‘The Family Man’ is a gritty Indian spy thriller that focuses on the protagonist’s espionage action as well as his everyday, middle-class family life. As he races to uncover an elusive network of terrorist sleeper cells before an impending attack, Srikant Tiwari must also grapple with the frustrations of his wife and keeping up with his urban, savvy kids. The character-driven series features a layered, news story inspired backdrop and portrays the unglamorous yet vastly complicated work carried out by intelligence field agents.
If you enjoyed the up-close and gritty portrayal of contemporary espionage in the context of the Indian subcontinent, we have some compelling recommendations for shows with similarly complex conflicts and character explorations set in different parts of the contemporary world. You can watch most of these shows similar to ‘The Family Man’ on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.
7. Sacred Games (2018-2019)
If you’ve just finished ‘The Family Man’ and can’t get enough of gritty and chaotic Indian espionage, then, in the unlikely event that you haven’t seen it, ‘Sacred Games‘ should be your next stop. Similarly character-driven, this time by the dedicated and dogged Mumbai cop Sartaj (Saif Ali Khan), the series is an eclectic mix of contemporary social and geopolitical issues, with the ever-looming specter of terrorism never too far from the plot. Stalwarts of Indian cinema like Anurag Kashyap, one of the show’s directors, and lead antagonist Nawazuddin Siddiqui make the show a powerhouse that will capture your imagination and give you a sharp taste of Mumbai’s criminal underbelly.
6. Homeland (2011-2020)
‘Homeland‘ follows Carrie Anne Mathison, a CIA agent with bipolar disorder who learns that an American prisoner of war has been “turned” by al-Qaeda and is sympathetic to the terrorists’ cause. Obsessed with exposing the sleeper agent, Carrie grapples with complex networks of terrorist groups and incomplete information to try and piece together the truth. Her condition adds another layer to the character and, like ‘The Family Man,’ portrays a realistic, fallible person as a spy. The multi-award-winning show also has 8 seasons, so you won’t run out of episodes anytime soon.
5. Fatma (2021- )
A character-driven show, if there ever was one, ‘Fatma’ follows the frail, soft-spoken eponymous character as she transforms into a ruthless killer whilst searching for her husband. Set primarily in Istanbul, the show’s story is intricately interlaced with the city’s criminal underbelly and inherent patriarchy.
Though it is smaller in scale than the near-apocalyptic terror attacks in ‘The Family Man,’ what ‘Fatma’ lacks in scope, it makes up for in cultural detail and raw intensity. Unapologetically clear-eyed about the moral gray area that surrounds all violence and placed in the culturally rich backdrop of Turkey, ‘Fatma’ is a blistering experience whose biggest asset is its (seemingly) homely protagonist.
4. Special Ops (2020- )
‘Special Ops’ delves, once again, into India’s complicated geopolitical situation via terrorism but expands to cover an incredibly long timeline of 19 years. The show follows an agent of the Research and Analysis Wing hell-bent on tracking down the criminal mastermind behind multiple terror attacks. Based on multiple espionage missions undertaken by the country and featuring an eclectic protagonist, this show also trades glamour for authenticity and gives audiences a little taste of what espionage really is like.
3. The Spy (2019)
The French espionage miniseries ‘The Spy‘ features the prolific Sacha Baron Cohen as Eli Cohen, Israel’s top spy. The show follows his exploits in various countries, including one where he gets appointed to a senior government office under his false identity. Baron Cohen, an actor notorious for his disguises, also embodies the similarly inclined protagonist with great aplomb. If you enjoyed watching the exploits of the scrappy intelligence agent that leads ‘The Family Man,’ this show, based on one of Mossad’s most accomplished spies, will be right up your alley.
2. Berlin Station (2016-2019)
‘Berlin Station’ follows a CIA agent freshly moved to the agency’s desk in Berlin. Initially tasked with finding the source of an information leak, the show’s undercover protagonist is successively handed more and more perilous missions. The ground-level perspective of chaotic intelligence fieldwork amidst bustling city crowds and shady characters is how this show gives viewers a slice of authenticity. The accomplished cast also makes for satisfying character explorations, whilst the complex, sub-plot-laden storyline helps create a layered and engaging world for them to inhabit.
1. Fauda (2015- )
‘Fauda‘ is an Israeli series that follows the story of a commander on the hunt for a Hamas terrorist known as “The Panther.” The show, based on various conflicts in the region, uses an authentic historic background and also explores the complicated repercussions of the conflict on the protagonist’s personal life. When it comes to exploring long-standing feuds between nations and stitching stories around their geopolitical complexities, ‘Fauda’ deals with a subject matter that is rife with opportunity. Like ‘The Family Man,’ this show also attempts to portray contemporary situations from the perspective of national security as well as the effects these situations have on the protagonist’s family.