Box Set Binge – a collection of bingeable tv shows available now.
HUNTERS (PRIME VIDEO)
Within the first 10 minutes, David Weil’s audacious series set out its stall as a 70s family barbecue turned to slaughter. Hunters would mix the horror of historical Nazi atrocities with an action-thriller that aimed to unpick the events following peace in 1945. The result was a show that was destined to divide public and critical opinion. While it may narratively trip up several times, Hunters is one hell of a ride as it dissects the historical and current march of right-wing politics, racism, anti-Semitism and oppression in a comic book-inspired landscape of heroes and villains.
THE MUPPET SHOW (DISNEY+ AND DVD)
Here’s a fun fact: I once electrocuted myself while watching The Muppet Show! I was five or six and staying at my grandma’s house. There, whilst playing with my Star Wars figures, I decided to stick my finger in an electrical socket! Thankfully, the shock wasn’t all that bad, and I watched the rest of The Muppets on my grandma’s lap with what seemed like a giant slice of chocolate cake. But I digress! The Muppet Show was one of the highlights of my TV week, with each episode transporting me into the wondrous world of Jim Henson’s misfit gang. The opening credits were enough to make the outside world evaporate as The Muppets took me under their wing. Henson’s Muppet Show was pure escapism, joy and innocence; a family show that would appeal to every age through its humour, intelligence and colourful parade of unique characters. So dive into Henson’s glorious world because whether you are new to The Muppet Show or an adult who grew up with its wonderous creations, Jim Henson’s sublime TV show has something for everyone.
THE OFFER (PARAMOUNT +)
Sometimes the making of a film is just as fascinating as the end result. Over the years, many movie productions have sparked public interest, from Apocalypse Now to The Twilight Zone and Wizard of Oz. In The Offer, the making of The Godfather takes centre stage, and it’s one hell of a story! Told from the perspective of producer Albert S. Ruddy (Miles Teller), The Offer aims to provide a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the making of Francis Ford Coppola’s classic. The Offer is at its most interesting when exploring the changing landscape of the studio system in the early 1970s. Here the infamous Paramount boss Robert Evans takes centre stage, played brilliantly by Matthew Goode, a man who never followed the rules and saved the crumbling Paramount mountain from sliding into a lake.
GAME OF THRONES (HBO)
Based on the book series by George RR Martin, Game of Thrones would transform and forever redraw the boundary between television and cinema with a show that took the 16:9 TV in the corner of your room into unexplored territory. Game of Thrones was event viewing as it built a world unlike anything before, re-igniting a sleeping public love of historical fantasy through intrigue, sex, violence, sumptuous character design and stunning effects. Like many shows, its ending may have faltered in the eyes of many, but no ending would have been perfect for a show that left such a lasting mark and rich, dramatic legacy.
HOUSE OF THE DRAGON (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.
THE MOSQUITO COAST (APPLE TV+)
Apple TV originals have embraced unique, engaging, and different TV and film journeys over the past few years, and The Mosquito Coast continued that trend. Taking a wholly different path to the film, Neil Cross and Paul Theroux combined the classic road trip thriller with family drama and high-octane action in a sweeping two-season run. While some may find this reimagining of Paul Theroux’s book to be problematic, it’s nonetheless brave and bold as it merges the original book with elements of the movie and Sidney Lumet’s classic, Running on Empty. The result is a taut, energetic and imaginative road trip thriller that builds upon the original characters in a two-season run against time that is both addictive and enthralling.
THE FLASH (CW)
The Flash stands head and shoulders above the plethora of DC Universe outings born from Arrow. That doesn’t mean it was perfect, and its poor later seasons are evidence that it should have stopped running before season six. But despite this, the early seasons of The Flash remain some of the best family DC Comics TV we have seen since Smallville. Grant Gustin completely reinvented Barry Allen for the small screen, offering us a modern TV superhero we could believe in as The Flash captured the tea-time Saturday energy of shows like The Incredible Hulk and Wonder Woman.
