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Best shows in English that are set in other countries

In an era when the lines between movies and TV shows continue to get more and more blurry, TV has become much more globetrotting than it once was. While some shows still film primarily on backlots, others hop all over the globe, visiting real-world locations or taking up residence in another country entirely.

The increasingly international nature of TV has led to a number of shows in English that are set in other countries. These series are, in the long run, a good thing for TV. They expand the insular worldview of America, and, as long as they represent other cultures appropriately, they’re also a chance for American audiences to see the world. Not every great American show has to be set in America, and each one of the shows below proves that’s the case.

Moon Knight (2022)

Moon Knight
69 %
tv-14 1 Season
Genre Action & Adventure, Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Mystery, Drama
Cast Oscar Isaac, Ethan Hawke, May Calamawy
Created by Jeremy Slater
While its first season just wrapped last month,  Moon Knight has already proven to be a memorable globetrotting adventure. The series follows Marc Spector as he comes to realize that he has dissociative identity disorder, and often finds himself awake in a different country than where he was when he blacked out. Fittingly, Moon Knight is unafraid to traipse across the globe to tell its story. It’s a breath of fresh air for Marvel, which has so often confined its filming to backlots in Atlanta.
Marvel Studios’ Moon Knight | Official Trailer | Disney+

Ted Lasso (2020)

Ted Lasso
79 %
tv-ma 2 Seasons
Genre Comedy
Cast Jason Sudeikis, Hannah Waddingham, Juno Temple
Created by Jason Sudeikis, Brendan Hunt, Bill Lawrence, Joe Kelly
Through two seasons, Ted Lasso‘s manifesto of kindness has become a genuine phenomenon. The series, which tells the story of a college football coach from Kansas who takes a job coaching professional soccer in the U.K., is a culture-clash comedy that puts feelings first. Ted Lasso wears its heart on its sleeve, but it also manages to find plenty of jokes in its generally gentle premise. The entire cast is terrific, and Jason Sudeikis plays a fish out of water better than almost anyone.
Ted Lasso — Official Trailer | Apple TV+

Sex Education (2019)

Sex Education
81 %
tv-ma 3 Seasons
Genre Comedy, Drama
Cast Asa Butterfield, Gillian Anderson, Ncuti Gatwa
Created by Laurie Nunn
Although Sex Education doesn’t really feature an American cast (with the notable exception of Gillian Anderson, who is doing a British accent), the show’s sensibility and vague setting make it totally accessible to American audiences. The show, which tells the story of a teenager who provides sex therapy to his peers in high school, is really about sexual liberation. Sex Education has incredibly frank conversations about sex in every episode, and the TV landscape is all the better because it has them so well.
SEX EDUCATION Trailer (2019) Netflix Series

Top of the Lake (2013)

Top of the Lake
81 %
tv-ma 2 Seasons
Genre Crime, Drama, Mystery
Cast Elisabeth Moss, David Dencik, Nicole Kidman
Created by Jane Campion, Gerard Lee
Featuring a truly international cast, Top of the Lake, which is set in New Zealand, tells the story of a detective (Elisabeth Moss) who is investigating the disappearance of a 12-year-old girl. The entire series was directed by Jane Campion, and the series is both unsettling and strangely beautiful, filled with the kinds of imagery that seems to only exist in New Zealand. Campion’s prowess as a director is on full display in the series, which is gripping until the the mystery at its center is finally unraveled.

