84 best TV series to watch on Netflix

From original series like Stranger Things and The Crown to TV favourites such as Doctor Who, Sherlock, Friends and more, check out the all-time best series currently streaming on Netflix

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Netflix is adding new original series and old favourites all the time (and, yes, occasionally taking them away again), so here’s our pick of some of the best television shows on the streaming service right now – from award-winning originals like Stranger Things and The Crown to brilliant buy-ins like Better Call Saul and The Good Place.

No matter what you’re in the mood for, from edgy drama and side-splitting comedy to gripping documentaries and out-of-this-world sci-fi/fantasy, there’s a world of brilliant telly at your fingertips on Netflix UK. You can use secret codes to unearth different genres of TV shows – but to make things easy for you, we’ve brought together some of our favourites below.

And if you’re setting yourself the challenge of watching the best series and box sets of all time, you can see how many you’ve already seen with the top 100 box sets scratch poster. So stop scrolling and start watching!

Updated 6th April 2020

Breaking Bad

Even if you’ve been living under a rock for the last decade, it’s unlikely you haven’t at least heard of Breaking Bad. In a poll we conducted a few years back, Vince Gilligan’s masterpiece was voted the show most people lied about having seen, such is its recognition as one of the best box sets of the modern era – so if you’re one of those people, perhaps it’s about time you did yourself a favour and watch the story unfold.

Following the fortunes of a chemistry teacher, Walter White (played by Bryan Cranston) – who is diagnosed with terminal cancer and decides to “break bad” and embark on a life of crime as a crystal meth drug kingpin alongside one of his former students, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) to provide for his family after his death – this is one of the most fantastically written, directed and executed television dramas you will ever have the fortune to view.

Set against a backdrop of a dusty Albuquerque universe of good, bad and ugly players whose stories twist, turn and evolve over five gripping series, this is a story that makes the viewer question everything until the very end.

Co-starring Anna Gunn, Bob Odenkirk, Dean Norris and Giancarlo Esposito to name but a few, Breaking Bad is as much about the way its incredible cast of characters react to the world around them changing, as it is about Walt and Jesse’s incredible central journey.

Watch this. It’s brilliant. Believe us…

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Criminal

The trend towards suffocating and intense police interview scenes that twist and turn and keep the audience guessing is one that we have seen develop more and more in television over the last decade – from scandi noirs to our very own Line of Duty – it’s undeniably a recipe for a truly gripping detective drama.

Enter Criminal, Netflix’s international anthology series set within the walls of a police interrogation suite, and you immediately have another hit from the same stable.

Perhaps more ambitious and high-concept than many of the shows that have gone before it, the drama takes place across four countries – the UK, Germany, France and Spain – and is made up of 12 individual stories (three episodes per location). Each country’s episodes are shot in its local language, written and directed by native stars –  and with David Tennant and Hayley Atwell featuring in the cast of the UK version, this is a show with an impressive cast as well as an intriguing and very on-trend concept – and one you won’t want to miss if you’re a lover of this genre.

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After Life

After Life (Netflix)
After Life (Netflix)

Ever since The Office exploded onto the scene at the turn of the millennium, completely changing the expectations of viewers in modern comedy, every project that Ricky Gervais has been involved with on the small screen (whether with his Office writing partner Stephen Merchant, or alone) have garnered a huge amount of excitement in the TV comedy world.

Regarded by many as some of Ricky’s finest TV work since Extras, After Life is as you would expect from Gervais a very awkward and at times quite troubling comedy that explores the theme of grief. Following the story of a man called Tony whose life is turned upside down after his wife dies of cancer, we see a man who after contemplating suicide, decides instead to take his misery out on the rest of the world by saying and doing whatever he likes.

It’s a lot funnier than it sounds, and there’s a second season arriving on Netflix later this month.

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Unbelievable

Netflix has begun to build a fearsome reputation as creators of drama content in recent years and as one of the most prolific content creators in the world, with many of their most popular shows also focussing on stories inspired by true life events. Unbelievable is a gripping eight-part limited series starring Toni Collette, Merritt Wever and Kaitlyn Dever that explores a series of police blunders and miss-communications that allowed a serial rapist to operate undetected in the United States.

One of the most talked-about new Netflix releases of 2019, this hard-hitting show is at times very difficult to watch –  made to feel even more real by its incredible script, direction and dramatic performances from a fantastic cast. The mini-series is based on the 2015 news article An Unbelievable Story of Rape, written by T Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong.

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Ozark

It’s been compared by many to Breaking Bad, and although Ozark is very different in many ways, it’s hard to disagree that the moody atmosphere and theme of a family under siege in unusual circumstances certainly shares some similarities. The most obvious reason the comparison is made, however, is that like Breaking Bad, Ozark is a very, very good drama that will be talked about for many years to come.

The story centres around Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) and his wife Wendy (Laura Linney), daughter Charlotte (Sophia Hublitz) and son Jonah (Skylar Gaertner) as they are forced to go on the run from Chicago to the Ozark lakes in Missouri after Marty’s money-laundering operation for a drug gang goes wrong and their lives are in imminent danger.

But things just get more complicated once they start afresh in the Ozarks, because not only are the instantly embroiled in a strange and brutal world they don’t understand – but they quickly learn that your problems have a habit of catching up with you and that secrets are harder than you think to keep.

Three seasons of the excellent show are available on Netflix now.

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Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul
AMC

The spin-off is usually something that history remembers as a bad idea. For every Cheers that produces a Frasier, there’s at least ten Friends that produce a Joey. So, when it was announced that Vince Gilligan, the creative force behind the critically acclaimed Breaking Bad intended to make a spin-off, alarm bells sounded across the TV world. The idea of ruining the legacy of one of the great box sets was troubling, and it was with trepidation that many tuned into Better Call Saul.

Now, with the fifth season the latest to arrive on Netflix, it’s hard to see how anyone could have seen this Breaking Bad prequel as anything other than a solid gold hit.  Following the shady dealings of Bob Odenkirk’s shyster lawyer Saul Goodman, one of the central characters in the latter parts of the Breaking Bad story, it takes viewers back to the same Albuquerque universe of the original show. It strikes a slightly lighter tone than Breaking Bad, but still has an incredible pacing and depth that made the original show so popular. Featuring many of the original cast – from Jonathan Banks to Giancarlo Esposito – anyone who has seen and enjoyed Breaking Bad should immediately set their Netflix box to full Better Call Saul mode and start watching post haste!

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Black Mirror

It wasn’t so many years ago that Charlie Brooker was reviewing TV for The Guardian with a style that every young entertainment journalist desperately tried to imitate with varying degrees of success – but now he is a television writer and showrunner who is just as influential in the creation of television content as he was when he was reviewing it.

Black Mirror is without a doubt his most compelling and celebrated work to date, a dystopian and often chilling vision of how technology may change our lives, let’s face it, largely for the worse.

It began as a Channel 4 shot in the dark, but Charlie Brooker‘s drama quickly became one of the most bleakly gripping series on TV. Then Netflix jumped in and it went from a cult show in the UK to a global phenomenon that attracts huge name guest stars from Jon Hamm and Bryce Dallas Howard to Andrew Scott and Miley Cyrus.

