It might lack the overall cachet of Netflix and Amazon Prime, but Now TV is a streaming service worth shouting about.
Not only does Now TV feature a best-in-class Movies package (see our recommendations from that line-up here), it also offers a separate, nicely affordable "Entertainment Pass" that grants you access to hundreds of TV shows and documentaries, both in BBC iPlayer-style catch-up form (based on Sky's broadcast channels) and box-sets featuring individual seasons or entire runs of a single show.
There's a lot of stuff to sift through on Now TV Entertainment but as always, we're here to help. How? By picking out 19 shows we think you should watch, that's how.
Suffering from Eastbound & Down withdrawal symptoms? Then make a beeline for this new series (finished after two seasons) from the same team of Danny McBride and Jody Hill, where McBride plays a Kenny Powers-esque high school administrator vying for the job of Bill Murray’s recently-departed principal.
With Justified’s Walton Goggins co-starring as McBride’s nemesis turned unlikely ally, Vice Principals is a raucous trip into petty obsessions, vicious rivalries and unreasonable behaviour that gets top marks from us.
Based on journalist Roberto Saviano’s non-fiction book of the same name, Gomorrah takes a deep dive into the dark, bloody Naples underworld and the Camorra – the Mafia-like crime syndicate that runs it.
While Gomorrah isn’t quite as all-round impressive as The Sopranos (and it’s an Italian show, so sorry – you’ll have to read subtitles unless you speak the language) it provides a similarly enticing look into both the “professional” and personal lives of the crime family’s members, as well as a glimpse of a seldom seen side of Italy.
As for the show's accuracy to the real-life machinations of the Neapolitan mob? Well, given that Saviano has been living under 24-hour police protection since his book was published, it’s safe to assume that he unearthed some truths during his investigations - so this show is probably as accurate as any drama series is going to get.
Twin Peaks: The Return
There are two ways to look at the new series of Twin Peaks. One is that it is without question the most utterly brilliant TV show of the year, the other that it’s a massive pile of pretentious poo-poo.
Now we’re firmly in the former camp here at Stuff, but if you a) didn’t like the original two series or b) generally don’t like David Lynch’s creative ouput then this is emphatically not going to change your mind. Indeed, The Return is a kind of meta-Lynch show, distilling themes, elements, tropes and filmmaking techniques he’s employed elsewhere into one bewilderingly incredible experience.
Set 25 years after the events of the groundbreaking first two series, The Return revisits many of the characters from the originals, and there’s enormous amounts of fun and interest to be gained merely in seeing how they’ve aged and how their lives have worked out.
We don’t want to spoil things by going into detail about the plot, but suffice to say that it’s about as far from a straightforward linear journey as you could ever imagine. Absolutely essential viewing.
Think of Billions as the high-finance counterpart to House of Cards and you won’t be far off the mark.
Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti are superb as, respectively, the win-at-all-costs head of a massive hedge fund and the win-at-all-costs district attorney determined to put him behind bars, although both are thoroughly upstaged by the even better Maggie Siff as the woman who keeps both at the top of their game.
It can get a bit bogged down in financial jargon - unless you’re a hedge-fund manager yourself, you’ll likely not understand a word of what’s being discussed at times - but that’s never really a problem, because this isn’t really a show about global financial markets. Well, no more so than Game of Thrones is really a show about dragons.
Instead, it’s a show about power and whether the kind you can buy is more important than the kind you earn. Well worth a watch.
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Seinfeld co-creator Larry David plays an exaggerated version of himself in this long-running Hollywood-set sitcom. In less capable hands, Curb Your Enthusiasm could have been a series of smug musings on the world of showbiz; instead it’s a shrewd comedy about social etiquette and the absurdity of modern existence (with plenty of musings on the world of showbiz tossed in, but they’re mostly window dressing).
Shot in an unfussy cinema verité style with much of the dialogue improvised, Curb’s briskly-paced episodes – in which David, through a mixture of bad luck, worse judgement and sheer pig-headedness, invariably embroils himself in some crushingly awkward situation – are an absolute hoot, especially if you’re a fan of comedy that makes you cringe.
This slow burn of a series charts the growing mutual attraction between two married people and the passionate, destructive affair that unfolds. As with any affair, people end up hurt – but in this case it’s worse: somebody ends up dead.
What elevates this beyond your typical steamy thriller is its structure: The Affair is told through multiple characters’ points of view, which differ in slight but significant ways. The effect is to make you question what you think you know.
Throw in stellar performances by Dominic West and Ruth Wilson and this becomes an utterly riveting watch. But don’t worry, you have three whole seasons to plough through before withdrawal sets in.
Considered by many to be among the greatest TV series ever made, The Wire is a compelling crime show that’s far, far more than your common or garden police procedural.
Set in Baltimore, Maryland (or Bodymore, Murderland as the graffiti in its opening credits puts it), its five seasons take a novelistic approach to detailing the interplay between the city’s power structures, all the way from the mayor’s office to the corner boy crack dealers. As much as The Wire is driven by its season-spanning plots and huge cast of wonderful yet believable characters, it’s perhaps its brutal examination of the failure of American institutions – politics, the press, schools, the police force – that cements its status as one of the 21st century’s best TV shows so far.