Subtitles are my friends.
And they’re getting to be like pals you really enjoy having around, to the point that sometimes you barely notice that they’ve raided the refrigerator.
See, the thing is that American television has become pretty much crap-on-a-stick.
How many more truly awful reality shows can we stomach? Or bad comedies with laugh tracks that encourage you to chuckle at lame punchlines?
It’s just awful.
The curious thing, perhaps, might be that the few unique, enjoyable shows to pop up in this country are not products of the major networks — all of which seem to have lost any sense of spark or adventure.
Something different, something actually clever like “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” — which lured star Danny DeVito and now has kept him fired up for 12 seasons — turned up on FXX.
THERE IS good news, however, for people like me — stuck alone many nights, not much interested in the bar scene.
We’ve found serial TV, and movies by the hundreds, all available to stream on our giant screens, or on computers and even our Kindles.
Personally, I don’t need much more than Amazon Prime and Netflix — both of which have monstrous libraries of movies and TV episodes from every era, and now are getting into the business of debuting their own productions.
Netflix broke the mold with its captivating series “Orange is the New Black,” and now these companies (along with Hulu and several others) are making the old TV fare to which we were held hostage almost irrelevant.
A funny thing happened, though, while we were waiting for somebody to liven up American television production.
We met the rest of the world.
In a very short time, I became a fan and then a junkie, addicted to foreign shows and movies, most of which required adjusting to subtitles.
Then suddenly, it was easy.
WITHOUT ANY effort at all, I feel part of the street crowd watching a mystery unfold in Helsinki.
Here’s the startling bit: After thoroughly enjoying the Swedish version of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” I watched the English-language follow-up out of curiosity — and was appalled.
I wanted to scream: “Fake!”
Why would everyone in Sweden be speaking English?
Now I actually start looking at good foreign offerings before even bothering with American stuff.
I’m a bit stricken by Annika Bengtzon, the intrepid reporter for a Stockholm daily — played by loveable Malin Crepin, who is kind enough to greet me each morning as my laptop screensaver — and like millions around the world, I’m totally hypnotized by a clever Swedish-Danish collaboration called “The Bridge.”
THERE HAVE been three seasons of “The Bridge” now, and when star Sofia Helin told an audience in London that she wasn’t sure that her socially awkward detective Saga Noren would be back for another year, there was a global media outcry.
I’m not just touting Scandinavia, either, though you really ought to subscribe to the free weekly email “Nordisk Film & TV Fond.”
I’ve fallen for recurring characters in Italy, Germany, Israel, Palestine (yes, absolutely), various Latin countries and fast-evolving France — which gave us “Spiral,” the direct inspiration for U.S. hit “The Wire.”
And of course, there’s an endless menu from Britain.
A surprise stunner you need to find is “Four Seasons in Cuba,” perhaps the most compelling cop drama you’ll ever watch. For most of us, it’s been the first truly honest look at a very human island.
Do yourself a favor: Forget bad American TV and travel the world on a stream.
I promise you’ll forget those subtitles in a flash.
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Steve Cameron is a special assignment reporter for The Press: firstname.lastname@example.org.