Based on the novels of Volker Kutscher and co-written and co-directed by Tom Tykwer ( Run Lola Run), Babylon is the most expensive non-english TV drama ever—costing a reported $40 million—and it shows. A visual and nostalgia feast, the 16-episode thriller takes place in 1929 Berlin, during the economical­ly depressed, creatively vibrant Weimar Republic, with its permissive attitudes toward sex, drugs and crime. (Bryan Ferry makes a cameo as a nightclub singer in a sadomasoch­istic club.) The show is primarily a crime drama, but it also serves as a vivid explanatio­n for the rise of Adolf Hitler. It might be the most straightfo­rward of the shows here, but Babylon’s complex plot twists and more than 19 characters demand close attention.

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