As we isolate, socially distance, and age in place we’ve found multiple ways to satisfy the travel itch. One that we’ve enjoyed is finding television series set in foreign lands. Here are three that we have fully enjoyed:
Shtisel is an Iraeli series set in Jerusalem’ Hassidic culture. It’s the story of a young man who struggles to balance his artistic inclinations and his community’s expectations and rigidity.
This is an alien world for Westerners, although the Hassidic world was also the subject of another Neflix series called Unorthodox. Initially, I found the setting (and culture) off-putting, but gradually found myself absorbed in the intense everyday world of the characters. Interestingly, I’ve read that the series is very popular in the Arabic world where there is an abundance of curiosity about Orthodox Judaism.
Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories, also Netflix, delves into a subculture that is alien to Americans, exploring the world of late night Tokyo. “Master” runs a tiny diner in a crowded backstreet alley that offers only one menu item, but will cook anything to order. The Master is the quiet, discreet, compassionate, and mysterious center of a solar system around which a crazy bunch of asteroids and comets revolve. Each episode is different, although the diner does have its cast of regulars, too.
Compared to Shtisel … well, you don’t want to compare it. Just enjoy it. Each episode features a different dish prepared by the Master, and ends with a behind-the-scenes refrain with the main characters providing a recipe or instructional insight to make Midnight Diner of interest to foodies.
(Thanks to SB Raphie of Oklahoma City for the following suggestion.)
The third in our Travel Triumvirate takes us to the gritty world of Naples. Here’s how the book on which the series is based is described by its audio publisher:
A modern masterpiece from one of Italy’s most acclaimed authors, My Brilliant Friend is a rich, intense, and generous-hearted story about two friends, Elena and Lila, who represent the story of a nation and the nature of friendship.
The story begins in the 1950s in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples. Growing up on these tough streets, the two girls learn to rely on each other ahead of anyone or anything else. As they grow – and as their paths repeatedly diverge and converge – Elena and Lila remain best friends whose respective destinies are reflected and refracted in the other. They are likewise the embodiments of a nation undergoing momentous change. Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighborhood, a city, and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her protagonists.
.©2012 GO Team! Enterprises (P)2015 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
This is the closest you will come to time traveling. The cinematography, costuming, and overall production will transport you to the stinky, sweaty, stylish, sensuous world of ’50s era Naples. If you have a travel itch for Italy, this will scratch it.