Our critic picks 30 TV shows from around the globe to stream right now

An illustration with stills from 'Rough Diamonds,' 'La Vita Bugiarda Degli Adulti,' 'My Brilliant Friend,' and 'Pachinko'
Clockwise from top left: Robbie Cleiren as Eli in “Rough Diamonds””; Rossella Gamba as Angela, Valeria Golino as Vittoria, Azzurra Mennella as Ida, Giordana Marengo as Giovanna in “La Vita Bugiarda Degli Adulti”; Irene Maiorino as Lila and Alba Rohrwacher as Elena in a scene from “My Brilliant Friend”; Steve Sanghyun Noh in “Pachinko.”
(Illustration by Ross May and Patrick Hruby / Los Angeles Times; photos by Nyk Dekeyser / Netflix; Eduardo Castaldo / HBO; Robert Falconer / Apple TV+)
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Travel broadens the mind, not because you have seen the Eiffel Tower or the Colosseum in the metaphorical flesh, but because it teaches us that our view of the world is limited, informed — or deformed — by the rites, customs and mythologies of wherever it is we’re born, and the cultural assumptions we grow up to regard as “normal.” And while there’s no substitute for being there, this is nevertheless a lesson you can learn from your own American couch, through the offices of imported television.

One incidental benefit of the streaming wars — produced by the hunger for content, niche programming and platforms, and the big streamers’ global presence — is that programs from around the world have become available here as never before, and in such profusion that you can fill your queue with interesting series from now until New Year’s and never hear a word of English. Many foreign-language shows are available dubbed, but the sound of a tongue is as fundamental to a culture as the taste of its food. Imagine going to Italy or Egypt and every voice you hear is dubbed in English. (Of course that app will be available soon, sadly.)

These are series that, for the most part, were made for their respective native audiences; they offer an inside, not a tourist, view, and so take you places tourists don’t go. This isn’t a “best” list — “Borgen” is not on it — just a collection of things I like, shows I found fun, funny, surprising, enlightening, exciting or beautiful, or that opened a window onto a new world. Each will free you for a while from American ways of thinking.

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El Encargado (Hulu). In this splendidly rendered dark comedy of social and economic class, Guillermo Francella plays Eliseo, the manager of a luxury condominium in Buenos Aires, who in 30 years has come to identify the building as his own, and the tenants, upon whom he spies, as what must be managed. He’s a man not averse to kickbacks, or surreptitiously renting out a flat when its owners go on vacation, but he takes pride in his work. Suddenly faced with a plan to build a pool on the terrace that will eliminate his living quarters, and his job, Eliseo quietly goes to war.


Inspector Rex (MHz Choice). Long-running, colorful, location-rich ‘90s police procedural teams groovy Vienna police detective Tobias Moretti with the eponymous police dog. (A German shepherd, so he speaks the language.) They’re roommates too.


Rough Diamonds (Netflix). Set in Antwerp among Orthodox Jewish diamond merchants, this stately series is played in Yiddish, Flemish, English and French. A suicide in the Wolfson family brings estranged, secularized brother Noah (Kevin Janssens) back from England, to find that his late sibling’s gambling debts have brought their business under the thumb of Albanian mobsters. Prosecutor Jo Smets (Els Dottermans) is interested. With Ini Massez, centered and powerful as Noah’s sensible sister Adina, and Marie Vick as Gila, the girl he left behind.



Paranormal (Netflix). A hangdog professor (Ahmed Amin) finds his rational worldview shaken in this series, set in 1979, that elegantly mixes horror with the lightest wash of comedy — it’s dark and scary, but never ponderous. Genre tropes — haunted house, a mummy’s curse, ghostly presences and barely glimpsed beasties — are served on a bed of family matters and self-reflection. With Aya Samaha as the fiancee the doctor would surely make miserable and Razane Jammal as an undeclared old flame (red hair sells the metaphor) back in his life, and by his side.


