10 box sets everybody’s talking about


he past 18 months have been challenging, but television and box sets have proved the nation’s comfort blanket and, despite the restrictions, production companies have adroitly generated some truly compelling TV, from HBO’s gripping Mare of Easttown, featuring a career-best turn by Kate Winslet, to the exquisitely mounted The White Lotus, featuring appalling rich people behaving very badly in a tropical paradise.

Other gems include HBO’s consistently acerbic (and potty-mouthed) Succession, Disney’s jolly, old-fashioned Only Murders in the Building and the BBC’s super-tense submarine thriller Vigil. Honourable mentions, not listed here, also go to Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy and Jamie Demetriou’s brilliantly unique sitcom Stath Lets Flats on All4.

Here we round up the best shows you may have missed and classic series to binge on…


Sky Atlantic/NOW TV Graeme Hunter

“The man is a self-regarding popinjay…” is one of the more printable insults in Jesse Armstrong’s scintillatingly vicious, hilarious and (very occasionally) moving saga of the filthy rich Roy family, headed up by Brian Cox’s media magnate, a self-proclaimed “beast” who bullies and manipulates his four deeply dysfunctional grown-up children, including his son Kendall (the brilliant Jeremy Strong) and his wily daughter Shiv (Sarah Snook). Watch out for the “boar on the floor” horror scene… Sky Atlantic/NOW TV



Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch and Paul Bettany’s Vision are trapped in a Bewitched-style sitcom in this creepy and poignant examination of grief. The Marvel couple find themselves in a 1960s sitcom, full of white-picket fences and nosy neighbours (including Kathryn Hahn’s shifty housewife), but their peculiar tranquillity is regularly unsettled by outside forces. Emma Caulfield – Anya in Buffy the Vampire Slayer – also stars in this bold, beautiful series from Marvel. Disney+

The White Lotus

Home Box Office

Murray Bartlett excels as Armond, a beleaguered, alcoholic hotel manager, who is tasked with handling a collection of dysfunctional, needy and frequently unpleasant rich Americans at a luxurious resort in Hawaii. The guests include Connie Britton’s brittle CFO, her absurd husband (Steve Zahn), Jack Lacy’s obnoxious real estate agent and Alexandra Daddario’s naïve journalist. There’s a murder here but this is no Death in Paradise, more a tangy satire of spoilt Americans. Sky Atlantic/NOW TV


BBC/World Productions

“How are you in confined spaces?,” smirks Stephen Dillane’s rear admiral to Suranne Jones’s detective, who has been tasked with investigating the murder of a submarine crew member. It means she has to board the actual sub and it turns out she’s not terribly good with “confined spaces”, with very good reason. Jones is as compelling (she’s not afraid to be unsympathetic) as ever in this uber-tense BBC drama, which also stars Paterson Joseph, Rose Leslie, Martin Compston (briefly) and a charismatic Shaun Evans. BBC iPlayer 

Stranger Things


The Duffer brothers’ absurdly enjoyable horror series arguably got Netflix truly up and running back in 2016 (a fourth series is due in 2022) and the first three series are well worth revisiting. Highlights include Matthew Modine’s sinister hair, Joe Keery’s wonderful hair and some standout performances from the likes of Winona Ryder as Joyce, David Harbour as the stoical chief of police Jim Hopper, and Gaten Matarazzo’s adorable nerd, Dustin. It’s scary, witty and full of heart – and full of 1980s film references. Netflix

Mare of Easttown

Home Box Office

An Emmy-winning Kate Winslet is devastatingly good as Mare, a grieving, tough-as-nails small-town cop with a multitude of family issues in this deftly constructed US crime drama. Mare has to handle two cases – a missing girl and a murdered girl – and both cases involve interviewing friends, family and neighbours. Winslet is ably assisted by a stellar cast, including Guy Pearce, Evan Peter and the wonderful Jean Smart as Mare’s foul-mouthed mother. Sky Atlantic/NOW TV

Midnight Mass 


No one mentions the “V-word” in this cerebral vampire drama, in which a charismatic priest (Hamish Linklater) performs a series of miracles on the residents of an isolated island community. Mike Flanagan’s supernatural chiller, which also stars his wife Kate Siegel and Zach Gifford (as an ex-convict), is a slow-burner that is blessed with a truly memorable seventh (and final) episode and a compelling villain in the shape of Samantha Sloyan’s religious fanatic. Netflix 

Only Murders in the Building


Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez are clearly having a blast in this comical take on true crime podcasts. Martin plays an actor whose glory days as a TV cop are long behind him, Short is an over-the-top musical director and Gomez an enigmatic artist. The mismatched trio combine to solve a murder that’s occurred in their affluent hotel block in New York. Nathan Lane and a steely Sting (playing himself) also cameo. Disney+

The Crown

Des Willie/Netflix

The fourth series of this gorgeously choreographed hatchet job/history of our royal family packs the biggest punch of all – and most of it was down to the introduction of Diana, Princess of Wales, played by suitably doe-eyed newcomer Emma Corrin, plus a marvellous performance from Gillian Anderson as Margaret Thatcher. The scenes between Prince Charles and Diana are compelling, but the Balmoral Test episode, where the Thatchers mix awkwardly with the royals on their country estate, is a tour de force. Netflix


Sky Atlantic/NOW TV

Jez Butterworth’s perfectly bonkers historical fantasy drama, set in 43AD, centres on David Morrissey’s psychotic Roman general Aulus Plautius’s plan to conquer Britain and its druids (led by Mackenzie Crook) and tribal chiefs (Zoe Wanamaker and Kelly Reilly) and track down his nemesis, a teenage girl (Eleanor Worthington Cox) who could potentially thwart him. This inventive series is blessed with extremely ripe language, violence and wit, particularly from the likes of Julian Rhind-Tutt. Sky Atlantic/NOW TV

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