I am perpetually on the hunt for new, different, exciting and interesting things. Some of those things are food, like Clonakilty Black Pudding (seriously, just try it. It tastes like Christmas!). Some of those things are music, and some are movies and TV shows. Not just that, but I love critiquing and discussing my obscure interests, and yet … Because they’re obscure, there’s not a lot of people to discuss with! But this is the internet, so it’s the perfect place to reach out to people about random obsessions. So without further ado, let’s start with some TV shows I’ve been really impressed by, and I’ll try to avoid any spoilers!
It’s a little difficult to describe Jordskott. I came across it because I was looking for a new Nordic Noir series, after being sucked in by Trapped. It’s like a cop thriller mixed with fantasy … Although that makes it sound like Grimm or Bright or something. It’s not the same. It’s darker and more uncomfortable, although it’s not gory or too violent, but there’s an … undercurrent. It feels like it really taps into ancient beliefs and knowledge, while in the very modern world. All helped along by incredible shots of Sweden’s forests, also similar to some of the nature shots in Trapped. All I can say is, you’ll get sucked in before you realise and wish there was already a third season. You can watch it on SBSOnDemand in Australia.
A little different from the last show, Damned is kind of like if The Office was more bleak, with less cringe. It’s a bittersweet representation of the life of social workers in England, similar to another of Jo Brand’s shows, Getting On, about nurses in a hospital wing. It’s sneaky because you don’t realise you’re suddenly addicted to the subtle dark (?) humour, and riveting character interactions. I found it by accident and gave it a go one sick day, and can’t believe it doesn’t have more recognition or acclaim, especially given some of the faces involved. If you like The Office, Ricky Gervais/Stephen Merchant, or Simon Pegg/Nick Frost, definitely give it a go. You can find it on Stan in Australia. This little blurb really doesn’t describe it or introduce it very well, but it’s just a completely underrated show. I also don’t want to build it up too much, because that would be its downfall. It’s a quiet winner.
I’m not quite sure if this is all that obscure, but no one I know has been talking about it. Weird, really, because I had heard about it first from an Irish pub band in Dingle (Lady Franklin’s Lament) and then through those little ‘Did you Know?’ memes that circulate every now and then, summarising the subject of this show. Not to mention the fact that after 168 years, the shipwrecks were found in 2016. Anyway, this show blurs what we know with a bit of creative licence, a la Lost (don’t worry, it’s not what you think) and Ravenous, in telling the story of what happened to the sailors of the HMS’ Terror and Erebus in 1848. Two ships trapped in the Arctic ice for two years, running out of supplies, and … well, you’ll see. This show is like a never-ending nightmare. It’s always terrifying, at times difficult to watch, and disturbing, but you can’t look away. It’s a true feeling of horror throughout, although I can’t put my finger on why. Quiet horror? Combined with some famous faces, it’s a period drama for people who don’t like period dramas, and apparently another season is being made soon. Check it out on Amazon Prime in Australia.
There’s not really that many options for Australian streaming, we always seem to miss out on what other countries (namely USA) get. So I started taking chances with random shows while doing my daily cycling, and chanced upon Ripper Street. It’s got several recognisable faces as main characters, not least of all Mr. Darcy from Pride & Prejudice, and Bronn from Game of Thrones. It paints a really interesting and compelling picture of humanity in London at the end of the 1800s, after Jack the Ripper has gone quiet, and the police who lost his trail. It sounds strange, but mix Call the Midwife with Deadwood and you get a feel for Ripper Street. Catch it on Amazon Prime in Australia.
Sami Blood | Sameblod
Alright, so this isn’t a show, it’s a movie. But I don’t really watch enough movies to warrant a whole blog post just for those, so here we are. With a cast who have actual Sami blood, this tells the story of a Sami (natives of Lap[p]land) girl in 1930s Sweden. I won’t spoil it, but this is at the height of eugenics and phrenology; things which are almost unheard of post-World War 2, with good reason. It’s a relatively simple story, but the way it’s told and shot is what makes it stand out. At times, you will hate the main character, others you will pity her, but in the end, you will understand her actions. There’s really not much else I can say, except that it really is worth a watch … If you’re in the mood for it. It can be quiet and slow moving, but it is impactful without being too heavy. Watch on Amazon Prime in Australia.