The fifth season features some of its most ambitious and gripping tales to date, and of course Bandersnatch, the multi-choice adventure, was a one off mega-hit from the Black Mirror brand.

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Gavin & Stacey

James Corden might be a household name in the United States these days as the presenter of The Late Late Show and frontman for Carpool Karaoke, but long before he was a talk-show host, he was the critically acclaimed co-writer (alongside Ruth Jones) and star of beloved British comedy Gavin & Stacey.

This hilarious show, which returned to British screens for a Christmas special in 2019 to record audiences, follows the long-distance relationship between Gavin (Mathew Horne) from Essex and Stacey (Joanna Page) from South Wales, and charts the curious and often dysfunctional ways that their families interact with them, and each other.

With supporting cast including brilliant comic actors like Rob Brydon, Alison Steadman and Larry Lamb, there’s a lot of reasons to fall in love with this show on Netflix, just like millions already did back on the BBC.

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Don’t F**k with Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer

Netflix is producing a huge amount of true crime shows these days, with a good deal of them becoming some of the streaming platform’s most talked-about content. This show was one of the breakout successes of the Christmas 2019 period despite its theme being less than festive, joyous or fun.

In 2010, a horrifying online video of an anonymous man suffocating two kittens went viral – whereupon a gang of amateur sleuths led by Deanna Thompson, a data analyst for one of the big casinos in Las Vegas, and John Green, from LA, vowed to work together to track down the perpetrator. That’s the starting point for a consistently amazing, disturbing three-part documentary. If it were fiction you’d dismiss it as too implausible, but it’s fact and that’s why it continues to be one of the true crime docu-series that you need to have seen on demand.

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Russian Doll

There’s no getting round the fact that this show is rather strange, and at times incredibly surreal – but that’s what makes this acclaimed comedy drama from creative powerhouses Leslye Headland, Natasha Lyonne and Amy Poehler so compelling and such a runaway hit.

The eight-part show follows chain-smoking New Yorker Nadia, as she weaves her way through a mysterious time loop that sees her celebrating her 36th birthday – and then dying. Over and over and over again. Starring Lyonne, Greta Lee ,Yul Vazquez, Charlie Barnett and Elizabeth Ashley – this is no simple Groundhog Day rehash, it’s a lot more sophisticated than that. With a New York sass all of its own and a high concept pay-off, it’s oh-so surreally satisfying.

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The Good Place

American network sitcoms have often got a bad wrap from British reviewers, with a few notable exceptions, they are sometimes considered less sophisticated than British comedies with “obvious'”jokes and characters. These are not charges that can be brought against NBC’s high-concept philosophical comedy The Good Place, which not only makes you laugh, it makes you think.

From the pen of Michael Schur, the co-creator of critically acclaimed Parks and Recreation, the show stars Kristen Bell as Eleanor Shellstrop, a woman who finds herself arriving in the “The Good Place” after her death by mistake. She’s joined in this secular afterlife by a group of other new arrivals played by William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil and Manny Jacinto, who all live in a neighbourhood created by bumbling architect, Michael, portrayed brilliantly by Ted Danson.

A series of twists and turns throughout the first season prelude a massive shake-up in season two, which consistently leaves the audience wondering where on earth it can go next. Season three somehow repeats the feat, brilliantly – and have the tissues ready for the final ever episode, available now.

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Inside No 9

Critically acclaimed and never dull, Inside No 9 is not the type of show you see every day, but once you’ve started watching you simply cannot stop.

Written by The League of Gentlemen stars Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith, this surreal comedy/horror/thriller anthology as you might expect from its creator’s pedigree draws on comedy of the perverse and takes viewers to some very dark and twisted places while making you laugh out loud at times.

Relentlessly inventive, the shows are all loosely held together by being set in a number 9 of some sort  – but that remains the only constant in this superlative, wildly unpredictable show

The first four seasons are available on Netflix.

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Mad Men

Mad Men oozes mid-century cool. It’s the show that everyone likes to say they’ve watched (whether or not they actually have), because the series has become synonymous with slick, sexy telly, the likes of which the world had never seen before. It was showered with award nominations and plaudits, and when it eventually aired its last season finale, critics fell over themselves to praise the way it ended too.

The drama series about a 1960s New York advertising agency stars Jon Hamm as the charismatic and mysterious Don Draper and was must-watch television when it launched in 2007. It also launched the careers of Christina Hendricks, who played brilliant and ballsy office manager Joan, and The Handmaid’s Tale’s Elisabeth Moss, whose character Peggy Olson worked her way up from secretary to copywriter.

Stylish and game-changing, Mad Men set real-world trends as it enraptured audiences with its complex characters, wit and engaging, slow-burn storylines. All seven seasons are available on Netflix, so pour yourself a drink, sit back, and relax…

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Riverdale

The cast of Riverdale (Netflix)
The cast of Riverdale (Netflix)

Chances are you’ve either never seen this teen drama or you’re completely obsessed with it – the show, based on the characters from the Archie comics, already has cult status and is totally addictive once you get going with it. Riverdale is a small, seemingly lovely town, a perfect place to live. But of course there’s darkness lurking. Archie Andrews is a high-school footballer from the town, the class heart-throb, and we follow him and his friends as they react to the death of one of their classmates. If that’s not enough, there’s also backstabbing, bitching and teacher-student affairs to keep you interested.

The show was originally conceived as a film, but during the development process it switched to a television format. A move that paid off: Riverdale is already on its fourth season and has been renewed for a fifth. It has also spawned two companion series, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and Katy Keene.

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Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Sabrina the Teenage Witch was a huge hit in the 1990s when the Archie comic of the same name was brought to life by Melissa Joan Hart in the lead role. Several decades later, Netflix has rebooted the show with a darker and more mysterious edge, this time starring Kiernan Shipka, best known to drama fans as Sally Draper (daughter of Don) in the smash-hit AMC show Mad Men.

Originally conceived as a companion series to Riverdale, the show eventually got a life of its own when it moved to Netflix and began telling the story of a half-witch, half-mortal and her sometimes challenging existence.

Also starring Ross Lynch, Lucy Davis, Chance Perdomo and Michelle Gomez there’s now three seasons available to watch right now on Netflix, so you have plenty to keep you busy…

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BoJack Horseman

Widely regarded as one of the best animated series of all time, this fantastic show – the brainchild of Raphael Bob-Waksberg – has been the talk of the comedy world since it exploded onto the scene in 2014.

One might say that any show that features anthropomorphic horses attempting to get beyond existential crises would be funny without a brilliant cast and script – but luckily Bojack takes the comedy to 11 with both of those in abundance.

Enter the wonderful Will Arnett (Gob Bluth in Arrested Development, among many others) as the lead role and a star-studded cast including Amy Sedaris, Alison Brie, Paul F Tompkins and Aaron Paul and you have an international hit on your hands.

Comedy fans beware – you may end up spending a lot of time on this!

