If the closest thing to escaping everyday reality for you is binge- watching TV, why not watch some series with a foreign flavor. Join me on a trip to Paris, Sydney, and New York via the small screen – from the comfort of your couch.
Here are some of my favorite tv shows that celebrate the city where their plot takes place.
The saccharinely enjoyable – Emily in Paris
The Plot: a young American from Chicago makes a surprising relocation to Paris as part of her job at an advertising agency. The cultural collision between her world and the Parisian way of life creates dilemmas in her work life, friendships, and love life.
Genre: Romantic comedy.
Created by Darren Starr, the man who brought Sex and the City to our screens, Emily in Paris, presents a photogenic Paris from an American viewpoint. Expect heavy doses of the classically romantic Paris, combined with an impressive over the top fashion display by the main character, Emily.
Emily in Paris is pure escapism with an unrealistic plot line.
The immediate simile that comes to mind is a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. The sugary clichés are slightly nauseating, yet once you start devouring them, it’s just impossible to stop.
Number of seasons: 1. Second season is scheduled to follow.
The wittily elegant: Call My Agent! (Dix pour cent)
The plot: the founder of a leading Parisian talent agency leaves its agents to deal with absurd circumstances in the French cultural world. The series follows the agents’ efforts to save the agency’s future, whilst juggling business and artistic demands, as well as their personal lives.
Genre: satirical comedy.
Contrary to “Emily in Paris” Call My Agent’s Paris is seen through more authentic chique French eyes.
The love for French culture is clear in Call My Agent! It pays homage to French actors and the French film and television world. Each episode features a guest appearance by a real leading French actor, playing themselves. Jean Reno, Juliette Binoche, Isabelle Huppert and Béatrice Dalle (“Betty Blue” of yesteryear) are included. Get ready for superb acting, and a surprising comical script.
Number of seasons: 4
The absurd and naughty: Rake
The plot: Cleaver Greene, is a brilliant lawyer with self-destructive instincts and a tendency for addiction, who tends to take on “lost” criminal cases of guilty clients that no one else is willing to.
Genre: Comical drama
I have not yet visited Australia, and until I do, I take solace in watching the suspenseful and amusing Rake – set in Sydney.
If you love a complex Bad Boy character, and unexpected plot twists, Rake is the show for you.
Richard Roxburgh (who also co-created the series) who plays the lead character has a heavy Australian accent, and a voice that sometimes rises to oddly high tones. And yet, I found him charismatic in a way that in my opinion “makes” the whole series. I suppose there’s no point denying that I developed a slight crush on Cleaver / Richard?
A comedic legal drama, is a genre we are all familiar with, ever since the days of Alley McBeal. But the lovable-jerk Rake, takes things to a fresh, witty, and warm direction.
The show will give you a peek into homes of varied socio-economic classes in Sydney, as well as a parodic display of Australian politics and the legal system.
Number of seasons: 5
The eye-catchingly escapist: Instant Hotel
Diverse pairs of homeowners compete for the title of “Best Instant Hotel”. The teams stay at each other’s homes, which have been transformed into rental properties throughout Australia. They rate each other’s hosting experience until the winner is announced.
The show will take you to some of the most beautiful destinations across Australia. From the lesser-known Coober Pedy, with its “Mad Max” like landscapes, to Sydney’s well known – Bondi Beach.
Instant Hotel will introduce you to varied lifestyles in the continent. Humble participants who rent out their river boat, and an affluent couple who dwell in a jaw dropping decadent mansion in the heart of rainforest are just a few.
Number of seasons: 2
The lighthearted urban fantasy: Younger
The Plot: A divorced housewife in her forties with no work experience is forced to pretend she is 26 in order to get a job at a publishing house.
Genre: Romantic comedy
Yet another fun and addictive series by Darren Starr, about the fashionable New York millennial generation. Younger has the charm of the concept of the film Big, except that here the main character Lisa pretends to be younger than her years.
The show draws you into the chaotic pace of life in Manhattan where Lisa works, and the hipster lifestyle of Brooklyn where she lives.
Though feather-light in tone, Younger must be credited for dealing with relevant issues that other popular series with a leading female protagonist often tend to disregard. Such as Agism towards women in the workplace and in marital dynamics. What a pity it contradictorily depicts Lisa’s boss, as a desperate, pitiful single older woman. Perhaps as a caution about what could happen to women if Lord forbid, they don’t find a partner and become addicted to their career to fulfill a so-called void in their lives.
Number of seasons: 7
The one with the friends: Friends
Even if you’re not a nineties kid, you can probably relate to the iconic comedy about the six closest friends in Manhattan of the 90s and 2000s.
The series, (actually filmed in Los Angeles, but let’s not be petty) captures the feel of New York, with its landmark locations.
There is the Central Perk Café, which the group occupied for hours on end, and the apartment building where all the members lived at one time or another in the West Village. Rachel works at Bloomingdales and the friends play baseball in Central Park. Monica and Chandler get engaged at the Plaza Hotel and in the opening song the friends dance in a fountain inspired by the Pulitzer Fountain.
Genre: Sitcom (duhh)
Number of seasons: 10 (I know!)
Know of other shows that take place in urban destinations abroad that are worth watching? Tell me, so I can enjoy them too 🙂
You may also be interested in: books that will make you want to travel the world.