Netflix has become the go-to media for many people during this time of global pandemic.
While the video streaming site varies in terms of content from one territory to another, there are a lot of common gems.
I got into watching shows outside the US and the UK when I saw France’s "Les Revenants" (2004) on – ahem – Torrents. But I hit my stride on Netflix in 2018 with Germany’s "Dogs of Berlin."
If for many, their intro to Korean dramas is "Crash Landing on You," my venturing out into television series and films from Asia began with "Terrace House."
Yes, "Terrace House" that Japanese reality series that places six men and women in one house with no script with the show’s commentators and rabid viewers waiting for love to bloom or sparks to fly. My intro that the mega-popular show was the second series, "Terrace House: Boys and Girls in the City." Wanting to see more, I ventured out to "Midnight Stories."
As for Korean stuff, it began when I was first invited to interview these K-pop stars who I knew nothing about. Embarrassed, I began doing my research. I decided to check out "Descendants of the Sun" then got into "Crash Landing on You" the moment it was uploaded on Netflix (then moved on to "Itaewon Class").
There’s a lot.
Here are some shows on Netflix that vary from territory and theme/concept.
"The Perfect Match" (Taiwan)
A 22-episode rom-com that was first released in 2017. I saw the bubbly and charming Ivy Shao in 2016 with "Back to 1989" (that you should really watch; in fact, it’s even better than "The Perfect Match"). In "The Perfect Match," she stars with Wu Kang-jen (or better known by his stage name, Chris Wu).
The basic story revolves Wu’s role as Chef Huo Ting-en who gives night market cook Wei Fen-qing a chance to learn from him in his top class restaurant, La Mure. The sparks of romance are there almost immediately, but a secret from their respective family’s part threatens to tear them not only apart, but take down Wu’s family business.
You have to like the chemistry between Shao and Wu, something I thought that was missing among the lead characters of "Itaewon Class." Taiwanese dramas tend to be longer (for the most part) than their Korean counterparts, but "The Perfect Match" is enjoyable. Mind you, it isn’t to say it is without its problems. I guess it took its cues from Bollywood with a song and dance number at the start but it doesn’t repeat itself count out the dance scene at the banquet). And at times, there are events in the story that seem – not too believable. I can understand though as it serves to heighten the tension. I still enjoyed it very much though.
"Designated Survivor 60 Days" (Korea)
Korea’s version of the wildly popular American drama thriller starring Kiefer Sutherland. It shared the same plot as the American series where the lone survivor of a terrorist attack on American officials thrusts a nondescript officer into the role as the chief executive.
Ji Jin-hee plays acting president of Korea Park Mu-jin. Unlike Sutherland’s Tom Kirkman, the former looks like a fish out of water, but displays a backbone when the chips are down. And honestly, I prefer this to the original American series. Maybe it’s because the Korean version is more believable and Ji Jin-hee’s geekiness is a nice change whereas I thought that Sutherland reprised his Jack Bauer character in "24."
What you will love is the tension "Designated Survivor 60 Days" brings to the table. Tension plus action and adrenaline plus the added notion of who can you trust makes this series binge-worthy.
"Virgin River" (USA)
This premiered on Netflix US late 2019 but was only made available very recently in Asia. This is based on the novels of the same name by author Robyn Carr. This series has star power. With Annette O’Toole and Tim Matheson. But lead actress Alexandra Breckenridge who I last saw on "The Walking Dead" (as Rick Grimes’ potential love interest before she was eaten by a herd of zombies) takes the spotlight. Aside from her beauty that resembles tennis star Maria Sharapova (with more pounds), Breckenridge totally sinks herself into her role as Melinda Monroe, a nurse who escapes the big city for a fresh start in the out-of-the-way sleepy town of Virgin River. Except it isn’t as sleepy as it sounds.
It is good to know that Netflix has ordered a Season 2 because the 10 episodes go by really quick.
"Delhi Crime" (India)
Cop shows from all over the world are outstanding. And India’s "Delhi Crime" has proven to be a hit as a second season was also ordered by Netflix. Based on the 2012 Delhi gang rape that made international headlines, this series follows Deputy Police Commissioner Vartika Chaturverdi who is tasked to solve the crime as soon as possible. Chaturverdi assigns her most trusted deputies to solve the case. It’s a riveting show that is so far from what we are used to from Western crime dramas.
A six-episode series features heart-warming stories of the relationships between man and his best friend. We see stories of a service dog who works with a girl suffering from epilepsy to a refugee dog from war-torn Syria making its way back to its owner to a fisherman’s dog to a dog groomer to the persons who run a dog haven and to a group that rescues man’s best friend.
After viewing this, I befriended the family of that fisherman’s mate who also operate the Ittiturismo Mella restaurant in Bellagio, Italy on Facebook. And before his pandemic hit the entire world, I was planning on going back to Italy and to Bellagio this summer.
Watching "Dog" in the meantime takes you all over the world. And prepare for your funny bone to be tickled and for your heartstrings to be touched.
"Kung Fu Jungle" (Hong Kong)
While this action film isn’t new (it was first released in Asia in 2014), it has just been released on Netflix. This isn’t as violent as those Indonesian martial art flicks such as "The Raid" and "The Night Comes for Us" but what it lacks in uber violence it makes up for in technique. You will be treated to different fight disciplines here coupled with some spot on wire work that makes the film a feast for the eyes of action junkies.
Donnie Yen stars as disgraced police trainer Hahou Mou who is jailed after he kills a man in a duel. With a violent murderer on the loose (his victims are all martial arts masters in various disciplines), Hahou must get out to track him down. He offers Police Inspector Luk Yuen-sum (Charlie Yeung who channels her inner Michelle Yeoh to portray this tough police official) his help and knowledge in capturing the killer in exchange for his freedom.
Again, if you’re a fan of "The Raid" and "The Night Comes for Us," you will love "Kung Fu Jungle."