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.
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.
Brave New World (S1)
In a future where privacy, money, monogamy, family and the study of history have been abolished, peace and harmony apparently reign – but scratch the surface of this utopia and things start to look a lot less rosy and a lot more sinister. Legendary British comics writer Grant Morrison is among the creators of this nine-part adaptation of Aldous Huxley’s ground-breaking sci-fi novel, while Solo’s Alden Ehrenreich stars as an outsider whose presence in this idealised society threatens its very existence.
Brave New World may have taken a few liberties with the 1932 book, but it draws plenty of sharp parallels with our current connected world.
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.
Curb Your Enthusiasm (S1-10)
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 collection 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.
The Outsider (S1)
An adaptation of the recent Stephen King novel of the same name, The Outsider is part gripping crime story, part creepy horror yarn. A veteran small town detective (the wonderful Ben Mendelsohn, in a rare turn as the good guy) gets drawn into a brutal and bizarre murder case in which overwhelming forensic and eyewitness evidence points at a local little league coach (Jason Bateman, who also directs the first couple of episodes) – who is also proven to be hundreds of miles away at the time of the killing.
What’s going on? One thing’s for sure: a lot more blood is going to be shed before the mystery is solved.
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.