As the light in my dreams of traveling anywhere any time soon gets dimmer and dimmer, I have found myself traveling through TV. Of course I live for the travel shows that intentionally transport us to far away lands with all the tourist attractions and food-indulgence galore, but I’m talking internationally-based TV shows. If you are someone like me whose interest in travel extends beyond just seeing the sights and centers on hearing the beauty and flow of other languages, then keep on reading. I have some favorite shows I have been obsessed with that I would like to recommend (in no particular order):
- La Casa de las Flores (House of Flowers) – Spanish (Mexico)
I started this show two years ago and it is currently on my list of shows to return to. It is about a rich Mexican family whose fame and fortune is rooted in their flower shop. Set in Mexico City, we follow this family through trials and tribulations but it is almost totally laced in humor–even when you think the worst of the worst has happened. When season two was released, I restarted season one with my boyfriend after his family also gave rave reviews, but it has been a very slow climb. I have since decided I am just going to move forward because I need the humor and drama back in my life. It has all the classic elements of a telenovela and for anyone wanting to practice their Spanish, Paulina will be your best guide (you’ll understand once you watch). It can be streamed on Netflix.
- Crash Landing on You – Korean (South and North Korea)
Crash Landing on You, commonly referred to as CLOY, is the romance dramedy of dreams. This was recommended to me by three different people who all have totally different interests, so I knew I had to watch. Set (first) in South Korea, we follow this rich Korean woman with her own fashion empire who, after being swept up in a massive tornado while paragliding, finds herself in a North Korean demilitarized zone. While trying to reach her loved ones back home, she finds herself hiding out under the protection of a North Korean military captain who doesn’t fully trust that she ended up in their territory “on accident,” but also doesn’t want to take the chance of turning her over to inevitably be tortured or killed.
Y’all…it is no secret I am a big crier when it comes to film and television, but I have NEVER cried as hard and as often as I have watching this show. I’m talking snotty, can’t breathe, gives you a headache type of crying. Every episode makes you laugh, cry, and has you on the edge of your seat in suspense. Sure, it’s cheesy, but just accept that upfront and you will enjoy it that much more. Just a disclaimer: the episodes are super long and get longer as you get closer to the end of the season. But totally worth it. If cheesy rom-coms are your wheel house (and you want to see a beautiful man try on a montage of tailor-made suits), this is your show. It can be streamed on Netflix.
P.S. When you finish the show, you should subscribe to my best friend Cynthia’s YouTube channel where she does a review of the face masks used in the show as well as a mukbang of the fried chicken the characters indulge in and other chicken restaurants featured in other K-dramas. DM her on Instagram for more K-drama recommendations!! 🙂
- Marianne – French (France)
This show will DEFINITELY NOT be to everyone’s taste. It is a horror show set in Paris and Bretagne where we follow this famous horror novelist on her supposedly last book about a murderous demon, Marianne. However, just when she believes she is closing the chapter on Marianne and horror writing altogether, another chapter begins in her real life. Or has it been happening in her life this whole time? You’ll have to watch to find out!! As someone who is so paralyzed to even attempt French, this would be a great show for those who are trying to practice their French as even I, a non-French speaker, could detect the different regional accents. I had to take a break from the show for a minute there because one of the characters was so physically repulsive to me that I kept seeing their face everywhere (lol), but it easily keeps you wanting to see what happens next. This can be streamed on Netflix.
- Las Chicas del Cable (Cable Girls) – Spanish (Spain)
I have a special place in my heart for this one. I still remember the excitement I felt when I was walking the streets of Barcelona in 2018 and I saw a huge billboard for their upcoming season. This show was the first one to break me into the international/foreign TV shows after it came up as a recommendation when I finished my beloved “Call The Midwife.” Set in 1920s Madrid, we follow four women who meet as switchboard workers at a telephone company, a.k.a. ‘cable girls.’ The main character has a secret past that of course catches up to her present, but the lessons and skills she has learned from her past assist her in helping her new friends with new twists and turns as they forcefully challenge society (read: the patriarchy) in various facets of their lives. This show is primarily a fast-paced drama with a sprinkle of comic relief from one of the main character’s storyline, but no one’s story is ever truly innocent. If you love a show where it seems like the characters can never catch a break and you are here for women doing it for themselves in the 1920s, this one’s for you!! It can be streamed on Netflix.
