The 15 best TV box-sets on Netflix
The scheduling straightjacket has been thrown off, replaced by a loose, comfortable gown we call Netflix.
These days, we can pick and choose what we want to watch, and when we want to watch it. And nowhere is that more revolutionary than with the good old-fashioned TV series. Netflix is packed with them: hundreds upon hundreds of hours of glorious televisual treats across pretty much every genre there is.
In fact, it's what made the streaming service the must-have TV power-up it is today: would it really be so popular were it not for original commissions such as House Of Cards or see-it-here-first super-shows such as Breaking Bad? Nope: while you may come to Netflix for the movies, you stay for the box-sets.
But as is always the case with Netflix, it's a tricky business filtering the visual plankton in search of the oysters of excellence. So we've done it for you: below you'll find 15 fantastic TV shows that should keep you occupied well into 2015.
READ MORE: The 30 best things on Netflix right now
If there were a graph that showed the tension levels of the tensest moment in the tensest thrillers in history, Homeland’s producers would have taken it, twisted it into an infinitesimally thin rope and used it to whip Stressed Eric’s pulsing temple vein until it popped.
Homeland is tense. It’s the story of the relationship between a CIA operative and a long-imprisoned ex-Marine, finally liberated from al-Qaeda and returned to America as a war hero – a hero with an abundance of devastating secrets.
It’s packed with award-winning performances, believably flawed characters, just enough politics and more twists that a box of Curly-Wurlys. It loses its way in the middle seasons, occasionally skirting utter daftness, but it’s always compulsive and entertaining – and the finale is breathtaking. To watch it is to learn to trust no-one, question everything and definitely not pursue a career as a spy. No fun at all, as it turns out.
This Is England
With This Is England ’90 currently in production after being delayed by director Shane Meadows’ involvement in Made Of Stone, now’s the time to get up to speed with his excellent spin-off series from the equally excellent 2006 film.
Netflix has packaged both 3-part ’86 and ’88 series as one, which might be a bit intense for one sitting but its incredible performances, particularly from Vicky McLure and Joseph Gilgun, stonking soundtrack and the odd laugh-out-loud moment make it unmissable.
TV spin-offs of movies are normally rubbish but if This Is England’s concluding part is even half as good as the first two it could arguably eclipse its big-screen equivalent.
Cowboys in space! The premise sounds sublimely daft, but Joss Whedon's short-lived series is packed with character.
Nathan Fillion heads a rag-tag crew of ne'er-do-wells as they struggle to stay one step ahead of the law – and keep their spaceship flying. In its 14-episode run, it doesn't put a foot wrong; witty scripts, tension, memorable characters – Firefly's got them all. The Fox network didn't think so, though, and axed the series before it got off the ground.
A one-off film, Serenity – also available on Netflix – wraps up the dangling plotlines and provides a satisfying coda to the show.
Orange Is The New Black
Like House Of Cards, Orange Is the New Black is Netflix’s own series, and like House Of Cards it’s also raunchy, compelling and strongly plotted. And really funny too.
Based on actual events, it tells the story of a middle-class New Yorker who ends up in women’s prison for a crime committed ten years previously – and through flashbacks explores her life (and the colourful lives of her fellow inmates) before incarceration.
The second season has just landed, so newbies have no fewer than 26 episodes to get stuck into.
As epic small-screen sci-fi goes, Battlestar Galactica is light-years ahead of the competition. It's vast in every sense, spanning years in the lives of the titular ship's crew, leaping about from planet to planet and star system to star system and lasting for a whopping 75 episodes, of which two are feature-length standalone movies.
It's also expansive in its content, majoring in such themes as religion, trust, self-worth, addiction, love, death and what it means to be human. But if that sounds a little serious, don't worry - there's plenty of action too, as the few thousand human survivors of a system-wide catastrophe attempt to elude robotic bad guys and gals the Cylons.
It drags a little at times - as you'd expect in a series lasting this long - but it's required viewing for fans of a good old rip-roaring space opera.