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When They See Us

When They See Us

Ava DuVernay’s harrowing series is a hard watch, but an important one. Starring Desperate Housewives actress Felicity Huffman, it tells the true story of the Central Park Five, five black and Hispanic teens who were wrongfully convicted of a rape that took place in New York City in 1989. They were accused and charged on flimsy evidence, and a racist system saw them incarcerated for a heinous crime they had no involvement with. Beautifully acted, the drama will leave you spitting with outrage as you witness an incredible miscarriage of justice.

Across four episodes, we follow these confused and terrified young men and their families, as they attempt to navigate police interviews and courtroom trials with the odds stacked against them. It’s then worth finding “Oprah Winfrey Presents: When They See Us Now” to see Oprah interviewing the men behind the drama, about their experience and the terrible impact their convictions had on their lives.

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The Witcher

Ever since Game of Thrones has ended, people have been looking for the new Game of Thrones – and although almost any fantasy series that’s been made in the past few years has given itself this label, The Witcher has probably had one of the biggest impacts on the fantasy world.

Based on a series of books by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, The Witcher franchise was already developed for TV and was a very popular video game series before this Netflix adaptation – so it came with a ready-made fan base and weight of expectation.

Starring former Superman Henry Cavill as the titular monster-hunter Geralt of Rivia, a gruff and taciturn swordsman hated and feared by the people he protects from supernatural beasties, it has been received well – and is certainly worth your time if you’re a lover of the fantasy genre.

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Stranger Things

The cast of Stranger Things (Netflix)
The cast of Stranger Things (Netflix)

Paying homage to a 1980s Spielberg inspired world of walkie-talkies and Chopper bikes, the Duffer brothers’ Stranger Things is one of the biggest hits ever to be created by Netflix. A supernatural adventure filled with intrigue and horror it tells the story of a group of four friends in Hawkins, Indiana that befriend a telekinetic super-girl and try to unpick a complicated and strange series of phenomena.

Starring Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Millie Bobby Brown and many more, this is unmissably good telly.

As the seasons pass, the tension ramps up and more characters and mysteries are intertwined in this fantastically watchable tale.  Oh, and and it has a completely unmissable soundtrack too. The “exhilarating and devastating” third season was the latest to drop – and season four has been confirmed

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Mindhunter

David Fincher’s gloomy serial killer drama didn’t quite make it to the watercooler when it first arrived, but as with many on demand shows, its slow-building intrigue gripped enough people for Netflix to renew it for a second season.

The show follows soft-spoken FBI agent Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and his gruff partner Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) as they tour the USA interviewing the nation’s most heinous serial killers.

While it takes a bit of time to truly get going, the series soon develops into an intriguing character study, as Ford becomes more and more emotionally entangled in his work.

As well as the fantastic scripts and performances, this show stands out for its incredible visuals and mood, as you might expect from Mr Fincher.

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The Crown

One of Netflix’s flagship shows across the globe, The Crown is reported to also be one of the most expensive television shows ever made.

The glossy and sumptuous drama from the pen of Peter Morgan (The Queen and Frost/Nixon) the show aims to chart the life and times of Queen Elizabeth II over several seasons, with some deliberately planned resets and cast changes to “age” the cast where time moves forward.

The first two seasons starred Claire Foy and Matt Smith as Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, with Olivia Colman and Tobias Menzies taking over the same key roles for seasons three and four.

A really compelling watch, it gives some insight (and plenty of artistic licence) into the lives of one of the most famous families ever to have lived.

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Peaky Blinders

One of the biggest drama hits the BBC has produced in the last decade, Steven Knight’s Peaky Blinders is so popular it now even has its own festival in Birmingham where fans can come along, dress up, meet the cast and listen to bands playing songs from the soundtrack of the show.

This Cillian Murphy-starring crime epic has an ensemble cast including Helen McCrory, Paul Anderson and Sophie Rundle and has won acclaim all over the world, with everyone from Tom Cruise to the late David Bowie singing its praises. That’s quite a broad fanbase, but the Brummie-based 1920s gang series really does have something for everyone. Sharp suits, sharper razor blades and performances that cut through all the usual period dross. All four series are currently on Netflix – series five is released on the platform in April.

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The Staircase

The Staircase (Netflix)
The Staircase (Netflix)

The original true crime documentary, the remarkable story of the trial of Michael Peterson is the result of film-maker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade’s vision for a new style of crime reporting. Originally airing in 2004, Netflix acquired the rights and released the series in 2018 with three new episodes that delved back into the troubling case and within a few days it became one of the most talked-about shows of the year.

“I’ve spent 16 years of my life on this story,” de Lestrade tells Radio Times. “And while that isn’t full-time filming and editing across the years, there’s not really been a day when it hasn’t been in my head.”

Unmissable television for anyone interested in the true crime genre.

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Sex Education

One of the biggest questions around this sharp-witted comedy is where and when is it set? Although the characters are British, they all have different accents – and the school they attend looks more like a high school from 1980s USA than the sort of comprehensive most Brits would have attended. Everyone seems to drive old Volvos, but people have smartphones…

The reality is, the ambiguity of time and location is a deliberate move by Laurie Nunn and the show’s producers to pay homage to a John Hughe-style teen world that a generation grew up watching on TV.

The show follows the fortunes of Otis (Asa Butterfield), Maeve (Emma Mackey), Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) as they navigate their school days, their parents and the challenges that come with both. Also starring Gillian Anderson as Otis’s sex therapist mother, this isa critically acclaimed show not just for its comedy – but for the bold way it challenges important issues head on.

Season two arrived in January, and season three has now been confirmed.

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Lucifer

Such is the love for this show that when Fox announced they were going to stop making the show a huge campaign was launched online by the fans which took the hashtag #SaveLucifer to the world, and was eventually received loud and clear by Netflix who decided to bring the show back on the streaming platform.

Based on the character created by Neil Gaiman for The Sandman comic-book series, Tom Ellis plays Lucifer, the handsome and seductive Lord of Hell who has made a home for himself in the sleazy glamour of Los Angeles…

What could possibly go wrong? You’ll have to watch to find out…

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Marvel’s Jessica Jones

There’s always a detective, there’s always a dangerous man in an impeccable suit, there’s always untrustworthy clients and lucky left hooks, and there’s always a dame, right at the centre of it all. Cherchez la femme fatale, as fancy waiters say.

This is perhaps the least superheroic (Marvellous?) of Marvel’s output. Krysten Ritter is superb as an indestructible woman who’s broken inside, hiding from her history. Funny, foul-mouthed, brittle and ballsy, Jones feels like the role the Breaking Bad actress has been waiting for. The superstrength is almost a distraction; she’s at her best simply playing a shopworn gumshoe in the big city.

As for David Tennant…he gleefully stamps on your memories of Doctor Who. He allows himself to be utterly vile – you don’t love to hate him, you simply hate him. He is every abusive spouse and controlling boyfriend you’ve ever had, the ones who made you not yourself, the ones you can’t escape.

Three seasons are available to savour on Netflix.

