Finding a new TV show to binge on is becoming harder and harder; we’ve all lost literal hours of our lives scrolling through Netflix’s ‘recommendations’. Most people are aware of the big hitters of the small screen – we’re talking Game Of Thrones or House Of Cards – but what about the little guys who are a little more under the radar. Below is a small selection of the best that TV has to offer right now, whether on streaming services or as shiny new boxsets.
A perfect marriage of the swashbuckling joy of Pirates Of The Caribbean and the steamy savagery of Spartacus, Black Sails has propelled a cast of relative unknowns to stardom with one of the most passionate fandoms on the internet right now.
Scheming and swordplay go hand in hand as Captain Flint (Toby Stephens) leads a band of warring pirates in and around the port of Nassau. With three seasons now under its belt, the stakes are ever higher and the set pieces some of the most spectacular on the small screen.
The Nazis have won WWII, the US is split in two – the Nazi-occupied east coast and the Japanese-controlled west coast – The Man In The High Castle, based on Philip K Dick’s 1962 novel, chiefly follows the fortunes of Joe Blake (Luke Kleintank) and Juliana Crain (Alexa Davalos) – two people from opposite sides of the country.
The driving force is the mystery of The Man In The High Castle himself and the distribution of a series of videos seemingly showing the ‘truth’ as to what happened during the war, but there’s so much more at play as both characters constantly question who to trust while being held up by an array of wicked antagonists. The worst of which coming in the form of a typically dastardly Burn Gorman as The Marshal, a bounty hunter roaming the no man’s land of the Neutral Zone.
After breaking out in Short Term 12 and showcasing his talents in horror video game Until Dawn, Rami Malek has exploded, going from up and comer to all-out TV star over the course of one 10-episode season of hacker-espionage thriller Mr Robot.
Written and directed by Sam Esmail, Mr Robot tracks Elliott (Malek), a computer programmer who suffers with social anxiety, as he gets caught up in a web of corporate cover-ups. It’s a thriller to the core; somehow making the mundane activity of sitting at a laptop into an edge-of-the-seat rollercoaster ride.
Barely flying under the radar thanks to a new deal with Netflix to air new episodes in the UK on the day after their US release, the Tatiana Maslany-fronted sci-fi drama, in which the Canadian actress plays the four leads and a host of support characters, takes the complex idea of genetic cloning and sculpts it into a mile-a-minute exploration of identity and the self.
It can be dark at times but is balanced by some moments of real brevity from the likes of Alison (Maslany, obvs) and her dim-witted husband Donnie (Kristian Bruun) as their bath-bomb business unwittingly becomes a front for pushing pills. In the midst of its fourth season at the moment, Orphan Black continues to gain in stature and is a prime candidate for a weekend of binge-watching.
The Duplass Brothers are basically at the point where their work operates within its own genre; Togetherness is the epitome of this. Marrying semi-mumblecore dialogue to the Duplass’ unique brand of weird and wonderful low-budget sensibilities, built from early 2000s movies like The Puffy Chair, the HBO dramedy has now sadly been cancelled after a two-season run, but it’s one of the best ways to spend eight hours of your life.
Following husband and wife Brett (Mark Duplass) and Michelle (Melanie Lynskey), and their respective friends overweight aspiring actor Alex (Steve Zissis) and storm-in-a-teacup Tina (Amanda Peet), Togetherness is arguably the most real examination of love and friendship ever portrayed on TV; the Duplasses never shy away from the gritty, dour moments of relationships while all four of the leads give powerhouse performances throughout. It’s a triumph and will be missed.
Transparent’s done more for the transgender community in two short seasons than Hollywood has in the entirety of its existence. But even if you take away any ‘politics’ surrounding a show that champions a pensioner making the transition from male to female for a moment, you find a sweet yet challenging look at issues of not only gender identity, but more prominently, family.
Secrets are revealed and stresses bubble to the surface then explode with spectacular consequences as not only Maura (Jeffrey Tambor) battles with people’s changing perceptions, but also the Hefferman ‘kids’; thirtysomething and utterly flawed, Sarah (Amy Landecker), Josh (Jay Duplass) and Ali (Gaby Hoffmann) are equally compelling as their destructive paths cross, causing chaos around them.