Emily in Paris (2020)

Emily in Paris
60 %
tv-ma 2 Seasons
Genre Drama, Comedy
Cast Lily Collins, Ashley Park, Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu
Created by Darren Star
Sometimes, all you need a show to be is travel porn, and that’s exactly what Emily in Paris is. The show follows a Chicago marketing executive who is hired by a French firm looking for an American perspective. From there, cultures and sensibilities clash, and Emily looks for love in the beautiful city of Paris. Although it’s not critically beloved, Emily in Paris was a major hit for Netflix in part because of its scenic locales, and while it’s not perfectly written, it is pretty easy to watch, and that’s not nothing.
Emily in Paris | Official Trailer | Netflix

The Great (2020)

The Great
77 %
tv-ma 2 Seasons
Genre Drama, Comedy
Cast Elle Fanning, Nicholas Hoult, Phoebe Fox
Created by Tony McNamara
Elle Fanning may not be the most obvious choice to play Catherine the Great, but that’s part of what makes The Great feel so daring. Following the Russian queen as she rises to power, the show is wildly anti-historical and hilarious, and one of its chief thrills is the ways in which it seems totally unconcerned with what actually happened. The naked power grabs on display throughout the show’s first two seasons are thoroughly compelling, as are the central performances from Fanning and Nicholas Hoult
The Great Season 1 Trailer | Rotten Tomatoes TV

Outlander (2014)

76 %
tv-ma 6 Seasons
Genre Drama, Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Cast Caitriona Balfe, Sam Heughan, Sophie Skelton
Created by Ronald D. Moore
A time-traveling romance that features a sprawling cast and a primarily Scottish setting, Outlander has been a compelling watch for its loyal viewers for years now. The show follows a former World War II field nurse (Catriona Balfe) who finds herself transported back in time to the 18th century, where she must get married in order to survive. From there, the show spans across eras, and follows this woman as she finds herself torn between the world she’s come from and the one she’s been forced to adopt.
OUTLANDER - Season 1 Trailer

Killing Eve (2018)

Killing Eve
75 %
tv-14 4 Seasons
Genre Crime, Drama
Cast Sandra Oh, Jodie Comer, Fiona Shaw
International spy shows are in short supply, but Killing Eve has proven to be worthy of the genre. The show follows Eve  (Sandra Oh), a bored but highly intelligent MI-5 agent who has found her life as an international secret agent less exciting than she imagined. When Eve discovers the mercurial assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer), the two begin a vicious game of cat and mouse that leaves a lot of collateral damage in its wake. Even after the divisive series finale, Killing Eve remains a strange, often hilarious pleasure, as we watch two gifted women become totally obsessed with one another.
Killing Eve Season Extended Trailer | Rotten Tomatoes TV

The Little Drummer Girl (2018)

The Little Drummer Girl
tv-ma 1 Season
Genre Drama, War & Politics
Cast Florence Pugh, Michael Shannon, Alexander Skarsgård
Created by Park Chan-wook
Adapted from a John le Carré novel of the same name, The Little Drummer Girl is an international production in the truest sense, following a young actress (Florence Pugh) in the 1970s as she begins a whirlwind romance with a man (Alexander Skarsgård) she meets in Greece. The show eventually turns into an international spy thriller, and it begins hopping quickly throughout Europe. Every one of the show’s six episodes was directed by acclaimed director Park Chan-wook, and his mastery as a filmmaker is on full display throughout the show’s run.
THE LITTLE DRUMMER GIRL Official Trailer (2018) Michael Shannon, Park Chan-wook Series HD

Acapulco (2021)

tv-14 1 Season
Genre Comedy
Cast Eugenio Derbez, Enrique Arrizon, Raphael Alejandro
Created by Jason Shuman, Austin Winsberg, Eduardo Cisneros
Apple TV+ has had several bona fide successes over the course of its short existence, but it’s also been the hand behind some underappreciated gems, including Acapulco. The show stars a primarily Latinx cast, and follows a young man (Enrique Arrizon) who believes he’s landed his dream job at one of the nicest resorts in the Mexican city of Acapulco in the 1980s. It’s only after he begins the job that he realizes his dream may be more complicated than he realized. Acapulco is a delightful, international comedy that should hold plenty of appeal for audiences the world over.
Acapulco — Official Trailer | Apple TV+

Editors' Recommendations

Movie images and data from:
Joe Allen
Joe Allen is a freelance writer based in upstate New York focused on movies and TV.
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