Some are available 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.
True Detective (S1-4)
It’s testament to the growing standing of modern television that it can attract movie stars such as Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, who light up the small screen in True Detective‘s first season as a mismatched pair of Louisiana cops tasked with solving 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.
There are then three further seasons of the show to enjoy, with each being its own separate story with an entirely new cast. The second season, which stars Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams and Vince Vaughn, isn’t particularly well regarded, but the third (with Mahershala Ali) is a welcome return to form. We’re also enjoying the just-released fourth; subtitled Night Country, it’s set in a remote Alaskan mining town, stars Jodie Foster and leans into the supernatural much more strongly than previous seasons.
The Sopranos (S1-6)
Nowadays we take intelligently written, thematically deep, beautifully shot big budget television series for granted – but 25 years ago such programmes (bar the odd miniseries) were rarer than hen’s teeth.
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 via the Now Entertainment Pass, 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.
Curb Your Enthusiasm (S1-12)
Seinfeld co-creator Larry David has spent more than two decades playing himself in this sitcom – or at least an exaggerated, more obnoxious version of himself. Curb Your Enthusiasm’s formula hasn’t changed a jot over the years: a misanthropic Hollywood millionaire attempts to negotiate life’s challenging little conundrums – social niceties, nonsensical customs and the like – usually falling foul of his own hubris along the way. Each episode feels like a well-crafted puzzle, with characters, running gags and themes that all pull together into some kind of wider comedic picture at the end.
Sprinkle in the dozens of celebrity cameos (Ted Danson as Larry’s long-time friend and rival is a joy) and Curb becomes a sort of meta-commentary on fame: that being a wealthy celebrity doesn’t shield you from the quirks and irritations everyone else has to endure. It’s just entered its 12th and final season, with new episodes coming to Now in the UK every Monday.
Mackenzie Crook (perhaps hitherto best known as The Office’s Gareth) writes, directs and stars in this wonderful sitcom about a pair of metal detector enthusiasts. If it sounds like a broadly comic Last of the Summer Wine-style “aren’t these country folks odd?” series, it isn’t; there’s so much more to Detectorists.
It’s witty and funny, sure, with great performances from Crook and co-star Toby Jones, but there’s also something gently formidable in its depiction of the English countryside. The show conjures up the quiet beauty and rich history of this landscape as the detectorists scrabble in its earth for Roman gold or Saxon silver (usually coming away with nothing but a few old ring pulls). Warm and affectionate but never sentimental, it’s a worthy homage to hobbies, friendship and the great outdoors.
Inside No. 9 (S1-7)
Having made their name with The League Of Gentlemen and Psychoville, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith set about creating Inside No. 9, now running to seven series of expertly crafted self-contained stories with one thing in common: they’ll keep you guessing right until the end.
Whether it’s a death on a sleeper train, a game of hide ‘n’ seek with extreme consequences, or the totally dialogue-free tale of two hapless burglars, the writing here blows most of its contemporaries out of the water – and you can count on there being a devilishly macabre twist in the tail too. And while it won’t always have you falling off the sofa with laughter, there’s usually at least one absolute gem of a gag in each episode.
Based on a short story by Elmore Leonard, this six-season series stars Timothy Olyphant as Raylan Givens, a modern-day US Marshal who brings an Old West sensibility to his job – including a willingness to draw his pistol and blow away the bad guy (justifiably, of course).
Packed off back to his backwater country hometown after falling foul of his superiors in the big city, he’s quickly dragged into a feud with a childhood friend, played with career-defining poise by Walton Goggins.
Justified manages to successfully mix long-running plotlines with monster-of-the-week style self-contained episodes, making it prime binge-fodder.
The Office (US, S1-9)
American remakes of beloved British series rarely endure the Hollywood treatment with their essence or appeal intact (just check out the abortive Yank take on the Inbetweeners for a prime example). That’s not the case here: the US reimagining of Ricky Gervais’ The Office swiftly unshackled itself from the original, discovering its own magnificent voice in the process.
