The 20 best Netflix and Amazon Prime shows to watch over Christmas
Wild, Wild Country, The Deuce and Beat, plus the best from All4 and Sky Atlantic
Netflix: The Sinner
Julia Roberts finally arrives on the small(er) screen, in this crafty psychological thriller directed by Mr Robot creator Sam Esmail. It is set in a shadowy corporate facility that on the surface purports to reintegrate combat veterans back into daily life; as the story unfolds so too do the dark secrets and the true nature of the programme and the requirements of its participants. The softly lit beige rooms and anonymous offices give it a chilling feel; the corporate blandness and minimalism seal the soldiers in from the outside world. With each episode clocking in at a zippy 30 minutes, unlike most bloated prestige TV, the compact nature of Homecoming makes it that more addictive and intriguing as it hurtles along to its conclusion. Watch the trailer here.
Set in the underground Berlin club scene, Beat is not your average European crime drama. With an emphasis on excess and hedonism, the series does not shy away from showing the gritty, uninhibited reality of Berlin’s thrilling nightlife in all its debauched glory. Jannis Niewöhner (Berlin Station) plays a famous promoter in the techno world who is enlisted by the European secret service to work as an undercover informant in a bid to stop a human trafficking ring. His new dual life leads him to question his loyalties and the family he has created within the clubbing community. Watch the trailer here.
The Bold Type
As frothy and comforting as a winter-warming hot chocolate, The Bold Type is a fun dramedy inspired by the life of former Cosmopolitan editor Joanna Coles. It sees a trio of charming, spirited and determined girls stake their claim on the magazine industry, the social media world and the city of New York. Less Sex and the City and more Lipstick Jungle (the lipgloss years), it’s about the young friends striving to become successful, attempting to navigate their personal dramas, office politics and the inevitable faux pas that appear along the way, while managing to support and care for each other. Watch the trailer here.
The Marvelous Mrs Maisel
Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino whisks us back to the 1950s in this candy-coloured, fast-talking tale of a housewife who, after a personal catastrophe, finds her voice as a salty stand-up comedian. The luminous Rachel Brosnahan stars as Miriam “Midge” Maisel, the headstrong, straight-talking, wise-cracking young woman attempting to keep her new life under wraps from her conformist family. With the cinematography and wardrobe stylings of a swoonsome MGM classic, it’s a chocolate box treat made for seasonal bingeing.Watch the trailer here.
Wild, Wild Country
Produced by the uber-talented Duplass brothers and pieced together and directed by brothers Maclain and Chapman Way, Wild, Wild Country is 2018’s best TV show. It’s a fascinating documentary that focuses on the development and expansion of the Rajneeshpuram religious organisation, whose members settled in Wasco County, Oregon, for a time in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Through home videos, local news reports, photographs and interviews the brothers excavate a lost history of the cult and the story of its controversial guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his charismatic second in command, the formidable Ma Anand Sheela. An evocative tale that is told intelligently and respectfully, it manages to counter its more shocking moments with an insight and empathy for the people willing to tell their stories, displaying a humanity that documentaries of this kind are frequently missing. Watch the trailer here.
The visual flair that Cary Joji Fukunaga applied to dazzling effect in the first season of True Detective is utilised to its full extent in this multidimensional sci-fi drama. Emma Stone and Jonah Hill are two listless depressives who apply for an experimental drug trial in the hopes of curing their melancholy disposition. Thrust into a new reality controlled by a wigged up, 1970s-style Justin Theroux as eccentric scientist James Mantelray, it’s Eternal Sunshine meets Black Mirror as the duo try to adapt to their ever changing surroundings. Watch the trailer here.
Like five well groomed, avocado munching, spritz spraying Santas; the Queer Eye team deliver the kind of joy Christmas wishes are made of. Pirouetting into people’s lives, they transform the awkward and hapless into more confident creatures, setting them on the path to hopefulness and happiness with a lick of paint here and an eyebrow tweeze there. Exposing vulnerabilities and teasing out troubles as though they were unruly hair knots, they smooth out the angst of modern masculinity and daily living, reminding their subjects and viewers alike that self-care is for everyone. A necessary message from those suffering from annual seasonal stress. Watch the trailer here.
