Worth watchin Up North & Down Under?
July 12, 2010 7:01 AM   Subscribe

Non-American, non-British TV show recommendations.

The spousal unit and I are branching out. We've really enjoyed this past 18 months of British TV viewing but now we have a chance to watch TV shows from other English speaking countries. Any suggestions of well written shows we must see from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, or South Africa?

Above anything else, we like well written shows and other than that we have few preferences: Drama, Comedy, Historical, SF, and Horror are all fine, but vampires are right out! I am sick to death of vampires. Also Lost-type of shows leave us cold, as do love-driven shows, sex-driven shows, most shows about teenagers and most cop/hospital/law shows.

Here is a list of our favorites:
Fawlty Towers
Breaking Bad
Gavin and Stacey
Doc Martin
Bleak House
Garret's Law
The Thick of It

A few shows we recently tried:
Seven Periods with Mr. Gormbsy (NZ) fantastic!
McLeod's Daughters (Au) Just fair- I've only seen the first episode and I'm undecided.
Living in Your Car (Ca) Too early to tell, but what we've seen is smart writing. I think this could be very good.
I Rock (Au) Awful, unwatchable.
Dan for Mayor (Ca) Pretty lame.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy to Media & Arts (68 answers total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
From Australia, try to get a hold of Phoenix

Mid nineties, but well worth a watch
posted by the noob at 7:04 AM on July 12, 2010

Coupling and Saxondale are two recent favs of mine. Both are from the UK.

I really liked Keen Eddie, which was a US show set in the UK. One of the costars was a younger, less whory Sienna Miller.
posted by reenum at 7:06 AM on July 12, 2010

Sorry, just saw that you don't want US or UK suggestions. You should still watch the above, though.
posted by reenum at 7:07 AM on July 12, 2010

Response by poster: Yeah, we've got the American and British TV shows covered. Even if I didn't list them, we've probably seen at least one episode-- didn't care for Saxondale and Coupling is on the "maybe at a later date when we run out of other things" list.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:12 AM on July 12, 2010

Peep Show (Channel 4)
Blackadder (BBC)
posted by mdwiffle at 7:30 AM on July 12, 2010

The Canadian series Slings and Arrows is about as unmissable as it gets. It definitely battles it out for the top 3 series ever slot for me, few things have smarter or funnier writing, and the acting at every turn is perfect. I really can't say enough good about it.

And it's not English speaking, but I just got done with series one of Engrenages (Spiral) which I really enjoyed. It's sort of a bit Wirey, in the way everyone has ambiguous motives, and that it delves into social issues alongside its main plotline, and very Wallandery too.

Speaking of which - Ken Branagh just did an English version of Wallander (2x 3 episode series) which I really rather enjoyed. The Swedish version is supposed to be very good as well, but if you're mostly after English speaking I would definitely recommend giving the UK one a try.
posted by opsin at 7:30 AM on July 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

You must watch Peep Show. With the possible exception of Arrested Development, it's my favorite sitcom, and it happens to be British! The whole series is available for free on hulu.
posted by seliopou at 7:31 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Underbelly is the story of a real life drug war from a few years ago in Australia and the police investigation into it. Later series looked further back into 70s-80s Oz crime and the police corruption of the 80s/90s. It's very full on as regards to swearing, violence and gratuitous nudity which might be an issue and occasionally it looks a bit ragged round the edges due to budget but I thought it was great despite it's limitations.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:34 AM on July 12, 2010

Best answer: Summer Heights High!! You may have seen it because it was shown in the US, but it's Australian. I thought it was hilarious. (It's not highbrow, though.)

(Puck you, miss!)
posted by sallybrown at 7:45 AM on July 12, 2010 [6 favorites]

Summer Heights High, a spoof documentary series about an Australian high school is one of the funniest things I've seen in years. One guy, Chris Lilly, plays the three main characters. I've also heard that his previous show, We Can Be Heroes, is very good too, but I've not got around to watching that.

Kath and Kim is pretty good too.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:46 AM on July 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Wire in the Blood. Great acting and writing. It gets a bit gruesome. N'thing Summer Heights High. The Tongan kid broke my heart. When the heck is Prime Suspect complete series going to be available on Netflix streaming?
posted by Pennyblack at 7:59 AM on July 12, 2010

Best answer: Being Erica from Canada is wonderful.
posted by pised at 8:05 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's going to depend in part on what makes something Australian or Canadian to you.

I mean, Farscape is Australian, and BSG and Eureka are Canadian productions, but there's not much Australian or Canadian about them except the occasional accent or background shot.

