Spies and Assassins
The Americans series finale aired in 2018. Watch it if you like spy drama, Keri Russell, or slower character development. It’s set in the 80s towards the end of the cold war and focuses on two illegals. It’s not as action packed as Homeland. Stream all 6 seasons on Amazon Prime. I like it enough that I may rewatch it when I have time.
Deutschland 83 is another cold war spy drama set in 1983 on the East vs West Germany front. It’s in German and subtitled. If you like The Americans, you’d like this. I found it very addicting. Great soundtrack. The season is shorter and easy to get through. Anxiously waiting for the release of the second season, Deutschland 86! Stream on Hulu.
TURN: Washington’s Spies is based on a Revolutionary War Long Island spy ring. I thought season one was a little slow but perhaps it picked up after it knew it was getting renewed. It’s beautifully filmed and you see a lot of colonial homes and fashion. Washington, Hamilton, etc. all make appearances. Stream all 4 seasons on Netflix.
Killing Eve is a heavy yet lighthearted drama with two female leads playing a very well dressed assassin and a MI5 agent. I liken it to an airy cake donut (it exists, check out the Underwest dark chocolate donut). This was the best new series I saw in 2018 and if you didn’t notice, Sandra Oh won a Golden Globes for Best Actress – Television Series Drama. Stream on Hulu.
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Everything I liked lately wasn’t set in modern times.
Victoria on PBS. Season 1 just started with Queen Victoria’s ascension to the throne. If you liked Netflix’s The Crown, you will like this. Stream for free online (although it won’t last forever).
I found Kurt Seyit ve Sura on Netflix. It’s a 40+ episode Turkish drama in Turkish or Spanish and English subtitles. It starts with Tsarist Russia and takes you through the end of the British occupation of Istanbul. Did Seyit and Sura’s love for each other survive? The two leads had great chemistry. It was quite dramatic and I was glad when I was done with it. (Warning: Turkish dramas are time consuming, especially since it’s hard to multi-task with subtitles!)
Amazon’s Man in the High Castle Season 2 dropped not too long ago. This show is set in the 1960s and takes you down the path of alternate history — what if the Axis Powers won WWII instead of the Allies. I like being able to binge through it but am sad that I need to wait a while for Season 3. Not enough to read the book though.
Magnificent Century was the first Turkish drama I watched on Netflix. It’s similar to the Chinese Empresses in the Palace (甄嬛傳/Zhen Huan Zhuan) which is also on Netflix in a few condensed episodes (watch it all on Youtube). It takes place inside the sultan’s harem of the Turkish palace circa 16th century. I only watched the first season — the rest are scattered on Youtube and to my relief, hard to find with English subtitles. Women in Turkish dramas like to faint.
Another PBS show – Secrets of the Six Wives – is based on the wives of Henry VIII. Historian Lucy Worsley steps in to narrate some scenes so it’s like a hybrid documentary. (If you like historical British documentaries, you may have seen her before.) Stream for free online (although it won’t last forever).
I have loved PBS since I was young – They brought C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia and Anne of Green Gables to life for me.
Mr. Selfridge is on air every Sunday through May 19. As someone who loved Selfridges in London and can’t resist a good period drama, I’m eating up the premiere episode. You can watch it online.
While I was in Beijing, a few girlfriends and I booked a private room for massages at a nice, non-Westernized joint after dinner. My girlfriends snoozed off while I was captivated by the documentary on the television screens, showing the far regions of the Great Wall and the Silk Road. I did some research after that — this documentary series, Wild China, was produced by the BBC and China’s state-owned CCTV and debuted in 2008 (right before the Olympics). It covers off-the-beaten-track parts of China. Wild China is available on Amazon (free for Amazon Prime members) and Netflix. I’m assuming it’s only available in Chinese in China. BBC has a pretty good narrative on the series here.
If you’re into natural beauty and sweeping landscapes, this series is not to be missed! I’m looking forward to when I have time to head out to Western China. The Yunnan restaurants in Beijing and Shanghai piqued my interest. I visited Guilin in the 90s and I was too young to appreciate it.
I cut the cable television cord in mid-2012. Then, I got a Roku and it changed my life. I already had Amazon Prime and have been supplementing with Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Aereo. There is some slight overlap with these and I watch Amazon Prime the least. I used to watch a lot of reality television and I can’t say I miss it. On the other hand, it’s so easy to binge on any single show and I’ve been catching up on some TV shows including some British period dramas and other bad ones that are not worth mentioning. If you like Downtown Abbey, check these out:
Upstairs, Downstairs (2011, 2012)
I never watched the original and this is supposed to be a continuation of the original. You don’t need it for background. It is a bit glitzy and is set around the World Wars. Watch both seasons for free with Amazon Prime.
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