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Merlin

Much like Smallville, which took us back to Superman’s younger years, this BBC teatime hit showed us an adolescent Merlin, played by Colin Morgan, just as he was befriending Arthur. This reimagined prequel to the popular Arthurian legend, which kept the same characters but wandered a little from the traditional tales, proved to be a huge success, attracting millions of viewers and running for five series.

Unlike in the original legends, this version of Arthur and Merlin are a similar age and the pair’s friendship gets off to a difficult start, with neither particularly impressed by the other. Merlin, who is concealing his incredible magical abilities, is made Arthur’s servant and eventually they bond before embarking on adventures together. Along the way they meet Guinevere, known as Gwen, who starts up a frowned-upon relationship with Arthur. And of course there’s a dragon! Voiced by John Hurt, no less. Fun, family-friendly fantasy.

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The Stranger

Harlan Coben's The Stranger
Richard Armitage in Harlan Coben’s The Stranger (Netflix)

Following on from 2018’s Safe, this is the second collaboration between Netflix and bestselling thriller writer Harlan Coben. It’s a classier, sturdier affair, albeit still crammed with unlikely twists and turns whenever you’re starting to feel comfortable.

Richard Armitage holds it together as the comfy upper-middle-class dad whose world is destroyed by – you guessed it – secrets, lies and perhaps even murder.

The show has a great cast including Ready Player One’s Hannah John-Kamen, Siobhan Finnernan, Jennifer Saunders, Shaun Dooley, Paul Kaye, Dervla Kirwan and Anthony Head that will keep you guessing what it was all about until the very end.

Well worth a binge if you like a mystery.

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Making a Murderer

A poster child for Netflix and one of the true crime documentaries that spurred hundreds of similar shows in the following years, Making a Murderer has become one of the streaming giant’s most talked-about shows since the ten-part documentary premiered in December 2015.

Following the story of Steven Avery, a Wisconsin man who served 18 years in prison after being wrongly accused of attempted murder and sexual assault, and was subsequently convicted of a different murder, this series gripped the world and become the focus of much debate. Made by film-makers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, the extraordinary piece of television was filmed over a decade. A must-watch for any true crime fans – with the second season blowing the story wide open all over again, it’s unlikely the public’s fascination with this case is going to wain anytime soon.

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Dark

Netflix’s first German-language series is a mind-bending, time-warping and completely engrossing series that proves that Scandinavia doesn’t have the monopoly on excellent subtitled drama.

The show instantly drew comparisons to Stranger Things and it’s easy to see why. After all, it tells the story of a child who goes missing from a small town under mysterious circumstances, leaving everyone baffled (so far so Hawkins). But this programme is darker and weirder, and doesn’t revel in any 80s throwbacks or a nostalgic soundtrack. Of course, once you get past the initial premise there are lots of differences, and the show deserves credit in its own right.

As children continue to vanish from the German town of Winden, we follow four estranged families. They find themselves unravelling a complex mystery involving time travel and conspiracies across many generations, and all we can do is try to keep up with them!

There are two series to get stuck into on Netflix, with a third and final season on its way.

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Star Trek: Discovery

Back in 2017 (long before the excitement of Picard), this was the first Star Trek TV series since Enterprise ended in 2005, and anticipation was high. Luckily the show found its feet in a fiercely confident manner, giving Trekkies exactly what they wanted from the off. The seventh series in the franchise introduces us to a brand-new set of characters boldly going where no man has gone before on the USS Discovery. Jason Isaacs stars as Captain Gabriel Lorca, who tries to balance his personal issues with his responsibilities to the crew.

This series is actually a prequel, so the action takes place a decade before the original series, which featured William Shatner Captain Kirk and Leonard Nimoy as Mr Spock. The United Federation of Planets is at war with the Klingon houses for much of the first season.

Two seasons are available on Netflix, with the third expected at some point in 2020.

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Top Boy

An award-winning drama about gang life and drug dealing on an east London estate, Top Boy ran for two series on Channel 4 in the UK between 2011 and 2013 and completely changed the face of drama. For once this didn’t seem like a middle-class, disconnected writing team trying to throw together a programme about the youth on the streets. The voices and performances felt authentic, and the show won huge acclaim for its realism.

It also caught the attention of rapper Drake. Unlike the rest of us, who have to lump it when our favourite series end, Drake worked with Netflix to finance a revival and get the original writer back on board. He even executive produces the new episodes. Series three, which sees Ashley Walters and Kane Robinson reprise their lead roles, is now available to view and a fourth is on its way. It might take you a couple of episodes to get into the style, but it’s worth it. And it’s so cool that rapper Dave has even joined the cast.

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Atypical

A warm, heartfelt coming of age drama, set in Connecticut, about a family whose 18-year old son Sam is on the autism spectrum. We follow him as he navigates the trials of dating and relationships, and tries to strengthen his fractured bond with his dad.

The show is created by Robia Rashid, who formerly worked as a producer on How I Met Your Mother and The Goldbergs, so you know you’re in safe hands, and the series goes to great lengths to give an accurate depiction of one man’s experience of autism. There is an autistic writer on the team as well as autistic actors in the cast.

Series three landed recently, and Sam (Keir Gilchrist) is off to college, where he faces a whole new set of challenges and adventures.

Series 1-3 are all available to watch on Netflix, with a fourth and final season expected in 2021.

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Dark Tourist

Forget Wish You Were Here, this is no ordinary travel show. Kiwi journalist David Farrier (often referred to as New Zealand’s answer to Louis Theroux) travels to the world’s grimmest tourist destinations, seeking out the sinister hotspots that most of us would ignore.

He hops onto a tour tracing the footsteps of Charles Manson, visits a radiation-ravaged no-go zone in Fukushima and takes a meeting with Pablo Escobar’s former hitman in Colombia. He even visits the UK (a dubious honour in this instance), where he recreates a WWII battle in Maidstone and takes a phone call from notoriously violent prisoner Charles Bronson.

We’re not sure how much fun all of this is for poor David (he must have got so excited when Netflix offered him a travel show, only to grimace at the itinerary…) but it actually makes a great TV programme for the rest of us! Despite the macabre themes, it’s really an easy and pleasant watch.

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Arrested Development

This show is the definition of a cult hit. Either you’re obsessed with it and like to go round making chicken noises when you discuss it, or it has passed you by. This is the time to catch up though, as TV’s most dysfunctional family has made its home on Netflix.

The series, starring Jason Bateman and Portia De Rossi, was the brainchild of Hollywood director Ron Howard and originally ran on Fox for three seasons from 2003 to 2006. It’s the story of a spoilt, once-wealthy family who continue their lavish lifestyle despite the fact they can no longer afford it.

After its cancellation there was a long wait before Netflix revived the show in 2013, much to the excitement of its loyal fanbase. The show’s return to screen has not always been smooth though, and the controversy surrounding Jessica Walters and Jeffrey Tambor in the run-up to season five certainly coloured fans’ expectations and left us wondering what the future of the show would be. But it doesn’t change the ground-breaking impact the series once had.

