Last Update: May 2020
Television has the power to whisk us away into new worlds, while remaining firmly rooted to our favourite armchair. While equally opening up new worlds through longer, episodic stories that leave us gagging for more. In recent years this has led to a new golden age of TV, as our viewing habits have changed in an online world. So why not take a break and immerse yourself in some truly stunning TV. With our curated list of some of the top TV box sets available now on streaming services, DVD or Blu Ray. Each one providing hours of essential entertainment in a range of genres from comedy to drama and sci-fi. So grab the remote and your favourite snacks and enjoy our list of Top TV box sets.
United States – 2020 (Amazon Prime)
1 Season (10 Episodes)
Within the first 10 minutes David Weil’s new Amazon series sets out its unconventional stall. As a 70s family barbecue turns to slaughter on a guest realising her host is actually an ex-Nazi war criminal. Before being whisked back to New York City, where three young men are stepping out of theatre after watching Star Wars for the first time. Their conversations centring on the political dimensions of the Nazi like Empire and the rebellion it has inspired. Hence, begins the Jordan Peele produced series Hunters. Delivering a Tarantino inspired thriller about a group of Nazi hunters in 70s America.
Mixing the realities of the Nazi atrocities during the Second World War, with an action-thriller that equally plays fast and loose with characters, may jar with some viewers. But Hunters is addictive viewing that also carries a fascinating sub-text. One that speaks to the current march of right-wing politics across the world. Dissecting racism and oppression in all its forms in an almost comic book inspired landscape of heroes and villains. Its beautifully realised 1970s locations and costumes elevated by performances that grab the attention of the viewer and don’t let go. As we witness the actions of a Jewish A-Team with Al Pacino as the head. While Logan Lerman’s young and tender Jonah enters the lion’s den through tragedy rather than choice.
With relentless action, intrigue and a fascinating sub text that digs deep into post World War Two politics. Hunters is one of the bravest and most interesting thrillers to have come from Amazon Prime since The Man in the High Castle.
We also love The Man in the High Castle
United Kingdom – 2019 – Present (Netflix)
2 Seasons (16 Episodes)
From the first episode, Laurie Nun’s comedy/drama shines with optimism and charm, not only demanding a viewers attention. But also single handily reinventing the teen drama on TV in the image of the late, great John Hughes. By combining laugh out loud comedy with the pure anxiety of teenage life. Ultimately delivering a comedy/drama that continues to push genre boundaries as it swings from outrageous comedy to heartfelt drama in the blink of an eye. As we follow Otis and friends through the trials and tribulations of adolescence, sex and relationships. While adults who pretend to have all the answers, are really just as equally confused by the sex and relationships surrounding them.
Sex Education takes the more edgy aesthetic of Skins and layers it with the comedy of The Inbetweeners and American Pie. Ultimately creating a delicious mash up of recent teen drama and comedy that shines in its reverence to the visual style of Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles. While offering characters who embed themselves in your heart, as the sun shines down on the fictional town of Moordale.
We also love The Inbetweeners and The End of the F***ing World
Queer as Folk
United Kingdom – 1999/2000 (Channel 4)
2 Series (10 Episodes)
Fancy a slice of truly groundbreaking television? Then look no further than the Channel 4 drama Queer as Folk. Now celebrating its 21st Birthday this is a show that not only changed gay representation on TV. But also enabled many LGBTQ people to come out from the shadows as national TV finally offered a reflection of their lives. And while some aspects may now seem dated, Queer as Folk still shines with humour, power and sexuality. Shocking, engaging and enthralling in equal measure on its realise. While finally placing LGBTQ stories and characters on prime time TV, duly smashing the rainbow coloured glass ceiling.
Generation War (Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter)
Germany 2013 (Arrow Films)
1 Mini-Series (3 Episodes)
How would a war directly effect your family and friends? And what does it mean to engage in a conflict, where your own values and beliefs may be opposed to the pervading political ideology? These issues of morality, conflict, friends and family sit at the heart of Generation War. One of the finest explorations of conflict and belonging ever produced for TV. Wrapped in an unflinching bravery as it explores the effects of World War Two on the German citizens living under Hitlers Third Reich.