The standard Canadian tv show recommendation is likely DaVinci's Inquest, which I've never seen as I'm not a great fan of procedurals. Well, the absolutely canonical Canadian television show is "Coach's Corner" on Hockey Night in Canada.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:11 AM on July 12, 2010

Best answer: jPod. (Ca)
posted by elsietheeel at 8:29 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

We loved Australian shows Rain Shadow and Brides of Christ. Both are on Netflix.

How do you get access to these other non-US/UK shows, btw? In the US…
posted by dpcoffin at 8:48 AM on July 12, 2010

"Trailer Park Boys" (Ca) is extremely stupid, but funny as hell. I love the characters, but it is a little thin on plot at times.
posted by baxter_ilion at 8:50 AM on July 12, 2010

Seconding Slings and Arrows, Being Erica and jPod.
posted by Gridlock Joe at 8:59 AM on July 12, 2010

Also Twitch City (can't believe I forgot that).
posted by Gridlock Joe at 9:01 AM on July 12, 2010

Two worthwhile recent Australian comedies: Wilfred - Black comedy: suburban, druggy, creepy man in dog suit. Very Small Business - Pathetic and unscrupulous small businessman and his overqualified but barely-recovering depressive employee.
posted by hawthorne at 9:05 AM on July 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

My mom likes Sea Patrol (Aus) as a 'replacement show' for McLeod's.

Wallander is something of a hit in Europe. Scandinavian detectives are apparently the new craze in the Netherlands. BBC Four aired the Swedish show, so I guess there are English subtitles somewhere, somehow.

Raumpatrouille Orion (1960s, German) is still on my "The sixties were so awesome!" to-do list.

But yeah.. there must be a fair number of English-language-but-not-UK/US shows that have never achieved global acclaim. Good question!
posted by Harry at 9:32 AM on July 12, 2010

Black Books is British and absolutely hysterical.
posted by Aznable at 9:44 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have been watching Skins, which seems at first to be a teen drama but is actually much more interesting than that.
posted by charlesv at 10:00 AM on July 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It's a little old, but one of the best Canadian comedies ever was The Newsroom, a mockumentary very much like "The Office" before there was a "The Office". It looks like it's fully available on DVD, although there are diminishing returns after the second season.

Harder to find but also quite good (and very Canadian) is Made in Canada, starring Rick Mercer. It was titled The Industry for non-Canadian audiences.

The abovementioned Twitch City (by director Bruce McDonald and starring national treasure Don McKellar, Molly Parker, and a Cylon) is well worth seeking out.

Oh, and I can't believe no one's mentioned The Kids in the Hall yet.

I think that covers the entirety of good comedy in Canada for the last 20 years. No, Trailer Park Boys doesn't count.

And I'll point out one more time for everyone reading this, the OP is NOT looking for UK/US shows.
posted by Gortuk at 10:12 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have to 2nd opsin, Slings & Arrows (canada) is probably one of the best TV series I've ever seen from any country. The writing and acting are spot on hilarious and SMART. I can't explain how perfect Paul Gross is, you just have to see it. I would LOVE to see him play Hamlet just because of this show.
posted by magnetsphere at 11:26 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: It's going to depend in part on what makes something Australian or Canadian to you.

Anything produced by that country-- it doesn't have to feature that particular country.

And I'll point out one more time for everyone reading this, the OP is NOT looking for UK/US shows.

Thanks. I figured I must have worded the question poorly since so many people have gotten it wrong; asking for non-American/British TV shows must make some people think that I want British TV show recommendations. Oh well, I'll be careful with my slashes next time.

You may have seen it because it was shown in the US

I've watched very little American TV outside of HBO in the past 10 years, so I probably haven't seen something even if it was shown in America.

Looks like Summer Heights High is going to the top of my list.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 11:35 AM on July 12, 2010

LEXX (Sci-Fi from Canada)
posted by Hanuman1960 at 11:38 AM on July 12, 2010

I like the Canadian series Corner Gas, about a small town in Saskatchewan.

How Blogs Are Born
"Chives on top of me?"
posted by srah at 11:45 AM on July 12, 2010

You need to get a TheBox account.

Seconding Skins (2007) here. I think it's much deeper and better written than The Inbetweeners. Worthy of multiple re-watchings.

Murphy's Law (2003) is short and sweet. Very different from American cop shows. Drama and some funny bits; not so focused on action.