With Steve Carell doing great work as embarrassingly gauche boss Michael Scott and the talented supporting cast providing a glut of great moments (all the way into the Carell-free final seasons, in fact) it’s hard to think of a better mainstream US sitcom of the past 25 years. And bingers can rejoice: all nine seasons (that’s an astounding 188 episodes by our count) are streaming on Now.
Poker Face (S1)
Knives Out director Rian Johnson’s first TV series as creator and showrunner is a gem: a case-of-the-week murder mystery show with movie-esque visuals and an outstanding lead performance from Natasha Lyonne as Charlie Cale, a Nevada cocktail waitress with the seemingly unerring ability to tell when someone is lying.
When Charlie’s friend is killed, this talent (and her refusal to accept pat explanations) gets her into a situation where she must go on the run across America – hence the new case each week (albeit with an overarching story across the whole 10-episode season). They don’t make many shows like this anymore, but Johnson’s Hollywood clout got it done – and ensured that each week has some very recognisable guest stars.
Created by Peep Show and Veep maestro Jesse Armstrong and executive produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, Succession is a brilliant, bleakly comic drama series about a vast multinational media company run by demonic mogul Logan Roy (Brian Cox) and his brood of dysfunctional children (sound like anyone we know?).
When it becomes clear that Roy must soon step down as the company’s head, various members of his inner circle begin to vie for control of the company’s levers of power – and it’s in this struggle that the satire really begins to bite. More of a drama than Armstrong’s usual fare (and certainly not as knockabout as the likes of Veep), Succession has scooped armfuls of awards and become nothing less than a cultural touchstone, spawning memes left and right. All four seasons are available to stream on Now.
The Last Of Us (S1)
Based on the brutal post-apocalyptic video game, The Last Of Us follows a grizzled, emotionally detached smuggler (Pedro Pascal) tasked with escorting an extraordinary teenage girl (Bella Ramsay) safely across the ravaged ruins of what was once the USA. Success could mean a cure for the fungal plague that has brought humanity to the brink of extinction, but danger and betrayal lurks around every corner.
Judging by the 80-minute first episode, this manages to pull off a trick that may never have been pulled off before: remaining faithful to the source material (and thus avoiding hardcore fans’ ire) while being in and of itself a great TV show. Having Neil Druckmann (the game’s writer) on board doubtless helps.
The Rehearsal (S1)
We’re struggling for the words to adequately describe this incredible comedy documentary series without ruining anything for the prospective viewer, but let’s just say The Rehearsal is a show about TV, reality and reality TV.
It’s a well-worn aphorism that there are no rehearsals in real life, but Fielder poses the question: “What if there could be?” What if, prior to having a dreaded and difficult conversation with a friend, you could practice it over and over in a safe, accurate simulation, thereby increasing your chances of the situation going well? This is how The Rehearsal starts out, with Fielder, a cast of actors and HBO’s millions giving participants the opportunity to do just that, but things quickly take a turn and head in an entirely different direction, making this one of the most interesting (and funny) dissections of the nature of the roles we play in life we’ve seen on TV. Truly mind-blowing.
The White Lotus (S1-2)
This beautifully black comedy-drama takes place over the course of a week in a Hawaiian luxury resort. Following both the wealthy, entitled and privileged guests and the put-upon staff, it’s a biting satire that takes accurate pot shots at every first world problem in the book while building dramatic tension over a foreshadowed death amongst the holidaymakers. Yes, it’s packed with awful people, but what an enjoyable ride!
The second series, which features an almost totally new cast and different setting, is now available too.
Silicon Valley (S1-6)
Look, you’re reading Stuff – so we know you’re a tech head. Which means you’re right in the crosshairs for this satirical sitcom from Beavis & Butthead and King of the Hill creator Mike Judge. Silicon Valley gleefully skewers California start-up culture as it follows the peaks and troughs of revolutionary file compression service Pied Piper and its crew of socially dysfunctional founders.
