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The Marvelous Mrs Maisel

The Marvelous Mrs Maisel

Cobra Kai

Cobra Kai

Questionable characters in Succession

Questionable characters in Succession

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The Marvelous Mrs Maisel

We're all spending more time at home, so Adam Hyland suggests some of the best streaming TV shows to feast on.

The Fall

Netflix and Amazon Prime, three series

This was one of the most compelling pieces of TV when it first aired in 2013, and it's well worth going back to, or starting if you missed it the first time around. Gillian Anderson plays the detective seconded to the PSNI to try to capture a serial killer played by Jamie Dornan, who has so far eluded police capture and continues to murder women in and around Belfast.

It's great drama and creepy throughout, with complex storylines and an intriguing building relationship between killer and pursuer. It was a brave step to reveal the killer's identity early on, with the focus not on the who, but the why and how, as Dornan's character goes about his successful professional family life by day, while committing horrific crimes after dark.

Away

Netflix, one series

Hilary Swank leads an international cast as the chief astronaut on the first crewed mission to Mars in this sci-fi drama that leaps between the action on board the spaceship and the down-to-earth family drama involving their loved ones taking place back on our home planet. With each crew member on the three-year expedition having any number of issues to deal with regarding their personal lives back home, there's enough drama to keep you interested throughout, and that's before we get to the problems of crew discontent, dangerous technical crises and the struggle to maintain mental fortitude on such a long and perilous journey.

The Mandalorian

Disney+, two series

Star Wars fans waited in nervous anticipation for this web series that first aired in 2019. Would it herald a return to form or go the way of the second trilogy? Thankfully, this first live action series from Jon Favreau turned out to be surprisingly good, with bounty hunter Pedro Pascal wandering beyond the reaches of the New Republic five years after the events of The Return of the Jedi, with a Yoda-like infant in tow. The second series is out now, so fans of a galaxy far, far away can sit back and enjoy a host of new cameos and knowing nods to the original space saga.

Succession

Amazon Prime and NOWTV, two series

Jesse Armstrong made his name with Peep Show, and has continued his depiction of questionable characters with the hugely popular Succession, a satirical look at an impossibly rich family who run a global media and entertainment company.

The premise is that company founder and family patriarch Logan Roy's health is failing, with the dysfunctional family struggling to keep the business running and their own position within the corporation safe, and while this could play out as just another business drama, it is so much more enjoyable than that.

The fact that every single character is deeply unlikeable makes this a fantastic satire on modern business and media, as well as a chance to laugh at stupid people in way over their heads.

Criminal UK

Netflix, two series

The best scenes in Line of Duty are those set in the interrogation room, and fans of that internal affairs crime drama will love Criminal UK. With almost the entire scenario based in that same setting, the building tension as determined police try to outwit suspects through incisive questioning leads to nail-biting drama and shocking twists.

It was a brave move from Netflix to produce a first series consisting of 12 episodes across four countries (France, Spain, Germany and the UK), with three in each language, but this mental game of cat and mouse works very well. Big name stars such as David Tennant and Hayley Atwell in the first series were joined by the likes of Kit Harington and The Big Bang Theory's Kunal Nayyar (really) in the second four-episode series, with all of their characters put through their paces as they try not to slip up and give themselves away. It's like a boiled down battle of wits you might see if Columbo or Poirot got into the interrogation room, but with the added 'for the benefit of the tape' motifs thrown in for good measure.

Better Call Saul

Netflix, five seasons

Spin-offs don't always work, but following on from the excellent Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul is one that clearly has, thanks mainly to its excellent script and acting. The criminal lawyer who was introduced in the second series of the meth-making saga was only intended to appear in three episodes, but proved to be very popular and became a mainstay until its end, before becoming the central player in his own series.

It goes back to the start to show how decent, well-meaning lawyer James McGill slowly loses his morals as he faces life's many challenges, to become the shady Saul Goodman. There are some who would argue that Better Call Saul is superior to Breaking Bad in terms of its gripping drama. Dive in and see if you agree.

Cobra Kai

Netflix, three series

Nothing beats a bit of nostalgia viewing, and with Cobra Kai, we get a return to the rivalry between The Karate Kid's Danny Larusso and his bully Johnny "sweep the leg" Lawrence.

Set 34 years after the one pupil of Mr Miyagi overcame all odds to defeat Cobra Kai's most vicious star at the All Valley Karate Tournament, we find Johnny now down at heels, with nothing to reflect on but his glory days as a teenager.

In contrast to Danny's position as a successful businessman, Johnny's attempts to turn his life around spurs his reopening the Cobra Kai karate school, rekindling that rivalry. With drama and comedy intertwined, this brings back all those memories of trying out that crane manoeuvre, but the best thing about this series is that we are left very unsure who the good guy is anymore.

Inside No 9

BBC iPlayer, five seasons

In years to come, people will look back on this programme in the same way we now look at Dickens or Oscar Wilde. It is the best-written show of the last decade.

Every episode is completely standalone, with different casts, so you can pick any one of them to get started, but the first series is a nice introduction to what you can expect - which really is anything.

