Let’s make one thing perfectly clear to start with. We are enjoying a golden age in quality TV series. Online/on-demand services deserve most of the credit for delivering astonishingly high quality shows with production values equivalent to the best Hollywood studios. But what are the essential 10 must watch series perfect to enjoy on a Sunday evening box-set binge? Here’s a selection of the best shows – some have now concluded, others are still ongoing – all are amazing in their own right.
1) Game Of Thrones (ongoing)
The most successful series in HBO’s history with a truly global following, this groundbreaking drama has also collected dozens of high profile awards for both the creators and actors who bring the world to life. Gaining early notoriety for possessing an unusually dark and brutal storyline that has become famous for taking jaw-dropping, unexpected turns, this is a rare example of a long-running show that effortlessly maintains an unerring consistency.
2) Breaking Bad (completed)
Love him or loathe him, there’s no questioning Walter White being one of the truly fascinating characters in TV history. Over five seasons the White (played by Bryan Cranston) and his partner Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) navigate their way through the murky world of methamphetamine production, with each slowly changing as the story progresses. As close to perfect as TV shows can get.
3) The Office (completed)
The US version of a hit British sitcom ended up lasting nine seasons, with millions of viewers feeling a natural empathy with the poor employees of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. Adopting a similar approach to the classic Cheers by creating relatable and likable characters, those who stick through the first season which really just serves to set the scene will be rewarded with some of the best Tv script writing ever.
4) House Of Cards (ongoing)
Another US reworking of a British original series, Kevin Spacey is perfectly cast (almost too well!) as the aspirational politician who will stop at nothing short of gaining absolute power. Anyone who enjoys their political intrigue and is willing to deal with some incredibly dark themes will find it difficult not to watch a season in a sitting.
5) Narcos (ongoing)
Until Narcos came along few believed that a bi-lingual TV series (English & Spanish) would ever be a rating success. Yet thanks to an incredibly sharp script, perfect production values and a storyline based on historical facts, this series is a truly groundbreaking piece of television. The first two seasons focused the Colombian drug wars, with the next season taking the story into how drug trafficking has ravaged Mexico in more recent years. Hard hitting, often shocking – yet utterly compelling.
6) Black Mirror (ongoing)
Recently taken up by Netflix this series examines extremely challenging topics that largely focus on examining how people interact with technology, communications, and individuality in an electronic world. The episodes are stand-alone in the sense that there’s no running storyline, and this format lends itself well for dipping in and out. The series maintains a very high standard throughout with two or three episodes that will be logged in the history of challenging TV.
7) The Sopranos (completed)
This epic series will inevitably make viewers wonder why on earth they feel sympathetic to a bunch of ruthless mob bosses! The late James Gandolfini plays Tony Soprano, the big boss who struggles to manage his personal family while ruling his professional family with an iron fist. If anyone doubts that mobsters have feelings too then they have to check this out – it’s a bonafide classic.
8) Band Of Brothers (completed)
BoB will be remembered not just for being a tremendous historical drama following the mixed fortunes of a company of US paratroopers in WW2, but for demonstrating that TV could be produced to a Hollywood level of production quality. Each episode is introduced with brief interviews with the surviving soldiers who add a great deal of historical legitimacy to the story. Even people who aren’t interested in war will find this a compelling watch.
9) Boardwalk Empire (completed)
Another example of intelligent TV that presents weighty political and moral dilemmas with a rare level of elegance and style. The plot follows the often dastardly events taking place in Atlantic City during the prohibition era. Loosely based on real-life characters with plotlines involving the likes of Al Capone and other famous mobsters, this is a very deep and multilayered show that truly rewards.
10) Big Bang Theory (ongoing)
This series is widely considered to be a holy text in the world of geek culture – and also happens to be incredibly entertaining for the wider audience too! Sure the characters are zany and sometimes borderline insane, but at heart, this is a sweet series that is almost always heartwarming in the end.