- Los Espookys – Spanish (Unknown)
Los Espookys is both the most random and best show I could have stumbled upon while browsing on HBO. The main character is a horror and gore enthusiast who decides to launch a very niche business with three of his friends to provide clients with ‘thrills and chills’ for various events or just personal interests. Each odd job these characters pick up takes them on a wild adventure, especially since their line of work is happening while simultaneously trying to help one character find out if he is a true heir to his fortune and another character find out what her passion is in life and if the man she is talking to online is a real person. It ultimately makes you wonder, “Um, how did y’all become friends again?”This show is created and executive produced by famous comedian Fred Armisen who also makes cameo appearances throughout the show as an uncle to the main character–oh, and the co-executive producer is Lorne Michaels. I know you’re probably thinking, “If I don’t like horror, I won’t like this show,” but it is 100% a comedy. I mean, the show never even says which Latin American country they are located in, but I did discover the series was filmed in Chile. In my opinion, the mystery of where they are kind of makes sense and adds to the show. You can tell each character has a different accent when speaking Spanish, so choosing one country likely would have caused a lot of discontinuity. I don’t know, guys, y’all just have to trust me on this recommendation because I know it sounds weird…but also because it is!! Fans like myself are patiently awaiting the release date for season two as they were renewed, but the six-episode pilot season can be streamed on HBO.
- Coisa Mais Linda (Girls from Ipanema) – Portuguese (Brazil)
After what feels like the longest year ever, Coisa Mais Linda just released their second season!! In this show, we follow a young Brazilian woman who, after discovering her husband has run off with another woman and stolen money from her and her family, decides to use the plans of a family-run restaurant and start her own music club featuring the beautiful sounds native to Brazil: bossa nova. This show starts in the 1950s and ends season one ringing in the new decade, 1960. Similar to “Las Chicas del Cable,” the primary cast is comprised of four women who are learning to find their voice and power in this era of history. Besides the absolutely beautiful scenery of the coastline and majestic hotels of Rio, and the women’s fashion (and whatever filter they slap onscreen when they’re outside), the bossa nova soundtrack just adds that final layer to really transport you to the glamorous side of Brazil. One thing this show does that I appreciate above anything else (besides maybe looking at Chico) is that one of the cast members is black and she lives in a totally different part of Rio called ‘The Hills;’ there is a very equal balance of showing how different her life is and how their accomplishments and goals mean something totally different to this character based on the fact that she is both black and a woman. Y’all just have to watch because I could talk about it forever, really. This can be streamed on Netflix.
- Killing Eve – Various (England/Paris)
Killing Eve is a show after my own heart. I have a lot of interests when it comes to TV and the spy/professional assassin genre is 100% one of my favorite categories. Unlike like shows that are pure comedy or drama, I will ALWAYS be in the mood for fast-paced action involving secret assassins. Thankfully, Killing Eve has both comedy and drama. In this show, we follow Eve, an Asian-American (Sandra Oh!!) working in London for MI5 (British intelligence) and she discovers a pattern in recent killings of major players in their investigations that point to a lone assassin that may just be a woman. Enter said woman, Villanelle, a Russian assassin with the most glorious Parisian apartment, working for…who knows? She is highly skilled, but also extremely cocky which starts to jeopardize her line of work. It isn’t long before Eve and Villanelle become obsessed with finding each other–for Eve, it is about stopping a murderous assassin, but for Villanelle, it’s about the notoreity. Or is it? It sounds like a super serious show, and it definitely is, but Villanelle is especially hilarious and witty and you just end up liking her when you want to hate her. I highly recommend watching these two run around Europe (at least from what I’ve seen in season one) trying to catch each other while Villanelle perfectly runs through a slew of languages like the professional she is. This can be streamed on BBC America and Hulu.
A final point I want to make about why you should watch these shows is because they are primarily led by women, people of color, and queer/LGBT people**. Now, not all of these shows spend time showing scenery of where they are located, but somehow you just feel like you are there with them. But even if I can’t see which country I am in, the language-lover in me is totally content. I know five out of seven of these are on Netflix, so I want to diversify my viewings. What are your recommendations for shows that are primarily or frequently spoken in different languages? I have pretty much all the streaming channels, so share all your faves!!
**Some actors/actresses play characters that are part of the queer/LGBT community, but have not identified or clarified in interviews if this is their sexual orientation offscreen.