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Queer Eye

Queer Eye for the Straight Guy was a big hit in the early noughties. Netflix spied an opportunity to revamp the feel-good series and the reboot struck a chord with viewers around the world, leaving us all crying happy tears. In fact the all-new Fab Five have proved an even greater success than their predecessors.

The misconception with Queer Eye is that it’s purely a makeover show, but actually the wardrobe transformation is a tiny part of the process. It’s really a programme about people who have lost their confidence and stopped caring about themselves. When they start to open up and discuss what’s happened in their lives, the Fab Five respond with the perfect mix of compassion, sensitivity and inspirational ideas. Nobody is forced to cut their hair or paint their living room, it’s a gentle approach that gives people their self-esteem back. The results are life-changing, emotional and joyous.

Tan France provides the style advice, Jonathan Van Ness specialises in male grooming, Bobby is the design expert, Karamo deals with culture and Antoni occasionally chops an avocado.

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Orange Is the New Black

Back when Netflix was desperately trying to prove to the world that its original dramas were worth watching, they needed a series to follow the success of House of Cards and to keep the momentum going. That series was Orange is The New Black, an addictive ensemble drama set in a women’s prison, following naïve, middle-class Piper Kerman (Taylor Schilling) as she embarks on a 15-month sentence for moving drug money. It was a crime she committed years ago, for her girlfriend, before she settled into a quiet life. As her world falls apart she must adapt to prison life and get to know her fellow inmates…

Of course it’s not the first drama about women behind bars (bring back Bad Girls!) but it’s unique in its production values, the quality of its strong, funny, racially diverse cast and the way in which it gripped its audience. If you missed it first time round, we’re jealous you’ve got it all still to enjoy.

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I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson

First up, you might be asking, ‘Who is Tim Robinson?’. Fair question. To the uninitiated he’s an American comedian who used to be a regular on US comedy institution Saturday Night Live. His latest project is this barmy sketch show, which is a brilliant find a) because there aren’t enough sketch shows around at the moment and b) because it’s just really funny. Sometimes in this crazy, fast-paced world you don’t want to commit to a drama, or even a half hour comedy – short bursts of hilarity are just the ticket.

Featuring guest appearances from the likes of Andy Samberg, Fred Willard and Will Forte there’s a lot of comedy talent on display in this show, and the sketches feel topical and relevant. They cover everything from social media etiquette to small talk on aeroplanes and surfing through TV channels – every aspect of life is up for ridicule, and we love it.

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Dead to Me

Linda Cardellini and Christina Applegate in Dead to Me
Linda Cardellini and Christina Applegate in Dead to Me

Christina Applegate puts in a career-best performance in this brilliantly binge-worthy black comedy from writer Liz Feldman, which became the must-see, most-talked-about Netflix show when it dropped last May.

Here’s the set-up: Jen loses her husband in a hit and run accident and is consumed by her loss. Against her better judgement she attends a group grief counselling session and begrudgingly starts talking to Judy. They bond over mutual loss and quickly become firm friends, turning to each other in their darkest hours, much to Jen’s great surprise. However, one of the women is guarding a terrible secret that threatens to upend their friendship and derail both of their lives entirely. It’s a touching, funny and addictive exploration of bereavement and female friendship with a gripping, soapy undercurrent that will have you telling yourself that one perennial Netflix lie, ‘I’ll just watch one more episode before bed.’

Get it watched before series two comes along later this year.

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Happy Valley

Sally Wainwright is one of Britain’s most prolific and gifted drama writers – she’s the genius behind Gentleman Jack, Last Tango in Halifax and Unforgiven. This razor sharp BBC One series is right up there with her very best work and although it is technically catalogued as a crime drama, it is so much more.

Set in Yorkshire, the show stars Sarah Lancashire, Siobhan Finneran and Steve Pemberton, and tells the story of a police officer, Catherine, searching for the man who raped her late daughter, Becky. James Norton plays the criminal she is looking for, skinhead Tommy Lee Royce, and if you’re a fan of James in his nice guy Grantchester role it’s worth watching this just to see his incredible range as an actor. Sarah Lancashire steals the show though with a pitch-perfect, funny, distressing and ultimately BAFTA-winning performance.

Both series are available on Netflix, and Sally Wainwright has always promised that she will one day write a third.

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Doctor Who

We don’t need to tell you what Doctor Who is all about! But if you’ve recently got back into the show in the Jodie Whittaker/Chris Chibnall era, or if you just fancy a bit of telly nostalgia, why not treat yourself to a few episodes from the NuWho back catalogue? And if you’ve only heard about this show but you’re too embarrassed to admit you’ve never seen an episode, there’s no judgement here – we just recommend you get stuck in now and see what all the fuss is about!

Ten series will take you from the Christopher Eccleston’s headline-grabbing revival of the show in 2005, through to David Tennant’s stint in the TARDIS, Matt Smith’s time as the Doctor and of course Peter Capaldi’s appearances too. But of course it’s not just about the Doctor, you can relive Billie Piper’s iconic performance as Rose and Jenna Colman’s popular turn as Clara as well.

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You

Elizabeth Lail stars alongside Gossip Girl’s Penn Badgley in this extremely popular stalker thriller, which proved to be a huge hit for Netflix. Don’t look for subtlety or nuance in this show – it’s an unapologetically crowd-pleasing, twisty turny drama that prioritises gasps and shock value over realism. Go with it and you’ll really enjoy it.

The show tells the story of a New York book keeper (who just happens to be a serial killer), who becomes instantly infatuated with one of his customers. Infatuation turns into a dangerous obsession and soon he is consumed by the thought of her, keeping a close eye on her social media and needing to know where she is at all times. She’s blissfully unaware – but how long for?

There’s two series to enjoy (the second season takes place in Los Angeles but we don’t want to spoil series one by telling you any more!) and series three is on the way in 2021.

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Sense8

If you’re planning to check out this series, please can we recommend that you put your phone down and give the show your full attention. Because the truth is that even if you’re concentrating with all of your might there’s a good chance you still might not understand what’s going on!

The series is an intricate, sprawling sci-fi invention from the minds of The Wachowskis (who gave us The Matrix series and Jupiter Ascending). It follows a group of eight strangers from different corners of the globe who are connected by shared prophetic visions, known as Sensates. What follows is a tailspin of sex, acrobatic fight scenes and endless intrigue – all sadly cancelled after two seasons.

The show relies on its ensemble cast featuring Daryl Hannah, Tuppence Middleton and Freema Agyeman and is shot all over the world. It has won praise for its inclusion of LGBTQ+ storylines as well as its sense of ambition and scale.

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Brooklyn Nine-Nine

You can’t move in TV land for crime dramas, so it’s nice for a show to reveal the funny side of a police station for once. And there’s a whole lot of heart to this silly yet surprisingly sharp workplace sitcom set in a New York City police precinct.

SNL and Cuckoo actor Andy Samberg leads the cast as Jake Peralta, a cop who somehow manages to be the star detective on his team despite his childish approach to life. He’s surrounded by exquisitely drawn characters, including the show’s secret weapon, Andre Braugher – we know him best for his dramatic performances, but he plays a blinder as the overly serious Captain Raymond Holt, delivering his lines with unrivalled deadpan.

