Weissensee, a TV series, chronicles the trials and tribulations of two families over the past 30 years. The Kupfers start as upstanding members of the communist regime, while the Hausmanns are critical outsiders. But life quickly becomes too complicated to maintain such easy distinctions. On the cusp of a fourth series, its frank and fair treatment of German-German relations has won a cult following since it first aired in 2010.
Under apartheid there was little public transport for black townships; minibus taxis emerged to fill the gap and became a big – and violent – business. Isibaya, a soap opera set in this underworld, follows two rival families from village to big city as they pursue wealth and power – resonating with the many South Africans who negotiate the demands of traditional and urban life.
The nation is gripped by Nirvana in Fire (above), a TV series set in an imaginary ancient China that is a mix-and-match of different dynasties, with fantasy elements thrown in. It’s a simple enough revenge tale of a prince thought dead who embeds himself in the enemy court, but the intricate palace intrigue and bloody subplots, all from the three-volume doorstopper novel the show is based on, have led it to be called the “Chinese Game of Thrones”. Some details have raised eyebrows: a past massacre of innocents covered up by the fictional government rings a bell.
After years of news stories about victimised women, India has an appetite for female heroines. Neerja tells the true story of a 22-year-old flight attendant murdered during a 17-hour stand-off when Palestinians hijacked a plane during a stop in Karachi in 1986. She may have saved the lives of 359 passengers and crew by keeping the plane on the runway. Her family think her bravery will inspire the youth of today. The enormous box-office takings suggest they are right.
The Single Teacher Miss Hayako riffs on a familiar theme: the reluctance of many women to get hitched. Japan’s population fell by almost 1m in the five years to 2015 and the biggest reason, said the minister in charge of reversing the trend, is the low marriage rate. Fuji TV’s drama series suggests an old remedy to a modern problem: Hayako learns that her parents met through an omiai – an arranged marriage. Will she do the same?
Descendants of the Sun, a TV drama, has captivated a country still technically at war with North Korea. It follows the romance between a tender-hearted captain and an army surgeon. But it also presents a military comradeship many feel is lacking in South Korea’s ranks. The country’s defence ministry recently recommended that officers use a less formal register with superiors; yet, by a quirk of fashion, the series has popularised the army’s unique form of address, now traded between hip teens.