Call My Agent (Netflix) /Standing Up (Netflix). Two from Fanny Herrero. “Call My Agent” revolves around a Parisian talent agency, disrupted by the death of its founder. The agents and their assistants collide in a sort of multi-thread screwball workplace comedy, spiced with famous actors, including Juliette Binoche, Isabelle Huppert, Monica Bellucci and Francophone American Sigourney Weaver, as themselves. The terrifically sweet “Standing Up” is set in the comedy clubs of the city’s less chic quarters, its characters struggling to make a name for themselves, with a cast that trends young and ethnically diverse. (Actual French comics make appearances, but you’re unlikely to recognize them.).

Candice Renoir (Acorn TV). This long-running police series set in a picturesque Mediterranean resort/port town delivers just what the name suggests: It’s French, fizzy and temperamentally and literally sunny. Cécile Bois plays Candice, an outsider imported, after a long sabbatical, to head a tight-knit team of investigators not quick to trust her, given her chirpy demeanor and “feminine” self-presentation. She’s also managing four kids, a nearly ex-husband and various romantic possibilities. There is eating and drinking, because you have to live.


UFOs (MHz Choice). Colorful period science-fiction comedy set in the late 1970s. When the rocket he’s worked on for a decade for the French version of NASA explodes after liftoff, engineer Didier Mathure (Melvil Poupaud) is bounced down to head a department dedicated to investigating flying saucer reports; his new associates include Marcel (Michel Vuillermoz), alert to conspiracies; Esperanto-speaking Vera, who believes; and mutton-chopped Rémy (Quentin Dolmaire). With a percolating electronic score, a “North by Northwest” homage and a flamingo.

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Dark (Netflix). There’s a wormhole in the caves below the nuclear plant in the fictional forest town of Winden, Germany. A missing child sets off this time-spanning, time-traveling, mind-bending multifamily drama, long on Teutonic sorrow and shades of gray. Moody, mysterious. (Read more.)


Ordinary People (MHz Choice). Hit comedy dry as hardfiskur. Harried mother of two Júlíana (Júlíana Sara Gunnarsdóttir) — three if you count husband Tómas (Halldór Halldórsson) — finds herself the host of a comic talk show when she stumbles into a presentation by best friend, lodger and struggling actress Vala (Vala Kristin Eiriksdottir), demoted to costume-wearing sidekick. Tension, lies and kayaks ensue.



Guilty Minds (Prime Video). First-rate, character-rich, lively legal drama, in Hindi and English, often in the same sentence. Varun Mitra and Shriya Pilgaonkar play lawyers and old friends who sometimes find themselves on opposite sides of a case; she works on the side of the underdog, he’s part of a large firm that serves the powerful. Big issues — sexual harassment in the film business, corporate water theft, what lawyers should and shouldn’t do — are raised without melodrama.

The Office (Hulu). An Indian adaptation of the American adaptation of the U.K. series. You will recognize old friends, plots and jokes — but even as we are all the same, we are not all the same.

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June 12, 2023


Boris (Hulu). The fourth season of a series revived after 11 years, this hectic backstage comedy concerns the production of an Italian TV series portraying the life of Jesus, funded by a Netflix-like American streaming platform, beholden to “the algorithm” (which would like it to include a teen story). Neurotic actors, dodgy extras, beleaguered writers and a director (Francesco Pannofino) trying to hold it all together. (Boris is his fish.)

My Brilliant Friend (HBO) / The Lying Life of Adults (HBO). Two series from the works of Elena Ferrante. The first, which has so far adapted three of her “Neapolitan” novels, is an intimate epic that follows its protagonists — the impulsive, original Lila (Ludovica Nasti as a child, Gaia Girace as an adolescent) and more circumspect Lenù (Elisa Del Genio, younger; Margherita Mazzucco, older) — as they grow together and apart from 6 to 66, women in a world ruled by childish men. (Read more.) Set in the 1990s, “The Lying Life of Adults,” finds teenager Giovanna (Giordana Marengo), exploring the loud working-class roots of her quiet middle-class life; getting to know her demonized Aunt Vittoria (Valeria Golino); and figuring things out as various factions try to claim her. (Read more.)


