JJ Abrams is a Marmite kind of writer, and Fringe is very much a Marmite kind of show. You could lazily call it an X-Files for the 21st century - and you’d be on the right track - but it’s grounded more in true science fiction than its forerunner, which was always liable to veer off into fantasy territory whenever it fancied a werewolf or vampire yarn.
Fringe, in contrast, attempts to justify all of its mysteries with hard science. It tells the story of an FBI team investigating unusual and unexplained cases - alright, so the X-Files comparison isn’t that lazy after all - but it soon becomes a proper sci-fi series dealing with alternate universes, time travel and some of the more fanciful frontiers of modern science. The Abrams-isms may grate (lens flare and overly funky titles ahoy!) but the cast, including Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson and the superb John Noble do a fine job and as sci-fi box-sets go, it’s well worth 100 hours of your time.
American Horror Story
Possibly the most shocking thing about American Horror Story is the fact that it has such power to shock. Given that roughly 17 gazillion horror films have now been made – covering every sub-genre from slasher to zombie to torture-porn - aren’t we all too inured to scary stuff to really still be scared by it? Apparently not.
American Horror Story is a tour de force of nastiness, a series that seems to revel in creeping you out. Its title music alone is so unsettling you’ll have nightmares about it. More importantly, the ensemble cast - who take different roles each season - are all superb. The only shame is that season four hasn’t yet made it on to Netflix.
More after the break...
I’m Alan Partridge
There are two types of people in the world. 1) Those who have seen I’m Alan Partridge and love it 2) Those who haven’t seen I’m Alan Partridge. Logically, we suppose, there could be a third type - those who have seen it but didn’t like it - but frankly, it seems too far-fetched to waste time on.
So, if you’re a type 2 person - maybe you’re too young, or were in some kind of coma throughout the late ’90s and early ’00s - here’s your chance to catch up on The Greatest British Comedy Of All Time. And if you’re a type 1 person, watch it again anyway - seeing the faux-pas-prone chat-show host attempt to navigate such real-world situations as a romantic meal and a trip to the garage for some tungsten-tipped screws will never grow old.
The big Scandi-crime-drama craze started here, with cold, analytical detective Sarah Lund and her amazing knitwear collection attempting to solve the mystery of a student’s disappearance. Unlike most crime dramas, it turns a forensic eye on the human side of the story, continuing to follow the missing girl’s family and friends long after most shows would’ve moved on to the hunt for suspects.
As a result, it’s often a bleak, difficult watch, in which you feel as if you’re genuinely intruding on private grief (it’s OK, you’re not; it’s a TV show). So, not one to watch on a sunny Sunday afternoon with the kids, but as dark, gripping dramas go, there are few better.
When you've finished with that (or maybe after a little break to recover), continue the Scandi theme with the equally superb The Bridge and the almost as good Wallender.
20 Feet From Stardom
This compelling documentary turns the spotlight onto a key – and all too often overlooked – contributor to music: the backing singer. Built from interviews with performers, producers and the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger and Sting, 20 Feet From Stardom is an affecting and enlightening exploration of the life of some of the most hardworking and talented professionals in the music industry – people who share a stage with superstars night after night without a single audience member knowing their name. Providing a view of the rock era most of us won’t have considered before, it landed the 2014 Oscar for best documentary feature.
READ MORE: 20 of the best movies to watch on Sky Now TV