SEX EDUCATION (NETFLIX)
From the first episode of its opening season, Laurie Nun’s beautifully written comedy/drama helped shape the new landscape of teen drama for a new generation. Part Skins and part Charlie Bartlett, Nun’s comedy would top up the edgy teen drama with bags of John Hughes-inspired comedy as the anxieties and eccentricities of adolescence were placed centre stage in a show that felt timeless. But the true genius of Sex Education came from the casting decisions. From the gentle, frustrated and endearing Otis (Asa Butterfield) to the sharp, loving and proud Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) and the spikey, worldly-wise Maeve (Emma Mackey), Sex Education’s ongoing success is very much down to its sublime young cast.
DERRY GIRLS (CHANNEL 4)
Lisa McGee’s semi-autobiographical knockabout coming-of-age comedy, Derry Girls, sensibly opted to say goodbye in its third series, but, oh my, were we sad to see it go. Derry Girls was rare in the landscape of modern situational comedy, first due to its heart and humour and second due to its exquisite reflection of a specific time and place. Chronicling the path to peace in Northern Ireland alongside Erin, Orla, Clare, Michelle and their wee-English fella, James, Derry Girls injects the heart-breaking years of Northern Irish violence and segregation with the hope of peace. It celebrates the best of Northern Irish culture, humour and togetherness while never shying away from the troubles and, in the process, becomes a modern TV classic.
ZERO ZERO ZERO (SKY)
Based on the sweeping novel of the same name by Roberto Saviano, ZeroZeroZero is nothing short of epic in its construct. Its dark, brooding, tension-laden story of family, deception and betrayal shines with nail-biting brilliance while knocking its TV competition out of the park due to its sheer cinematic scale and bravery. In ZeroZeroZero, the international drug trade is viewed from three distinct perspectives; the suppliers in Mexico, the buyers in Italy, and the New Orleans dealmakers. Here we are asked a simple question: What happens when a deadly global machine built on cocaine hits the rocks? The answer is found in a series of interlinked episodes and a heart-pounding conclusion. With the opening episodes directed by Stefano Sollima (Sicario 2: Soldado and Gomorrah), ZeroZeroZero sets out its uncompromising stall from the first scenes as it dissects an illegal drug industry built on pain, death and addiction.
Box Set Binge
WORZEL GUMMIDGE (BBC)
Many of you, like me, will have fond memories of Jon Pertwee as the lovable, if slightly cantankerous, scarecrow Worzel Gummidge. Pertwee’s version of Barbara Euphan Todd’s 1930s character would shine from 1979 to 1981 before the famous Scarecrow suddenly fell silent. However, Christmas 2019 would see BBC One resurrect Worzel under the creative genius of Mackenzie Crook, and the result was a loving and celebratory re-imagination of Euphan’s characters. Bathed in stunning cinematography, gentle humour and delightful performances, the modern Worzel Gummidge is utterly beautiful and brilliantly endearing.
TITANS (WARNER BROS)
Following hot on the heels of the equally dark and underrated Gotham, Titans finally gave the Teen Titans an adult makeover. Here DC comic classics such as Death in the Family and The Red Hood would be amalgamated into a dark, brooding, and violent slice of comic book entertainment that finally laid the 1960s comedic Robin to rest. It is, therefore, interesting that Titans has never received the credit it was due for either the quality, diversity or brilliance of its four-season run. Like many DC shows, the reason for this lies in the internal wrangling at Warner Bros as the DC Universe platform was launched only to be later scrapped. At the same time, HBO Max never even made it to UK shores, with Titans suffering long UK delays on Netflix. But this is one DC show well worth your time, as the Teen Titans face a range of classic enemies over four exquisite, action-packed seasons.
