Essential TV

Essential TV


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Join us as we explore the Essential TV shows that should be on everyone’s watch list. From classics to new releases, our Essential TV picks celebrate the diversity of the small screen.

Five Pages with navigation at the bottom of each page


THE US AND THE HOLOCAUST (BBC)

Epic documentaries are rare nowadays, especially those that dare to stretch over three two-hour episodes. But anyone familiar with documentary maker Ken Burns and his long-time collaborators Lynn Novick and Sarah Botstein will know that epic and detailed are bylines for Burns’ work. Here Burns unpicks and then stitches together a complicated tapestry of US history in relation to immigration, War in Europe, antisemitism and race from the early 1930s to the post-War period. No stone is left unturned as Burns explores two sides of the same coin, one rooted in segregation and a belief in America first and the other in compassion, bravery and a need to protect. Meanwhile, the dark history of Eugenics and psychological discrimination and oppression sees the UK and the US shoulder at least some of the responsibility for the horrors of Nazism. The US and the Holocaust is documentary filmmaking at its most powerful and urgent.

HOUSE OF THE DRAGON (SKY/HBO)

As Game of Thrones came to a close in 2019, many wondered if the media fire it had generated had been firmly extinguished. After all, the final season of the blockbuster show was and still is hotly debated as one of TV’s biggest anti-climaxes. Therefore when House of the Dragon was announced, a fair bit of scepticism was mixed with the excitement of a new beginning in King’s Landing. Thankfully any scepticism was put to bed just three episodes in, as the mix of betrayal, intrigue, medieval politics and power that made Game of Thrones fascinating found a fresh voice through a host of exceptional new characters.

HEARTSTOPPER (NETFLIX)

Heartstopper’s embrace of young teenage drama makes it a standout slice of TV. After all, here we have an LGBTQ+ drama aimed squarely at 12 to 15-year-olds, which never shies away from big topics, including bullying, coming out, friendships and relationships. Heartstopper is a genuinely groundbreaking slice of young teen drama. It offers young viewers a safe, secure and heartwarming exploration of teenage life, sexuality and belonging that never feels the need to dive into the more adult world of shows like Love Victor

BIG BOYS (CHANNEL 4)

Big Boys achieves something very few comedies manage as it laces its sublime coming-of-age drama with laugh-out-loud comedy, taking you from tears to giggles and back again. Is Rooke’s Big Boys one of 2022’S stand-out TV shows? You bet your arse it is! It is a BAFTA award-winning slice of TV that has earnt a special place in the heart of everyone who has watched it, and with series two on the way, we can’t wait to see where Rooke takes us next.

LOVE VICTOR (DISNEY +)

Love, Victor challenged stereotypes, explored intersectionality and dived into a series of big relationship themes, from first love to coming out and sex. Its characters lit up the screen, from the sensitive yet strong Victor to the geeky and lovable Felix, the fiery but insecure Lake and the loving and sweet Mia. It may not have always lived up to its full potential. But Love Victor was an amazing show that deserves the highest praise for building upon the cultural impact of its big brother Love Simon while offering us something new, unique and equally groundbreaking.

SLOW HORSES (APPLE TV)

Based on Mick Herron’s novels and adapted by Will Smith (The Thick of It), Slow Horses humour, grit and electric performances hit all the right notes in all the right places. With a stellar cast including Lowden, Oldman, Pryce, Fox, Scott-Thomas and Eleazar, Will Smith’s take on Herron’s work is TV at its best, and two seasons in, there is no sign of Slow Horses slowing down as it continues to offer addictive, enthralling and engaging drama.

SEX EDUCATION (NETFLIX)

From the first episode of its opening season to its current run, Laurie Nun’s beautifully written and realised comedy/drama reinvented teen TV for a whole new generation. Dovetailing laugh-out-loud comedy with the anxiety of teenage life, Sex Education continues to push genre boundaries as it swings from outrageous comedy to heartfelt emotion in the blink of an eye.

HUNTERS (PRIME VIDEO)

Within the first 10 minutes, David Weil’s audacious series sets out its stall as a 70s family barbecue turns into a slaughter. By mixing the horror of Nazi atrocities during the Second World War with an action-thriller, Hunters was bound to upset some viewers. Still, this addictive and fascinating slice of TV is well worth your time as it dissects the current march of right-wing politics and the ongoing horror of racism, anti-Semitism and oppression in a comic book-inspired landscape of heroes and villains. Now in its second season, Hunters continues to offer us high-octane comic book action, with Logan Lerman and co just as enthralling now as when the first episode dropped.


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