Of course, Spaced (1999) is an oldie but goodie for fantasy/sci-fi sit-com. The closest thing today is The Big Bang Theory, which isn't very good.
posted by jayne at 12:11 PM on July 12, 2010

Don't bother with Coupling, seriously. Oh, well, some of the ideas behind it are a bit clever, but it's just...a bit tedious. Try the criminally-underrated Pulling instead. But anyway; you're not looking for British shows.

Summer Heights High is ace. Kath and Kim is, to my mind, partially inspired by Sylvania Waters, so it may be helpful to see that as well. The only other Aus show that's been shown over here recently is The Chaser's War on Everything, a sketch/prank show that's apparently huge over there.
posted by mippy at 12:45 PM on July 12, 2010

Best answer: Corner Gas was a big hit comedy in Canada and is widely available on DVD.

The Kids in the Hall was a pretty influential comedy show in Canada.

The Frantics was better as a radio comedy troupe and you can get their CDs but their TV show is probably only available on bootlegs.

Da Vinci's Inquest was apparently a "Canadian masterpiece". I don't care for that style of show in general, but there it is.

For more family-oriented fare we have Anne of Green Gables (the TV series) and Pit Pony and Anne's follow-on series, Road to Avonlea. All are available on DVD from Netflix I believe. Heck, I think Pit Pony is available on instant streaming. I dunno whether it's the best but my kids liked it.

North of 60 was a decent drama, but isn't available on DVD like much of Canadian TV from the 90's an earlier.

The Starlost was produced in Canada although it's not particularly Canadian although it has a certain period kitsch appeal.

Degrassi Junior High in its various incarnations is still on TV and you can get it's predecessor The Kids of Degrassi Street on DVD. Not exactly compelling viewing for adults but a staple of many Canadian adults' childhoods.

Per the previous recommendations, The Newsroom, Made in Canada, Twitch City and jPod are all great and probably more of what you're looking for.
posted by GuyZero at 2:50 PM on July 12, 2010

I have a friend who's really into Little Mosque on the Prairie, a Canadian show about a small Saskatchewan town and its newish(?) small Muslim community. It's a comedy series that's mostly pretty lighthearted and fun. I've seen an episode or two and I liked it a lot. Who knows how objective the article is, but the Wikipedia page seems to indicate that it's well-regarded. I think it's definitely worth checking out.
posted by mandanza at 3:18 PM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

2nding Corner Gas. It features the guy from Dan for Mayor, which is indeed awful, but don't let that hold you back. It's a tame brand of funny (my grandmother loves it), but remarkably, it's still actually funny. It's basically a live action King of the Hill -- indeed, it shares some of the same writers.

Little Mosque on the Prairie, on the other hand, is the opposite of funny. Pass.

Trailer Park Boys
is roughly the Canadian equivalent of Australia's Kath & Kim. They would make a nice double bill. It went on a few seasons too long, so stick to the first couple.

Kids in the Hall is required viewing. I personally believe Kids in the Hall: Death Comes to Town is even better, but that is a somewhat controversial opinion.

2nding Made in Canada (which is called The Industry in foreign markets). Brilliant. It's the prototypical 30 Rock/Studio 60, where instead of Saturday Night Live, they're producing shitty Canadian Xena-style TV dramas.

Puppets Who Kill. The show's basic conceit is ridiculous (how it made it past a pitch is anyone's guess), but it's actually some pretty solid comedy.

Kenny vs. Spenny. Try it. You'll probably hate it, but if not, you're welcome!
posted by Sys Rq at 4:06 PM on July 12, 2010

Good News Week. Puerile, irreverent, immature, politically incorrect. Funny as fuck. You might not get some of the political humour, though.
posted by dg at 4:13 PM on July 12, 2010

Best answer: You absolutely cannot miss out on watching Love My Way "a Logie Award winning and critically acclaimed Australian television drama series. It won the AFI award for Best Television Drama Series for each of its three seasons (2005-2007)." It's a Secret Life Of Us for grown-ups. Another Australian drama worth watching if you can get hold of it is The Cooks. I can also recommend Wildside and The Circuit, in particular for the performances provided by Aaron Pedersen. For shits and giggles you might also want to try Bangkok Hilton for some early Kidman.
posted by unliteral at 4:22 PM on July 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

No parsing on my behalf, but here's a Wikipedia list of South African television series. First on the list: "21 Jump Street (1987–1991) [English] - Canadian police drama starring various teen idols including then unknown Johny Depp."

