If none of these series gets you bingeing you may as well sell the telly
The 11 best international series to binge for the next few months, from ‘Lovecraft Country’ to ‘Briarpatch’
LOVECRAFT COUNTRY S1
Episodes one to four on Tuesday, episodes five to eight on October 6, episodes 9 and 10 on October 20
In the 1950s, Atticus Black, a young African-American, sets out on a road trip with his friend and uncle to find his missing father. This catapults the three into a struggle for survival against the dual terrors of Jim Crow-era America and terrifying monsters that could be ripped from a paperback written by pulpy-horror author HP Lovecraft.
Based on the cult novel by Matt Ruff, Lovecraft Country is a collaboration between Misha Green (creator of Underground) and Jordan Peele (Us, Get Out). It is executive produced by JJ Abrams (Star Wars, Star Trek, Lost, Super 8, Westworld).
The fantastic cast includes Jonathan Majors (The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Da 5 Bloods), Jurnee Smollett-Bell (Birds of Prey, Friday Night Lights), Michael Kenneth Williams (When They See Us, The Night Of), Courtney B Vance (The People vs OJ Simpson, Law & Order), Wunmi Mosaku (Luther, The End of the F*ing World, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), and Abbey Lee (Mad Max: Fury Road, The Neon Demon).
Lovecraft Country has an 89% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is #3 on IMDb’s Most Popular TV chart. As Newsday put it: “To call Lovecraft Country ‘wildly original’ seems almost a quaint understatement. But it is wild. And original. Little doubt about that.”
'Lovecraft Country' is at number three on IMDb’s Most Popular TV chart.
Ramy stars 2020 Golden Globe winner and stand-up comedian Ramy Youssef as Ramy Hassan, a first-generation Egyptian-American millennial in suburban New Jersey grappling with how to be a good Muslim in the Tinder era.
Mahershala Ali (Moonlight, True Detective) joins the cast this season as Sheikh Malik, while Hiam Abbass (Succession, Blade Runner 2049) returns as his mother.
Recently renewed for a third season by US television network Hulu, Ramy won the Audience Award at the SXSW 2019 and a Peabody Award in 2020, where the jurors praised the series as a “touching, thoughtful and very funny sitcom ... The ground-breaking series is masterful in its weaponisation of the tension between faith and secularism, east and west, and men and women.”
Season two is at #24 on Rotten Tomatoes’ list of the Best TV of 2020 So Far, with a 97% critics’ rating. As Rolling Stone put it: “There is no other show quite like Ramy, because there is no other character quite like Ramy ... Superb.”
Golden Globe Award-winning actor Ramy Youssef returns to Hulu for his critically acclaimed performance in 'Ramy'.
MY BRILLIANT FRIEND S2: THE STORY OF A NEW NAME
Set in Naples, Italy, and based on Elena Ferrante’s best-selling novels, My Brilliant Friend is the story of a friendship spanning 60 years. Season two, based on the second novel in Ferrante’s series, sees Lila (Gaia Girace) stuck in a brutal marriage to the wealthy Stefano Caracci (Giovanni Amura), while Elena dallies with suitor Antonio Cappuccio (Christian Giroso) and her growing attraction to the magnetic Nino Sarratore (Francesco Serpico).
My Brilliant Friend, helmed by multi-award-winning Italian directors Saverio Costanzo (Hungry Hearts) and Alice Rohrwacher (Happy as Lazaro), has a 96% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is at 236 on IMDb’s list of the top-rated TV of all time, where it has a score of 8.6/10. The series was recently renewed for a third season.
The Hollywood Reporter included it in its roundup of the 10 Best Shows of 2020 So Far, saying the series “portrays post-war young-womanhood in all its victories, devastations and frailties. This season’s story, told with seemingly no expense spared, is where the girls’ paths start to truly diverge, as one pursues dreams beyond their impoverished neighbourhood and the other finds herself irretrievably chained to it.”
Growing up doesn’t mean letting go.
