My first exposure to a television show from beyond American shores was a program called Are You Being Served. It used to run occasionally on the local public broadcasting network, and I was both mystified and delighted by it. I was too young to fully understand the humor of the show (which is full of one innuendo after another), but it was different from anything else I saw on television, so I liked it.
I was reminded of this show when a new complete set of Are You Being Served arrived at the Library recently. Of course, the Library owns quite a few BBC programs, but less well known is how many foreign language television shows we have on offer. We have about 60 here at the Main Library alone, and I am a newly minted fan of a French program called Kaboul Kitchen.
Kaboul Kitchen is a half hour black comedy set in Kabul, Afghanistan, in the early oughts. The central character, Jacky, is a sympathetic but dubious type. He is a French expat who operates a restaurant/hotel that caters to fellow expats, and more than a few shady characters. I am only on the fourth episode of the series, but already a string of dodgy individuals have shown up on Jacky’s doorstep, including bootleggers, extortionists, corrupt embassy officials, politicians and shady military personnel.
Of course, this kind of show needs a moral center, so into the Kaboul Kitchen steps the do-gooder daughter Jacky abandoned years ago, who has grown into a headstrong woman bent on challenging authority and championing humanitarian projects (like building a school for girls). All of this probably sounds fairly dark for a comedy, but the show is surprising light and breezy, even while addressing hot button political issues.
This show does not appear to be well known in the United States, which is too bad, because it deserves a larger audience. It was probably never picked up by an American station for a couple different reasons—it is a very international show, and is not told through the lens of an American living abroad. If I have one complaint, it might be that it is told too much from the Western European expat perspective, and I’m hoping some of the Afghani characters are given larger story arcs in future episodes.
If you’re looking for something TV-wise a little off the beaten path, I definitely recommend giving this show a try. And if you’re looking for even more foreign television shows I also recommend: Deutschland 83 (German), The Returned (French), and Prisoners of War (Hebrew).
4 responses to “Adventures in Foreign Television”
I agree, it is my absolute favorite British comedy after The Benny Hill Show and Keeping Up Appearances (with Hyacinth Bucket) is number three.
deutschland 83 is incredible — i was on the edge of my chair for every episode — and a telling representation that we are all the same…
Also try the older BBC series Chef! starring Lenny Henry. Loads of fun if you like the offbeat humor.
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