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Why I love watching foreign TV shows…

Ok, it all began when I still had a Netflix account.  I’d run through all the science fiction worth seeing.  Then I went through all the Oscar winners and nominees ever.  The Golden Globe nominees and winners.  I went through a phase where I watched both the original and the remake/reinterpretation of films.  It began with Seven Samurai and The Magnificent Seven and on to others like The Lake House, Shall We Dance, and Mostly Martha/No Reservations.  I went through many, many old seasons of US TV shows, dozens of miniseries.

Then I found foreign TV…

At first it was English language shows.  I started with the UK.  I have something of a soft place in my heart for PBS.  When I was a kid–long before we had cable–we had four or five channels.  PBS was the only place to see something outside the glossy world of Hollywood.  As Time Goes By introduced me to Judi Dench and Jeoffery Palmer.  Theirs was the story of lovers separated by war and time until they meet again seemingly a lifetime later and wonder… what if?  Then I followed Dame Judi’s career back further to when she first met her husband, Michael Williams, on the show A Fine Romance.

British TV!

It was the love story of two awkward souls… something I can relate to.  Eventually I ripped through everything British or Irish I could find.  Doctor Who, Ballykissangel, The Royal, Inspector Morse, Prime Suspect, Coupling, Touching Evil, Reckless, The Bill and many others.

Then I was on to Australia, South Korea, some bits of German TV.  Recently it’s been Danish TV.  The Killing, a murder mystery which was translated/reinterpreted on AMC last season, began life as Forbrydelsen.  Presently I’m working my way through the police procedural show Rejseholdet, which translates to Unit One.

Danish TV!

There’s something freeing about watching a foreign show.  Usually I don’t know any of the actors.  I’ve never seen them in other shows or movies.  I’m not burdened with any past knowledge or prejudice(positive or negative) toward the actor.  They are seen only for their merits, their craft… as is the show.

Also I’ve found that TV, more than movies, is a window into a people and a culture.  What are the chances that I’ll be able to travel to these places and stay there for any appreciable time?  Slim.  TV can be a hint at how a culture views itself.  Admittedly it is an incomplete picture, but the more and more diverse selections from a culture the picture becomes less and less incomplete.  I find it fascinating.

Also I don’t like to wait a week for the next episode of a show.  Through Netflix, Hulu and other sources I can watch entire seasons of a show over a weekend.

I can hear the questions already… “What about the subtitles?”

It’s a shame that most people can’t read and watch a film at the same time.  I’m an English teacher, so both by inclination and training… I both like to read and read very fast.  I don’t feel like I’m missing any visual information put in by the director when I am reading the subtitles.  Also I loathe dubbed versions as I feel that it becomes a distraction and jars me out of the experience.

So the next time you see something with subtitles on Hulu or Amazon Prime or wherever… take a chance.  You might discover a gem.


About Rob Sterner

English teacher, Film buff, Filmmaker, Writer, Musician, Photographer, Runner, Taoist, Thinker, List maker...


One thought on “Why I love watching foreign TV shows…

  1. Interesting post… good read too. I’m not sure if i’ll ever be able to get into foreign TV (it’s taking me long enough to get into U.S. television) but maybe one day.

    Nice blog, i’ll be sure to check back again.

    Posted by Matt Stewart | December 8, 2011, 4:00 am

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