Foreign TV shows like Spanish telenovelas have long been popular in the U.S., and K-dramas have also recently earned a lot of loyal American fans thanks to the popularization of K-pop. But the birthplace of Turkish delight and endless amounts of Instagram videos of wedding proposals in the hot-air-balloon-infested land of Cappadocia has been a surprisingly strong dominator of an interesting product on the international scene: TV dramas.
These dramas are one of Turkey’s biggest exports, generating hundreds of millions of dollars annually. They also have a huge audience base, spanning the Middle East, the Balkans, southeastern Europe and even South America. The popularity of these shows earned Turkey the title of being second to the U.S. for audience figures worldwide.
The large popularity of these dramas on international screens can be credited to the high-end production of Turkish TV series. For most Turkish soap operas, new episodes are filmed as the previous episodes are being aired. This means that screenwriters and directors are easily able to change the direction of their show, based on the ratings and the reactions of the audience and critics.
Turkey’s geographical location is also another reason for the popularity of its shows. Being divided between the continent of Europe and Asia gives Turkish dramas an advantage of reaching different types of audiences across different cultures.
Most importantly, the storylines of the shows (for the most part) are really interesting and engaging. A lot of Turkish soap operas are based on classic Turkish or Middle Eastern novels recreated with a modern twist. A popular example of this is the show Leyla and Mecnun based on a popular Arabic romantic narrative poem of similar name, but the show takes the ancient tale on a comedic route.
If you haven’t explored shows or movies outside of your country, you should definitely give Turkish dramas a try. Not only do they provide a small window to learn about a different culture, but they can also be a break from recycled and reused storylines. But fair warning: Many scenes with people sipping chai on the Bosporus might make you invest in a plane ticket to Turkey.
Here are a few shows that I recommend if you’re looking to binge-watch internationally.
Muhtesem Yuzyil (“The Magnificent Century”): This show is a historical fiction series based on the life of Ottoman Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent.
Ask Laftan Anlamaz (“Love Doesn’t Understand Words”): This show is a rom-com with the perfect balance of comedy and drama.
Erkenci Kus (“Early Bird”): This show is currently airing and has already earned a large audience and successful ratings. If you’re looking for a light-hearted comedy show with a range of well-developed characters, this is the perfect drama to watch.
Ezel: This show is a crime drama and an adaptation of the French adventure novel The Count of Monte Cristo. The series has been sold to many countries and broadcasted on many foreign channels in all parts of the world. It is also currently available on Netflix.
So if you’re someone who is interested in exploring foreign TV, Turkish dramas are one of the best of its kind. The shows available on the Internet have subtitles, which really help if you’re looking to learn a few words and phrases in case you find yourself strolling through Istanbul one day.