Generation War opens up debate around politically ideology, personal belief and duty. While reflecting on the destruction war creates in social and cultural identity. And if you find yourself questioning how intelligent and cultured people can be blindsided by political rhetoric and barbarism. Then Generation War has done its job in reflecting the complexity, hurt and anger of those whose lives become consumed by conflict, hatred and holocaust.
We also love World on Fire
United States/Canada 2014 – Present (CW/Warner)
6 Seasons (137 Episodes)
The CW DC Universe may have started with Arrow, but for us its The Flash that stands tall among a sea of DC TV shows. With much of its success sitting firmly on the shoulders of Grant Gustin. Who deserves praise for not only reinventing both Barry Allen and The Flash for the small screen. But also injecting the character with humour, intelligence and energy in equal measure.
Spanning six seasons so far and 137 episodes, The Flash continues to enthral young and old alike. Capturing the Saturday tea time energy of 1970s classics like The Incredible Hulk and Wonder Woman. While also bringing the TV superhero story bang up to date with intelligent and dynamic storytelling. Of course like any TV series, there are strong episodes and those that struggle. But nobody can deny the pure joy, energy and electricity The Flash generates.
We also love Titans and The Umbrella Academy
In the Flesh
United Kingdom 2013-2014 (BBC)
2 Series (9 Episodes)
There have been no shortage of zombie related TV shows over recent years. From The Walking Dead to the Santa Clarita Diet, with each one providing their own unique take on a zombie apocalypse. But Dominic Mitchell‘s 2013 BBC series stands head and shoulders above the rest. Not just because of it unique take on zombie life, but also due to its nuanced reflection of coming of age themes of identity, acceptance and difference. Themes that ultimately take TV horror to a new level. By dovetailing the experiences of young zombie Kieran, with those of many minority communities and groups in the U.K.
There may not be many episodes to feast on, but this is British science fiction and horror at its best. And while you may be longing for more as the final credits roll, the journey taken is well worth your time.
We also love The Fades and Santa Clarita Diet
United Kingdom 2018 – Present (Channel 4)
2 Seasons (12 Episodes)
Lisa McGee’s nostalgic comedy set in 1990s Londonderry is a truly groundbreaking slice of modern comedy/drama. Inhabiting the world of the Northern Ireland troubles, while equally reflecting the changing political landscape prior to the Good Friday agreement. As we follow the daily trials and tribulations of a group of Catholic cousins and their wee-English fella James. Who just so happens to have the pleasure of being the only male in an all girl catholic school.
Derry Girls buzzes with intelligence, wit and charm, its central characters becoming a part of your own extended family when watching. With laugh out loud comedy interfacing with a truly heartfelt exploration of a changing Northern Ireland. Ultimately creating a show that shines as brightly as the sun in sea of TV comedy.
We also love The Young Offenders and My Left Nut
Line of Duty
United Kingdom 2012 – Present (BBC)
5 seasons (30 Episodes)
Crime drama is a mainstay of British TV, and has been ever since the debut of Dixon of Dock Green and Juliet Bravo. However few TV shows in the genre, with the exception of Prime Suspect have had the cultural clout of Jed Mercurio’s Line of Duty. Not only reinventing the police drama for a modern age, but wrapping the audience in an ongoing story of deceit and corruption.
Line of Duty grabs the viewer by the throat from the first episode, as it twists and turns in its narrative. Never once letting the viewer grab their breath as each season links to next. And with season six on the way, the mystery and intrigue is far from complete.
We also love Prime Suspect & Happy Valley
High School Musical: The Musical: The Series
United States 2019 – Present (Disney +)
1 Season (10 Episodes)
Love it or loathe it there is no denying the sheer cultural clout of Disney’s High School Musical back in 2006. After all not only did it shoot one Zach Efron to global stardom. But it also gave a much needed jolt of electricity to the movie musical. Bringing audiences back to the type of live action teen musical spectacular last seen in Fame. While single handily paving the way for a whole series of films and TV shows ranging from Glee to Camp Rock. But after three films many the bounce and top tapping innocence of High School Movie finally came to end. Until that is, Disney + announced a new TV series based on the films.