The Bridge | Bronn | Broen
Okay, this one is pretty well known, especially in Nordic Noir circles, but I waited off to watch it for some reason, and now I don’t know why. Perhaps I read a poor description, which is why hopefully this one will do the opposite and convince you to watch. Once again, it’s a Scandi thriller, starting on the bridge between Sweden and Denmark. Swedish and Danish detectives have to work together to solve a murder, and … It sounds like just about every other odd couple buddy cop movie ever, right? It’s definitely not. Nothing is as it seems, and there will be some head scratching moments, but you’ll be racing to finish the season, and then jumping into the next as soon as you can. Both detectives, although brusque in their own ways at first, become endearing in very different manners, and their dynamic was some of my favourite parts of the show. I really can’t get any further into it without spoilers, but you can find it on Stan or SBSOnDemand in Australia.
Midnight Sun | Midnattssol
A collaboration between French and Swedish police to solve an unusual international murder in the Arctic Circle during the Swedish summer, when the sun never sets. There’s a Sami theme here again, which led me to find Sami Blood in the first place. There’s a lot packed into this show, and the suspense lasts until almost the end – not that it ties everything up neatly in the last five minutes – that leads you to guess and second-guess everything. The scenery, the small deliberate movements, choices and character actions, and the story at the centre is what makes this riveting. There are some complex issues at hand, and even more complicated characters, which makes it (again) difficult to describe. Is this why these shows aren’t more mainstream? I feel like I’m saying this for every item in the list! Anyway, you can watch it on SBSOnDemand in Aus.
Trapped | Ófærð
This is the OG for me, the one that got me into Nordic Noir. Set in Iceland just before the roads get cut off during winter, body parts wash up, and the tiny town’s police set out to uncover what’s going on. Featuring some incredible scenery that highlights the isolation of the place, and a conspiracy that connects some unexpected players, it’s a story that starts off a little slow, but by the end of the first episode you’re the one who’s trapped… in an endless binge of episodes that will have you as thoroughly converted as I am. Find it on SBSOnDemand in Australia.
Blue Eyes | Blå Ögon
More political than a “simple” murder mystery, this one has several layers, not least of which are the racial tensions and rise of neo-fascism in Europe, and indeed the rest of the world, currently. It’s a story of several different characters who, knowingly or unwittingly, are connected to each other somehow, and the outcomes of a series of decisions that could have just as easily gone the opposite way. Frustrating, thrilling and an uneasy simmer, it’s also easy to see why these characters who can’t seem to do any good make the choices they do as the ones who pathologically do the right thing, even at the cost of their own happiness. Check it out on SBSOnDemand in Australia.
Ronnie Chieng: International Student
Yes, let’s get out of the heavy, depressing or scary ones, and into some comedy! If you haven’t heard of Ronnie Chieng, look no further than Crazy Rich Asians, the Daily Show, or his own standup. Portraying the lives of international students in Melbourne, this show is understated brilliance. Look forward to the bubble tea episode. I’m not sure global audiences would completely understand the Australian references, but that doesn’t take away from it. If anything, it would be a great export of Australian humour and culture, rather than crabs like Neighbours or Home and Away. If you like Flight of the Conchords and Taika Waititi style humour, you should definitely give it a go on Netflix.
Yu Ming is Ainm Dom | Yu Ming is My Name
Ok, so this one isn’t really a show, it’s a short film. But it’s so wholesome and adorable, and it’s very close to my heart, as someone of Irish descent who has lived in Asia, and now learning Irish myself. A Chinese guy stuck in a job he hates decides to learn Irish, and the rest is a spoiler. Side note: I tried to watch the only Irish language show Netflix has, An Klondike, or Dominion Creek, only to find that they’d dubbed over it in English! What in the hegg is that even about?! Especially when there are dozens of shows in different languages on Netflix. Oh my gosh, I could go on and on but I shan’t. Suffice to say it was very upsetting. Anyway, check out the short film below!
