Top TV Shows
Whilst I do love to read, one of my favourite things to do which I don't often talk about at length on here or on my channel, is binge-watch a good TV show. I go through phases of watching lots of films, but I'm almost always on the hunt for a new series to dive into. Today I wanted to talk you guys through my favourites of all the shows I've watched over the years, especially because I'm finding there to be an absolute dearth of things to watch at the moment, so if you're new to any of these I'm going to live vicariously through you. Many of them won't be a surprise but I hope that a few of you can find something new in this selection. And there are some notable exclusions (sorry, Breaking Bad); I tried to list only those things that I would be excited to watch again. If you like this kind of thing, I'd love to keep you up to date with what I'm watching more regularly, so let me know down below!
Game of Thrones
Here's one I’m sure doesn't need introducing. I binge-watched the first season or two back in 2012, went on to read the books and since then have been an avid follower of the series. In case you really have been living under a rock, this is a fantasy drama series which follows a number of families vying for power in Westeros. Whilst it does have fantastical elements (dragons, scary zombie-like 'white walkers' that live beyond an inhumanly sized wall), the show has also always had more subtle political elements that have lent it a bit of clout, at least until the last couple of seasons. Whilst it has now got out of a bit of a rut that it got stuck in (mostly because the books haven't advanced past a certain stage yet) and the latest seasons have been filled with action, I would argue that everything is happening a little too quickly now. Nonetheless, I love this show; it’s hugely entertaining, with an excellent selection of characters to get your teeth into.
Another HBO creation (though still in its early stages), Westworld is a science fiction series based on a 1970s film of the same name in which the supremely rich get to immerse themselves in a Wild West-themed theme park populated by uncannily human-looking android 'hosts'. The guests are able to act as they please, which can include murdering and torturing the hosts. The problem being, of course, that the hosts begin to become self-aware, causing them to wake up to the intense cruelties they are subjected to daily. This is a thought-provoking and oftentimes puzzling series that investigates the role of memory and free will, and asks what it means to be human (or not human). Whilst the first season was more philosophical, the second has been more action-packed. I love the mixture of philosophy and drama, and the aesthetics of the old Wild West style park contrasted with the futuristic halls of the company that runs it are just gorgeous. This is definitely one of the shows I get the most excited about.
One of the more random additions to the list is The OA; one of Netflix's stranger gambles, but a programme that I ultimately really enjoyed. It’s like a weird mysterious sci-fi fantasy mashup. It opens with the return of a woman who has been missing for seven years, and where previously she was blind, now she can see. She calls herself 'The OA' and starts to assemble a number of people around her to tell her strange story. It sounds like a fairly typical mystery premise but let me tell you, this series is weird, in the best possible way. I'm really looking forward to the next instalment.
Another series that barely needs an introduction, this is a science fiction anthology show where each episode imagines a different possible alternative present or future. They are often darkly satiric with comedic elements, though there are also more recently some lighter and more uplifting episodes. With everything from Uber-like ratings for human beings, to the ability to record and sift through all your exact memories, to a man who traps virtual (but no less feeling) versions of co-workers he hates in a throwback 60s Star Trek-esque virtual reality, this series has it all. If you haven't watched it yet, you really should. It’s easily bingeable and very thought-provoking.
Our final Sci-fi, this is a series you probably haven't escaped hearing about. It follows the disappearance of a young boy and various supernatural happenings in a small town in Indiana in the 1980s; unlike many other shows, this one takes the perspective of the boys' friends, and the chemistry and performances of the child actors lends the show a real warm nostalgic feeling that only adds to its 80s setting. I love it, and am really looking forward to its return this year.
I discovered Lovesick when it moved to Netflix last year, and instantly fell in love. It's a British sitcom that follows three flatmates living together in Glasgow (yay for some Scottish scenery!). The first series specifically tracks Dylan who, after finding out he has chlamydia, has to contact each of his previous sexual partners; each episode is dedicated to a girl or encounter. If you love inept British people struggling with romance, you'll love this show; it's funny and sweet and warmed my heart.
Grace and Frankie
Another comedy series, this one following two older women brought together because their respective husbands announce that they are in love and want to be together. It stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin amongst other big-name actors, and although it's not normally the kind of thing I'd watch, I ended up loving it. It's always good to see older women getting meaty (and funny!) roles, plus there’s some excellent supporting performances from the kids’ characters and the husbands.
The Office (US)
I don't know if I'm supposed to be loyal to the original British Office, but I just love Steve Carrell's more lighthearted and warmer portrayal of the socially inept paper company boss as compared to Ricky Gervais' take on it. An easy watch with touching moments and many more cringey, laugh out loud ones, you can't really go wrong with this series.
I couldn't write this post without listing this because Friends quotes pop into my mind at least two or three times a day, but I won't insult you guys with trying to explain this one.