Canadian? Yes, Set in a fictitious US location, but filmed in Vancouver, Canada.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:32 PM on July 12, 2010

NZ TV is pretty sparse, but Outrageous Fortune is popular. They tried, and failed, to remake it for UK and US audiences. There's also an animated show about Pacific Islander NZ kids called Bro' Town.

Hearty seconding to Kids in the Hall and Summer Heights High / We Can Be Heroes.
posted by Paragon at 5:00 PM on July 12, 2010

Stressing Slings and Arrows here. I don't know anyone who has seen it and hasn't loved it.
posted by painquale at 5:07 PM on July 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: In New Zealand Outrageous Fortune is extremely successful - been made as Honest in the UK and Scoundrels in USA. It's starting its sixth and final season tonight.

Australian mockumentary Frontline is absolute genius and a must watch - put it top of your list ahead of Summer Heights High. Another mockumentary The Games looks superb from the one episode I have seen. Must get onto that. Stars/written by the smartest man in comedy - John Clarke.
posted by meech at 5:09 PM on July 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

nth jPod.
posted by pompomtom at 5:54 PM on July 12, 2010

I have spoken before on Mefi and will speak again of my love of The Games (Australia, 1998). And the aforementioned Twitch City is uneven, but very very good in parts.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:04 PM on July 12, 2010

Republic of Doyle.
posted by futureisunwritten at 6:07 PM on July 12, 2010

I adore Due South. Best-written buddy cop show ever. I'm going to watch Slings and Arrows next, as it involves lots of the same people (though no lip-reading wolves).
posted by asperity at 6:16 PM on July 12, 2010

Forgot to add: yeah, Due South is a cop show, but it's not one of those cop shows. Much more a comedy than a police drama.
posted by asperity at 6:20 PM on July 12, 2010

It's not a show show, but I'm a big fan of CBC's The Hour. Strombo's slotted against Leno and Conan's ilk, but what he does is very different. I've wasted entire days just watching his interviews.
posted by emeiji at 6:27 PM on July 12, 2010

The Hollowmen is the best thing to come out of Australian TV for a while. Made by the same guys who did Frontline which was mentioned above. There was a post about it on here when it was on and I don't think it was all that well received by our international friends. Ah well.
posted by markr at 6:42 PM on July 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Nthing The Games.

Two other Australian dramas, Seachange and Something in the Air. Both pleasant if quirky.
posted by kjs4 at 7:06 PM on July 12, 2010

I'm going to recommend the Australian cop show, Rush. It's not quite on the writing level of some of your favourites, but it has really well drawn characters and in amongst a fairly frenetic "action"-driven series there are some wonderful character moments. The show is advertised with its fast-pace, but the reason I kept watching the series was for its quiet moments which show up unexpectedly.

And nthing Summer Heights High, We Can Be Heroes, Frontline, The Hollowmen from Australia and Slings & Arrows from Canada.
posted by crossoverman at 7:53 PM on July 12, 2010

Yes, absolutely, even if you don't see any of the other Canadian shows mentioned above, definitely check out Slings and Arrows. Paul Gross, rowr. Oh, and a very young Rachel McAdams! So cute. So much talent.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:00 PM on July 12, 2010

The Hollowmen is great - similar in concept to Yes, Minister, but with a unique Australia flavour. Well worth a look, but it draws deeply on the Australian psyche for its humour and doesn't seem to travel well. NZ's Outrageous Fortune is great viewing, also.
posted by dg at 8:23 PM on July 12, 2010

As far as Aussie drama goes, i can entirely recommend Tangle and Satisfaction. Both are very solidly acted, candid and several cuts above the usual aussie fare. Ben Mendolsohn is particularly good in Tangle.
Satisfaction is more than a little risque. Hell, it's is set around the lives of a group brothel workers in melbourne.
posted by jcm at 8:47 PM on July 12, 2010

I'll throw a vote in for Trailer Park Boys as well. The episode dealing with Rush nearly killed me.
posted by Nabubrush at 8:49 PM on July 12, 2010

I should add that despite Satisfaction showing a heaving bunch of naughty bits it's a far cry from being sex-driven. Well-written stories first and foremost.
posted by jcm at 8:55 PM on July 12, 2010

So, Slings and Arrows, right? But really, it's immaculate television: the ensemble cast clearly loves the chance to bring together stage and screen, and there's not a gram of flab in the script.

I have a soft spot for The Secret Life of Us, though watching clips again suggest that you need to be a twentysomething to appreciate it. It hasn't aged so well. Doing the reccy to work out exactly when it jumped the shark (S3, when the budget got cut ad most of the leads left) pointed me to Love My Way, and I'm going to do my best to find it. Claudia Karvan's a fine actor who deserves more recognition outside of Australia.