As crude and raucous as it is insightful about the nature of the tech biz and the people it attracts, Silicon Valley is one of the few sitcoms that doesn’t make you feel stupider the more you watch. Every single episode of its six-season run is available on Now.
House of the Dragon (S1)
Banish that dreadful final season (fair enough: those dreadful last three seasons) of Game of Thrones from your mind. A new sword and sorcery epic about the warring families of Westeros is here, and it feels like a true return to form.
The cast is fantastic, the production values are immense, and because the whole thing is based on a history of the Targaryen family already fully fleshed out by George R.R. Martin himself, the writing shouldn’t veer off the rails into Michael Bay territory this time around. Set almost 200 years before the events depicted in Game of Thrones, House of the Dragon focusses on the Targaryen family, the dragon-riding dynastic rulers of Westeros who used fire, blood and fear to first unite and then control the Seven Kingdoms. But while the Targaryen’s hulking pets make their empire all but unassailable from the outside, a looming succession crisis threatens to tear their dynasty apart from within – and bring ruin and bloody civil war to the realm in the process.
I’m Alan Partridge (S1-2)
Alan Partridge had already appeared on TV in The Day Today and his fake talk show Knowing Me, Knowing You, but it was the two series and 12 episodes of I’m Alan Partridge that cemented Steve Coogan’s comic creation as one of Britain’s best-loved (or should that be ‘most enjoyably endured’?) comedy characters.
A sort of cinema verité sitcom following Alan around in his life – a failed TV presenter now slumming it as a local radio DJ in his home county of Norfolk – I’m Alan Partridge is rich with pathos, quotable lines and the sort of cringeworthy moments that Ricky Gervais later built a career on. Partridge’s Britain is one of Rover Fastbacks, owl sanctuaries, bleak hotels, static caravans, driving gloves, Toblerone addictions, attempts to wangle free power showers and disastrous corporate event appearances – and it’s one that it’s a blast to spend (occasional) time in.
We Own This City (S1)
The Wire creator David Simon returns to Baltimore’s mean streets with this six-part limited series about corruption in the police force. Based on true events, it’s a lot smaller in scope than Simon’s opus, but hits many of the same notes just as accurately. Not only is We Own This City an entertaining and eye-opening look into the investigation that brought the dirty cops to justice, but a portrait of a city (and a country) in which law enforcement has failed to protect and serve anybody but itself. The cast includes a lot of familiar faces from The Wire and elsewhere, but it’s Jon Bernthal as the apparently untouchable Sergeant Wayne Jenkins – the man who made the boast that gives the series its title – that shines the brightest.
Its talented cast, dead-serious tone, abundant nudity and wealth of stylistic flourishes – moody lighting, a killer soundtrack and cinematography in which the term “this camera’s depth of field is too shallow” simply doesn’t exist – make this high school drama seem like more than just your average teens-behaving-badly soap.
If you actually dig beneath Euphoria’s high-gloss surface, chances are you’ll conclude there’s nothing there you haven’t seen before, but our advice is to just sit back and enjoy the show for what it is. Sure, that might be a po-faced American take on Skins (with more skin on show), but like any good soap its plotlines draw you right in – and trash TV rarely looked as good.
Veep could easily be described as the US version of The Thick of It, and fans of that trailblazing BBC show will certainly recognise the moral bankruptcy and creative profanity at the heart of this Washington-set satire. But Veep is much more narratively bold than its British equivalent, with the heart of the show being the rise and fall of Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ career bureaucrat.
To go into more detail would ruin the show for those yet to catch up, but as it moves closer to the current day, it not only addresses real-world events like dirty election campaigns and foreign hacking but actually gives you an insight into what might go on behind the scenes. Thankfully, the show is also highly proficient in simple sight gags, withering put-downs and cringeworthy social interactions.
