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The Top Foreign Shows Americans Might Enjoy

Due to the undeniable success of Downton Abbey there's now hardly any question that American audiences are fine with watching foreign shows. If those foreign shows have to be time period based is something we'll have to wait and see, but in the meantime we're naming the top foreign shows we enjoy and that we feel those who like highbrow American TV would also enjoy too.

Vincent's Picks
Show: Love/Hate
Country: Ireland
Barrier of Entry: Low
American Counterparts: Sons of Anarchy and Boardwalk Empire

Love/Hate is somewhat Sons of Anarchy without that slight level of cheese. Sons of Anarchy is a very good show, but the A-Team like shootouts to rock music isn’t exactly the most gritty and realistic thing on television. Love/Hate starts off a little bit too clean itself, but it quickly goes into the world of crime, drugs, and sex in a very dark, depressing, and none Hollywood way. Instead of glamorizing sex, violence, and drugs it shows how they are ruining the lives of its characters, which leads to characters alternating from being likeable to disgusting. Switching characters from protagonist to antagonist depending on the particular storyline is a strong suit of the series.
The story follows Darren (Robert Sheehan from Misfits), John Boy (Aidan Gillen from The Wire & Game of Thrones), and other drug dealers in Ireland. The barrier of entry is low since there aren’t a lot of episodes even though it’s three seasons in and it hardly feels foreign besides their Irish accents. Going by the music, clothes, slang, and other aspects, this could easily be set in the northeast of America if they simply had a different dialect. If someone is into dark serialized character focused crime shows, then I’d highly recommend this one, and it’s the type of show that gets a lot better each season rather than declining.

Show: Sherlock
Country: UK
Barrier of Entry: Slightly High
American Counterparts: House and Elementary  
To be fair, House is somewhat based on Sherlock Holmes, so it's not like this show is copying or paying homage to our favorite drug addicted jerk of a doctor. Beyond the basic premise of a tortured and self-destructive genius who can solve riddles and only has one friend, they don’t have a ton in common. Imagine if the sub-par CBS show Elementary was done by HBO instead… okay, now you're getting it. This is set in modern day with Holmes pretty much as a private investigator and Watson as a former army doctor who was wounded in the Middle East and has some PTSD issues.
The show is very well made in all facets: the production value, the writing, the mysteries, the characters, and the acting. There’s a reason why the two leading men careers have exploded after doing Sherlock with Freeman as Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit trilogy and Cumberbatch in Star Trek as (possibly) Kahn. The barrier of entry is slightly high because the show can move at a very quick pace and delivery of the dialogue can be incredibly fast when Holmes gets into his zone. Anyone who normally watches some of the more complicated American cable shows such as Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad will have no problem keeping up with this amazing drama. 

Samantha's Picks
Show: Misfits
Country: UK
Barrier of Entry: Medium
American Counterparts: Heroes and Alphas

What’s really unique about Misfits is the comedy it brings to the table. Yes, it’s a drama about ordinary people who gain superpowers through a freak accident. In that way it’s no different from any other superhero show out there. But it also has that ever-present British wit, as well as an unprecedented focus on the underprivileged youth of Britain. In many ways it feels more like a gritty teen dramedy that just happens to involve superpowers.

Because of its focus on underprivileged teens in England, it might be a tough show for American audiences to understand. There’s a lot more slang than the average UK show, and some of the accents (namely Kelly’s) can be hard to decipher. But it’s nothing a little intent listening and a bit of Googling can’t fix. Besides, this show is worth it. It breaks the mold, refusing to be a “superhero show.” And that deserves attention.

Show: Skins
Country: UK
Barrier of Entry: Low
American Counterparts: Skins (U.S.) and Shameless (U.S.)

Remember that terrible short-lived teen drama Skins that struggled its way to failure on MTV? Well, there was an original UK version, and it’s incredible. Skins is another teen drama, which normally makes the intelligent TV enthusiast run for the hills. But instead of flitting around crushes and overbearing parents like American teen dramas do, Skins focuses on the harsh lives of a group of teens trying to survive in Bristol. It’s not afraid to explore drug culture, eating disorders, homosexuality, and death in a way that’s real and unfiltered.

Despite its grittiness and intensity, Skins is relatable in many ways, and its cast members have gone on to places of prominence in American entertainment. Nicholas Hoult starred in X-Men: First Class and Warm Bodies, Dev Patel captured attention in Slumdog Millionaire and is a current cast member on The Newsroom, and you can see Joe Dempsie on Game of Thrones. There’s something universal about Skins, something that can appeal to everyone, and it’s definitely worth a watch.

 If you'd like to add to the list then leave a comment below.


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