Streaming gems you possibly missed
Winter usually does not offer many exciting movies other than the awards heavyweights (where your choices are between equally soul-dampening entries of 1917 or maybe Marriage Story). So… long dark evenings are perfect for some streaming time. Here are some shows that are entertaining, smart, produced around the globe, and perhaps you have missed them in the profusion of more prominent clickable choices.
MR. SUNSHINE – (2018) KOREA
One of the Solari Subscribers found this one for us, and it is a treat for history buffs. The tale is set in the last quarter of the 19th century, at the end of the Imperial era of a waning dynasty of Joseon in Korea. The country, weakened by conflicts with the Western expansion forces (for example the U.S. expedition to Korea in 1871 and the First Sino-Japanese war that was fought mainly in Korea) was undergoing rapid social changes, including birth of modern revolutionary ideas that eventually led to modern communist states in the region. Against this complex historical background there is a story of a man who was born into slavery in Korea, grew up in the United States, and returned to his native land as the U.S. army officer. His love of an aristocratic woman turned a revolutionary is doomed from the start. It is a richly staged production with characters from all walks of life, and a portrayal of crossroads of cultures – American soldiers, Japanese invaders, Korean court officials and rebelling bandits.
SPIN (Des Hommes de L’Ombre) – (2012-16) France
Touted as “West Wing with sex,” it was a French take on dramas about governmental deception and infighting. Similar to the cult Danish series Borgen, the story revolves around a master of political spin (Bruno Wolkowitch) who turns one governmental disaster after another into an advantage for a candidate he supports. The first season follows a political intrigue after the French president is assassinated. The second season features the French star Carole Bouquet as an uncontrollable liability to her husband, the new head of state whose presidency is threatened by dangerous secrets. There are other TV shows with “spin” in the title so you have to search for this one.
BODYGUARD – (2018-) UK
Richard Madden (memorable Rob Stark from Game of Thrones) won the 2019 Golden Globe for Best Male Actor TV performance for his role as an Irishman who becomes a dedicated bodyguard of the UK’s Home Secretary, only to get plunged into a full-blown conspiracy. There is a terrorist plot, ill-advised sex, and a governmental power play. The director very deftly changes the character’s motivations as more secrets are revealed, making this mini-series a suspenseful and intelligent thriller.
COLLISION – UK (2009)
Anthony Horowitz who created a masterful show about WWII in Foyle’s War procedural, has also written this mini-series that examines an anatomy of a major road accident. The investigation of a tragic multi-car collision that entangled many lives of strangers soon turns out to be anything but a simple traffic incident.
JUSTIFIED – (2010-2015) U.S.
An intriguing mash up of a western, a cop show, and some irreverent millennial attitude, it’s a nice six-seasoner, starring Timothy Olyphant as a US Marshal and a gunman to boot, stuck in his native Kentucky backwater when all he wants is to get out of this place he ran away from years ago. Populated with quirky characters, written with razor-sharp dialogue and more smiles and jokes than blood, it is a fresh take on endless U.S. shows about cops chasing bad guys.
DIAGNOSIS (2019-) U.S.
A documentary series that sprang from a medical mystery column written by a Yale doctor Lisa Sanders in New York Times. While pursuing health puzzles of patients with undiagnosed conditions, the show episodes reveal the mazes and inadequacies of the US health system. The show feels more compassionate and less sensationalist than typical “medical mystery” TV docs.
CALL MY AGENT! (Dix Pour Cent) – (2015- ) FRANCE
A French comedy is always good to have, and a French comedy about talent agency is even better. After the boss dies, the agents have to keep the company going, clients happy and themselves out of various troubles. Intelligent and funny.
MONEY HEIST (La Casa de Papel) – (2017-) SPAIN
This visually stylized show, full of unexpected characters, started with a story of a team of robbers assembled by a mysterious “Professor” to rob the state mint of 2.5 billion euros. The titular heist soon branches out to mysterious subplots that tell backstories of the robbers. Currently in the 4th season, the show meanders through twists and turns of time – a narration that can put Lost to shame.
THE BUREAU (Le Bureau des Légendes) – (2015-) France
A French equivalent of those hard-hitting British tales about governmental spy operations that we learned to love so much (shows, not the operations). This is a very realistic, on-going series about French espionage from the point of view of the work done inside the “bureau” in Paris. Mathieu Kassovitz (a very popular French film star) embodies an intelligence agent, code name Malotru, who returns to headquarters after a six-year stint as a deep cover operative in Syria. He has a hard time adjusting to an ordinary life in Paris, and soon his private life and work assignments plunge him back into the clandestine mode. Touted as one of the smartest and gripping spy procedurals, the series shines with both descriptions of espionage craft and action scenes set in Middle East conflict zones.