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 Case Against Adnan Syed (S1)
We’re currently enjoying something of a podcast golden age, and it arguably all started with Serial. Its phenomenal first season reinvestigated the apparently dodgy conviction of Baltimore teenager Adnan Syed for the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee, turning millions of listeners into experts on the American judicial system overnight.
HBO has delved back into the case in this four-part documentary series, which sheds new light on the crime and casts doubt on some of the evidence that convicted Syed. It’s enlightening and interesting stuff – but seems unlikely to secure a retrial or overturn the jury’s verdict from 2000.
Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones won't need much of an introduction from us: it’s the biggest TV phenomenon of the past decade, an impeccably-produced fantasy epic with a cast of dozens (including a good handful of non-humans) and an utterly gripping, twist-riddled plot spanning continents and years, and taking in several bloody wars along the way. It's truly great telly.
At present, the eight and final season has begun streaming on Now TV, with a new episode being added every Monday. Plus, all seven previous seasons are available to stream on Now TV, so if you’re dying to discover what all the fuss is about (or you just fancy revisiting Westeros for a recap), you'd be Stark raving mad to miss out on the boxset.
An intelligent big budget drama from HBO, Westworld is set in a future where the rich can live out their fantasies of heroism or villainy in a vast high-tech theme park populated by robotic “hosts”. This beautifully realised setting gives the show’s creators plenty of room to ponder big philosophical chin-scratchers: the ethics of robotics, the nature of entertainment, the dangers of AI and the whole concept of free will.
All interesting stuff, but at the end of the day this is a sci-fi drama that’s made to entertain, and on that level it doesn’t disappoint – even if some of the most compelling thematic threads have a tendency to unravel amidst the dramatic twists and turns.
If a comedy drama about the struggles of an aspiring rap star and his manager sounds too similar to something like Entourage, don’t worry: Atlanta is a decidedly different and far more interesting kettle of fish.
Produced by and starring Donald Glover, it’s a disarming, slick, offbeat, observant and endlessly charming comedy series about, to paraphrase Glover, “what it’s like to be black in America”. Funny as Atlanta is, it shies away from very little in this quest for veracity. But it would be a crime to reveal too much about this weird and wonderful show – best just watch it and find out for yourself.
Escape at Dannemora
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.
Alan Partridge’s Mid Morning Matters
Starting life in the unpromising guise of a series of web shorts for chemical-packed lager-water Fosters, Mid Morning Matters is now a Sky-owned show – and hence six episodes of it are available to stream on the Sky-owned Now TV. And for Steve Coogan fans seeking more of Alan’s time-worn brand of awkward, cliché-ridden, foot-in-mouth patter, it’s absolutely brilliant; a snackable form of Partridge – set entirely in his local radio studio – that exhibits everything we love to hate about Norwich’s most famous export since Colman’s Mustard.
It's also well worth checking out Alan Partridge's Scissored Isle, a 45-minute special in which the king of sports casual investigates young, disenfranchised Britain by, er, going to a party in Manchester and fawning over a lord.
Big Little Lies
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.
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.
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.
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 four whole seasons to plough through before withdrawal sets in.
The Handmaid’s Tale
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.
Consistently ranked among the greatest TV series ever made, The Wire is a compelling US crime show that’s far, far more than your common or garden police procedural.
Set in Baltimore, 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 memorable yet believable characters, it’s perhaps its brutal examination of the failure of American institutions – politics, the press, education, the police force – that cements its status as one of the 21st century’s best TV shows so far.
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.
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.