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.
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.
The Night Of (S1)
Riz Ahmed excels in this role as a shy and sheltered New York lad – a second-generation immigrant to America who just wants to do 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 point to him.
Off to brutal Riker’s Island prison he goes, with his future looking as bleak as bleak can be. John Turturro provides excellent 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 evening – that’ll keep you coming back episode after episode.
Penny Dreadful (S1-3)
A horror series set in Victorian London and bringing together many of the famous monsters and villains of literature and popular culture, Penny Dreadful is three seasons of grim, gothic delights – plus there’s an entirely separate but thematically similar spin-off in the shape of Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, set in 1940s Los Angeles to sink your fangs into once you’ve polished off the original.
Josh Hartnett, Timothy Dalton, Rory Kinnear and the incomparable Eva Green (made for this kind of show) star in an involving, atmospheric series that was offed before its time. Rest in peace.
Game of Thrones (S1-8)
The final stretch of HBO’s decade-long fantasy series may have left a sour taste in many viewers’ mouths but regardless of its divisive ending (which, to be clear, this particular writer thinks is very bad), Game of Thrones remains one of the most thrilling, surprising, involving and just plain old riveting TV shows of all time. It’s packed with so many well-drawn characters, memorable moments and assured world-building that you can’t write it off simply because the showrunners failed to stick the landing.
No other sword and sorcery series has enjoyed the production values lavished upon this adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s novels. It boasts a sprawling cast of faces both familiar and fresh, Hollywood-level visual effects and, particularly in the earlier seasons, some of the best writing and plotting on television full-stop. So take a trip to Westeros if you’ve never been – it’s bloody marvellous (emphasis on the bloody).
Band of Brothers (S1)
There’s a strong argument to be made that the “Golden Age of Television” in which we now apparently live started here, with this glorious 2001 World War II miniseries made by HBO (not to mention the BBC, Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks).
Boasting mammoth production values (at the time of its making, it was the most expensive TV show ever), a cast of dozens and an impeccable script, Band of Brothers tells the story of the war from the perspective of Easy Company, a US Army parachute company. Stretching from Easy’s jump training through their deployment on D-Day to the very end of the war in Europe, with each of its 10 episodes bookended by interviews from the real-life veterans on which the story is based, it’s compelling from start to finish, and will likely leave you in floods of tears by the end.
Boardwalk Empire (S1-5)
This lavish period drama recreates America’s early 20th century prohibition era – and retells the rise of organised crime that resulted from the banning of booze – in lavish detail, complete with a huge (and hugely impressive) cast of actual and fictional crooks, corrupt politicians, cops, conmen, mobsters and molls.
Centred around New Jersey’s glitzy, seedy resort town Atlantic City (run by Steve Buscemi’s almost comically corrupt central protagonist, Nucky Thompson) but frequently taking time out to visit Chicago and New York, Boardwalk Empire rivals other HBO shows like The Sopranos and The Wire for scope and production values, even if it feels a little worn-out by its own lofty ambitions by the time the final season rolls around.
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.
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.
The Wire (S1-5)
Consistently ranked among the greatest TV series ever made, The Wire is a compelling US crime show that’s far, far beyond 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 seasons-spanning plots and huge cast of memorable characters, it’s perhaps the way it turns a brutal examination of the systemic failure of American institutions – politics, the press, education, the police force – into gripping entertainment that cements its status as one of the 21st century’s best TV shows so far.
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.
Twin Peaks: The Return (S1)
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.
Ray Donovan (S1-7)
Liev Schreiber plays the titular character in this long-running series about a Los Angeles law firm “fixer” who solves problems for Hollywood’s elite – often in ways that bring him into conflict with the authorities.
When Donovan’s father (played with rascally relish by Jon Voight) is released from jail, the distant past comes back to haunt him. And that’s lucky for us, as it kicks off a chain of events which help make this one of the most absorbing mainstream dramas on telly.
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