The anthology series has put its tacky debut season behind it and has started afresh in season two with a new case for Bill Pullman’s craggy detective Harry Ambrose. This time around he is called back to his hometown to help with a murder investigation where an 11-year-old boy has been accused of killing his parents. He is drawn back into his past and forced to confront the darkness lurking at his doorstep while trying to uncover the untold stories of the small town that hold the key to the case. Even though it retains some of its graphic sensationalism, with its strong supporting cast – featuring Carrie Coon (Fargo) and Tracy Letts (Homeland) – and intricate story, The Sinner is beginning to develop into an engrossing drama series. Watch the trailer here.
A true comic delight that tells the story of the Rose family, who, after being found guilty of tax evasion, hole up in the town of Schitt’s Creek to try to start over again. It’s your typical fish-out-of-water story elevated to comedic heights by its razor-sharp writing and brilliant performances from Eugene Levy and the phenomenal Catherine O’Hara as demented matriarch Moira. Schitt’s Creek is sheer sitcom bliss. Watch the trailer here.
Dear White People
Justin Simien’s searing satire sent shockwaves through social media when it debuted on Netflix in 2017. Now with two seasons under its belt and a third to arrive in 2019, Dear White People is a social commentary at its most biting. Focussing on racial tensions and micro-aggressions faced by students in an imaginary Ivy League school, it not only explores identity politics and ideas of “wokeness” but skewers a range of recognisable issues, poking fun at the problematic favourites of pop culture. Watch the trailer here.
A smart, sexy meditation on modern romance and city living, mumblecore king Joe Swanberg’s interlinking vignettes about a selection of hipster Chicago citizens plays out like a series of gossipy anecdotes or a compelling New Yorker short story. Watch the trailer here.
Graphic, gloomy and grizzly, this Belgian crime drama is not for the faint-hearted. Taking its cues from David Fincher’s Se7en, it sees a biblical quote scrawled on a dead body, but this a jumping off point for the series to explore European fears surrounding religious zealotry, terrorism and rampant Islamophobia as the team try to track down their “Moses”. Watch the trailer here.
Young & Promising
Proving that Norwegian TV isn’t all dour detectives prodding lifeless bodies on the slab, the foreign language arm of Channel 4’s streaming service, Walter Presents, also offers up lighter shows, including this perfectly formed coming-of-age drama. Beautiful and breezy, but full of pathos and passion, it follows the lives of three girls in their mid-20s trying on life for size, grappling with their artistic ambitions and railing against the conformity of adulthood. Watch the trailer here.
Search Party is the millennial murder-mystery that manages to combine the familiarity and clear characterisation of a sitcom with the twists and inventiveness of a crime drama. A fresh televisual feat that as is gripping and suspenseful as it is glib and sardonic, its two seasons pack an unexpected punch. Watch the trailer here.
Christmas is the perfect time to become acquainted with the first two seasons of the spellbinding extravaganza that is Babylon Berlin, which is returning in 2019 for series three. This sprawling series set in the seductive, seedy world of 1920s Berlin sees detective Gereon Rath (a kinetic Volker Bruch) aiding the Berlin vice squad, which involves engaging with suspicious Soviets and mingling with the unconventional patrons of the iconic Moka Efti bar. Watch the trailer here.
If Christmas is a time for catching up, for those who missed this incredible adaptation of David Peace’s bruising, brutal Red Riding series of novels the first time around, it’s now available on All 4. With each episode made by a different director – Julian Jarold, James Marsh and Anand Tucker – they take on a unique tone and style, like a trio of individual films united by the grimness that permeates each instalment.
A crime drama soaked in the blood and tears of 1970s and early 1980s Yorkshire, it follows cocky journalist Eddie Dunford (Andrew Garfield) as he investigates the case of several missing schoolgirls, which leads him into the murky world of political and police corruption. Watch the trailer here.
Starring Amy Adams and based on the Gillian Flynn novel - Sharp Objects is a beguiling offering that traces the emotional impact of the past and dysfunctional family relations in small town America. The director Jean-Marc Valléeinjects a woozy beauty into this haunting tale of self-harm and self -destruction. Watch the trailer here.
Issa Rae’s Insecure (now in its third season) is a refreshing take on the quarter-life crisis dramedy. Full of caustic one-liners, relatable, well-drawn characters and heart-stirring poignancy, it’s an insightful, frank and unapologetic look at the contemporary black American experience from a female perspective. Watch the trailer here.
David Simon’s seamy drama tells the story of the birth of the sex industry in the heart of New York City. Starring James Franco (as twin brothers) and a sensational Maggie Gyllenhaal (as sex-worker Candy), it vibrates with life, offering an in-depth look at the lives of the hustlers, teenage runaways and abusive pimps. Watch the trailer here.