With seven series under its belt, this show has rightly earned a devoted set of fans, who are already looking forward to season eight. If you get hooked you’ll find yourself in good company.

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American Vandal

Cruelly cancelled, Netflix’s mockumentary will live on as one of the hottest takes on our continuing true crime obsession

The show appears unwatchably silly on paper: a young film-maker from a US high school attempting to find out who spray painted 27 examples of phallic graffiti on vehicles in the faculty car park. Class clown Dylan Maxwell professes his innocence, but literally everyone thinks it was him. There’s even an eye-witness who claims to have seen the whole thing unfold. Yet, as with all the best mysteries, all is not as it seems…

Shot in exactly the same style as shows like Making a Murderer, and delivered in the same serious tone, with similar music, shot sequences and pacing, this is an extremely smart piece of work that mocks our formulaic approach to true crime. It managed two series before the axe fell, both of which are very much worth your time.

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The Politician

Anything Ryan Murphy does gets our attention. After all, this is the man who created Nip/Tuck, Glee, American Horror Story and Pose – quite an impressive list of memorable TV shows.

The Politician, which dropped on Netflix in September 2019, was naturally hotly anticipated. It’s the story of Payton Hobart, a rich student from Santa Barbara, California who has known since the tender age of seven that he wants to be President of the United States. There’s only one obstacle in his way: high school, a nightmare for so many of us. For Payton, this is the chance for him to have his first taste of an election. He’s running to become President of his student body, but he’s up against one of the popular kids. He’s going to have to think smart to win this one, and he’s happy to play dirty if he needs to…

Season one is ready to watch and a second series has already been commissioned.

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The Last Kingdom

We now know that season four of The Last Kingdom will land on 26 April, so you’ve just about got time to go back to the start of this Anglo Saxon epic to see what all the fuss is about. The series, which has won a loyal army of fans, is based on the Saxon Stories novels by Sharpe creator Bernard Cornwell.

Set in the 9th-century AD, the show tells the story of rugged hero Uhtred son of Uhtred, a Saxon boy who is brought up by Danes, after they capture him and decide to raise him as their own. Of course this leads to split loyalties and Uhtred is eventually accused of killing his adoptive father, forcing him to flee to another kingdom.

You might remember seeing the first couple of the series on the BBC, but the show switched hands to Netflix for series three. All three seasons are now available to view.

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Friends

The most popular TV show of all time caused quite the stir when it landed on Netflix, as a new generation of viewers started to tune in and pick holes in the scripts. Millennials were upset the series wasn’t as politically correct as it should be and raised their objections on social media, while the show’s loyal army of fans leapt to its defence. It got tense.

Despite that burst of controversy, Friends is still one of those shows that we love to watch over and over again – the characters, the friendships, the impossible-to-afford central New York apartment, everything about it represents the life we wish we were leading. And even though we know each of the 236 episodes word for word, it’s weirdly comforting to watch them all again.

Although it’s never hard to find this series somewhere on the telly, Netflix gives us the chance to either binge a series from start to finish or hand pick our favourite episodes – the one with Ross’s sandwich, the one with the apartment swap, the one where Ross and Rachel were on a break – whichever one you fancy. The dream.

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Marcella

When we heard that the creator of incredible Swedish series The Bridge, Hans Rosenfeldt, had written a new drama for ITV we were excited – a British twist on the Nordic noir genre sounded right up our street. And the result was just as dark, intricate and complex as we were hoping for.

Anna Friel stars as troubled female former detective Marcella Backland, who lives in London and suffers from violent black-outs. Apart from dealing with her mental health struggles, Marcella’s life is thrown into disarray when her husband leaves her and uproots their children’s lives in the process. She throws herself into work – returning to the police for the first time in 15 years to investigate an unsolved case when it appears a serial killer has become active again. With the weight of the world on her shoulders, it’s difficult for her to hide her woes from her colleagues – especially when her own life starts to interweave with the case.

Two seasons are available to view, with a third in the works now.

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Salt Fat Acid Heat

There’s no shortage of cookery shows on TV at the moment, we’re all well aware of this. But there’s something about presenter and writer Samin Nosrat that just makes us want to spend time in her company. And her genuine excitement for food and cooking turns this show into a rather interesting proposition. Samin travels the world, taking us with her into far-flung kitchens to learn some basic culinary principles that should set us up for any dish we fancy making. Her trips in the series are as diverse as Japan, Italy and Yucatan.

And if you’re wondering about the unconventional title – these are the four factors that Samin claims can really make or break any dish. “Master these four elements, master the kitchen”, says the Netflix programme description.  It’s still not as catchy as Ready, Steady, Cook but we all know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover!

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Good Girls

This is one of the most outrageously underrated shows on Netflix. Filling the void left by Desperate Housewives, it’s hilarious, dramatic and brilliantly brought to life by three of America’s most watchable TV actresses – Christina Hendricks (Mad Men legend), Mae Whitman (from Arrested Development) and Retta (who you’ll know from her excellent performance as Donna in Parks and Recreation).

They play fed-up mums who are strapped for cash and end up justifying the crazy decision to rob a grocery store. Unfortunately for them the repercussions are far greater than they could have realised – they’ve trodden on the toes of a criminal gang. Suddenly they face a choice: embrace a life of crime and dodgy dealings or lose everything.

So easy to binge, you’ll get through the two series in record time. Luckily season three drops later this year.

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The Office (UK)

When The Office was first shown to a BBC focus group back in 2001 it reportedly received the lowest ever score for any programme. But now Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s workplace mockumentary is generally regarded as one of the most innovative pieces of British comedy of a generation. Its influence can still be felt in so many comedies that have come along since.

Set in a paper merchant sales office, this is a show about characters rather than plot. Boss David Brent is hilarious and heart-breaking with his warped view of the world and his own role within it. But really Martin Freeman is the heart of this show as nice guy Tim – the man who is stuck in a job he can’t stand, in love with his colleague, Dawn, who won’t leave her useless other half, and forced to sit next to annoying Gareth, played perfectly by Mackenzie Crook.

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you’ll feel a brand-new appreciation for your own colleagues.

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Maniac

Maniac

We’ve seen a fair few bizarre shows in our time, but this series is right up there. The question is, is it trippy and weird in a brilliant way, or just too confusing to get into? That’s for you to decide.

One thing we can promise is star power: Emma Stone and Jonah Hill lead the cast, which also includes legends Sally Field and Gabriel Byrne. The story is loosely based on a Norwegian drama of the same name and introduces us to two strangers who meet during the course of a mind-boggling pharmaceutical trial. What happens next is difficult to explain on paper, but it’s certainly not boring.

There’ll be no second series of this show, it’s standalone, so why not brace yourself and see if you can fathom it. Interestingly, it’s directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, who also worked on highly acclaimed drama True Detective, and directs upcoming Bond film No Time to Die.