But how do you recreate High School Musical for a modern teenage audience? One that has already dramatically changed in their taste for TV since the 2006 original. The answer is simple, you don’t try and recreate the movie. But instead pay homage to it, with a new group of teens performing a musical version of the famous film. While layering the narrative with the humour of Glee, a love triangle and toe tapping songs. Ultimately creating something that feels fresh and new, while equally decidedly familiar.
We also love Glee and Once Upon a Time
The Wonder Years
United States 1988 – 1993 (ABC)
6 Seasons (115 Episodes)
If you can find a better coming of age TV show we would love to hear from you. Because in our opinion The Wonder Years is one of the finest coming of age family drama’s of the 20th Century. Stealing the hearts of viewers with a narrative that not only explored the complex dynamics of family life. But surrounding this with the social change of 1960s and 1970s America. As we followed Kevin’s journey from boy to man within a sea of politics, generational divide and cultural change. With each and every episode lovingly produced and directed. As the emotion, trauma, energy and joy of childhood interfaced with the commitment, work, disappointment and love of adult life. The Wonder Years is TV with soul and passion; a social dissection of an America long since vanished.
We also love Freaks and Geeks and Malcolm in the Middle
Deutschland 83 & 86
Germany 2015/2018 (RTL)
2 Seasons (18 Episodes)
A huge success abroad, while flopping in its home country. Deutschland 83 wowed audiences with its mix of espionage, tongue in cheek humour, action and a killer 80s soundtrack. As we followed Jonas Nay’s Martin Rauch from wide eyed twenty something to killer spy. With East and West Germany clashing in a cold war landscape of lies, spy’s and deceit. Each episode buzzing with energy and excitement as we head towards the shows dramatic conclusion.
But the journey is far from over as Deutschland 86 picks up the story three years later. With the cold winds of change blowing south in a brilliant sequel that continues to hum with all the ingredients that made the first outing a total blast.
We also love The Americans and The Night Manager
Don’t Ever Wipe Tears Without Gloves (Torka aldrig tårar utan handskar)
Sweden 2012 (SVT)
1 Mini Series (3 Episodes)
There are a number of drama’s exploring the 1980s HIV/AIDS crisis that we could have included in our list. From Angels in America through to A Normal Heart, but for us this Swedish mini series is undoubtedly the most emotionally striking. As we follow Stockholm newcomer Rasmus, 19 and his boyfriend Benjamin just as the AIDS epidemic hits Sweden’s gay community.
What makes Jonas Gardell‘s story so unique is the interface between sexual liberation and a virus that injected fear and judgement across communities. By the 1980s Sweden led the way in social equality for LGBTQ communities, with same sex relationships having been decriminalised in 1944. While the age of consent was also equalised in 1972. All helping to create one of the most enlightened and liberal social structures for LGBTQ people in Europe. Yet despite this, AIDS stripped many of the rights Swedish young men held so dear. And it is here that Don’t Ever Wipe Tears Without Gloves is at its most fascinating. Exploring how social equality and fear mixed in a society built on sexual freedom.
We also love A Normal Heart and Tales of the City
United States 1991 (NBC/Disney)
1 Season (19 Episodes)
It may have had a short run, but Eerie Indiana’s legendary status was born in just 19 episodes. As it brought the horror of Tales from the Crypt and the science fiction of The Twilight Zone to a younger 90s audience. While embedding each gloriously dark and delicious tale within a secluded community of utter weirdness and wonder. As Marshall Teller and best friend Simon Holmes unpicked the bizarre and creepy daily routines of their sleepy small town.
Written by Jose Rivera and Karl Schaefer who would go on to write The Motorcycle Diaries and Z Nation. It is the creative hand of Joe Dante that equally sits centre stage throughout Eerie Indiana, its universe echoing that of Gremlins. While in turn providing us with one of the most creative children’s TV horror shows ever made.
We also love Goosebumps and Ghostwriter
United States 1997 – 2003 (HBO)
6 Seasons (56 Episodes)
Without Oz TV drama would have been a decidedly different place. With the tales of Oswald State Penitentiary not only giving birth to the HBO we now recognise and love. But also reinventing the template for TV drama in a modern age. Instilling its narrative with grit, social commentary and unflinching violence in way few before or after have managed.
