Happy Valley (S1-2)
Sarah Lancashire excels as a middle-aged, single mum police sergeant in this BBC series, which comes across a lot like a West Yorkshire take on Fargo (the movie rather than the series).
Happy Valley is an (at times unremittingly grim and gritty) crime drama that elevates itself above standard cop fare largely through Sally Wainwright’s superb writing, which tempers the nuts and bolts police procedural stuff with cracking characterisation, snappy dialogue and real human emotion.
Less dry than Line of Duty and less silly than Luther, Happy Valley is perfect box set material if you’re seeking a realistic cop show with bite, heart and beauty.
BoJack Horseman (S1-6)
This animated sitcom features Arrested Development’s Will Arnett as the titular Horseman, a… er… “horse man” who found fame in a beloved 1990s sitcom but now lives in a haze of booze and self-loathing.
Set in a skewed version of Hollywood where humans coexist with anthropomorphic animals, BoJack Horseman features a strong cast (Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul plays BoJack’s best friend Todd), and offers a surprisingly nuanced portrayal of the “washed-up former star” trope. Most importantly, perhaps, it’s really, really funny. With dozens of episodes available (five seasons plus two specials), its perfect for binging.
Line of Duty (S1-4)
Who polices the police? The Anti-Corruption Unit, that’s who – and Line of Duty is a pacy, twisty BBC drama that follows the efforts of AC12 to uncover dark deeds and dodgy dealings within the ranks of the boys and girls in blue.
There are three seasons of the show on Netflix, which might not be enough to sate your appetite, because Line of Duty's mastery of tense situations, conspiracy and behind-the-scenes corruption coupled with its fast-moving police procedural structure make one of the most compelling, binge-worthy British shows in years.
American Horror Story (S1-8)
A horror series from the creator of Glee might not sound like the most congruous of concepts, but American Horror Story has quickly cemented itself as a scare-packed televisual stalwart.
It's what's known as an "anthology series", with each season (there are currently seven on Netflix) featuring a different time period, location and (with some notable exceptions) cast. So there are in fact lots of stories being told, rather than just one - and each of them is compelling and gruesome in its own unique way.
Watching American Horror Story is much like riding a ghost train or visiting The London Dungeon - you move from fright to fright, spanning a spectrum of horrible things from serial killers to vampires to witches to aliens. Lovely stuff.
Arrested Development (S1-5)
Dysfunctional families have been done to death on both the big screen and TV, but the Bluths are up there with the most self-centred, destructive and, well, downright hilarious bunch of the lot.
Straight man George Bluth desperately tries to keep his family and fortune intact as their company is hit by the US government for embezzlement.
Superb performances from the likes of David Cross, coupled with tonnes of re-quote potential make this a must-watch. It gets a little lost after the first three seasons thanks to the actors' other projects clashing with filming, but it's still well worth watching until the very end.
Peaky Blinders (S1-5)
This series, named after the 19th century Birmingham gang, is as good as anything else you'll find on Netflix. Led by the strangely likeable and very dangerous Tommy Shelby, it tells the tale of a razor-wielding crime family trying their very best to keep control of their city while avoiding the watchful Chief Inspector Chester Campbell.
CIllian Murphy grabs the spotlight and will absolutely not let go of it in one of the finest drama series produced by the BBC in recent years. Get ready to binge-watch three full seasons of this historical gangster drama.
Not to be confused with the Coen brothers’ (also highly recommended, also on Netflix) movie that inspired it – and from which it draws its winning blend of dark deeds, intricate plotting, looming dread and comic “Minnesota nice” dialogue – this is yet another TV series that begs to be binge-watched over a weekend. And at a relatively modest eight episodes, that’s entirely doable.
In the first series Martin Freeman, Colin Hanks and Allison Tolman deliver fine performances as residents of the snowbound titular town, but it’s Billy Bob Thornton, oozing malevolence and menace as drifter Lorne Malvo, who lingers longest in the memory.
The second and third series are now available to stream too, each telling a completely separate (but no less compelling) story featuring an entirely new cast and setting.
While there's a growing sensation that Marvel's cinema outings are getting steadily less appealing, its output for the small screen continues to impress, with Daredevil remaining the finest example.
Blind lawyer Matt Murdock (Boardwalk Empire’s Charlie Cox) turns crime-fighter by night, taking on the slum lords and gangsters that populate Hell’s Kitchen – but where the Avengers sketches in its four-colour heroics with a broad brush, Daredevil’s vigilantism is painted in shades of grey.
Murdock’s nocturnal outings sit uneasily alongside his legal profession, while the show’s big villain in the first series (Vincent D'Onofrio) wants to raise Hell’s Kitchen out of the dirt by any means necessary.
Making the most of its extended running time, the show’s able to show the wider consequences of its hero’s actions – not all of which are positive. There are also second and third series of the show to stream, introducing new Marvel stalwarts to Murdock's murky world in the shape of Elektra, the Punisher and Bullseye.