9-1-1: LONE STAR S1
This spin-off of the hugely popular first responder drama, 9-1-1 stars Rob Lowe (Parks and Recreation) as a New York firefighter who relocates to Austin, Texas, where he’s tasked with putting together a new squad after a tragedy. The cast includes Liv Tyler (Harlots, Lord of the Rings) and Lyndsy Fonseca (Desperate Housewives, Nikita, Kick-Ass).
9-1-1: Lonestar was one of the 10 most-streamed shows on DStv Now in the first half of 2020 and the highest-rated new series of the year for its parent network, FOX, which recently announced its renewal for a second season.
As Rotten Tomatoes says, 9-1-1: Lone Star “packs an entertaining punch and is a great showcase for the handsomely self-aware Rob Lowe”.
Rob Lowe is your man in '9-1-1: Lone Star'.
PERRY MASON S1
Tuesdays at 11pm, same day as M-Net. Binge from September 15
It’s 1932, and despite the Great Depression, LA is booming. But when the kidnapping case of the decade comes knocking on down-and-out detective Perry Mason’s door, his relentless pursuit of the truth reveals a fractured city and, just maybe, a pathway to redemption for himself.
HBO’s biggest debut in nearly two years, Perry Mason reboots the award-winning 1950s-60s series based on Erle Stanley Gardner’s detective stories. Matthew Rhys (The Americans) is Mason. Tatiana Maslany and John Lithgow (The Crown, 3rd Rock from the Sun) co-star.
Indiewire hailed Perry Mason as “one of the most beautiful series ever made ... One of the best I’ve ever seen. Really.”
'One of the most beautiful series ever made ... ' That's 'Perry Mason'.
Binge from September 18
This 2020 Emmy-nominated drag reality show from HBO has a 100% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The six-part series sees renowned drag queens Bob the Drag Queen, Eureka O’Hara and Shangela Laquifa Wadley inspire small-town residents from across America to step outside their comfort zones for a night of no-holds-barred, full-on drag — and a life-changing journey of self-discovery. Sometimes all it takes is a little love — and “a lotta werk” — to take someone from who they are to what they can be.
AV Club describes the show as “a charming and engaging reality series ... well worth watching”, while Salon.com notes that, “on a deeper level, it’s a show about loving — truly loving — your neighbour”.
HBO has already renewed We’re Here for a second season.
Serving change, one small town at a time.
LAZOR WULF S1
Binge from September 18
He’s a wolf. With a laser on his back. And he’s the coolest thing in Strongburg.
Created by Henry Bonsu, Lazor Wulf, Adult Swim’s latest series, is an acid vision of modern life and friendship, voiced by a predominantly black cast, including rapper Vince Staples, comedian Quinta Brunson from A Black Lady Sketch Show and WWE wrestler Ettore “Big E” Ewen, with Reginald VelJohnson (Die Hard) as the voice of God.
LA Times describes the show as “African American, retro, futuristic and strange ... relaxed, but at the same time packed with tension”.
Also look out for Mr Pickles spin-off Momma Named Me Sheriff and the insane Ballmastrz: 9009 season one, with the voice of Golden Globe-nominee Natasha Lyonne (Russian Doll, Orange is the New Black).
'Lazor Wulf' is about finding the inner strength to buy your own cereal, not dying and the art of the scam.
WORLD ON FIRE S1
Thursdays at 11.30pm from September 24, same day as M-Net
Set in 1939, on the eve of the German invasion of Poland, World on Fire follows the interwoven stories of ordinary people caught up in catastrophic global events beyond their control. The critically acclaimed World War 2 drama has an 84% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes and has already been renewed for a second season.
The impressive cast includes Sean Bean (Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings), Helen Hunt (As Good As It Gets, Mad About You), Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread, Harlots) and Jonah Hauer-King (Little Women), who’s set to star as Prince Eric in the upcoming Disney live-action remake of The Little Mermaid.
“It’s hard to recall any dramatic work that captured the terror of this invasion with such immediacy,” says Wall Street Journal.
BBC hailed it as a “must-watch”, with TV critic and broadcaster Scott Bryan calling it “deeply haunting ... a remarkable form of storytelling; from different sides, different locations, people from different classes, sexualities”, and writer Hayley Campbell praising its depiction of “war, on a personal level ... focusing on civilians rather than soldiers; this huge global thing shrunk right down”.
