Sick of explosion-filled blockbusters and snoozy summer reality TV? Here’s a solution: Try looking to the Southern Hemisphere to fill your entertainment needs. Several EW staffers have fallen under the spell of Australian TV and music, especially Josh Thomas’s charming comedy Please Like Me (which returns to Pivot on Friday at 10:30 p.m. ET).
And it’s not just people who write about this stuff for a living: A friend of mine is obsessed with Dance Academy, a teen drama that’s exactly what it sounds like (and is available for streaming on Netflix). Another swears by Australia’s Next Top Model, which has supposedly produced more successful models than its American counterpart. And then there’s Iggy Azalea, the New South Wales-born rapper whose music has been inescapable for months (even if plenty of writers refuse to admit that “Fancy” is 2014’s Song of the Summer).
Want to jump on the bandwagon, or however they say that expression in Australia? Here are some of the best wonders Down Under has to offer right now:
Please Like Me
Please Like Me’s first season featured a lot of cooking, so here’s the basic recipe: take one part Girls, add a heaping spoonful of Australian accents, sprinkle with more optimism, and top off with a gay lead. Josh (Josh Thomas) is your typical directionless 20-something. Well, maybe he has some direction—the show’s first season kicked off with his girlfriend Claire (Reign’s Caitlin Stasey) breaking up with him (because they were “drifting…and also you’re gay”) and his mother (Debra Lawrance) in the throes of serious depression. That might sound like some hard-to-digest drama, but Thomas’s scripts handle everything from mental illness to sexuality with remarkable sweetness and grace. Pivot is serving up the comedy’s second season tonight, while the first is available on iTunes; start with either, as each episode tends to be a stand-alone short story. Just make sure you do catch ones featuring Geoffrey (Wade Briggs), Josh’s too-hot-to-be-real boyfriend (sort of). If you’re tired of the bitterness of TV’s American millennials—why is everyone on Girls and Looking so completely self-destructive?—Please Like Me is the perfect palate cleanser, as well as a delicious late-summer treat in its own right. —Jackson McHenry
Home and Away and Neighbours
Everything is done a bit differently Down Under—and nothing more so than the Australian “soap opera.” The half-hour format shows—which run every weeknight back-to-back on opposing networks at the beginning of the primetime block—are more like beach reads come to life than daytime dramas. Neighbours is set in a cul-de-sac in Melbourne, while Home and Away follows the lives of residents of Summer Bay, a coastal town in New South Wales. Yes, there are bombs, suicides, imprisonment, stalkings, drug trafficking, and all the tropes you expect from a soap, but it’s all more fun coming from Australians. And seriously, shows that gave us Kylie Minogue, Guy Pearce, Heath Ledger, Isla Fisher, Melissa George, Chris Hemsworth, Simon Baker, Ryan Kwanten, and Naomi Watts are shows everyone needs to be watching. —Dalene Rovenstine
5 Seconds of Summer
The biggest rock band to happen this decade (so far) is a quartet of photogenic, artfully unkempt Aussie boys with a startlingly large fan base, made primarily of tween and teen girls. While the genre’s grumpier devotees may grumble over 5 Seconds of Summer’s well-scrubbed image and commitment to PG-rated lyrics—the most risqué line on their eponymous debut album is about seeing a girl in her (or rather lead singer Luke Hemmings’s) underwear—they make a crunchy, hook-riddled racket that hits the same sweet spot as Green Day and Blink-182. —Miles Raymer
The Bachelor Australia
Other than our beloved Chris Harrison, the second season of The Bachelor Australia has all of the things you love from the American Bachelor, only better. The Bachelor himself, Blake Garvey, is a very tall, very attractive man with an Australian accent and a refreshingly normal outlook. But the introductions are just as awkward, the women are just as crazy, and as a bonus, there’s a single white rose in the mix, just to keep things interesting. —Samantha Highfill
The Real Housewives of Melbourne
As fans of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills know, getting a psychic in the mix always turns the crazy turns up to 11. Melbourne’s free-associating clairvoyant Jackie Gillies, the wife of Silverchair drummer Ben Gillies, already delivered patented Housewives drama in the show’s first two episodes (viewable on Bravo’s website). She’s primed to “Shine Shine” all season, especially after accusations about affairs and demons made the Aussie edition—which airs Sundays at noon ET—arguably the strongest new Housewives franchise PTF (Post-Table Flip). —Lanford Beard