised at the genre. Even if you don’t like thrillers, all of them have plenty of other human elements that will hook you. (A big thanks here to BBC4 for introducing me to most of them.)
THE KILLING – Denmark
Well, there’s a surprise I hear you say. I admit I haven’t watched the US version, which I hear is just as good. But the Danish original will do for me.
You don’t need to watch the three series in chronological order, although if you’ve never watched any of them, you might as well.
Series 1 in particular, is not just a thriller. It’s a deep look into people’s psyches, into their minds, and you will need to be prepared to be moved. There is plenty of action and crime of course, but that isn’t why I’m recommending it: it’s an incredible piece of drama.
SPIRAL – France
Now, this one you must watch in chronological order. For there are many characters that span through the series and there are many subplots that develop through each series and across them.
This is not just a crime drama, but a look at the whole justice system. There are plenty of moral dilemmas to be had by this very diverse (and often disfunctional) cast of characters. All 4 series worth watching.
BRAQUO – France
I know I said at the beginning of the post that even if you didn’t like police dramas you would enjoy most of these series. Well, this is the exception. This series is full of police brutality. But it works. It works because throughout you’re not sure whether to condemn it or to condone it. Whether the characters have a choice or not.
All through my life I’ve been hearing in the news more reports of the French police capturing Basque terrorists than the Spanish. If this series is a true reflection of their system, now I understand why.
BORGEN – Denmark
If you’ve been waiting for me to recommend a non-police based series, here it is. It’s still a thriller – but a political one which will keep you on the edge of your seat.
I first watched it with my boyfriend when BBC4 showed it after The Killing 2 ended. We thought it was also a thriller and so we spent the whole episode waiting for someone to be murdered. It never happenned. It didn’t matter. We were still glued to the screen.
This is a political thriller with a woman at its centre. If you like watching people struggling with their conscience, this one is the one for you.
WALLANDER – Sweden
To write a post about European TV drama without including Wallander would be, well, erm, murder. I’m not a particular fan of the books but this series is really special.
Wallander is warm, cold, tough, sensitive… you pair a couple of opposites together and they will probably describe him equally.
There are two different actors who bring Wallander to life in the Swedish version. Rolf Lassgård, pictured in this image, is the least cold of the two – but Krister Henriksson is just as fascinating.
As with all the other series in this post, it’s not just the protagonist that makes the series, but a whole range of other characters who help to bring the books to life and beyond.
MONTALBANO – Italy
Ah, I almost forgot about Montalbano. Probably because this series is completely different to the rest. Not just because of its origin, but also because its tone is so much lighter than its Northern fellow series.
You might have read Camillieri’s books: don’t worry, these TV films do them justice. Luca Zingaretti as Montalbano is superb and the rest of the characters are just as charming. I enjoyed this series so much that I even wrote a blog post comparing Montalban’s leadership style to Gibbs’ from NCIS.
If you want to fantasise about clear blue water, nice food, nice weather and want to smile all the way through, this is the one for you. That’s why it’s my +1.