As usual, there are things going on that shouldn’t be going on.
Such as Vision TV’s sad attempt to bolster sagging ratings for its Conrad Black-centric Zoomer show (ratings as low as 13,100 viewers on some occasions) by airing the grotesque exercise in indulgence that was Black’s interview with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.
Such as some of CBC’s coverage of some of the events surrounding the death of Nelson Mandela in South Africa. Susan Ormiston jawing on about “a massive logistical challenge” for a country “not used to organizing events of this scale.” Like the World Cup, the biggest sports event on the planet? Or indeed the Rugby World Cup?
Never mind. We can’t outlaw stupidity, but we can wish for things we’d like to see.
Such as terrific shows from other countries that never seem to turn up in Canada.
Here’s a list. Look out for these gems on Netflix or in boxed sets. Because we could all use a little variety.
Love/Hate. The Irish crime drama, made for RTE (Ireland’s equivalent of CBC), is a tough-minded drama set in Dublin’s criminal underworld. Inspired more by HBO’s The Wire than by any network drama or British series, it’s as hard as nails. English-language, too, so you’d think somebody would air it here. Even if subtitles might be needed for the thick Dublin accents.
Jack Taylor. Also Irish, and based on the popular novels by Ken Bruen about Taylor, an Irish cop who moonlights as a private eye in Galway. Iain Glen plays the lead, and the gorgeous Galway setting is transfixing. Maybe not as essential to have subtitles for the nice Galway accents.
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. This one, a delightful concoction, is available on B.C.’s Knowledge Network only. It’s about “Australia’s leading lady detective, Phryne Fisher [Essie Davis] of the 1920s.” She’s no Miss Marple, this lady, and as far as viewers are concerned, she’s no lady at all.
Spiral. A French crime drama, this is one of several French efforts to produce TV at the level of U.S. cable dramas. A big hit for BBC Four in Britain, it looks like a typical police drama at first – chronicling a police division’s work on drug cases and looking out for terrorists. Then it becomes much richer and nuanced, following cases through multiple levels of the French justice system, teasing out complex characters from the bare bones of the story.
Les Revenants. This falls into the “creepy” genre from France. Residents of a small town are stunned when locals who have died return from the dead, as if nothing had happened. They’re not zombies or ghosts, it seems. And their return – dead children, a newlywed young man who committed suicide – disrupts the grieving process that has started or been transcended. And why are they returning? That’s the well-buried mystery. The series has aired on the Sundance Channel in the U.S. as The Returned, with subtitles, and to a devoted following. But it remains off the radar in Canada.
A passel of Nordic dramas. It seems extraordinary that although we’ve seen the good U.S. remake of The Killing, it’s difficult to find the original Danish series, Forbrydelsen. It’s been a huge hit, with subtitles, in Britain and many other countries. As good as Mireille Enos has been as the lonely, isolated lead female detective on a complex case in The Killing, it would be both a pleasure and an education to see the original’s painstakingly slow treatment of a murder mystery.
The same goes for Borgen, the Danish political drama about a female prime minister. An award-winner for best international TV series at the BAFTAs, it’s as much about the daily grind of political life as it is about intrigue and scandal.
And since we’ve seen The Bridge, the U.S. version made by FX, it would be good to see Bron, the original Denmark/Sweden drama about two detectives from the two countries being obliged to work together when a body is found on a bridge linking the two nations.
Worth noting is that the FX version of The Bridge featured much Spanish language and subtitles. So, you know, it is possible for viewers to savour great TV with subtitles. If only we could see these series with ease. We might not be so irritated by things going on that shouldn’t be going on.