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 the series and shows we think you should watch, that's how.
The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst (S1)
If you’re a documentary fan and you’re currently unfamiliar with the story of Robert Durst, you’re in for a treat: The Jinx is an utterly compelling exploration into the eccentric New York property heir’s past, in which he may or may not have murdered one, two or three people – and got away with it every time.
Durst’s story would be intriguing enough on its own, but in this six-part series the man himself volunteers to be interviewed by filmmaker Andrew Jarecki – a seemingly unnecessary risk when you consider the crimes of which he’s suspected. As Durst’s participation starts to shine fresh light on the old cases, you’ll find yourself superglued to your screen right up until the unforgettable end.
Watchmen is perhaps the greatest graphic novel of all time, so any attempt to adapt it for the screen is likely to fail miserably – or at least fail to adequately capture the complex themes and paranoiac atmosphere of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ comics.
While Zack Snyder’s 2009 movie adaptation wasn’t the all-out disaster most were expecting, it hardly set the world on fire – so a decade on, HBO has made a wise decision setting its Watchmen TV series in Moore’s universe but 30 years after the events of the original book.
Moore wasn’t at all keen to get involved himself but, judging by the first episode (the only available at the time of writing) showrunner Damon Lindelof is onto something special – this may not be the Watchmen we know, but it seems to have captured the comic’s spirit.
The Night Of (S1)
It’s been a great few years for Brit actor Riz Ahmed, and despite his turns in Venom and Star Wars spin-off Rogue One, it’s arguably The Night Of that’s cemented him as an internationally-lauded talent. He certainly makes an impression here, playing a shy and sheltered second-generation immigrant to America who just wants to make his parents proud, succeed at his studies and make something of his life.
That life is snatched away when a horrific crime is committed – and all fingers are pointed at him. Off to brutal prison Riker’s Island he goes, with his future looking as bleak as bleak can be. John Turturro provides memorable support at the eccentric lawyer who takes up Ahmed’s case, but it’s the burning sense of injustice – and the desire to find out what really happened that fateful night – that’ll keep you coming back episode after episode.
Big Little Lies (S1)
It’s not often a TV series manages to land Hollywood royalty like Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon, but Big Little Lies isn’t your average show. A miniseries (albeit one that, owing to its success, is now set for a second season) based on the novel of the same name, it’s a briskly paced, tightly written, impeccably directed and lavish production with a fantastic soundtrack and a tone that hovers between somewhere menace, comedy and drama as it tracks a few months in the lives of a collection of families in swanky Californian coastal town Monterey.
The story opens in the aftermath of an apparent murder, but we don’t know the victim and we don’t know the perpetrator – in fact, we don’t know anything about the setting or the characters at all. This foreshadowing of violence is used brilliantly by veteran writer David E Kelley and director Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyer’s Club), as we’re kept guessing as to what (or who) went down right up until the final reel of the final episode.
Jim Carrey stars as a grieving, issues-laden children’s TV entertainer in his first television role in a couple of decades, executive produced by his Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind director Michel Gondry. Carrey’s ability for nailing darker, more challenging characters is well proven (remember The Cable Guy and Man on the Moon?) and given how rarely he actually appears on screen these days, he’s worth the price of admission here alone.
The Handmaid’s Tale (S1-2)
Margaret Atwood’s bestselling novel gets the big budget telly treatment here, with Mad Men’s Elizabeth Moss excellent in her leading role as Offred, one of thousands of “handmaids” who serve as breeding stock to the ruling class in a brutal theocratic near-future United States. The producers expand the scope of Atwood’s book while retaining its necessary feminist premise, making this a grimly fascinating look at patriarchy taken to the terrifying conclusions of its twisted internal logic.
A miniseries recreating the terrifying events of April 1986, when a Ukrainian nuclear power plant went into accidental meltdown, and the brave, risky operation to prevent it escalating into a continent-spanning disaster. With a cast including Stellan Skarsgard, Emily Watson and Jared Harris, this Sky/HBO collaboration puts true quality into the retelling of this real-life horror story.
Written by Peep Show co-creator Jesse Armstrong and executive produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, Succession is a blackly comic drama series about a vast multinational media company run by cantankerous founder Logan Roy (Brian Cox) and his brood of dysfunctional children (sound like anyone we know?).
As it becomes increasingly clear that Roy will soon step down as the company’s head, various members of his family start to vie for the company reins – and it’s in this power struggle that the satire begins to bite. More of a drama than Armstrong’s usual fare (and certainly not as knockabout as the likes of Veep), Succession is now in its second series and already picking up loads of awards nominations. Time to get on board, we reckon.
Escape at Dannemora (S1)
An eight-episode miniseries directed by Ben Stiller and starring Benicio del Toro, Patricia Arquette and Paul Dano, Escape at Dannemora tells the story of a New York state prison breakout and the bizarre love triangle surrounding it. Astonishingly, it’s all based on real-life events.
In short, it’s precisely the kind of interesting, well-crafted one-off drama series that we’ve come to expect from Sky Atlantic in recent years, with an outstanding cast worthy of a Hollywood feature. It’s only available to stream on Now TV for a limited time, so don’t delay.
The Sopranos (S1-6)
Nowadays we take intelligently written, thematically deep, beautifully shot big budget television series for granted – but a couple of decades ago such programmes (bar the odd miniseries) were a rarity.
Then along came HBO and David Chase’s The Sopranos, a long-running drama about the New Jersey mob, family and millennial America. Gripping, funny, moving and often hard to watch, this show made a bone-fide star of the late James Gandolfini, who excels, attracts and repels in equal measure as mafia boss Tony Soprano.
Every single episode of what might be the greatest TV show ever is currently available on Now TV, so if you haven’t watched it already – or it’s been a few years and you’re missing Paulie Walnuts, Silvio, Big Pussy and Christopher – grab yourself a bin bag full of snacks, several gallons of your preferred bevvie and get settled in for a mobster marathon.
Patrick Melrose (S1)
Based on the semi-autobiographical novels of Edward St Aubyn, this Sky- and Showtime-produced drama series stars Benedict Cumberbatch as the titular Patrick, an aristocratic heroin addict trying in vain to outrun the damage done in childhood by his monstrous upper-class father and weak, emotionally absent American mother.
With each of the five episodes based on a single novel in the St Aubyn’s series, each feels like a self-contained story – but together they represent as vivid, complex and compelling a portrayal of addiction, hopelessness, cruelty and redemption as you’ll find on television.
The Affair (S1-5)
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 five whole seasons to plough through before withdrawal sets in.
Sky’s flashy new in-house series for 2018, set during AD 43’s Roman invasion of Britain, is a weird, wonderful and over the top trip into ancient history.
The moment its psychedelic credit sequence, to the accompaniment of Donovan’s flower power anthem “Hurdy Gurdy Man”, starts rolling, you’re left in no doubt that creator Jez Butterworth (screenwriter for Spectre, Edge of Tomorrow and Black Mass) is more concerned with creating a certain atmosphere and tone than cleaving to historical fidelity.
Butterworth's approach – as well as the unapologetically modern dialogue, oversaturated colour palette and trippy camera work – might put off viewers looking for a convincing portrayal of the tribes, religions and customs of the ancient inhabitants of what’s now Kent, but if you’re instead seeking the kind of bloody violence, political scheming and visual splendour as seen in Game of Thrones or Vikings, you’ll be right at home here.