Oz not only dissects the American penal system, but layers its narrative with discussions on race, sexuality and religion. Creating a drama that still talks to modern social barriers, poverty of opportunity, racial and religious segregation. However, what makes Oz a truly unique TV experience is its ability to dovetail these big social issues with nerve shredding tension. Taking a soap opera model of delivery to new heights of dramatic power. While in turn creating the template for many of the HBO drama’s that followed.
We also love The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire
United Kingdom 1963 – Present (BBC)
38 Seasons (886 Episodes)
Cast Includes: William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith, Peter Capaldi, Jodie Whittaker
Few TV shows on our list can claim legendary status, but Doctor Who is undoubtedly one of them. Not only is this BBC science fiction drama the longest running sci-fi series in TV history, it is without a doubt the most unique.
Born in 1963 with veteran film actor William Hartnell in the main role. Doctor Who was never forecast by the BBC to become the behemoth of TV it did. Its low budget effects, black and white film and wobbly sets no match for American science fiction TV shows like Star Trek. But from the start Doctor Who captured the imagination of a whole generation of 1960s children. With its unique mix of time travelling, adventure and science. Its main character as much of a mystery as the police box shaped ship that transported him. While each story echoed the wonder of historical epics, HG Wells classics and post war fears (just look at the Daleks and their Nazi inspired actions).
However, the true genius of Doctor Who came at the end of Hartnell’s reign, with regeneration devised as a way of continuing the story. This allowed the Doctor’s adventures to continue under the stewardship of many fine actors over the years. While the universe of Doctor Who expanded and deepened in meaning.
Of course its 38 seasons are mixed bag of quality, and it would be fair to say that we are not a fan of the most recent two incarnations of the time lord. But Doctor Who’s strength lays in its ability to appeal to different audiences at different times. And despite a hardcore fan base who can be over the top in their devotion, love and opinions. This is a TV show that continues to reinvent itself for each generation. While showing no signs of slowing down in its time travelling adventures.
We also love Torchwood and Being Human
American Horror Story
United States 2011 – Present (Fox)
9 Seasons (103 Episodes)
When Ryan Murphy announced he was planning to follow his TV success Glee with a horror, ears around the globe were pricked with devilish delight. After all while TV had a long history of horror with Tales from the Crypt and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. It had also been sometime since the horror genre had claimed its rightful crown on prime time television.
Launching in 2011 American Horror Story did not disappoint legions of horror fans. Its first series delightfully wrapping the audience in a classic haunted house tale. While equally taking the genre in new a direction with darkly delicious humour, gore, social commentary and truly divine performances. Creating its own horror universe that expanded from season to season, while allowing its cast to embody a variety of roles. And it is the cast and deliciously dark writing that keeps audiences coming back to Murphy and Falchuk’s world of pain. And while some seasons shine more than others, with Asylum remaining the pinnacle of American Horror Story’s journey so far. It continues to be a must see TV event of the Halloween season.
We also love Dracula and Bates Motel
United States 2008 – 2013 (AMC/Sony)
5 Seasons (62 Episodes)
If Oz gave birth to the modern TV drama then Breaking Bad changed the way we viewed TV drama for ever. Originally launched on mainstream cable TV in the USA back in 2008. Breaking Bad had rave reviews from the start, but struggled to initially find its audience. While here in the UK its premiere on FX and Five fell flat, with few people even registering the title. However, when Netflix picked up the show it thundered towards global success. Reflecting and building on a new TV watching phenonmenon; the binge.
Netflix quickly capitalised on the growing success of Breaking Bad particularly in international markets. In part helping the streaming service to become the juggernaut of TV drama we now recognise. While also encouraging audiences to indulge in TV. Forgoing the weekly episodes seen in the past, and digesting as much of a series as they could in single weekend.
But aside from the monumental impact Breaking Bad had on global viewing. It was also an exceptional drama, playing on the mid life desire to throw everything away and try something new. While equally reflecting the cost of doing so through the eyes of a family, community and unlikely friendship. Ultimately delivering a drama/thriller that continues to engage and enthral. As it navigates the treacherous path of people who wish they could be someone and something else.
United Kingdom/USA 2019 (HBO/Sky)
1 Series (5 Episodes)
One of the finest TV dramas of the 21st Century. Chernobyl combines the abject horror of the 80s disaster with heart stopping political and social drama. In a truly masterful slice of relentless and gripping television that never spirals into melodrama. Ensuring the reality of the nuclear disaster at its heart remains horrifyingly authentic.
