Television is a big, big deal in 2019. The chief of the BBC has just declared “a second wave of disruption” is to hit the industry, even as the preceding disruption still ripples through our living rooms. The arrival of new streaming services from Apple and Disney are sure to be a game-changing, and not just because we’re going to spend the whole winter watching and re-watching Disney’s new Star Wars show.
But for all the massive hits that become international household names, a whole bunch of amazing shows are barely glimpsed outside of their home countries. The people at Rave Reviews decided to look a bit closer. They used IMDb to gather information on hit series from every country in the world, and then sorted them in order of User Rating to divine each nation’s favorite show.
The unlikely top TV shows they discovered include a detective show about an investigator with an extraordinary sense of smell, and the Bosnian Only Fools and Horses. Here’s a look at the maps that the researchers created.
Canada’s top show is one of the rare international classics on the list: the celebrated, seminal spooky FBI show, The X-Files. The United States’ choice may be contentious – Breaking Bad wins out over The Sopranos, GoT, and Cheers – but hey, IMDb votes are the will of the people, right?
You have to go south to find a show that is not an international household name. For example, La Pensión is a Costa Rican comedy drama about a boarding house, and has been popular for nearly as long as the X-Files but is little-known outside Latin America.
Europe is the home of many classic shows that have been remade with an American tinge. Germany’s top show, Dark, is reaping what Europe has sewn by stealing back ideas from a raft of American shows to create something strange and new in the fictitious town of Winden.
And that Bosnian answer to Only Fools and Horses? Lud, zbunjen, normalan (Crazy, Confused, Normal) is a sitcom about three generations of men living in a Sarajevo apartment. It has been on TV since 2007 and is watched across the different countries of the former Yugoslavia region.
Asia is a source for international cult films and comic books – but what about TV? Well, South Korea’s top show, Miseuteo Syeonsyain (Mr. Sunshine), is in distribution with Netflix and could suddenly become very big. The Taiwanese show Wo men yu e de ju li (The World Between Us) is just waiting for an English-language remake.
Here’s one for the geeks: Los Simuladores (The Pretenders) is “a cross between The A-Team and Quantum Leap” according to Rave Reviews. It’s the most popular show in Argentina, but has also been remade in Spain and Mexico. Time to brush up on your Spanish!
Another show just waiting to become an international cult is the Kenyan local hit Sue na Jonnie. A case of mistaken identity leads a broke chancer into a world of crime – with plenty of street humor to lighten the tone along the way.
You’ve already checked in with The Almighty Johnsons, right? New Zealand’s top-rated but short-lived show was about a family of Norse gods living relatively (relatively!) recognizable lives in the 21st century. If you could handle the humor of Thor: Ragnarok, you might just get on with this show, too (although the laughs are a little blunter than you might expect from the land of Taika Waititi).
Where in the world will your binging habits take you next?
G. John Cole
John writes on behalf of NeoMam Studios. A digital nomad specializing in leadership, digital media, and pets, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spotted in the UK, Norway, and the Balkans.