The episodes range from slapstick comedy to horror, and in recent seasons have produced some of the most moving pieces of half-hour drama you will ever see, and almost all of them have an innovative twist you won't see coming.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Amazon, three series

A comedy drama about a family of New York Jewish intellectuals in 1950 and 1960s America may not seem like the obvious viewing choice, but diving into this multi-award-winning series is an easily enjoyable way to while away the hours. Rachel Brosnahan excels as the smart, young wife and mother of two whose husband suddenly leaves her, and with no clue what to do next, finds herself starting a burgeoning career as a stand-up comedian. While dealing with issues of race and religion throughout, it never gets preachy, and the dialogue remains witty and sharp through each of the first three series, with a fourth reportedly on the way.

Black Mirror

Netflix, five seasons

Charlie Brooker's sharply observed series of standalone dystopian sci-fi dramas is mostly focused on our relationship with technology and the ways in which it affects society, usually for the worse.

With stories that are sometimes funny, sometimes frightening, but almost always bleak in their twist, characters are beset by theoretical problems around the technology we use today, or that of a near future.

Brooker himself describes the series as a look at "the way we live now, and the way we might be living in 10 minutes time if we're clumsy," and that's the best thing about this show - the troubling situations are not so very far from how we treat tech in our everyday lives now.

Starting off as a cult programme on Channel 4, by series three it moved to Netflix and attracted bigger names, but the quality remains very high.

The Knick

NOWTV, two series

Clive Owen hams it up as a groundbreaking surgeon in this engrossing two-series period medical drama set in New York's Knickerbocker Hospital during the early years of the 20th century.

Amidst the usual hospital politics and relationship dramas, it takes a sometimes gory look at the new surgical techniques that started to come into practice to replace outdated procedures during a time of medical enlightenment, with the best bits depicting how much trial and error was involved -sometimes with horrific results - as well as the casual misunderstanding of the effects of new drugs such as cocaine and heroin. Bono's daughter Eve Hewson also stars as a naive nurse who learns how to get ahead through any means necessary.

GLOW

Netflix, three seasons

If you're up for a bit of 1980s nostalgia and loved the WWF wrestling when you were younger, this is for you.

Based around the real-life Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (aka GLOW) group formed to promote women's wrestling on telly (but with fictional characters), it's a fun comedy drama that pokes a sly thumb in the eye of all the familiar motifs within the ring.

The group of out-of-work actresses, sisters of male wrestlers and oddballs who couldn't work anywhere else make for very fun and watchable TV.

It's funny, but covers some serious subjects along the way, and while the drama of each character's lives plays out, GLOW happily reveals the secrets behind how to make wrestling look good, and isn't afraid to go over the top to show just how ridiculous it is as a sporting entertainment.

Chernobyl

NOWTV, one series

If you missed this enthralling five-part series when it was on Sky in 2019 watching it now is highly recommended.

Covering the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, this dramatisation of real events slowly plays out to reveal the horrific lack of safety, government cover-ups and devastating effect of one of the worst nuclear disasters the world has ever seen.

An ensemble cast shows the impact on every level of a crumbling Soviet society, from the firefighters who were first on the scene up to the politicians desperate to keep the scale of the disaster under wraps.

It's gripping, if not exactly pleasant, viewing.

Deadwood

NOWTV, three seasons

It's been off our screens for some time now, but this meandering Western drama is still one of the best shows to have aired this century, and is well worth binge-watching.

Over 36 episodes, it covers the transformation of a muddy camp into the town of Deadwood, South Dakota, and is full of memorable characters, some based on real people.

The script is incredible, serving up high drama, humour and insightful characterisation, all while having probably more uses of profanities than any other programme in living memory, especially from show-stealing Ian McShane as bar and brothel owner Al Swearengen - you'll forget he ever played Lovejoy. After huge online appeals, a recent feature-length finale brought closure to the story that was abruptly ended back in 2006 - watch it after the last series.

The Terror

Amazon Prime, two seasons

Based on Captain Sir John Franklin's lost expedition to the Arctic in 1845, this gripping thriller starts out as a "battle against the elements" drama as the doomed crew fights to make its way off their ice-locked boats and across the frozen wastelands, but soon becomes much more than that. Within a stunning, otherworldly setting, the men are picked off one by one by an unseen foe, until things take a supernatural turn and the horror begins. Season 2 brings a completely new story about Japanese prisoners of war, but the same supernatural terror is ever-present, making this an enjoyably scary piece of TV.

Fargo

Netflix, three seasons

Fans of the Coen Brothers classic film may have shuddered when news of a TV spin-off of Fargo was announced, but they needn't have worried. This is exceptional.

The Coens are executive producers, staying well away from writing and directing, but their dark sense of humour and intelligent drama is evident throughout each of these three seasons. The first sees a mild-mannered Martin Freeman and vicious killer Billy Bob Thornton play out a violent game full of twists and turns in a moody and tense drama.

A new cast including Ted Danson, Kirsten Dunst and Patrick Wilson comes in for season two, which serves as a prequel, and season three wraps things up nicely with the funny but tense story of twin brothers Emmit and Ray, both played by Ewan McGregor. Watch the film version either before or straight after the TV show and enjoy the added depth to the lore behind the "true" story.

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Belfast Telegraph


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