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Gilmore Girls

Remember when TV wasn’t all about crime dramas and alternate universes? This sharp-talking, caffeine-fuelled comedy from the early ‘00s was defining moment for many of us and ran for seven seasons. Set in a fictional town in Connecticut, it’s the story of a single mother, Lorelai, and her daughter, Rory as they navigate their lives. While they both face their own challenges, it’s the central relationship between them that’s the beating heart of the show. You’ll feel a huge rush of nostalgia and warmth as you watch.

You may remember this series also made a remarkable comeback thanks to Netflix, with A Year in the Life reuniting the cast for four much-enjoyed episodes.

Watch out for a couple of huge stars who were part of the cast – Melissa McCarthy as Lorelai’s best friend, Sookie St James and Milo Ventimiglia as a love interest for Rory. And if you’re wondering why Rory looks so familiar, we’ll help you out: Alexis Bledel who plays her also stars opposite Elisabeth Moss in The Handmaid’s Tale.

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GLOW

Sometimes it can feel like TV only has three plots – love triangles, murky crimes and aliens. So props to Netflix for giving us a breath of fresh air with this comedy drama, which offers something brand new alongside the nostalgia of a great 1980s soundtrack.

The series tells the story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (aka GLOW), a real-life group formed to promote women’s wrestling on telly. The characters in this series are fictional though. Alison Brie stars as Ruth, a struggling actress who ends up auditioning for the wrestling group to make ends meet. Little does she know that her former best friend Debbie has already been hired – the two got along famously until Ruth stole Debbie’s husband. It seems certain that their bitter feud will either destroy the show or raise it to a whole new level.

Season three arrived last summer, with Thelma & Louise legend Geena Davis joining the cast. If you can see past the leotards, this is an excellent drama and there’s great fun to be had.

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Sherlock

This series got a bit strange, confusing and overly complicated towards the end, but when it was good, boy was it elementary! Benedict Cumberbatch is perfectly cast as Sherlock, the sociopathic but fiercely clever detective, while Martin Freeman elevates the usually dull role of Watson to actually make him interesting in his own right. Together their chemistry is palpable and it’s the ultimate TV bromance (Ant and Dec are great, but how many criminals have they put behind bars?).

It was a genius twist from Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss to bring Arthur Conan Doyle’s popular stories into the present day and the earlier series are full of fun, wit and sparkle, as well as the dramatic tension of the detective stories themselves. Special mention to Andrew Scott, who was wowing us with his performance as arch-villain Moriarty long before he became Fleabag’s sexy priest.

Grab your deerstalker hat and your swishy coat, and remind yourself how great this series really is.

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American Crime Story

This anthology series may be a spin-off from American Horror Story, but by no means is it a poor relation. The People vs OJ Simpson, starring Cuba Gooding Junior as OJ and David Schwimmer as Robert Kardashian, was one of the most talked-about series of 2017, and rightly so. It took a case we all think we know and turned it into compelling, edge of your seat drama. At the heart of the story was Sarah Paulson’s stunning performance as lead prosecutor Marcia Clark, who found herself in the glare of the media lens when she was just trying to do her job.

The follow up came with The Assassination of Gianni Versace, starring Darren Criss, Ricky Martin and Penelope Cruz, telling the story of the famous fashion designer’s murder. Both series are currently available to view, while season three, Impeachment is on its way. The third instalment will tell the story of the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal that shook the White House.

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Schitt’s Creek

A brilliant Canadian sitcom, which takes a little bit of time to get going but is worth the investment. By the time the second season swings around all the characters have found their footing in the most deliciously entitled way.

The show, which is currently on its sixth season, follows the privileged, once-wealthy Rose family, who attempt to rebuild their lives in the amusingly named titular town. Dad Johnny bought Schitt’s Creek as a joke in 1991, when money was no object. It’s the only place they can think of to go, and they are hoping the red carpet will be rolled out, but their influence isn’t as great as they would like.

Forced to live in adjoining motel rooms, the family of four – including grown-up spoilt children David and Alexis – have to make the best of a bad situation. A nightmare for them to live through, a delight for us to watch.

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13 Reasons Why

Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) in 13 Reasons Why season two (Netflix)

Even if you haven’t watched this show, you’ll have heard about it. The much-discussed teen drama, based on Jay Asher’s novel of the same name, tells the story of the suicide of 17-year-old Hannah Baker. Its narrative is built upon a series of cassette tapes that she left to a former love interest Clay Jensen, detailing her reasons for killing herself, and we learn more each episode about the terrible circumstances that left her facing such struggles with her mental health.

While series one proved a hit with viewers, it was also controversial. The show came under fire for exposing a young audience to graphic scenes and sensitive themes, as many wondered if Netflix had gone too far. Indeed, the streaming service has since edited out the suicide scene from series one and the original version is no longer available to view.

Despite the debate around the show, it’s been a conversation-starter for many young people and remains a gripping piece of drama. Season three is out now,while a fourth and final series has also been commissioned.

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Peep Show

This is David Mitchell and Robert Webb at their best, long before panel shows and adverts. The classic sitcom is Channel 4’s longest running comedy (airing from 2003-2015) and it no doubt would have carried on for longer had David and Robert not deemed themselves too old for it.

The double act played Mark and Jez – one’s a socially awkward loan manager, one’s a childish slacker. They met as students, hailing themselves the ‘El Dude Brothers’ and together they’re two dysfunctional flatmates trying to fit into the adult world. Spoiler: they fail. Spectacularly. Again. And again. And again.

The show is famous not just for its comedy but also for its camera work. We see everything from the characters’ point of view, meaning the actors sometimes have cameras strapped to their heads to achieve this effect (seriously!). It all helps to create the show’s unique perspective – while comedies about losers are commonplace, this series always felt distinctive.

Watch out for Oscar winner Olivia Colman, who stars as Mark’s love interest, Sophie. She went to university with David and Robert, and worked extensively with them before Hollywood beckoned.

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Black Earth Rising

Michaela Coel shot to fame and became the toast of the TV world off the back of her brilliant sitcom Chewing Gum. She gave a very different, dramatic performance in this political thriller though, playing Kate Ashby a woman who was rescued as a young child during the Rwandan genocide and adopted by Eve Ashby (Harriet Walter), a world-class British prosecutor in international criminal law.

With acclaimed talent behind the camera too, in the form of BAFTA-winning writer Hugo Blick (who also gave us The Honourable Woman starring Maggie Gyllenhaal), this is a classy eight-part drama tackling the prosecution of international war crimes and the thorny issue of the West’s relationship with Africa. It’s not the lightest watch, and for that reason it didn’t get the ratings it deserved, but this is incredibly well made, beautifully acted and well worth your time. You just need to be in the right mood as you sit down to watch.

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Flint Town

For every Making a Murderer and Fyre Festival series, there are tens of other fantastic documentaries tucked away on Netflix that we never quite get round to watching. This series is an incredible portrait of a town at breaking point. We see Flint in the American state of Michigan through the eyes of the city’s law enforcement, and the people they’re meant to protect, after a TV crew spent two years filming there. They went out with the police on jobs from 2015-2017 as Donald Trump was coming into power.