This is TV drama that doesn’t aim to entertain, but instead shocks with a grim tale of denial and fear. However, despite this Chernobyl balances its darkness with moments of sheer bravery, heroism and kindness in the midst of pain and suffering. Ensuring the horror does not engulf and consume the audience. While enabling brief periods of respite in what is ultimately a rollercoaster of nerve shredding tension.
We also love The Looming Tower and When They See Us
United States 2016 – Present (Netflix)
3 Seasons (25 Episodes)
Combining 80s nostalgia with the energy of The Goonies and visual style of Spielberg. Stranger Things has become nothing short of a global phenomenon for Netflix. Helping to launch the careers of a number of young stars including Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown and Noah Schnapp. But Stranger Things is far more than a pure 1980s nostalgia fest for anyone over the age of 40. This is a reinvention of comforting yet creative fantasy horror on TV. Referencing Gremlins, Poltergeist and Dungeons and Dragons in creating a sublime homage to the best of fantasy/horror in film. While adapting it for the small screen, in manner that embodies JJ Abrahams Super 8 in TV form. Ultimately creating a divine mash up of inspirations; a mix tape of fantasy and horror in the hands of expert cast and crew
We also love I Am Not Okay with This and Dark
My So-Called Life
United States 1994 (ABC)
1 Season (19 Episodes)
Every now and again a TV series comes along that is truly ahead of its time. These shows tend to either sink or swim due to their innovation. With many succumbing to the studio axe before finding an audience. My So-Called Life was one of those shows, finding itself axed before it had a chance to prove its worth. Only finding a dedicated audience after the curtain had fallen on one of the finest teenage TV dramas.
However, despite the series never having had the chance to expand and develop, the 19 episodes we have are sublime. Paving the way for many classic teen dramas ranging from Skins to Euphoria. This was one of the first TV dramas to treat teenagers as real people, and not mere caricatures. While layering its narrative with the real problems teenagers faced in mid 90s America. Not just challenging but smashing the teen TV model that had come before it. With stories that directly and sensitively explored homophobia, homelessness and drugs.
Game of Thrones
United Kingdom/United States 2011-2019 (HBO)
8 Seasons (73 Episodes)
Within the history of television drama few shows have become event viewing. But Games of Thrones in one of them, while possibly being the greatest slice of event TV ever made. Based on the book series A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin, Game of Throne transcends the boundaries of television, by bringing a cinematic quality to the small screen in manner never seen before or since its conclusion. Mixing in elements of Star Wars, Ben-Hur, Lawrence of Arabia and Lord of the Rings. While surrounding its epic tale of family, revenge, politics and magic with a darkness and ruthlessness rarely seen on TV.
And while there will long be debate around the final season and its farewell to the characters we loved, despised and rooted for. Games of Thrones remains one of the most culturally significant shows in TV history. Redrawing and redefining the scope, size and power of fantasy drama on the small screen in manner that may never be equalled.
We also love Westworld and The Tudors
The Morning Show
United States 2019 – Present (Apple TV)
1 Season (10 Episodes)
Apple made a brave choice when commissioning ‘The Morning Show’ as their first major drama for the new Apple TV+ platform. With media and film still shaking in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment and abuse allegations. The Morning Show bravely places the #MeToo movement centre stage. While also unflinchingly exploring the role of men who have used their power and position as leverage in sexual desire. The exploration of both victims, female empowerment and male dominance creating a compelling drama that isn’t afraid to raise difficult and challenging questions on the changing landscape of media.
The talent both on screen and behind the camera shines through in every scene of The Morning Show. And while some dialogue feels clunky, performances and direction keep the drama rolling. However, it is within it subject matter that The Morning Show truly excels. Creating a snapshot of a changing media landscape that not all encompasses the empowerment of women, but also the changing dynamics of TV News.
We also love The Thick of It
United States 2020 – Present (Netflix)
1 Season (7 Episodes)
There is always a risk in merging fantasy with reality, as the audience attempt to navigate and unpick the truth from a series of ideas and concepts. However, with ‘Hollywood’ Ryan Murphy manages to to mix the fantastical with a cutting exploration of institutionalised discrimination. Demonstrating the artistic force of those minority groups who helped create Hollywood. While in turn mixing it with a ‘what could have been’ story.
