Other than the quiz shows that Majella watches some afternoons and the local news bulletin that follows on we don’t watch commercial television. When we want to watch and what the ABC is offering is a repeat or not to our taste we turn to iView if we have missed something, AppleTV, or Netflix. Sometimes we find unexpected gems.

Rita, not the meter maid, is one of those. We have just finished binge watching 40 episodes (5 seasons X 8) of about 45 minutes each. As typically happens with our Netflix choices, we found it by chance one evening when we needed to plug a gap in our viewing. We had not long ago finished watching Borgen, a Danish political series somewhat reminiscent of The West Wing in that it depicts a fictional politician we might prefer to some real ones we know. When we spotted Rita among suggested programs and saw that it was Danish, based on our experience with Borgen we thought we might enjoy it.

Borgen had been dubbed into English so it was relatively easy viewing. Rita has not been dubbed into English so we had to watch it with subtitles and relatively undivided attention – difficult for people who typically knit, sew, or read in front of television. That we made it through the first episode, listening to Danish and reading subtitles, and had appetite for more is an indication of how tightly the characters and their stories gripped us.

When I checked the settings in an attempt to get English dubbing I found none but it had been dubbed into French. We have both been trying to improve our French using Duolingo and thought it would not hurt to hear some French spoken, and possibly recognise occasional words, while watching. We watched the remaining 39 episodes with dubbed French and English subtitles.

Rita is a teacher in what appears to be an all ages school on the outskirts of Copenhagen. She is also a chain smoking single mother with three children, one still in school and the others trying to find their way in the workforce. Her relationships with her children are mostly dysfunctional and sometimes fraught. She is estranged/divorced from their father who lives in London but appears a few times in some later episodes. Her on and off relationship with Rasmus, the school principal in early episodes, is punctuated by short entanglements with other men. She takes no prisoners in her relationships with colleagues in the school and is occasionally in conflict with them and/or parents of children in the school.

On the face of it, Rita might be the sort of teacher you would not want for your child and might prefer to see sacked and drummed out of the profession. And yet, if your child was in need of understanding and support, Rita is exactly the teacher you would want on their side. Her creative and no nonsense approach to dealing with issues gets results, often in an unconventional way.

We became addicted to Rita as we rode the rollercoaster of her professional and personal life. It was only in the fourth series when she had moved back to teach in the school she had attended as a teen that flashbacks to those times began to fill in the back story to how Rita became Rita.

Although Rita is clearly the focus of the series other key characters have engaging storylines intertwined with hers. There is Jeppe, her gay son coming to terms with his identity; Hjørdis, a beginning teacher developing her professional identity and her relationship with Uffe; Helle, the school counsellor and sometime competitor for Rasmus; and more.

Whether or not you opt for the French dubbing as we did, Rita comes highly recommended by Majella and me. Be prepared for some coarse language and occasional confronting ideas but those are outweighed by the consistent reminders of how people who care enough to act in difficult situations can make a real difference in the lives of others.

We watched the final episode in trepidation about whether Rita would come to a positive end. If you watch beyond the first episode you will be hooked too.