Iron thrones, zombies and family drama; these are the shows you'll wish never ended.
Though you'll sometimes pay a little more for the privilege to watch them, Foxtel Now is the current keeper of some of the greatest TV shows ever made. Drama, comedy, horror, romance – no matter what your favourite flavour is, there are hours and hours of entertainment here to greedily consume. So let's stop with the preamble and dig into the crème de le crème of binge material...
1. Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists
Rotten Tomatoes score: 88%
Cast: Sasha Pieterse, Janel Parrish, Sofia Carson, Sydney Park, Eli Brown
Set a few years after Pretty Little Liars, The Perfectionists revolves around three college friends who struggle with the stress of being overachievers in the picturesque town of Beacon Heights. Meanwhile, Alison DiLaurentis and Mona Vanderwaal have relocated to Beacon Heights for a fresh start with their careers and families. Too bad that a murder occurs, which puts everyone on edge. The seemingly perfect town may not be so perfect after all.
Glossy and soapy, The Perfectionists is darker than its predecessor, but equally addictive. Whether you’re a veteran fan or a newbie, you’ll find plenty to love in this twisty universe.
2. Better Things
Rotten Tomatoes score: 97%
Cast: Pamela Adlon, Mikey Madison, Hannah Alligood, Olivia Edward, Celia Imrie
Hilarious, yet often bittersweet, Better Things is all about the highs and lows of being a single mother. The show follows Sam Fox, an actor who is raising three daughters and also caring for her mother, who has questionable mental faculties. Sam is just trying to earn a living and survive her family, while also hopefully enjoying some private time every now and then.
Although a comedy, the series doesn’t shy away from tough issues. Quite the contrary. At its core a show about ‘having it all,’ Better Things manages to come across as memorable and original, with a perfectly cast Pamela Adlon in the lead role. If you were looking for a refreshing and insightful sitcom, you’re in the right place.
3. High Maintenance
Rotten Tomatoes score: 97%
Cast: Ben Sinclair, Jemima Kirke, Margaret Cho
High Maintenance follows a weed dealer who gets to interact with a whole lot of people as he delivers his goods via bicycle to stressed-out clients across New York. His job allows him to get a glimpse at his clients’ daily routines, allowing viewers to explore the existences of intriguing, colorful individuals from all walks of life.
Bittersweet and insightful, this HBO show gets better with each episode. A comedy of human interaction, High Maintenance is the perfect binge for a lazy afternoon when you want something both funny and thought-provoking. The seasons are short, so there’s no risk you’ll overdose.
4. The Walking Dead
Rotten Tomatoes score: 80%
Cast: Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Melissa McBride, Lauren Cohan, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Steven Yeun
A bonafide hit, The Walking Dead follows a group of survivors are they navigate life during a zombie apocalypse. Not only do they have to stay safe from the walkers that roam the country, but also from other communities, each with their own sets of laws and morals.
For long-time fans, The Walking Dead feels more alive than ever, despite occasional stumbles in the past. With Lincoln leaving the show in Season 9, it will be interesting to see how conflicts progress from now on. One thing’s for sure: the riveting pace and compelling characters that made the show so popular will keep us coming back for more. If you haven’t watched it yet, what are you waiting for?
Rotten Tomatoes score: 90%
Cast: Idris Elba, Ruth Wilson, Steven Mackintosh, Indira Varma, Paul McGann
A British drama, Luther follows a flawed, but dedicated detective who ends up having more in common with the criminals he hunts than he would like to think. Obsessive and sometimes violent, Luther struggles not to get consumed by the dark cases he investigates, which is rarely an easy feat.
A captivating crime series, Luther offers a powerhouse performance by Idris Elba. Dark and intense, the show is beautifully shot and highly addictive, which puts its above your average murder-mystery. It’s very binge-worthy, to say the least.
6. Future Man
Rotten Tomatoes score: 91%
Cast: Josh Hutcherson, Glenne Headly, Eliza Coupe, Ed Begley Jr., Derek Wilson, Haley Joel Osment
This bonkers Hulu original centers on janitor Josh Futturman, who leads a pretty boring life, mainly playing video games. Things change, however, when he beats a difficult game and mysterious visitors from the future appear, putting the world in danger. As expected, Josh is the only one who can stop them. He sets out to assemble a team ready to travel with him through time and engage in various missions.
The show is highly entertaining, offering plenty of surprises and even more laughs. It often veers into ridiculous territory, which makes it even more of a treat. If you’re looking for a welcome distraction to keep you busy for hours on end, look no more.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 86%
Cast: Brian Cox, Kieran Culkin, Hiam Abbass, Nicholas Braun
This clever HBO show follows the Roy family, who controls one of the biggest media and entertainment conglomerates in the world. When the head of the family announces on his 80th birthday that he has no intention to step down as CEO, his heirs are caught by surprise and struggle to gain as much power within the company as they can, hoping they will be able to come out on top when the time is right.
