15 brilliant TV shows you finally have time to watch

You thought you’d never be able to catch up, but now you can. So choose carefully

Godless

Godless

 

The Americans
2013, 6 seasons
The Americans deserves to be spoken of in the same reverent tones as The Wire or The Sopranos. It is genuinely that good. A superbly-written Cold War thriller about two deep-cover Russian spies living in America, it draws deft parallels between the political climate of the time and a fractured marriage. Season one is great, but every subsequent one is a stone-cold masterpiece. When the credits roll on the final episode you will be left shaking, emotionally drained and ready to watch it all over again.
Where to watch On Amazon Prime, here

The Terror
2018, 2 seasons
Set in the 1840s as the British royal navy attempts to find the Northwest Passage through the Arctic Ocean, The Terror fictionalises the mystery of what happened to the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror. With a stellar cast led by Jared Harris and Ciarán Hinds, the show moves seamlessly between period drama and supernatural survival-horror. This being one of those in-vogue anthology ventures, the second season is entirely unrelated and focuses on the haunting of a Japanese-American community during the second World War.
Where to watch On Amazon Prime, here

The Americans
The Americans
Carnivale
Carnivale

Show Me a Hero
2015, 1 season
We all knew Show Me a Hero would be good. A HBO six-part mini-series written by David Simon, directed by Paul Haggis, and featuring a phenomenal cast including Oscar Isaac in the lead role, it somehow managed to exceed all ludicrously high expectations. It was a shame, then, that so few people this side of the Atlantic seemed to watch it. Maybe the appetite for a riveting true story revolving around social housing will have more appeal in the current climate. Isaac plays Nick Wasicsko, then the youngest mayor of a major city in America, who fights to uphold a court order to build a public housing development in a wealthy suburb of Yonkers, New York. Exploring similar themes to Simon’s magnum opus The Wire, it exposes the inherent racism and flawed systems that still permeate the varied strata of American society.
Where to watch On Now TV, here

Happy Valley
2014, 2 seasons
If you just saw a trailer for Happy Valley you’d be forgiven for thinking it looks no different than any other British police procedural they bang out every week on ITV. It doesn’t take long to see this is in a league of its own, however. Set in the picturesque Calder Valley in West Yorkshire, there is a marked contrast between the violence and trauma present in the story and the bucolic beauty that surrounds it. Make no mistake; this is a dark programme but never depressing. Issues of addiction, rape, kidnapping and loneliness are written with an emotional sensitivity rarely present in shows of this ilk.
Where to watch On Netflix, here 

Rectify
2014, 4 seasons
After spending 19 years on death row for a wrongful conviction, Daniel Holden is released thanks to fresh DNA evidence. That’s the jumping-off point for Rectify – a slow, meditative and beautiful drama about a man coming to terms with lost time and reintegrating himself into society. As Daniel (Aden Young) re-establishes relationships and forges new ones, we are treated to intimate, cinematic scenes of rare insight. Philosophical, spiritual, empathetic and heart-breaking, it is a show quite unlike any other.
Where to watch Not available to stream outside the US at the moment but well worth picking up on DVD

Lady Dynamite starring Maria Bamford
Lady Dynamite starring Maria Bamford
Show Me a Hero
Show Me a Hero

Lady Dynamite
2016, 2 seasons
It might take a bit of fine-tuning to get on Maria Bamford’s frequency, but once it clicks you’ll be hailing her genius from the rafters. You genuinely won’t be able to shut up about how amazing she is. You’ll force your friends to watch it, but they just won’t get it. Not at first. You will persist. You won’t let them off the hook that easy. They just have to watch one more episode. It just hasn’t clicked for them yet. Why won’t anyone else watch it? You have to watch it. Much like her stand-up work, this is at once a starkly honest account of mental illness and a ludicrously silly, joyous celebration of the absurd.
Where to watch On Netflix, here

Godless
2017, 1 season
Released in 2017, Godless felt like the sort of series to really put the shits up the snooty cinephiles. Maybe the harbingers of doom were right after all; Netflix really would kill the big screen. Scorsese must have had a fit because honestly…when TV is this good who needs the cinema? In 1887, following a freak accident that killed off most of the men, the small mining town of La Belle is run by women. Things hit the proverbial when nasty outlaw Frank Griffin (an unexpectedly menacing Jeff Daniels) and his gang descend on the town to reclaim a former member. The ominous build-up and subsequent siege of the town is spectacular.
Where to watch On Netflix, here

