Bank holiday binge: the TV box sets you can start and finish this weekend

From Downton Abbey and Sherlock to Outlander and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, with some careful planning (and lots of snacks) you can watch an entire series this August bank holiday weekend

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Hurrah! It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for: the August bank holiday weekend. For most of us, that means three lovely, long days off work. The stuff dreams are made of.

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So what to do with all these empty hours? It might not be guaranteed BBQ weather, but it is the perfect opportunity to catch up on some telly. You know those shows you’ve been meaning to watch for months, but have never found the time? With some careful planning, you can tick them off your telly to-do list this weekend… 


Downton Abbey

The hit period drama has reigned supreme on Sunday nights since 2011, but is set to call it a day after six spectacular seasons. Whether you’re a Downton virgin who wants to be up-to-date before the final series airs next month, or a superfan mourning the end of an era, this bank holiday offers the perfect pause to immerse yourself in the Crawleys’ lives, loves and upper-class dramas.  

How do I do it? 

This binge isn’t for the faint hearted. You’ve got five series plus four feature-length Christmas specials to get through. That’s 43 episodes in total, but we believe in you. Don’t be defeatist. It’s terribly middle class. 

Saturday: Season 1. Season 2 = 13 hours and 40 minutes of TV. 

Sunday: 2011 Christmas special. Season 3. 2012 Christmas special. Season 4 episodes 1 – 4 = 13 hours and 45 minutes of TV (allowing for 10 minutes recovery before season 4)

Bank holiday Monday: Season 4 episodes 5 – 8. 2013 Christmas special. Season 5. 2014 Christmas special = 13 hours and 40 minutes of TV. Easy!

What should I snack on?

Cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off, scones and Earl Grey tea. 

Where can I watch it?

Seasons 1-5 are available on blinkbox and iTunes. Seasons 1-4 are on Amazon Prime Instant Video. 


Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Tina Fey’s new comedy dropped on Netflix earlier this year, but if you haven’t had a chance to meet former Indiana Mole Woman Kimmy, this weekend is your opportunity. Fey’s latest funny foray follows a young woman (Ellie Kemper) who has spent the last 15 years living underground as part of an apocalypse cult. When she is found and freed from her captor, she moves to New York to try and make a life for herself in the big city.

It’s silly and surreal, but really very funny. Plus it features some surprising cameos. 

How do I do it? 

With ease. There are only 13 episodes, and they are each only about 25 minutes long. That’s just 5 hours and 25 minutes of binging. Watch four episodes a day (and five on one of them), or the whole thing in one day. Or, if you really, really like it, the whole thing once a day for three days. Enjoy. 

What should I snack on? 

Pick ‘n’ mix sweets. 

Where can I watch it? 

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is available on Netflix.


Outlander

Like period drama? Romance? Sci-fi, time travel and things that are inspired by Doctor Who? Who doesn’t, eh? One of Amazon’s latest offerings Outlander caters to all types of TV fans. The drama, which has already been a huge success in the US, is based on Diana Gabbaldon’s best-selling novels and follows Claire (Caitriona Balfe), a married nurse who falls through time from 1945, and Jamie, a highlander she meets in the 1740s.

Expect high drama, impressive Scottish scenery and a fair amount of exposed flesh. 

How do I do it? 

We’d recommend watching episodes 1-5 on Saturday, 6-10 on Sunday and 11-16 on Monday. Each episode is around an hour long so if you’re organised, you’ll even have time to see people, drink cider, attempt to cook sausages and do other things people do on bank holidays. Couldn’t work any better, really. 

What should I snack on?

Scottish shortbread, hearty broth and whisky. 

Where can I watch it? 

Outlander season 1 is available now on Amazon Prime.


Game of Thrones

Hit HBO fantasy drama Game of Thrones has been around for five years now, and shows no signs of slowing down. Series five aired earlier this year on Sky Atlantic, so if you haven’t watched it yet (where have you been?), do it now. It’s the ideal time to get up to speed on Dorne and dragons.

How do I do it? 

Five seasons might seem like a lot, and that’s because it is. We are talking 10 episodes a run here and they are an hour long. We reckon it’s still manageable though – but only if you’re dedicated. 

Our verdict? Start on the Friday evening. And treat this like your 9 to 5. Take a lunch hour, a couple of tea breaks (when things get upsetting) and stop for a short pause in the evening to socialise with fellow humans. But pull those socks up, keep your head down and keep watching. 

To achieve this you’ve got to watch five episodes on Friday night and then average 15 on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. You’ll be up to date in no (read: three days) time. 

What should I snack on? 

You won’t always have a healthy appetite, but when you do, lemon cake, grapes and goblets of red wine. 

Where can I watch it? 

Seasons 1 – 5 are available on blinkbox, Amazon and iTunes. 


Sherlock

When isn’t it a good time to reacquaint yourself with Sherlock and John? So much time seems to pass between new episodes that we could easily find ourselves forgetting just why we love them so much. 

How do I do it? 

There have actually only been nine (90-minute) episodes of the hit detective drama so this is a more than manageable binge. We don’t know why you don’t do it more often, really. If it were us (and it most probably will be) we’d spread out the joy, a season (re: four and a half hours) a day, for a Sherlock-tastic break. 

Saturday: A Study in Pink, The Blind Banker and The Great Game

Sunday: A Scandal in Belgravia, The Hounds of Baskerville and The Reichenbach Fall 

Monday: The Empty Hearse, The Sign of Three and His Last Vow 

What should I snack on? 

Tea, biscuits and bacon sandwiches from your local Speedy’s. 

Where can I watch it? 

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Seasons 1 and 2 are available on Netflix. 1-3 are available on blinkbox, iTunes and Amazon.