(As you've probably guessed, Australian comedy is at its best when it's mockumentary or topical satire, which may mean some of the references go over your head, but there's usually enough broad stuff to carry it.)
posted by holgate at 10:45 PM on July 12, 2010

Best answer: Classic Australian news satire - Frontline

So glad you're going for Summer Heights High. Watch the preceding series We Can Be Heroes which will be your introduction to Jai'me King. Watch out for Chris Lilley's next series Angry Boys, which I think is going to be on HBO

And in the name of all things holy, please stop watching McLeod's Daughters.

Underbelly is extremely popular, but just in case anyone recommends it to you, I implore you to never watch it. It's a terrible show that is inexplicably successful (oh, well actually it's probably due to the gratuitous T&A) and is about to be remade for the US.
posted by mooza at 12:26 AM on July 13, 2010

Nthing Engrenages. Nice French take on a cop drama.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:51 AM on July 13, 2010

A can only emphasise the manifold virtues of Jon Clarke and Outrageous Fortune.

If you want good fantasy or sci-fi from New Zealand you could look at Kaitangata Twitch and Under the Mountain (the mini-series, I haven't seem the movie) respectively. The latter's a bit old, but the story holds up well even if the effects don't. Both are adaptations of good New Zealand authors.

I have fond memories of Prisoner, but I'm not sure how well it's travelled down the years. If you liekd Tenko it may be worth a look.
posted by rodgerd at 1:23 AM on July 13, 2010

Seconding The Circuit, and if any Aussies out there haven't seen it yet I urge you to give it a go on DVD. Some of the storylines are an absolute punch in the gut, but there's humour too, and a little romance, and the most stunning scenery of the Kimberley region.

Frontline is aging a bit - at the time it was biting satire, but now that attitude to news/current affairs is normal. But the same crew did The Hollowmen which was recommended above, which is about political staffers, and it's pretty good.
posted by harriet vane at 3:02 AM on July 13, 2010

Oh for the love of god, do not watch McLeod's Daughters. It's dross. Truly. Summer Heights High is fabulous.
posted by taff at 6:18 AM on July 13, 2010

John Safran vs God is worth checking out. And, like everyone says, Summer Heights High is great.
posted by surenoproblem at 6:24 AM on July 13, 2010

My favourite ever Canadian comedy series was Made In Canada. Rick Mercer has never done better than Richard Strong, IMHO.
posted by Kurichina at 7:31 AM on July 13, 2010

Another Canadian show, Durham County, to add to the list.
posted by squeak at 8:26 AM on July 13, 2010

Made in Canada, definitely. I don't watch much TV, but that was a good show. Kids in the Hall and Corner Gas are/were popular in Canada too, and they had their moments, but I never loved them.
posted by smorange at 10:22 AM on July 13, 2010

+1 for Love My Way, which I've been describing to people as similar to Six Feet Under. Also, proof that Sam Worthington can actually act.

Also, +1 for jPod
posted by jaybushman at 10:46 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

So aside from another mention of Slings & Arrows (really great!) I wanted to drop in a mention of Flight of the Conchords, which based on your breadth of watching, you probably already have covered (since it's on HBO and all, so in that way an American show) but just in case! Since it's acted/co-written/song-written by two wonderful New Zealanders (and one of my favorite things ever).
posted by haveanicesummer at 11:25 AM on July 13, 2010

I agree about The Circuit & Wildside that unliteral links above - both serious dramas; The Circuit especially: I think it's a fairly important show in the great Aussie indigenous cultural scheme of things.
I'm expecting reviews of everything here s.l.o.g! Threads are open a year no?
posted by peacay at 1:54 PM on July 13, 2010

Response by poster: Wow what a great response. Thanks so much to everyone who has chimed in. It will take me awhile to check everything out, but I will give each suggestion some attention.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:45 PM on July 13, 2010

Regenesis is very well written, and from Canada.
posted by girlpublisher at 7:05 AM on July 14, 2010

Korean Soap Operas aren't necessarily what we have here. They are dramas, thrillers and yes romances all in neat 13, 26 or 50 expisode bites. All with beginning, middle and ending. Rather than sugget a particular show as I've watched more than tons to list them, I'd suggest heading over to http://www.dramafever.com/ and find a huge selection of streaming, subtitled, free and legal Korean TV.
posted by eatdonuts at 8:35 AM on July 14, 2010

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