Carnivàle
2003, 2 seasons
A biblical tale of good versus evil set in the dustbowl of depression-era United States, Carnivàle can be fairly summed up as Twin Peaks meets The Grapes of Wrath, with a healthy dose of Stephen King thrown in the mix. Originally released in 2003, when HBO were operating at its creative peak, it is a remarkable show that was a little too strange and slow-moving for a lot of people at the time. It has aged incredibly well, however, and remains a unique and unsettling watch.
Where to watch On Now TV, here  

Olive Kitteridge
2014, 1 season
Olive Kitteridge has a legitimate claim to be one of the finest literary adaptations ever made. Another HBO mini-series, it brings to life so faithfully Elizabeth Strout’s beloved and Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, it really is a marvel. This is in no small part down to Frances McDormand’s career-best performance as the titular Olive. Like the short stories of the book, each episode focuses on a different time in Olive’s 25-year marriage, gently and poignantly proving the show’s tagline – there’s no such thing as a simple life.
Where to watch On Sky TV, here 

Joe Pera Talks with You
2018, 2 seasons
This is the show we all need in our lives right now. It is a show filled with kindness, warmth and gentle humour. There is no irony or cynicism here, just a celebration of all the little things that make life worth living. Each episode Joe Pera, a character of pure innocence and quiet enthusiasm, talks the audience through a particular topic that interests him. One week it’s the geology of northern Michigan, another week it’s grocery shopping. Let his voice wash over you and feel the stress leave your body. You’ll be surprised at how deeply this show moves you.
Where to watch On More4 (Channel 4 on demand) here

I Think You Should Leave
2019, 1 season
Like all comedy sketch shows, I Think You Should Leave is a bit hit-and-miss. Unlike other sketch shows, however, the best sketches here are so good you’ll forget the duds even exist. The brain-child of Tim Robinson, a former Saturday Night Live cast member and writer, it is surreal, manic, and endlessly rewatchable. Its biggest strength lies in breaking the cardinal rule of sketch comedy – every scene here is far longer than it should be. But it soon becomes clear that’s the point. Going far beyond the expected punch-line gives Robinson carte blanche to go to some exceptionally strange places and push the boundaries of social norms to spectacular comic limits.
Where to watch On Netflix, here

The Looming Tower
2018, 1 season
Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower is both a thrilling and sobering dramatisation of events leading up to 9/11. Focusing on the rivalry and non-co-operation between the CIA and the FBI, it lays bare a whole series of intelligence failings and personal mistakes that inadvertently led to the terrorist attacks. Jeff Daniels and Peter Sarsgaard are predictably excellent, but it’s Tahar Rahim as counter-terrorist agent Ali Soufan that really shines as the moral beating heart of the story.
Where to watch On Amazon Prime, here

Easy
2016, 3 seasons
Browsing Netflix, you may have stumbled across Easy. Chances are you passed it by without a second glance. An anthology series by Lord of Mumblecore (more to follow) Joe Swanberg, it is not, pardon the pun, an easy sell. Following the lives of various Chicagoans it adheres to the core tenets of the mumblecore indie film scene – low-budget, naturalistic (often non-professional) acting, a focus on intimate relationships, a general disregard for plot…Jesus, it really isn’t an easy sell. Look, it’s brilliant. Give it a shot.
Where to watch On Netflix, here 

Ciaran Hinds in The Terror
Ciaran Hinds in The Terror

Bored to Death
2009, 3 seasons
Bored to Death feels like one of those rare instances where everyone involved was given complete creative control; as if the studio just wrote a blank check and told them to go and make whatever the hell they wanted. The result is an off-kilter triumph. When bored Brooklyn writer Jonathan Ames (Jason Schwartzman, playing a fictionalised version of the real Jonathan Ames – the show’s creator) is dumped by his girlfriend, he begins moonlighting as an unlicensed private eye. Using methods he learned by reading old detective novels he tackles cases with the help of his best friend (Zach Galifianakis) and boss (Ted Danson). An odd and very enjoyable genre mash-up. A comic-noir, if you will.
Where to watch On Now TV, here

Friday Night Lights
2006, 5 seasons
Friday Night Lights is a show that unfortunately suffers from mistaken identity syndrome. A lot of people wrongly assume it is just another teen drama made for teens with all their little teen problems. Although it is a drama with teenagers in it, and teenagers have been known to watch it, it is so much more. Based on a 1990 non-fiction book by H.G. Bissinger (and subsequent film adaptation) it follows the struggles of a high school football team put under extraordinary pressure by their small Texan community.
Where to watch On Amazon Prime, here

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