European way of life

5 European TV shows to (re)discover

« I need a daily dose of fiction to survive. […] The fiction serves to perfect and make this flawed life a little better. » Pedro Almodóvar.

As far as fiction is concerned, Old Europe’s small screen has no reason to be jealous of the fabulous America anymore. Nowadays, European shows – especially British and Scandinavian ones, can hold their own in the face of the American giant, which in turn is not reluctant to adapt the best of the European production. European shows has even their own festival in France, the Série Series festival, which takes place yearly in Fontainebleau and is a good survey the best fictions shot in Europe.

Here is a short overview of these European gems through a selection of five series of any genre and any nationalities.

Downton Abbey © Independent television (ITV)

Downton Abbey © Independent television (ITV)

Downton Abbey is a British show created by Julian Fellowes in 2010 and still in production (season 5 in 2014) ; this fiction allows you to immerse yourself in the Edwardian England and introduces you to the family life of great Yorkshire aristocrats. The series starts with the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, which temporarily left the Crawleys without an heir. With rare elegance and great finesse, Downton Abbey links the Crawley’s destiny to their servants’ and shapes complex and delicate characters who are grappling with new times. The scriptwriters aren’t afraid of any form of cliffhanger.; they offer each year a long Christmas special, which puts an end to a season that we always enjoy as a rare delicacy. Certainly one of the most beautiful British show ever.


Borgen © Mike Kollöffel / DR Fiktion / Arte

Borgen © Mike Kollöffel / DR Fiktion / Arte

Borgen means « castle » in Danish, and we talk about Christiansborg, the seat of the Danish government and Parliament. Borgen is a show that came from the cold and that was in production from 2010 to 2013. Borgen introduces us to the impressive character of Birgitte Nyborg, president of the Danish centrist party, who quite unexpectedly became the first women to rule the Danish government. One inevitably thinks to Helle Thorning-Schmidt, currently the Prime Minister of Denmark. Politic plots mingle with the personal life of this strong personality who tries to reconcile her life as a woman and her duties as a stateswoman between compromises and steadfastness. The close intertwining of politics and media highlights different aspects of these characters who were made tougher by power. One becomes attached to Birgitte, heroin of the modern media arenas.


Broadchurch © ITV Studios

Broadchurch © ITV Studios

A young boy, Danny Latimer, is found murdered on a beach of a little coast town in Dorset. Here is the plot of this British show in production since 2013 and which feeds on an efficient suspense. Alec Hardy, mysterious police captain, assisted by the lieutenant Ellie Miller, a friend of the Latimer family, launches an investigation that reveals the secrets of this little community. The narration will leave you breathless!


Un village français © Charlotte Schousboe / France

Un village français © Charlotte Schousboe / France

A French show that transports us in the daily life of Villeneuve, a little town in Doubs, during the German Occupation, exactly seventy years ago. In production from 2009 to 2015, Un village français begins in 1939 at the rate of a season per year and leads us to 1945, when the economic, social and politic scene has to be rebuilt. Through the events told in the show, individual destinies are subjected to the course of history. Every character makes, little by little, the choices that will determine his or her future in the short and long term. Famous French historians worked on Un village français to offer the best historical reenactments and gather accounts of that time. Each year, the show allows viewers to sneak in the streets of Villeneuve and follow characters created by the circumstances of that dark time of the French recent history.


Heimat 3 © Diaphana Films

Heimat 3 © Diaphana Films

Heimat is a German series that blurs the boundaries between historical times. Created by Edgar Reitz in 1984, Heimat was in production until 2004 (a season per decade) and adapted for film in 2013. Generations of Germans know Heimat and are immersed in the daily life of a family from the Hunsrück, from the beginning of the twentieth century until today. The German word ‘Heimat’ is difficult to translate: the closest would be « homeland »… Every character has its own Heimat and the viewer follows each of them through the dramatic events that shook Germany a few decades ago. Still pretty confidential, Heimat is an original fiction, a little gem that justifies the attachment one can feel to its characters.  Especially when the last episode ends: one feels quite orphaned

What about you, what are your favorite European TV shows ?

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