GENERATION WAR (ZDF)
Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter, or Generation War sparked more than a sprinkling of controversy on its release. Some criticised Philip Kadelbach’s epic drama for not focusing enough on the atrocities at the Eastern Front, while others pointed to oversimplified narrative paths, particularly in the final episode. But these criticisms, while all fair in their own right, ignore the sheer power and bravery of Generation War in the landscape of Wartime drama. Kadelbach’s three-part series opened up an important debate on the power and influence of political ideology. Generation War posed two simple questions that remain extremely difficult to answer: How did an intelligent and cultured society fall for the lure of Nazism? And why did some reject and stand up against this ideology, risking their own lives, while others accepted it without question? It may not provide all the answers, but Generation War remains an urgent and important exploration of a deep European wound.
WORLD ON FIRE (BBC)
Some TV dramas never received the praise they deserved on release, and World on Fire was one of those tv gems. Broadcast in 2019, Peter Bowker’s BBC Second World War drama is a stunning and urgent exploration of the gradual descent into European and then World conflict. By weaving together multiple stories from across Europe as the abject horror of war took hold, World on Fire immerses its audience in individual choices, decisions, bravery and resilience against a rising tide of hate, political control, fascism and orchestrated murder. World on Fire aimed to give voice to the ordinary people who found their lives transformed by an impending and unavoidable War as a rising tide of politically fed hate swept across Europe. A second series is now on the way following a pause due to COVID-19, and one can only hope the long gap doesn’t put people off returning to this stunning, timely and urgent drama. World on Fire is a warning from history we should heed.
Box Set Binge
EERIE INDIANA (ABC)
Eerie Indiana’s legendary status was born over a mere 19 episodes. By lacing together enthralling science fiction, fun fantasy and classic monster horror, Eerie pays homage to Tales from the Crypt and The Twilight Zone. Here each gloriously dark and delicious tale is set in a world of weirdness and wonder created by Jose Rivera, Karl Schaefer, and the indomitable Joe Dante. The result is one of the shortest-lived but most innovative children’s TV shows ever made.
DOCTOR WHO (BBC)
Few TV shows hold the legendary status of Doctor Who. Not only is this BBC science fiction show the longest-running sci-fi series in TV history, but it is also, without a doubt, the most unique. Doctor Who’s strength lies in its ability to appeal to different audiences at different times, reinventing itself for each new generation through every new regeneration. From its humble tea-time beginnings Doctor Who has become an institution in its own right and the face of British science fiction across the globe.
AMERICAN HORROR STORY (FX)
Long before the MCU claimed to have invented the cinematic universe, Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was building a bloody universe all of its own. American Horror Story would transform horror on TV in the same way Game of Thrones transformed medieval fantasy. Unlike its brutal fantasy friend on HBO, every season of American Horror Story was a standalone story with a beginning, middle and end wrapped in a genre-defining theme from horror history. But in reality, each of these seasons was interlinked, not just through a fantastic ensemble of returning actors, but through timelines, places and people. Murphy’s horror universe was big, bold and other-worldly. While embracing the history of horror, Murphy also rejected and reworked the horror template of the monster, the serial killer, the witch, the alien and the vampire. He asked us to empathise with the exact figures we had been taught to fear and fear the people we had been taught to trust. Murphy’s horror world was unlike anything we had seen in its beauty, complexity, humour and scale, and it remains a tapestry of bloody brilliant terror.
Box Set Binge
STRANGER THINGS (NETFLIX)
Since the streaming giant’s launch, what has made Stranger Things one of the most loved and successful Netflix shows? Is it the mosaic of nostalgia carefully tied to every strand of the Stranger Things world? Or the Stephen King-like story of a small American town plunged into darkness with the local kids placed in peril? It’s all of these and more. In building Hawkins and the characters at the heart of Stranger Things, the Duffer brothers looked back on their own childhood and teenage years. The brothers would take elements of everything that inspired them as kids, stitching together a web of science fiction, nostalgia, king-inspired horror and pop culture. The result was the resuscitation of a TV format that failed to ignite in Eerie Indiana decades before; science fiction horror built on nostalgia. Unlike the 50s nostalgia present in Eerie, Stranger Things was firmly rooted in the 80s as it encouraged new generations to bathe in a neon glow of walkmans, synth-pop and Speilbergesqe imagination. In the Duffer brother’s world, the kid’s only weapons were their bikes, and their only communication was a landline and walkie-talkie. It would appear that this was also comforting for Generation Z, who lapped up the Duffer brother’s 80s dream.
