LONDON — On a recent evening, Nahid Akhtar, 47, sat on a sofa in London shouting at a TV. She was watching “The Protector,” Netflix’s first original series in Turkish.
The show, released that day, is about a young antiques dealer, Hakan Demir (Cagatay Ulusoy), who discovers he belongs to an ancient line of superheroes who have to save Istanbul from evil — and find love at the same time.
“Oh, please, don’t kill his baba!” Akhtar, a Turkish drama superfan, called out at one point before Demir’s father was, indeed, murdered. “Turkish dramas have so many orphans,” she said. “Every single series I’ve watched the hero never has both parents.”
On screen, Hakan was in tears. “This is another thing I do like about Turkish TV,” Akhtar added. “They show a lot of emotion.”
Ten minutes later, the character was still distraught. “Oh, for crying out loud,” Akhtar said. “Sort yourself out!”
“The Protector” is the latest evidence of how Turkish television drama is spreading worldwide. In Turkey, several drama series compete for viewers every night, each episode two hours or more filled with romance, family strife and gangsters. (Episodes of “The Protector” are more a manageable 40 minutes.) Some have been associated with rising nationalism in the country; others have angered conservatives by showing historical figures drinking and philandering.
The shows are a phenomenon in the Middle East and Latin America, and have become such a symbol of Turkish soft power that they have been used as counters in political disputes. On March 1, for instance, the Saudi Arabia-based satellite broadcaster MBC abruptly dropped