The period setting of the 1940s studio system is beautifully rendered. With performances that engage from the first episode to the last, combined with a score that reflects the historical time and place of its narrative. But what really makes Hollywood stand out is the nuanced reflection of both the creative drive and talent of those who Hollywood forgot. Ensuring we all ask the question of whether the studio system could and would have survived longer if it had embraced diversity.
We also love Feud: Bette and Joan
United States 2015 – 2019 (Amazon Prime/USA Networks)
4 Seasons (46 Episodes)
TV dramas that manage to captivate and enthral their audience within the first episode are a rare commodity. But that is exactly what Mr Robot achieves, despite a pace that slowly builds tension amid a sea of mystery. This is a show that owes much to Fight Club in both style and tone, while lacing it with modern discussions on media, mental health and technology. Ultimately creating a dystopian thriller that holds a mirror to 21st Century life in its narrative. As we watch the demons of capitalism wrap themselves in every aspect of our online and material world. While equally remaining distant, aloof and untouchable as we buy into their world vision.
The success of Mr Robot is held firmly within its writing, direction and performances, as we delve into both social and personal anxieties. With the lead character Elliot not only holding the key to releasing his inner demons but restrained morally from doing so. Creating tension that seeps from the screen in every episode as we learn more about the anti hero who sits at the heart of a fascinating journey.
We also love Black Mirror and Legion
Charlie Brown and Peanuts: The TV Movies
United States 1965 – 2011 (Bill Melendez Productions/ABC/Warner)
45 Episodes/TV Movies
First published in 1950 across various American newspapers. Charles M. Schulz’ Charlie Brown and Peanuts has become one of the most famous comic strips in popular culture. Mixing intelligent comedy with the inner most fears, joy and anxieties of childhood. While challenging old fashioned views of psychology, development and acceptance. Ultimately creating characters that have burned themselves into modern pop culture. With 18,000 comic strips translated into over 21 different languages in 75 countries. And while some argue that many of the films listed are ‘TV Specials’. Cultural impact alone ensured Charlie Brown and Peanuts made our list.
Feature length TV specials based on collections of comic strip material began in 1965, with 45 specials having been produced since then. However, while every single feature length Peanuts adventure offers a delightful mix of culture, comedy, commentary and music. It’s the first three specials that truly shine in bringing the world of Charlie Brown to life in glorious technicolour.
Out of the three amazing TV specials that aired during 1965 and 1966. A Charlie Brown Christmas remains a quintessential reflection of Shultz at his best. Celebrating Christmas as a secular holiday that relates to all no matter of their religious beliefs. As Charlie Brown searches for the perfect Christmas tree, while also struggling to find meaning in the holiday season. The divine and highly intelligent script surrounded by the beautiful jazz inspired score of Vince Guaraldi. This is the TV film that set the template for Charlie Brown on screen. A template that led to another 44 specials up to the year 2000. With a delightful and unexpected TV rebirth on Apple in 2019 with Snoopy in Space.
We also love The Simpsons
Race Across the World
United Kingdom 2019 – Present (BBC)
2 Series (15 episodes)
The only reality show to make our top TV list, BBC Two’s Race Across the World is a prime example of the power of reality TV to transport an audience. In fact we defy anyone not to become addicted to this travel extravaganza just twenty minutes into series one. In a show that takes backpacking beyond the stereotypical student experience. Placing the joy, emotion and trauma of travel in the hands of five ordinary pairs of adventurers. Each pair hoping to win £20,000 by travelling across continents with nothing more than the price of their air fare. However, in a delicious twist, air travel is out of the question, as each pair must navigate the journey of a lifetime on land. Using their skills of negotiation, budgeting and cultural awareness to reach the finish line.
The success of Race Across the World comes from the intimate journey of discovery each pair takes, while matching this with a ‘real’ travel show experience. Virtually lifting the viewer from their sofa in a sea of colour, culture and humanity. While never failing to show the diversity, beauty and fragility of the world around us.
We also love Simon Reeve The Americas / Mediterranean