If you like Rick & Morty, Invader Zim, Coheed & Cambria or Futurama, you’ll love this. Fresh from Youtube comedian/director Olan Rogers, who’s had me in tears laughing for years, is a cartoon space odyssey about saving the universe. Made with Conan O’Brien, my particular favourite part is an angsty Footloose inspired dance sequence, although there are plenty more. It’s something I could watch over and over and can’t wait for the next season. You’ll find it on Netflix in Australia.
The Almighty Johnsons
This one might be a bit of a tease. I first found it on Netflix a couple of years ago, but they’ve since taken it off and I can’t find it anywhere, except for a scratchy streamed version down a long spiral of links. Which; is it even worth watching then? The answer is YES, if you can get your hands on it. It may be low budget, but this comedy about reincarnated Norse Gods is hilarious, and not only that, the story is really interesting and keeps you guessing. I don’t even want to give anything away more than that, but New Zealand definitely has had some gems in the past few years, and this is one of them. Keisha Castle-Hughes from Game of Thrones/Whale Rider and Dean O’Gorman from the Hobbit are some of the more recognisable characters, but the rest of the cast is just as great. I wish I could tell you where to find it, but if you really want to watch it, I’m sure some of you are better internet treasure hunters than me.
I have no idea how I stumbled on this, or why I decided to watch it, because I’m sometimes hesitant of actors from SNL and their comedic style, but I ended up being really surprised and impressed. Although it has an interesting premise, not a lot really happens in this show, and yet somehow, it’s super addictive. Starring Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen in the main roles, it’s co-created by Alan Yang of Master of None. Faced with the question of what happens when you die, the answer is even more ambiguous than the meaning of life, and I can’t wait to see a second season, if it’s on the cards. Catch it on Amazon Prime in Australia.
Trollhunter | Trolljegeren
Another one which is not a show, but a mockumentary. Featuring typical dry Norwegian humour, it runs in much the same way as the Blair Witch Project, although it’s not really scary. It’s a little like those Discovery Channel ‘documentaries’ on mermaids or dragons, and looks at what would happen if there actually were trolls in Norway, with a forest ranger being followed by a student film crew. It’s not some amazing show like a lot of these others are, but it’s certainly worth a watch. You can find it on Stan in Australia.
Norsemen | Vikingane
If you like Vikings, The Last Kingdom, The Office or Monty Python, you’ll probably appreciate this. It’s less epic, and more about the realities of life in Viking times, with an awkward comic spin, of course. Although it’s set and made in Norway, with an all Norwegian cast, it’s completely in English. You won’t find a Ragnar and Lagertha epic, or a King Eggbert, but there is a sociopathic Jarl, a slimy duo who care more about ‘the arts’ than defending their village, and a sweet love story set against all odds. There are two seasons so far on Netflix in Australia.
Based on Neil Gaiman’s novel of the same name, season two returns this March on Amazon Prime. Perhaps it’s not so obscure, but I only know a couple of people who are into it. It explores a hidden subculture of the world’s ancient gods in human form living in America, up against globalisation and the modern world, personified. Although it veers away from the novel quite quickly, I don’t think it takes away from the greatness of the story at all. They’ve just done it really, really well, and sometimes better and more cleverly than how I had imagined. I hope the high bar set continues to be reached, because several of the creators and Gillian Anderson have left before the upcoming season. I guess we’ll find out, but in the meantime, definitely give it a watch! You’ll be drawn in as ever by Ian McShane, and kept there by the rest of the star-filled cast. My particular favourite is a scene involving a deadly game of chess, juxtaposed against a sweet lullaby.
Well, that’s all I have for you at the moment! Hope you enjoy and check out a few if they appeal to you, and let me know if you think there are some shows that I’d like, too!