The Law According to Lidia Poët (Netflix). A progressive feminist period mystery set in 1880s Turin and based on the historical character of Italy’s first female lawyer. Lidia (Matilda De Angelis) is accepted to the bar, then kicked out by grumpy old men; to achieve justice for the wrongly accused and socially outcast she turns detective, attaching herself as an assistant to her lawyer brother Enrico (Pier Luigi Pasino), in whose big house she comes to live, alongside his family, including handsome journalist brother-in-law Jacobo (Eduardo Scarpetta). Smart, exciting and a little naughty, it moves through a variety of social strata and historical moments, while spinning some affecting domestic arcs.

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Heaven and Hell: Soul Exchange (Netflix). A police detective (Haruka Ayase), the lone woman in a sea of men, and her prime suspect (Issei Takahashi), the male president of a large company, Freaky Friday into one another’s bodies in a semi-comic, sweet-tempered yet suspenseful and finally quite moving murder mystery. The production is quirky — the opening motif of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony keeps popping up for some reason — but Ayase and Takahashi perform brilliantly as their own and each other’s characters, as their lives grow increasingly linked.

Midnight Diner (Netflix). An anthology series — set in and around a compact backstreet Tokyo eatery, open from midnight to 7 a.m., where night owls from all walks of life occupy its U-shaped counter — offers short stories that tend to the bittersweet, but with sweetness most prominent. Kaoru Kobayashi plays the taciturn proprietor and chef with the pacific solidity of a 20th century movie hero. Food matters — we see it prepared, watch it being eaten, hear it talked about; sometimes it plays an integral role in the story; some episodes end with a brief demonstration of the episode’s signature dish.

Tiger and Dragon (Netflix). In this deceptively complex comedy concerning stories and storytelling, a young yakuza (Tomoya Nagase), frustrated because he can’t tell a joke, comes to collect a debt from a man (Toshiyuki Nishida) who turns out to be a master of rakugo, a classical form of comic performance. In lieu of payment, the yakuza becomes his apprentice, incidentally forming a friendship with the master’s son, a talented rakugoka who only wants to design clothes. Themes from rakugo are reflected in the framing narrative; characters from the series enact the tales as they’re told from stage.


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June 14, 2023


Cecilia (Paramount+). Mariana Treviño (recently seen here in the Tom Hanks vehicle “A Man Called Otto”) is subtly brilliant in this sweet, noisy dramedy as a woman at the center of an issues-laden extended family — including two ex-husbands, various children and stepchildren, a sister, a father — dependent on her more than is healthy for any of them. A collapse in the middle of twin daughters’ quinceañera, and a period of slow recovery, brings a doctor on the spectrum into her life.


Yizo Yizo (Netflix). Many South African series are available here, but largely in English. In this very fine high-school series, set in a Black township, characters swing from Zulu to English and other tongues with ease. In its seriousness, naturalism and age-accurate casting, the show — which grew out of a campaign by the South African Department of Education, though you would never guess it — has something of the flavor of “Degrassi High,” while remaining true to its setting. Boys and girls try to figure one another; better and worse teachers struggle under an autocratic principal obsessed with discipline. Some things get bad, and some things get better.

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June 15, 2023


Extraordinary Attorney Woo (Netflix) / One Dollar Lawyer. (Hulu). Oddball legal series. In the globally popular “Extraordinary Attorney Woo,” Park Eun-bin plays Woo Young-woo, South Korea’s first lawyer with autism spectrum disorder. The tone is largely whimsical, often comic, but never mocking. There are office politics; there’s love in the air. The cases cover a range of subjects; the show appropriately stands up for the individual against the group and modern thought against empty tradition. In “One Dollar Lawyer,” attorney Cheon Ji-Hoon (Namkoong Min) accepts no more than $1 from needy clients; he’s cool, colorful, eccentric and behind on the rent. Barbed banter with reluctant apprentice Baek Ma Ri (Kim Ji-eun) suggests romantic inevitability.


