This is one for the middle-aged men in your life. Or for those who like watching middle-aged men slowly realise the oblivion that is their future. Who doesn’t like that? As Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon go on a tour of the North’s most expensive restaurants, it’s not quite clear whether they’re playing or parodying themselves. And therein lies the joy.
>Available to buy here
The Affair (series one)
This isn’t one for a family or friend who’s feeling paranoid, but series one of this Sky drama is the perfect box set for anyone who loves compelling drama about people making terrible but human decisions. Ruth Wilson and Dominic West star as Alison and Noah, both married to other people, who meet each other in a diner and BAM! They’re obsessed. But the course of true love never did run smooth. In this case, the course is so bumpy you’ll feel nauseous…
>Available to buy here
What happens when people think they’ve got away with a terrible crime, but the past catches up with them forty years later? It’s a topical theme brilliantly and beautifully explored in Chris Lang’s subtle ITV drama. Last Tango in Halifax’s Nicola Walker runs the show and stars alongside a pretty amazing cast of Sanjeev Bhaskar, Trevor Eve, Ruth Sheen, Tom Courtenay, Gemma Jones and many more. One of the best dramas of the year.
This drama will fascinate both the luddites and technophiles in your life. It begins with a scene that most families would dream about, as a couple buy a synthetic human, or ‘synth’, to help around the house. No more sweeping! No more washing up! But it turns out that having robots living with humans might not be the best idea. Part Stepford Wives, part Black Mirror, this is intriguing stuff.
My Mad Fat Diary (series 1-2)
Teen dramas are often full of glossy, rich models, but it’s good to have a dose of reality now and then. Sure, we all need escapism but this witty and moving series, starring Sharon Rooney, follows the life of Rae as she copes with body image issues, mental health problems and a complex family. Good for all humans, but especially any young adults who could benefit from a non-conformist role model…
True Detective (series 1)
Even if you don’t like Bourbon or cigarettes, this will make you want to like them. It’ll also make you fantasise about sitting in a gloomy bar in the American deep south and self-destruct like the world is ending. All day. Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey are mesmerising as two anti-hero detectives trying to solve a murder. It’s all so dark, gritty and beautiful that you may well watch the whole lot in one sitting. Before nipping to the newsagents for a bottle of Bourbon.
Henry VIII is everyone’s favourite Tudor. Ok, he wasn’t the most forgiving husband what with all the death sentences, but he did have a magnetic quality that still has us very much attracted to him today. In this subtle yet gripping adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s novel, Damian Lewis plays the tyrant beautifully. But it’s really Mark Rylance who has TV lovers hooked on this series, as he plays a quietly pragmatic, flawed and exquisite Thomas Cromwell.
If you haven’t watched this cult US show about narcotics, politics, crime and education in Baltimore, you’re probably fed up with people saying, “you have to watch it, it’s incredible.” So instead of buying this for yourself, just get it for someone else and then watch it with them….before telling all your friends how incredible it is. By the end of the series you’ll feel you know Baltimore better than Britain.
Unless you’ve been living in a Cornish mine, you know the score with this one. Aiden Turner. Scything. Cornwall. 18th Century. Eleanor Tomlinson. Lots and lots of lust, drama and injustice. Why would anyone not want to watch this?
The ideal show for anyone who complains about how eccentric their family is. Because Caitlin and Caroline Moran’s sitcom is about a loving, hilarious brood who are also really quite unusual. The show smashed taboos every week when it first aired — and the destruction was a joy to witness. It’s also about the universal, tricky experience of being a teenager. And a female one at that.
> Available here
Peep Show (series 1-7)
The perfect TV present for the masochists in your life. The agony of watching Mark, Jez and Super Hans navigate awkward situations is addictive and glorious. And part of that joy comes from the fact that we all recognise ourselves in the characters. So as the glorious show enters its final ever series, this is a perfect present for anyone who loves watching TV that makes them laugh — and also want to die inside.
> Available here
Mad Men (all 7 series)
The show that made Brits frantically book holidays to New York ended this year in a finale that divided its fans. You’d be doing the recipient of this box set a huge favour by giving them full access to a whole seven series of shiny-haired Don Draper and his world of advertising, women and deeply flawed humanity. Warning: like True Detective, this will make you want to smoke. Inside. In a suit.
>The entire collection is available here
Breaking Bad (the complete series)
If you give this to a friend or relative for Christmas, expect not to see them for a good week or two until they’ve binge-watched their way through the entire series. It follows the fortunes of high school chemistry teacher, Walter White (Bryan Cranston), who has extremely questionable morals…Jet-black humour pervades this addictive drama, which deals with the brutal reality of gangsters, drug users and ill-fated gangsters. It’s got RadioTimes.com’s digital heart beating a little faster just thinking about it…