‘Have you ever tuned into a TV show and been equally enthralled by the scenery as you have by the story? Me too…’
Given the rise (and quality) of so many foreign dramas, people have been glued to their sets, enjoying a half hour out of their own lives, delving into a new culture in a far away land, where people speak in foreign tongues and you can’t turn away from the TV even for a second, lest you miss anything being printed along the bottom of the screen in English subtitles. Despite being a huge fan of modern British crime dramas, such as Sherlock and Whitechapel, I do love a good non-British series, and a lot of these dramatisations have sprung directly up from classic crime novels. One of the only things I *don’t* like about these crime dramas is when we make a British version of an original Scandinavian drama, or the Americans do the same thing. There are a few exceptions to this, however; The American version of ‘The Bridge’, for example, which is set between Texas and Mexico, is excellent. It’s also in Spanish, so it still has that ‘other world’ feel. The British version of the Swedish ‘Wallander’ is also excellent because, well…Kenneth Branagh.
Despite making you wonder if the residents of Sweden, Denmark, France, Scotland and the likes are rampant psychotic killers (I’d like to stick up for the Scots of my home nation here and say we’re all lovely…), the backdrop to these wonderfully dark and moody shows desperately make me want to rescind ownership of my remote control and go travelling.
These are my favourite shows, to date:
Based on the novels by Swedish husband and wife writing team, Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall, Beck brings the popular policeman to life on the small screen. Martin Beck lives and works in Stockholm and the backdrop to the storylines is very much like an extra character; all dark and brooding and lurking in the background, waiting to pounce on that unsuspecting jogger in the park. Beck is a notoriously ‘normal’ cop who has no alcohol problems and isn’t quite as messed up as some of the prominent policemen are these days and doesn’t seem to blur the lines between good cop and rogue cop. This makes him great to watch as you’re not always waiting for him to fall off the wagon at any given moment, so you can simply concentrate on the story at hand.
You can find Beck on BBC4 in the UK.
The backdrop of Copenhagen is used to shape the overall atmosphere of this successful series; almost as much as the female lead, Sarah Lund, and her amazingly horrific jumpers. Generally a straight faced and unemotional character, the series takes you through homicide detective Lund’s difficult investigation, starting with the disappearance of a young girl, Nanna Birk Larsen, who turns up raped and murdered. The discovery takes place on Lund’s last day with the Danish Police before she transfers to Sweden, but grips the detective to the extent she’s unable to just walk away. The series has the interesting perspective of each episode being based around a single day in the investigation, which might seem dull, but rarely ever is. There are 3 seasons of the show altogether, each with their own storylines, but the same fabulous location.
‘There is an American remake, which is aptly set in the rainy gloominess of Seattle. It also features fabulous knitwear, and is entirely in English…’
It’s nowhere near as good as the original, though, but you can take your eyes off the screen without fear of missing anything important.
OK, so this Netflix Original series doesn’t really make me want to hop a flight to deepest, darkest Medillin and hook up with a drug kingpin, but it doesn’t only portray the sticky hell of the Columbian jungle’s cocaine labs; it also shows you the fabulous countryside and beautiful, if rather impoverished, towns and villages in the country. This series is also foreign language as it’s Spanish, but as I understand it, it automatically gets my vote. Not only does it show you just how easy it is to push drugs (don’t try it at home, please), but it also helps with my language skills as before I watched it I had no ideas that a ‘narco trafficante’ was even a thing. These days, should I run into a drug lord, I’ll at least be able to hold up my end of the conversation. Anyway, the Narcos storyline surrounds the rise and fall of one Pablo Escobar and the DEA team attempting to infiltrate his inner circle.
‘If you like shooting and blasting, rain forest-type scenery, half-naked women, and lots of gratuitous violence; you’ll love it…’
This is one of the only programmes that I prefer the English remake to the original. This is mostly down to the fact that Kenneth Branagh plays the lead role of Kurt Wallander and he’s extremely pretty. I didn’t say I wasn’t completely shallow, because Lord knows I am. Obviously, he’s also a fabulous actor, and that helps greatly. The TV series is based on the books by Henning Mankell and the stories are often as bleak as the personal life of the main character.
‘Wallander is quite a depressed man for the most part and, SPOILER ALERT: If you are also prone to feeling low, this programme may not be for you…’
As much as I love the books, I do find it difficult sometimes to get through them, depending on how I’m feeling. Much like Martin Beck, Wallander is also a Swedish detective, but does the majority of his detecting from the city of Malmo instead of Stockholm. He even travel to Riga in Latvia on one occasion, which is a lovely spot to investigate crimes from, if you ask me.
Ian Rankin’s famous hard-drinking Scottish detective has been appearing in print for more than 20 years, and appearing on BBC Scotland for about half of that, I think. Inspector John Rebus was Initially played by John Hannah of Four Weddings And A Funeral fame, but is now depicted by the fabulous Ken Stott, who fits the part of the gruff, scruffy fictional character so much better. As with the majority of crime shows, the underbelly of the setting is always key to the storyline, and Rankin writes about the dark side of Edinburgh brilliantly, as only someone who calls the city his home can. The scenery is beautiful and the show lets you see parts of town that generally aren’t heavily advertised by national marketing campaigns.
What are your favourite shows in terms of location?