Ed. note from Megan: We originally ran this in the summer of 2015, which was when I had a mega mononucleosis relapse that left me bed-ridden for like, months. (Who knew it would be such good prep work for our current circumstances LOL?!) Anyway, Rita was the show to inspire me to begin a column exploring foreign Netflix series; since its fifth season is set to hit the platform this Saturday, August 15th, I figured this was a perfect opportunity to revisit why (if you haven’t already) you should add it to your watch list and get going on the existing four seasons ASAP!
Hi, my name’s Megan, and I have been sick for the entire month of July! I have not left my apartment for the last two weeks except to get emergency supplies from the bodega downstairs! I have replaced all human interaction with Netflix! This makes me a perfect candidate to tell you about foreign shows to stream because, having run out of American options, I was forced to branch out!
In all non-exclamation-point-filled seriousness, the purpose of this column is that: 1. I have uncovered some gems among the foreign streaming options on Netflix, and 2. I would like to discuss them with you, because I feel they are often overlooked. And I know why, slash I know what you’re all thinking: SUBTITLES?! AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT! To which I reply, CALM DOWN, SWEET BROWN! First of all, not all of the shows I’ll be telling you about even require you to read subtitles, because there are certainly countries that fall into the foreign-but-still-English-speaking category, and yes, we will be talking about them eventually.
Today, however, we WILL be covering a show from Denmark that (unless you magically speak Danish) will require some light subtitle reading. That being said, I promise you that it is totally worth it, and you can demand a full refund of life minutes if you think I am a liar after the first episode. (PS you can’t really demand a full refund of life minutes, but it sounded like the right thing to say at the time.)
SO. What is this magnificent Danish television program that you should most definitely be watching? Well, it’s called Rita, and there are three seasons currently available to stream on Netflix. The first episode aired in 2012, and while it’s unclear if there will be a fourth season, the third one ended on a pretty loose-ends-tied-up note, so we’ll just have to wait and see for sure. (2020 Megan speaking – YES, THERE WILL BE MORE SEASONS! YOUR EMOTIONAL INVESTMENT HAS PAID OFF SO FAR, 2015 MEGAN!)
THE PLOT: Rita Madsen is a single mother, a schoolteacher, and (to put it lightly) A TOTAL BADASS. At school she smokes in the bathrooms, she swears, and she pretty much does whatever she wants, largely because her colleagues and the parents are (more often than not) total dickheads. (She also has sex with her colleagues and with the parents, which could be of interest depending on what you’re into.) Despite not playing by the rules (like, ever), her moral compass is generally ON FLEEK (do people still say “fleek”?), and because she almost always does the right thing by her students, it quickly becomes apparent that (despite her tough guy exterior and flawed personality) she’s ultimately a really good person. But again, due to her perceived immaturity and unwillingness to go by the book, there is plenty of drama (and hilarity, let’s be real) that ensues at school AND at home. For instance, her eldest son Ricco is getting married to a girl whose father was Rita’s first love, and YES things get weird. But I will not spoil it for you at this time. All in all, Rita is a character that you become very easily invested in, and the show is definitely worth a watch for that reason alone.
BONUS POINTS: The Scandinavian vibes are strong with this one, and if you are design-minded, it’ll be a very aesthetically pleasing three seasons. Also, the opening credits feature Oh Land’s “Speak Out Now“, which (for me, anyway) never gets annoying, unlike SOME non-foreign shows… (COUGH ORANGEISTHENEWBLACK COUGH)
BONUS SPINOFFS: If you find that you enjoy the shit out of Rita, and you blaze through all three seasons like I did, then you should extend the party by watching Hjørdis, which is a mini-series (one season, four half-hour episodes) that centers around Rita’s dopey-but-loveable coworker Hjørdis. (Rita doesn’t appear in any of the episodes, but that doesn’t deter from the enjoyment factor in the slightest.)