To be honest, I wasn't massively impressed with Luther's recent return bar the first episode; it almost seemed like a parody of itself at points. However, the first few series are excellent if you love good gritty detective stuff. Set against the background of dreary, grey London, it follows work-obsessed, deeply flawed DCI John Luther (played by none other than Idris Elba) as he investigates murderers and psychopaths. A seriously binge-worthy show.
The Night Of
A one-off classic, this was an eight-part crime drama that follows a young Pakistani-American man (played by the excellent Riz Ahmed) who wakes up to find the woman he spent the previous night with stabbed to death. Charged with her murder, he and his lawyers struggle to find out what happened before he is convicted of her murder. It's a gripping show that is well-acted and written, with a particularly good performance by demoralised defense attorney John Turturro.
Now we're deep into the crime drama section of this blog post, so next up I present The Missing. This is a British show whose first series follows the search for a missing boy in France, and the second a girl in Germany. A familiar formula, but it has great performances and is astutely written, not falling into too many of the melodramatic traps of crime drama. Tchéky Karyo as the French detective Julien Baptiste is particularly memorable.
Another British crime drama, this time set in the West country, starring David Tennant as the requisite moody detective and Olivia Colman as his more affable partner, bringing slightly more lightness to the show. The first series focuses on the death of a local boy, and is easily the best one; the following two are still entertaining and make compelling viewing, but they ease into the absurd as it goes on. Strangely they released an American version of this series called Gracepoint that also stars David Tennant; I haven't watched it but if it's without Olivia Colman I don't particularly want to.
This one barely needs an introduction I'm sure. An anthology crime drama, the first series of this show was practically legendary, starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, following their two characters over 17 years as they investigate a serial killer. Much of it is told in flashback, so the sense of unreliability built palpable tension throughout. I remember thinking the visuals were also impressive. I quite liked the second series and thought many of the performances were great, though it was far less of a hit, possibly because it lacked some of the tension and focus of the first instalment. The third series is currently running and I'm really enjoying it, particularly Mahershala Ali's performance as the lead detective. The show has returned to its talking head interview/flashback formula, though this time seemingly with even more complexity (or have I just forgotten the first series?), and I think it's great.
The final crime programme on this list but by far my favourite, is Fargo. Inspired by the Coen brothers' film from the 90s of the same name, this anthology show is set mostly in the Upper Midwest of America (meaning you get that incredible Minnesotan dialect throughout) and each series is set in a different time period (the timeline works with the film, too, so make sure you've watched it if you haven't already). Defined as a black comedy-drama, this show has it all. It has all the darkness required of a good detective series, but it is also extremely funny; the writing is second-to-none, the performances are all impressive (starring everyone from Martin Freeman to Kirsten Dunst to Ewan McGregor amongst others), and the cinematography and visuals are also beautiful. It can take one or two episodes to get into, but once you do I'm sure you'll be hooked. I really can't recommend it enough, and is one of my all-time favourites on this list.
A Western miniseries from Netflix that stars Jack O’Connell, Michelle Dockery and Scoot McNairy. There was something about this series I loved so much I watched it twice in the space of about a month; I thought the Western setting was beautiful and I liked the strong female characters. It focuses on a town where almost all the men have died in a mining accident leaving the women to govern and defend themselves; a town where O’Connell’s character - on the run from his former outlaw boss - takes refuge.
I feel like I’ve watched a lot of TV series about gangs (Narcos and Sons of Anarchy to name a couple), but this is the only one I want to put on the list. I think it’s because I like the Birmingham post-WWI setting, and Cillian Murphy’s character has a different kind of steeliness to other similar types. It’s stylish and slick and has some great supporting performances, too, including from Tom Hardy.
The premise of The Affair is an interesting one; the same events are told from different people’s points of view, asking important questions about how we see the world. At the same time it’s a gripping drama about an affair and the consequences on two families; some of the later seasons can edge into the ridiculous, but generally a really solid watch. Plus it stars Ruth Wilson, who is one of my faves.
The World's Most Extraordinary Homes
If you're nosy like me and like to peek around other people's houses, then this show is one of the best of its kind. There are some drop dead gorgeous properties on this show; the first series is my favourite because they do it by location type (Mountain, Forest, Coast, Underground) whereas the second is by country, but it’s still a great watch.
Masterchef: The Professionals
I love and watch all the Masterchefs but the Professionals is by far the best. As the chefs progress, they go to some seriously elite kitchens and make some incredible dishes. I get weirdly attached to some of them because it’s a lengthy process and I find the challenges to be more interesting than on other cooking shows.
Anything David Attenborough narrates
Planet Earth, Dynasties, Blue Planet. Give me it all, I love it. My favourite documentaries to watch are easily the nature ones, for the gorgeous scenery and filming as much as the life itself.
Louis Theroux documentaries
Netflix has an excellent selection of Theroux’s documentaries; although he toes the line of voyeurism, nonetheless I can’t help but find them really interesting. If you have a long weekend stretching ahead of you, you could do worse than Louis. He has a unique style of interviewing which is sometimes amusing but equally touching and self-aware.