'World on Fire' stars Bafta-winner Sean Bean and Oscar-winner Helen Hunt.
LOVE ISLAND UK S6 — THE CAPE TOWN EDITION
Five episodes every Saturday. Binge from September 26
For South African fans dying to see the latest season of the Bafta-winning reality show, the long wait is over. And it’s all the more delicious because this is the season that was filmed at a villa in Constantia, Cape Town. Laura Whitmore, of Strictly Come Dancing and I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! fame, is this season’s host for the drama-packed reality show, where single hopefuls flirt, date, break up and make up, while trying to capture the hearts of viewers, who will vote for their favourite couple to take home the £50,000 (about R1,1m) prize money.
Meet the sizzling singles ready to enter the villa and win.
Mondays at 11pm, same day as M-Net. Binge from September 28
Senator’s aide Allegra Dill (Rosario Dawson) returns to her border-town Texas home to investigate the death of her sister, a local cop killed by a car bomb. What begins as a search for a killer turns into an all-consuming fight to bring her corrupt hometown to its knees.
Edi Gathegi (X-Men: First Class) and Alan Cumming (The Good Wife) co-star in this latest offering from writer/producer Sam Esmail (Mr. Robot, Homecoming), based on the crime novel by Ross Thomas. Briarpatch has a 78% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with The Hollywood Reporter saying: “Anchored by a strong Rosario Dawson performance and flavoured with wit and a real sense of place, Briarpatch is a charmer: it keeps those aspects of Mr. Robot that were most audience-friendly and jettisons the rest.”
'Briarpatch' is anchored by a strong performance from Rosario Dawson.
I MAY DESTROY YOU S1
Wednesdays at 10.30pm, same day as 1Magic. Binge from November 11
I May Destroy You centres on Arabella (Michaela Coel from Chewing Gum), a carefree, self-assured Londoner with a group of great friends, a boyfriend in Italy and a burgeoning writing career. But when her drink is spiked with a date-rape drug, she must question and rebuild every element of her life.
I May Destroy You is #23 on Rotten Tomatoes Best TV of 2020 So Far, with a 97% critics’ rating and a critics’ consensus that reads: “I May Destroy You is at once brave and delicate, untangling the trauma of sexual assault with dark humour and moments of deep discomfort, all held together on the strength of Michaela Coel’s undeniable talent.”
In its five-star review, The Guardian raved: “It is the drama of the year so far ... Michaela Coel’s exploration of consent, race and millennial life ... works on every level ... An extraordinary, breathtaking achievement without a false note in it, shot through with humour and with ideas, talent and character to burn at every perfectly plotted turn.”
Including it in its roundup of the 10 Best TV Shows of 2020 So Far, The Hollywood Reporter said: “The most ‘2020’ show of 2020,” adding that it’s “representative of the mood of the moment — the combination of anger, confusion, uncertainty and unexpected humour; the exploration of intersections of gender and race, sexuality and violence, youth and hard-earned experience”.
Other international series you can binge in September include the third and final season of the mermaids of Bristol Cove in Teen Choice Breakout Drama Siren; the second and final season of Project Blue Book, a UFO investigation series with Aidan Gillen (aka Littlefinger in Game of Thrones); season seven of the Emmy-nominated action series Strike Back, based on the Chris Ryan novel; and the sixth and final season of Omari Hardwick as New York City nightclub owner James “Ghost” St Patrick in Power, launching on Monday, just before the spin-off, Power Book II: Ghost, starts on 1Magic on September 15 at 9.30pm.
The Emmys are on September 21, so it’s also the perfect time to catch up on GoldDerby.com’s Best Drama favourite Succession, Best Limited Series favourite Watchmen and Best Actor in a Limited Series favourite Mark Ruffalo in I Know This Much Is True, not to mention nominees like A Black Lady Sketch Show, Bad Education, Big Little Lies, Euphoria, Insecure, Little Fires Everywhere, McMillion$, Rick & Morty, Robot Chicken, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Outsider, Westworld, What We Do in the Shadows and Why We Hate.