‘Expats’ is a compelling drama series envisioned by Lulu Wang, set against the breathtaking backdrop of Hong Kong’s vertical city. Within this vibrant metropolis unfolds the intricate lives of a tightly-knit expatriate community, looking for fresh starts and to forget uncomfortable truths. As they go about their lives, they find that the past always catches up with them, with tragedy and sorrow following in its wake. Margaret is a recognized architect who is hard-pressed to juggle work and family life as apprehensions arise. Mercy is a Korean-American graduate seeking redemption but stumbling into a scandal involving Margaret. Another member of the group is Hilary, a British expat yearning for motherhood amid an uncertain marriage.
The Amazon Prime show is based on Janice Y. K. Lee’s novel, ‘The Expatriates’, and promises a captivating exploration of love, ambition, and the undeniable entanglements that define the expatriate experience in a dazzling urban landscape. The narrative interweaves themes of celebration, friendships, death, and marriage in a theatrically somber manner, which can be seen in a few other shows like ‘Expats.’
8. Faraway Downs (2023)
A British aristocrat, Sarah Ashley’s husband loses his life building a fortune in Australia. Inheriting his cattle station, she travels to the untamed lands to commandeer the operation. She works alongside a quick-witted cattle drover (Hugh Jackman) to save the life of an aboriginal child and drive off a baron who plots to take her land. With authorities after the child, and the Second World War enveloping the territory, the novice rancher must use every resource at her disposal to protect everything and everyone dear to her. The Hulu series by Baz Luhrmann is an expanded version of the 2008 film, ‘Australia.’ Both ‘Expats’ and ‘Faraway Downs,’ see their protagonists travel to a new landscape and face seemingly insurmountable challenges despite their substantial wealth and affluence.
7. Summer Strike (2022)
Created by Hong Moon-pyo and Lee Yoon-jung, ‘Summer Strike’ is an appealing story of a young woman giving up on the fast city life and big ambitions, to live frugally and reclaim her time. Lee Yeo-Reum is working an all-consuming job in a metropolis, which suffocates her will to live. Making a bold decision, she escapes to the countryside and settles down in a small town. Yeo-Reum does menial jobs to sustain herself, and with plenty of time on her hands, is able to reconnect with herself and her interests. She meets An Dae-Beom at her place of work, an introverted man whom she immediately feels a connection with.
However, things don’t always go as planned, and she faces pushback from her parents, and an orthodox society, for her lifestyle. Dae-Beom becomes a pillar of support, and the two navigate the opposing forces of personal satisfaction and social expectations. If you liked the free-spirited escapism in ‘Expats,’ ‘Summer Strike’ will enthrall you with its complete embrace of counter-culture and minimalism. The shows present intriguing cases of characters searching for freedom and happiness by distancing themselves from their routine city lives, yet still facing lingering shadows of their decision.
6. Followers (2020)
Helmed by Mika Ninagawa, ‘Followers’ traces the stories of two women in the entertainment industry as their evolving modern lives and social media take center stage. Limi Nara is a successful photographer who is looking to create her own family, in one way or another; Natsume Hyakuta is an aspiring actress looking for fame. The two happen upon each other in the bustling city of Tokyo, and Limi clicks a picture of Natsume, helping her become viral. However, the budding social media star has little experience with fame and hopelessly struggles to deal with the negative feedback she receives on social media.
As their stories unfold, ‘Followers’ examines the impact of social media on personal identity and relationships, exposing both the allure and pitfalls of living life in the public eye. Similar to ‘Expats,’ ‘Followers’ unfolds around a vibrant city, with its nightlife, fashion, and ambition on full display. Either show follows women as they break societal molds, struggling against themselves as they reach out for happiness and fulfillment.
5. Pachinko (2022-)
A generation-spanning story of strife and success, ‘Pachinko’ follows Sunja as she leaves her home in Korea and travels to Imperial Japan to start life anew. The narrative shifts back and forth between 1930s-occupied Korea with a young Sunja and her relatives struggling under Japanese rule and 1980s Japan, where an elderly Sunja and her family deal with very different challenges. Made by Soo Hugh, based on the novel of the same name by Min Jin Lee, the show will be appreciated by fans of ‘Expats’ who enjoyed the series for its portrayal of cultural differences, and intricate family dynamics in a foreign land.
4. The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart (2023)
Adapted from Holly Ringland’s novel and created by Sarah Lambert and Glendyn Ivin, ‘The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart’ centers on the poignant life of Alice Hart, a resilient young woman whose tumultuous childhood is scarred by a devastating fire that shatters her family. Assisted by her grandmother and extended family, Alice grows and begins to live life as an adolescent while being burdened by her traumatic past.
Set against the backdrop of the Thornfield Flower Farm and a small-town community, the show’s mood is reminiscent of ‘Expats,’ while contrasting its theme of escapism with one of embracing one’s roots. Both series follow the journeys of their characters as they try to live a better life on a path of self-discovery while trying to make sense of their emotional burdens.
3. It’s Okay to Not Be Okay (2020)
In ‘It’s Okay to Not Be Okay,’ a touching television series orchestrated by creators Park Shin-woo and Jo Yong, we are immersed in a poignant tale that transcends the conventional boundaries of romance and mental health. The narrative follows Moon Gang-tae, a stoic caregiver in a psychiatric ward, burdened by a traumatic past. His world intersects with Ko Moon-young, a popular but enigmatic children’s book author with her own emotional scars.
As they embark on a complex journey of healing, love, and self-discovery, the series explores the intricacies of mental health, family dynamics, and the transformative power of compassion. Comparative to ‘Expats,’ the show finds itself highlighted by heart-wrenching moments and heartwarming connections, with characters traversing uncharted territories and emotional healing. They break free from societal expectations in their own ways and look to live liberating lives.
2. Queen Sugar (2016-2022)
Developed by Ava DuVernay and executively produced by Oprah Winfrey, ‘Queen Sugar’ is a gripping family drama that unfolds against the evocative backdrop of rural Louisiana. The narrative centers around siblings Nova, Charley, and Ralph Angel, whose lives take a transformative turn when they inherit their late father’s sugarcane farm.
As the siblings deal with the challenges of managing the family estate, they grapple with personal and societal issues, including racial tensions, economic disparities, and their own strained relationships. Charley, a savvy businesswoman, seeks to revitalize the farm, while Ralph Angel endeavors to prove himself as a responsible father. Nova, a journalist and activist, confronts social justice issues. If you liked ‘Expats’ for its raw look at familial struggles and complex bonds, ‘Queen Sugar’ will mirror these elements while featuring a lush Southern landscape in its backdrop.
1. Ginny & Georgia (2021-)
Helmed by Sarah Lampert, ‘Ginny & Georgia’ is a layered and unique mother-daughter drama series, navigating the complexities of identity, family, and the pursuit of happiness. The show follows the lives of free-spirited Georgia and her teenage daughter, Ginny, as they relocate to a picturesque New England town in search of a fresh start. Georgia, a charismatic and unconventional mother, grapples with a tumultuous past while striving to provide stability for her family.
Meanwhile, Ginny, the mature-beyond-her-years daughter, contends with the challenges of adolescence, love, and fitting into a new community, with her mother making things difficult. Much like in ‘Expats,’ the narrative slowly reveals a tumultuous history, secrets, and unexpected twists. The shows feature intricate dynamics that define family relationships, exploring love, friendship, and the echoes of their pasts.