An International Buffet, From Elena Ferrante to ‘Slow Horses’

Amid the flood of foreign shows to American screens (nearly 100 just since the beginning of the year), here are five to check out.

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By Mike Hale

At the end of this week, 31 new or returning American scripted series will have premiered in the first 21 days of the year. (By my non-definitive but probably fairly accurate count.)

It’s a healthy number. But there’s another number that dwarfs it: In those same three weeks, at least 98 international scripted shows from 25 countries will have premiered or returned on American networks and streaming services.

The winter anime season began in that time frame, which accounts for about half of those shows. That doesn’t diminish the impact of the numbers; Japan just happens to turn out a couple of hundred animated programs every year, across a range of genres, that as a group are as good as any other format on television. And any peak-TV tally of series that doesn’t include the anime on Crunchyroll and Hidive, the Asian dramas on Rakuten Viki or the European series on boutique streamers like MHz Choice or Topic is seriously undercounting what’s available to the American audience.

Here’s a small selection from that abundance; the shows listed premiered this year or near the end of 2022.

‘The Lying Life of Adults’

While HBO’s adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s “My Brilliant Friend” awaits its final season, Netflix has jumped in with this six-episode rendition of her most recent novel. Giovanna (Giordana Marengo), a middle-class Neapolitan teenager, tries to sort out her beliefs amid the deceptions and hypocrisies of family and friends, the crude come-ons of men and the doctrinal dog fights among Marxists, Catholics and mobsters. Angry at her parents, she ventures down from their hilltop enclave to spend time in the industrial flatlands with her black-sheep aunt (Valeria Golino), an avatar of the life force who tells Giordana that when she has sex she has to scream or else “what are you living for?”

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