The 20 best TV box-sets on Netflix

House of Cards

Even if you know very little about the convoluted workings of US politics you'll find lots to love about House Of Cards.

Kevin Spacey's portrayal of a ruthless congressman's scrap to the top of the VIP pile is mesmerising, and the cold, clinical manner in which he partners up with his on-screen wife (Robin Wright), is brilliantly chilling.

Powerful acting, a gripping plot and, well, Kevin Spacey. It's worth getting a Netflix subscription for this alone.

Jericho

A classic apocalypse tale, Jericho tells the story of a small American town in the days and months after a nuclear war. The themes will be familiar to anyone who's played the Fallout games or watched The Walking Dead (minus the zombies) - What do we do for power? Who's in charge? Do the normal rules of civilisation still apply? - but the engaging script and some fine performances are enough to make it well worth checking out.

Like Firefly and the superb Deadwood (which sadly isn't on Netflix), Jericho was cut down in its prime by those dasterdly TV commissioners. It continues to this day in comic form, though, and that's as good an endorsement of its appeal as you could need.

Doctor Who

Back in 2005, it was by no means certain that the revival of Doctor Who was going to be a success – pundits even wondered whether it'd hold its own against Celebrity Wrestling.

Nearly a decade later, the sci-fi show is a global powerhouse, and with Peter Capaldi set to take control of the TARDIS, what better time to reacquaint yourself with the Doctor?

Netflix has six seasons of the show, kicking off with Christopher Eccleston's brief turn as the Time Lord. David Tennant's tenure in the TARDIS is the highlight, with the show reaching new levels of popularity under showrunner Russell T Davies; the arrival of Matt Smith and writer Steven Moffat brought twisty-turny plotting and manic energy to the series.

Whether you like sci-fi action, emotional storylines or intricate plots, there's something for you here.

Dexter

Just what is it about Dexter? What, within an apparently straightforward contemporary drama - police department employee with dark secret - that let it get green lights all the way through to eight seasons? Its sunny Miami setting, perhaps?

It's certainly not hampered by its charming titular protagonist and his goodly mix of attractive and/or amusing cohorts. Nor its slick production. So it must be those moments when Dexter - character and creation - hovers, knife already bloodied, unsure of itself... And then does what you thought it wouldn't.

Fringe

Written and created by JJ Abrams and friends, Fringe is a curious beast: part FBI procedural, part dystopian sci-fi thriller, part character-based family drama. If you only watched the first couple of episodes, though, you'd probably just label it a full-on rip-off of The X-Files for its depiction of an FBI agent solving supernatural and science-based crimes while grappling with an underlying conspiracy.

That'd be fair comment, but trust us, it gets a lot more interesting than that. There's plenty of proper hard science to get your teeth into, from parallel universes to germ warfare to quantum physics, but also a rather touching study in father-son relations and some truly fantastic acting.

Things get a lot more complicated as it goes on, to the extent that if you tried to watch a random episode from season 4 you'd probably think it was in Swahili. But put in the effort and you'll be rewarded with an excellent modern sci-fi show.

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