GRANGE HILL (BBC)
We don’t talk about the BBC classic Grange Hill enough. Phil Redmond’s Grange Hill didn’t just reinvent the classic Children’s tea-time drama; it joyously tore up the rule book as it delivered fun, gritty and bold TV drama that understood the kids it was talking to. Until Grange Hill, the comprehensive state school had been kept silent on TV, with working-class kids rarely seen unless they were committing a crime in a police drama. The school gates of Grange Hill opened in 1978 and remained open for 30 years as each new generation of kids explored hard-hitting themes of abuse, addiction, teenage pregnancy, HIV, cancer and grooming to name a few. But while Grange Hill dared to challenge its young and older audience with big social themes, it never lost sight of the fun, humour and joy of the playground too. Watching Grange Hill now is a revelation as you realise just how cutting-edge this kid’s drama was and still is in the landscape of children’s TV.
BREAKING BAD (AMC)
If Oz gave birth to a new gritty drama format on HBO, Breaking Bad changed how we viewed TV forever. Launched on cable TV in the USA in 2008 to rave reviews, Breaking Bad struggled to find an audience. But with the arrival of Netflix, Breaking Bad was about to go stratospheric and usher in a new dawn of TV, the binge watch. From a mere million viewers on its premiere to over ten million on its finale, Breaking Bad embraced the classic cliffhanger while Netflix allowed you to spend all day watching it. It was a marriage made in heaven and one that changed TV forever.
COLUMBO (NBC / ABC)
Television series have long captivated audiences with intriguing storylines and unforgettable characters. One such iconic show that has left an indelible mark on the detective genre is “Columbo.” Premiering in 1968, this beloved series, created by Richard Levinson and William Link, featured the unassuming yet astute Lieutenant Columbo, brilliantly portrayed by Peter Falk. With its distinctive formula and a unique protagonist, Columbo has etched its place in television history as one of the most influential and enduring detective series of the 20th Century. Unlike traditional detective shows, Columbo made the bold move of revealing the identity of the murderer right from the start, allowing the viewer to enter a game of cat and mouse as Columbo slowly but surely tripped up the killer. The result is a show that is near to perfection, as you can get taking us from 1968 to 2003.
KILLING EVE (BBC)
Killing Eve is a masterclass in storytelling as it beautifully builds its suspense through dark comedy and violence. The cat-and-mouse relationship between Eve and Villanelle is a dance of manipulation, with each character constantly testing the other’s limits as the show skillfully balances intrigue with the darkest humour. Premiering in 2018 and created by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Killing Eve is a truly groundbreaking exploration of obsession, identity, and the blurred lines between good and evil. With exquisite performances from Sandra Oh and Jody Comer, Killing Eve would boldly challenge gender roles and stereotypes, presenting us with complex and empowered female characters who shine from the opening scene to the very last.
SLOW HORSES (APPLE TV +)
Based on Mick Herron’s novels and adapted by Will Smith (The Thick of It), Slow Horses humour, gritty London streets and electric performances hit all the right notes in all the right places. River Cartwright is a promising MI5 recruit from a family of spy royalty. However, following an unfortunate training exercise, River has found himself banished to the arse hole of MI5′ Slough House.’ There River is joined by a troupe of failed spies, including the spikey 70s throwback Jackson Lamb. Apple TV and See-Saw assembled a stellar cast, from Lowden to Oldman to Jonathan Pryce, Freddie Fox, Kristin Scott-Thomas and Rosalind Eleazar. But the true genius of this incredibly satisfying spy romp is held within Will Smith’s adaptation of Herron’s work.