This is a series about rich people behaving badly, which is never boring to watch. These people would not make for great friends in real life, but they’re extremely fun to watch on TV. Sharp and exciting, Succession draws you in from episode one, promising a thrilling ride. Thankfully, it delivers.
8. A Discovery of Witches
Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%
Cast: Matthew Goode, Teresa Palmer, Valarie Pettiford, Valarie Pettiford, Malin Buska
Based on the All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness, A Discovery of Witches follows a witch who starts working with a vampire in order to discover the secrets hidden in an ancient manuscript. Despite a long-held mistrust between witches and vampires, the two develop a strong bond as they struggle to dodge multiple threats coming from the creature world.
Creepy and fun, A Discovery of Witches has an amazing cast and a plot that will keep viewers on the edge of the seat. As long as you’re willing to suspend disbelief, you’ll have a great time binge-watching this one. Plus, Goode and Palmer have great chemistry, so get ready to furiously ship them from the first time they share the screen.
9. My Brilliant Friend
Rotten Tomatoes score: 94%
Cast: Gaia Girace, Margherita Mazzucco, Anna Rita Vitolo, Luca Gallone
An adaptation of the first of four novels in the Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend is an Italian-American miniseries that chronicles the friendship between two young girls in the ‘50s, a friendship that will eventually span more than 60 years.
Brilliantly produced and perfectly cast, the series perfectly captures the complex relationship between the girls - it’s intimate and educative, but can also get complicated and competitive at times. My Brilliant Friend is an exquisite adaptation, one that manages to completely immerse the viewer in the narrative. Needless to say, the show raises to the high bar set by the enchanting novels that serve as source material.
10. Castle Rock
Rotten Tomatoes score: 86%
Cast: André Holland, Melanie Lynskey, Bill Skarsgård, Jane Levy, and Sissy Spacek
Set in the Stephen King multiverse, Castle Rock is a psychological-horror series that intertwines characters and themes from the fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine. It all starts when an anonymous phone call lures death-row lawyer Henry Deaver back to his hometown, where a Kid has been found locked in an underground cage at Shawshank State Penitentiary.
Recommended for both King fans and newbies, Castle Rock is brimming with supernatural secrets waiting to be uncovered, which makes for a particularly entertaining binge. Gorgeously shot and suspenseful, the show has a stellar cast and immediately pulls in viewers as its shapes its complex and mysterious universe. As a bonus, the show offers plenty of Easter Eggs any King enthusiast will appreciate.
11. True Detective
Rotten Tomatoes score: 74%
Cast: Vince Vaughn, Colin Farrell, Matthew McConaughey
Real talk before we begin: watch and love the first season of True Detective, more or less ignore the second, which is a complete departure in terms of setting, characters and writing quality. Admittedly, the follow-up isn't as bad as the widespread panning would have you believe, but it's a total downshift compared to the existential buddy-cop pairing of Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson), two Louisianan homicide detectives on the trail of a murder mystery that spans 17 years.
Hart is a play-it-loose Texan good ol' boy who has fatherhood and marital problems aplenty. Cohle is a brooding professional with a dark past and an even darker outlook on the human race (his pessimistic monologues are real standouts). This mismatched duo starts their partnership with a befuddling investigation centred on the gruesome, ritualistic killing of a young woman, posed by a tree with deer antlers on her head and accompanied by strange symbols. To make matters worse, when the case isn't adequately closed, and the crime is repeated decades later, our heroes transition from true detectives to possible suspects.
12. The Leftovers
Rotten Tomatoes score: 91%
Cast: Justin Theroux, Amy Brenneman, Carrie Coon
They call it "The Sudden Departure", a global cataclysm where a whopping 140 million people – roughly 2% of us – vanished without a trace. Set three years after this mysterious disaster, the world hasn't been able to move on due to a complete lack of answers. As a result, the small community of Mapleton, NY, is a tinderbox of confusion and anger. A decent subsection of folks have been driven to extreme paranoia or outright madness, conspiracy nuts are having a field day and cult leaders are capitalising on the faith vacuum.
Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) is a police chief up against the wall, desperately trying to prevent a civil war from triggering between the sketchy zealots of "The Guilty Remnant" and the citizenry who just want to forget and move on with their lives. Prepare to become hooked on an ensemble cast, sharply-written characters and just the irresistible lure of getting to the bottom of a confounding event that seemingly cannot be explained by cosmology or philosophy.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 86%
Cast: Ciaran Hinds, Zuleikha Robinson, Kevin Mckidd
While this is one of the early standout successes in HBO's bigger budget programming, it had some behind-the-scenes production issues. Long story short (literally), Rome has an excellent, lavishly-funded first season and then some foolish hand-wringing by the suits caused it to have a truncated second outing, and an abrupt end. Let none of that dissuade you from watching what is a wonderful upstairs-downstairs tale that neatly interweaves the plight of the plebeian soldiery and Roman elite both.
