It might lack the overall cachet of Netflix and Amazon Prime, but Now (formerly known as Now TV) is a streaming service worth shouting about.
Not only does Now 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 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.
Mare of Easttown (S1)
Following in the footsteps of Nicole Kidman, Amy Adams, Jude Law and Mark Ruffalo, Kate Winslet becomes the latest Hollywood A-lister to front her own brooding, dark and mystery-fuelled HBO miniseries – and it’s really good! Winslet excels as Mare Sheehan, a world-weary detective confronting a new murder case, an old missing persons case and her own past trauma, all while her close-knit, small-town Pennsylvania community starts to unravel in the aftermath of tragedy.
A huge cast including Evan Peters, Guy Pearce and Jean Smart provides plenty of talented support for a multi-threaded story that – we assume based on the first couple of episodes – will be drawn together as the series progresses.
Perry Mason (S1)
The world’s best-known fictional defence lawyer has been on the film and TV screen since the 1930s but gets his first outing in decades in this gritty HBO-produced show about his pre-law days. Starring Matthew Rhys, the series is set in Great Depression-era Los Angeles, with Mason a dishevelled, impoverished private detective separated from his wife and young son and grappling with traumatic memories of the First World War. When a horrifying kidnap case grips the city, Mason finds himself pulled into a twisting plot that sets his life on a new course.
Raised by Wolves (S1)
Ridley Scott directs the first two episodes of this cerebral science fiction drama – the kind of ideas-filled show that will appeal to fans of Westworld and Scott’s own forays into cinematic sci-fi.
In the apparent aftermath of a horrific war on Earth, two androids arrive on a virgin planet with six human embryos. Their mission is to seed a new civilisation, free from the prejudices and religious strife of the old one – but a few years later more remnants of humanity arrive, threatening to reignite ancient conflicts.
Your Honor (S1)
Impossible choices abound in Brit telly writer extraordinaire Peter Moffat’s second major US series (the first being the superb The Night Of – also streamble on Now). Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston plays a judge who abandons his professional principals when his son is involved in a deadly hit and run accident. The fallout is a dangerous web of deception and lies that threatens further bloodshed.
Lena Dunham, both creator and star of this six-season HBO series, has a knack for dividing opinion – and Girls is a show that many loved, many hated and many simply didn’t get.
Focussing on four friends trying to make it in New York (career, romance, family... you name it), Girls seeks to sum up the hopes and fears of a generation of young millennial women, and do so in an entertaining fashion – and while, in our opinion it nails the latter part (it’s frequently hilarious, its characters are complex and flawed, and it’s beautifully written and shot), its scope is arguably too narrow for the former. Hey Lena, not every young woman is a white, well-educated, middle-class Au Revoir Simone fan! Even so, if Sex and the City proved too clean, bougie and just plain out-of-touch for your tastes, Girls makes for a filthier, funnier and sharper alternative.
The Righteous Gemstones (S1)
Danny McBride is at his absolute best on the small screen, with Eastbound and Down and Vice Principals proving him a world leader at playing the oafish, arrogant clown we somehow end up rooting for. Made by the same team as those rough diamonds, this series sees him team up with John Goodman and Adam Devine to enter the world of televangelism. The Gemstones family is famous throughout the Deep South for its riches and its preachin’, but all is not well behind the scenes – and forces from without and within are working to put the fear of God into these less than perfect pastors. Amen to that.
Big Little Lies (S1-2)
It’s not often a TV show manages to land Hollywood royalty like Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon, but Big Little Lies isn’t your average series. 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.
The creators of Gomorrah go global with this ambitious series that follows an international cocaine shipment. Mexican narco-terrorists, corrupt police officers, Italian mobsters and a white-collar American family all intertwine in a gripping tale that illustrates how insidious and far-reaching the illegal narcotics trade really is – and how the so-called war on drugs is a total sham.
True Detective (S1-2)
It’s testament to the growing standing of modern television that it now attracts movie stars such as Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. The pair lights up the small screen here as a mismatched pair of Louisiana cops investigating a ritualistic murder. While the plot is undeniably gripping, the cinematography masterful and the Southern Gothic atmosphere creepily evocative, it’s the characters – McConaughey’s nihilistic philosophiser and Harrelson’s booze-addled womaniser – and their fraught relationship that provide True Detective’s primary pull. Don’t be surprised if that’s what drives you to devour its eight episodes in short order.
The second season is currently streaming here too (but strangely, not the third). Despite a similarly stellar cast, its plotting feels muddled and unfocused, its characters derivative rather than deep. It’s not the worst show in the world, but we’d suggest you stick to the first season, which is a fully self-contained story.
Olive Kitteridge (S1)
A four-hour miniseries adaptation of Elizabeth Strout’s novel of the same name, this slow-burning examination of marriage, parenthood, depression and suicide isn’t always a fun ride. It is, however, an intensely involving and well-crafted one, with memorably perfect performances from Richard Jenkins, Zoe Kazan, Bill Murray, Peter Mullan and particularly Frances McDormand in the title role.
Set in small-town Maine, it portrays a couple of decades in the life of a misanthropic teacher, wife and mother who struggles in the latter two roles, and uses all of its running time to craft a depiction of people as flawed, complicated and conflicted creatures that lingers long after the end credits roll.
Eastbound & Down (S1-4)
Danny McBride peddles a great line in loveable offensiveness. It’s never more evident than in this superb sitcom, in which he plays washed-up baseball star Kenny Powers, forced to slum it as a substitute teacher when his pitching arm loses its… er, power.
For all his bluster and bravado, Powers cuts a tragic and even sympathetic figure – and it's testament to McBride’s skill as a writer and actor that he can wring the pathos out of such an arrogant and selfish character. Oh, and in case you’re wondering: it’s really, really funny too.