Pachinko (Apple TV+). American-made trilingual epic melodrama tells the story of four generations of a Korean family, first in Korea under Japanese colonial rule and then in Japan, where legal restrictions and discrimination kept them a people apart. Among a huge cast of characters, Minha Kim and Oscar-winner Yuh-Jung Youn stand out as the series’ heroine, Sunja, young and old — humble, but not to be humbled. The modern storyline focuses on Solomon (Jin Ha), Sunja’s rootless Americanized grandson, who has plans. (Read more.)

The Three Musketeers (Amazon Freevee). Alexandre Dumas’ oft-adapted novel is prettily translated to 17th century South Korea, with Jung Yong-hwa a charming D’Artagnan stand-in and, notwithstanding some new narrative twists, Dumas’ main characters in temperamental form. Romance, comedy, intrigue, fascinating period work and a little bit of swordplay.

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A Private Affair (Prime Video). A corking Nancy Drew tale set in 1960s Galicia. When rich girl Marina Quiroga (Aura Garrido), the sister of the new police commissioner, sees a woman murdered down by the port, she sets out, in the face of official resistance and sexual prejudice, to investigate. Her intelligence, beauty, bravery and madcap fabulousness inevitably spark romantic interest from detectives Pablo (Gorka Otxoa, sweet) and Andrés (Álex García, rakish). The production values are high, the cinematography cinematic, and planes and boats and trains carry the action across eight episodes for an epic feel. With Jean Reno as Hector, her faithful butler and reluctant Watson.

Garcia! (Max). Francisco Ortiz plays the title character, a handsome, super-strong super-spy put into suspended animation in 1961, who awakens in the present day and finds himself adopted by Veki Velilla’s Antonia, a talkative aspiring journalist. In his pre-suspended life, Garcia worked for an anti-Communist, nationalist, Catholic dictatorship, and now must come to terms with a democratic nation — if one in which political skulduggery is nevertheless rife — even as certain elements try to bring him down. Though there are some tragic storylines, in a Spanish key, this is fundamentally a comedy that comes with romance, action and things to say about the possibility, not to say the necessity, of change.


I Don’t Like Driving (Max). A beautifully shaped, novelistic single-season comedy, and possibly my favorite series here. Pablo (Juan Diego Botto) is a middle-aged, misanthropic literature professor who decides finally to learn to drive. He’s been stuck emotionally and literally: relying on others for rides, including his newly former but still friendly wife; caught in old patterns in the classroom; unable to form new relationships; haunted by the failure of a novel and fearful of death behind the wheel. Into his life come the friendly, forward Yolanda (Lucía Caraballo), a student of his enrolled at the same driving school, and their teacher, the avuncular, eccentric Lorenzo (David Lorente), who, unlike Pablo, considers his work a calling.

The Neighbor (Netflix). In a kind of “Santa Clause” scenario, aimless Javi (Quim Gutiérrez) finds himself the inheritor of a superhero suit and attendant powers and the message that he is now the “guardian and protector of the cosmos.” The series, however, is intensely local — for the whole of the first season, at least, concentrated around the apartment where he lives and the bar where he now and then works — and less interested in cosmic justice than the personal lives of its cast, including reporter Lola (Clara Lago), Javi’s sometime girlfriend; her free-spirited friend, Julia (Catalina Sopelana) and José Ramón (Adrián Pino), the shy student who becomes her roommate and Javi’s confidant.


Rebecka Martinsson (Acorn TV). We weren’t going to get out of here without a Scandinavian mystery, and this one has the benefit of a strong female-led cast and an emphasis on human frailty rather than gritty perversity. (Which is to say, it’s kind of sad.) With Ida Engvoll as Rebecka, a Stockholm lawyer back in her small hometown after the death of a friend, and Eva Melander as Mella, chief inspector of the local constabulary, who appropriates her semi-formally to the force. And a lot of snow.