In one thread you have the political machinations of Julius Caesar, a conquering hero who breaks the rules by returning to the capital with his army in tow, and a number of powerful Roman houses who would stop him. In Caesar's rank and file is the focus of the second thread: the unlikely partnership of dour, by-the-book Captain Lucius Vorenus (Kevin McKidd) and the hedonistic and insubordinate Titus Pullo (Ray Stevenson). Well worth a watch, even if you're not a history buff.
14. Game of Thrones
Rotten Tomatoes score: 95%
Cast: Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke
Musical chairs, played to the death – except, plot twist: there's only one chair and everybody playing has a sword. This is the basic elevator pitch for George R. R. Martin's fantasy book series, a sprawling epic that has been well translated to the small screen by the deep-pocketed HBO. The action centres on the land of Westeros, a Kingdom divided into seven fiefs that are a veritable tinderbox for civil war (largely thanks to some iffy decisions made in the previous one fought 17 years ago). That said, and unbeknownst to the many belligerents in the south, beyond a Great Wall monument that borders the arctic region of this continent waits a supernatural threat.
However, the latter is a (literal) glacial problem so you can expect few fantasy elements in the opening seasons. They are primarily about backstabbing medieval politics and the shock offing of major characters in brutal ways. Essentially, none of your favourites is ever truly safe here, and Game of Thrones is all the more riveting because of it.
15. The Sopranos
Rotten Tomatoes score: 95%
Cast: James Gandolfini, Ron Leibman, Lorraine Bracco
Sadly, this show isn't what it first appears to be: a hard-mode version of The Voice that challenges ordinary people to sing pop songs in the highest vocal range. Happily, it is, in fact, a dark drama about Tony Soprano, the patriarch of a mid-level New Jersey crime family who is somewhat obsessed with the ducks that frequent his swimming pool. No wonder Tone seeks therapy to cope with mob and family pressures, not to mention the merciless creep of modernity that's slowly eroding his old-school gangster life.
Addictive as all hell, David Chase's stunningly original drama offers detailed character work and riveting suspense while displaying a flair for both black comedy and unpredictable twists. Throw in powerhouse acting by the show's lead, James Gandolfini, and you've got a TV series that is nothing short of essential viewing.
16. The Wire
Rotten Tomatoes score: 97%
Cast: Dominic West, Sonja Sohn, Wendell Pierce
It's been almost two decades since it first aired, but nobody has beaten David Simon's The Wire and taken away its crown as the best TV show ever made. Though it starts as a police procedural that pits a misfit group of "5-0" against the rat-like cunning of a ruthless drug lord, The Wire expands its scope in subsequent seasons to cover the dysfunction of the wider city of Baltimore. Via some impressive, novel-esque world-building we're made privy to the back alley dealings of many flawed institutions, be it city hall, the unions, schools or the local media to name but a few. The one thing they all have in common: corruption.
What we have here is a sprawling tale and an incredibly memorable cast filled with accomplished actors and bonafide Baltimoreans sourced straight from the mean streets. Take a toe-dip and you'll soon become addicted to a riveting series where almost every character becomes a favourite (despite their questionable morals). Honestly, just typing this synopsis makes me want to rewatch it all over again. For, like, the sixth time.
17. Curb Your Enthusiasm
Rotten Tomatoes score: 93%
Cast: Larry David, Cheryl Hines, Jeff Garlin
Here's a worrying realisation: Larry David, co-creator of Seinfeld, is more or less the real-life version of Jerry's stocky, bespectacled best friend. Costanza, aka "Art Vandelay" aka "Buck Naked" exists, and Curb Your Enthusiasm is basically one big endless summer of George. Each incredibly well-written episode sees our socially-clueless (or often purposefully difficult) protagonist navigate the pretension and uber-politically-correctness of Los Angeles with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer.
No matter where he is or who he's dealing with, Lar' will find a way to get himself into yet another cringe-worthy situation. The worst/best part of this series: the number of times you'll find yourself agreeing with his logic, if not his hilariously heavy-handed approaches. Throw in a slew of playing-themselves cameos from local Hollywood residents – like Ben Stiller, Martin Scorsese, Ted Danson and Michael J. Fox to name but a few – and Curb Your Enthusiasm's nine seasons rival even the mighty Seinfeld for consistent laugh factor.
18. In Treatment
Rotten Tomatoes score: 84%
Cast: Gabriel Byrne, Dane DeHaan, Josh Charles
In Treatment centres on Paul Weston (Gabriel Byrne) a fifty-something psychologist questioning his ability to heal while confronting uneasy truths about his own life in therapy sessions with his patients. Interestingly, the format alternates between sessions where Paul is leading the questioning and other times he's the one in the hot seat, spilling his guts to his own psychotherapist, Gina (Diane West). The latter is a fascinating dynamic that highlights how your average shrink benefits from, or can be handicapped by, their own traumatic life experiences.
Paul is very much a wounded healer. He's seen the worst of life from the inside, and while this grants him incredible empathy and the ability to speak from experience, as your binge-watch continues you'll start to wonder when his past will overwhelm him. Featuring knockout performances and a script that deftly reveals and withholds crucial information, In Treatment becomes hypnotic in no time.
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