The United Nations recognises 21 November as World Television Day so this may be a suitable time for a discussion of foreign-language television programmes shown in the UK. When I was younger the only foreign television I remember was American and in English. If you wanted to watch a French film, you had to stay up until 2am. The general belief was that British people, in contrast to many others across the globe, did not like subtitles and had an even greater aversion to dubbing.
However, the recent popularity of foreign crime drama, from the French Spiral, the Italian Inspector Montalbano, to the Scandinavian The Killing, Wallander and The Bridge, has led to a renewed interest in crime series in languages other than English. The Danish political drama Borgen also met with considerable success as did the paranormal French series The Returned.
The Killing has been re-made in the USA and Wallander in the UK starring Kenneth Branagh, but the original versions are also very popular, even if some of them are shown on less mainstream channels. Many of these programmes have an obsessive following with on-line newspapers running detailed articles as soon as the programme airs, covering everything from Danish coalition politics, to home interiors, to detective Sarah Lund’s Faroese jumpers. The popularity of these series has fuelled interest, not only in the languages, but also in the culture of the countries.
The third series of Borgen (pictured above) started last Saturday. If you haven’t already seen it, how about giving it a go? You’ll get a gripping drama, but also an insight into personal and political life in another European country and a few new foreign words under your belt.
Alternatively, you could try S4C’s new flagship detective programme Y Gwyll, which will appear as ‘Hinterland’ in English next year. Inspired by Scandinavian detective drama it has already been bought by Danish television.
Before long you’ll be saying a huge ‘tak’ (thanks) to Birgitte and co for enlivening your weekend viewing and ‘diolch’ to Detective Mathias for keeping you on the edge of your seat during the week.