I don’t know about you, but my TV-watching commitment has increased significantly during quarantine and lockdown. We can’t do much, and we definitely can’t travel – so TV is one of the greatest technologies we have. So why not travel a bit with our show choices?
We all could use an escape right now, but until it’s safe to explore, escaping through a TV show physically will have to be the next best thing.
These TV shows are not only created in their respective countries but also evoke the environment and feel of each country in such a way that truly immerses you into a travel escape. Check them out any time you need a mental vacation:
1 | Derry Girls – Ireland
Set in Derry, Northern Ireland, Derry Girls follows five teens – Erin, Orla, Clare, Michelle, and James – who attend an all-girls Catholic school during the Troubles of North Ireland. By being set during the political conflict of the Troubles, a vital point in history for Northern Ireland, and in a classic Irish Catholic school, Derry Girls embodies Irish culture and history to its core.
The sitcom is filmed entirely in Northern Ireland, mostly Derry and Belfast, meaning that Ireland’s gorgeous countryside and environment are on full immersive display. Derry Girls quickly became Northern Ireland’s most-watched series, and it has received worldwide acclaim and popularity, with many praising the show’s humor, cast, and Irish charm.
Available on Netflix
2 | My Brilliant Friend – Italy
Adapted from author Elena Ferrante’s first of four novels about female friendship, My Brilliant Friend is a drama that follows Elena, an older woman, as she learns that a childhood friend, Lila, has gone missing. Elena looks back on her life and her friendship with the mysterious Lila, and the show covers the 60 years from the two meeting at school as very young girls to the present day.
The show is set in Naples and filmed in Italian, and the framework of the show provides the visual beauty of not only modern Italy, but mid-20th century Italy as well. My Brilliant Friend acts as not only an escape to another country but to another time as well – all while causing you to get attached to complex and well-written characters that have led to the show’s universal acclaim.
Available on HBO
3 | Outlander – Scotland
If you’re looking for more TV escapes that also serve as time travel, look no further than Outlander. The historical drama follows Claire (Caitriona Balfe), a nurse during World War II. When she approaches a collection of standing stones, she finds herself transported to 18th century Scotland amid political uprisings. Here she meets Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan), a rebel Highlander, but she begins to fall in love with him despite being married back in the 20th century.
Now renewed for a sixth season, the series showcases Claire and Jamie’s love, rebellion, more time travel, and the scenic Scottish Highlands. Later seasons take place in Paris, the Caribbean, and North Carolina. Travel not only to historical Scotland but to multiple eras of the past – and become obsessed with Claire and Jamie’s irresistible love along the way. Rabid fans affectionately call the time between seasons Droughtlander.
4 | Borgen – Denmark
Perfect for any fans of The West Wing, Borgen is Denmark’s most famous political drama. (Some have called it the Danish West Wing; it’s better than West Wing).
The drama follows Birgitte Nyborg (Sidse Babett Knudsen), the first female prime minister of Denmark, as she navigates a new and treacherous political climate. Fun fact: after the second series of Borgen aired, Denmark elected their first female prime minister. Many wonder if Borgen had an impact!
Political scandal and personal drama mixed with strong female characters and accurate portrayals of Danish politics made Borgen an international hit. Not only is it an addictive TV drama, but it’s also a timely representation of Denmark.
Borgen currently has three seasons, but has recently been picked up by Netflix to create a fourth season in 2022 – so use this time to catch up before it comes!
Available on Netflix later this fall
5 | Cable Girls – Spain
Set in the 1920s on the verge of new female independence, Cable Girls centers around a new telecommunications company and the four young women who work for it. The women’s very different lives change with new pay and independence, and the four form a tight friendship as they navigate these changes, their families, and the hardships of being a woman in 1920s Spain.
Filmed in Spanish and set in Madrid, Cable Girls transports you to the beauty of Spain and the specific aesthetic of the 1920s. The show was popular enough to spawn five seasons all on Netflix – sufficient to keep you occupied and prolong your Spanish escape for more than enough time during the quarantine.
Available on Netflix
6 | The Last Kingdom – Great Britain
This drama takes place in pre-Norman Britain during the time of Alfred the Great, the King of Wessex from 849 – 899. Alfred was a great scholar and infamous ruler who established a court system and encouraged education all while fighting off invasions of the Danes. Historians know this isn’t the Dark Ages but in fact a time of vibrant life, culture and yes, great conflict and war.
Bringing to life the historical Saxon series of novels of Bernard Cornwall, this series tells the tale of Alfred the Great and his descendants through the eyes of Uhtred, an English boy born into the aristocracy of ninth-century Northumbria, captured by the Danes, and taught the Viking ways. My favorite is Alfred’s daughter Æthelflæd, who ruled Mercia in her own right from 911 until her death in 918. The Last Kingdom brings this fascinating, largely unknown, period of history alive.
Available on Netflix
While we’re all stuck inside and yearning to escape, TV can be a great way to experience and immerse ourselves in different stories and countries. All of these shows engage with their source country in an appealing and escapist way, and they’re all critically acclaimed – meaning you’ll also get a good narrative while you escape!
Are there any other international TV escapes we missed? Share below!
Additional Resources ::
The Gorgeous Savagery of My Brilliant Friend – The Atlantic
Elena Ferrante Fever Spikes Ahead of the Anonymous Novelist’s New Book – The Daily Beast
The Last Kingdom: the real history behind the series – BBC History Magazine