The citizens are at loggerheads with the police, who are just trying to do their jobs under increasingly challenging circumstances. It doesn’t help that there are only 98 cops for a city of 100,000 people. We witness water crises, poverty, systematic neglect, endless problems, and we’re left wondering how they can possibly turn this around. The eight-part series is a sobering insight into a troubled town that will stay with you long after you’ve watched it.

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Master of None

We fell in love with comedian Aziz Ansari when he gave us the gloriously self-centred, entrepreneurial brat Tom Haverford in Parks and Recreation. This semi-autobiographical series is his chance to prove what he can do away from Pawnee, and it’s a hugely relatable, understated depiction of dating in the big city.

Aziz, who co-wrote the series, explores love and friendship from the perspective of a single 30-something actor. He plays Dev, an actor living in New York city, desperately trying to keep his spirits up after a string of failed auditions and dead-end dates. Luckily he has his friends around him, all of whom are dealing with similar troubles.

Series two features a spontaneous trip to Italy, which is quite the episode! This great series proves that romcoms don’t have to be cheesy so prepare for heartbreak, some squirming and a lot of laughter. Plus watch out for Dev’s mum and dad, played sweetly by Aziz’s own parents.

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Parade’s End

Don’t be alarmed, but Benedict Cumberbatch went blonde for this mini-series. Consider yourself warned. Hair drama aside, this lavish BBC adaptation of Ford Madox Ford’s novels was showered in award nominations and accolades when it aired in 2012, with The Hollywood Reporter calling it ‘the highbrow Downton Abbey’. Celebrated playwright Tom Stoppard wrote the script (after staying away from TV screenwriting for decades) and the performances are first rate in a cast that includes Stephen Graham, Anne-Marie Duff, Rupert Everett and Miranda Richardson.

Set against the backdrop of the impending First World War, Cumberbatch plays Christopher Tietjens, a man who rushes into marriage with the wrong woman and then finds himself embroiled in a love triangle. It’s a story of repression, heartbreak and regret, but it’s the viper wit of Rebecca Hall as Sylvia Tietjens that makes Parade’s End truly remarkable. Her reference to a character as “that scrub-faced ladies’ champion of the regular bowel movement” must be one of the best putdowns on TV.

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Bodyguard

Even with Line of Duty creator Jed Mercurio at the helm and a cast led by Keeley Hawes and Richard Madden, nobody could anticipate quite how massive this show would become when it aired in 2018. The six-part drama followed Home Secretary Julia Montague as she got rather too close with her bodyguard. The pair dodged attacks and romantic liaisons before a mid-series shock moment that nobody saw coming. We were floored.

The series begins with one of the most compelling opening sequences we’ve even seen – it’s 20 minutes of nerve-jangling tension on a train – and got us all pretending to be government security agents, whispering ‘Lavender on the Move!’ into our shirt cuffs (or was that just us?). It was one of the most discussed TV shows in years and ratings went through the roof. Enough time has passed now that it’s worth a rewatch, especially as a second series seems inevitable.

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The Umbrella Academy

Superheroes tend to be loners, so it’s fun to see them in a family setting. But living with people who wear capes and save lives every two minutes is never going to be plain sailing.

Ellen Page and Mary J Blige star in this fantasy series set in alternate universe, adapted from comics written by My Chemical Romance singer Gerard Way. Ellen plays Vanya, one of seven children adopted by a billionaire. Unlike her brothers and sisters – all of whom were born on the same day to mothers who didn’t know they were pregnant (a terrifying concept for all women to get their heads around!) – Vanya doesn’t have superpowers. She can only watch on as her estranged siblings get back together to try to solve the mystery of their foster father’s death. Oh and they also plan to save the world while they’re at it.

The series has proved a huge hit – it was the third most popular show on Netflix in 2019.

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House of Cards

Is it still OK to watch this show? Only you can answer that question. House of Cards has certainly been left with a complicated legacy. The remake of the 1990 BBC mini-series was the show that really put Netflix on the map. Before this series came along, the streaming service was struggling to convince the world it could be a serious player on the international entertainment stage. Sure, it was a great place to watch programmes made by other broadcasters, but could it really produce a decent original?

This show proved that Netflix could. The exceptional political thriller about Congressman Frank Underwood struck a chord with audiences and totally changed the way we all saw Netflix, paving the way for all the other brilliant dramas that have followed.

However the series starred disgraced Hollywood actor Kevin Spacey in the lead role. The sixth and final season of House of Cards returned with Robin Wright alone in the Oval Office, but how much can the past be re-written?

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The End of the F***ing World

Based on a graphic novel, this dark comedy-drama proved to be a surprise hit when it aired on Channel 4, bagging BAFTA nominations and a massive fanbase.

The show is about two teenagers on the run from their lives. There’s schoolboy James, who believes he is a psychopath, and Alyssa, his classmate, who is angry at the world and has latched onto James as a means of escape. Little does she know what he’s planning – bored with killing animals, he’s decided he’d like to murder a human and that the dubious honour should go to Alyssa. That’s why he agrees to a road trip – so he can find a chance to kill her. How long will she stay oblivious to his true intentions and will he succeed?

The show’s creator Charlie Covell has said the show ends well after two seasons and it’s extremely unlikely there will be a third. You never know, though.

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Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

If you feel you need cheering up at the moment – and let’s face it, who doesn’t? – look no further than the endlessly optimistic Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

For its first original sitcom, Netflix went to legendary actress and writer Tina Fey, who dreamt up this delightfully odd story with her 30 Rock collaborator Robert Carlock.

After being abducted by a cult leader, Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper) spent 15 years in an underground bunker with three fellow abductees, believing the Earth had been reduced to a nuclear wasteland. But the Indiana Mole Women (as the media quickly labels them) are rescued by a SWAT team and discover that the world remains full of life…

While the premise may initially sound a little dark, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a comedy through and through, with the same zany sense of humour that made Fey’s previous series such a hit.

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Pride and Prejudice

Yes, the Pride and Prejudice, the one with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, the film guaranteed to make you smile on a sick day, rainy Sunday or Christmas holiday. If you haven’t seen this definitive TV adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel, we insist you do so as soon as is humanly possible.

It’s the story of the five Bennet sisters and their flapping mother, who is obsessed with making sure they all marry well. They have varying levels of success in this pursuit, but it’s headstrong Lizzi we’re most interested in. Very much her own woman, she’s not interested in finding a wealthy match and is repulsed when introduced to the wealthy but arrogant Mr Darcy. Little does she know she’s about to fall in love with him.

Featuring a bizarrely erotic scene in a pond and some of the nation’s best loved stars, this is a treat from start to finish. Also worth pointing out that the novel was the original inspiration for Bridget Jones’s Diary, so the plot might feel familiar…

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Altered Carbon

Joel Kinnaman, Altered Carbon (Netflix)
Joel Kinnaman, Altered Carbon (Netflix, BA)

Based on a “cyberpunk noir” novel by Richard K Morgan set 300 years in the future, Altered Carbon requires you to concentrate. New technology has allowed for human consciousness to be digitised, meaning that humans can theoretically live for ever by hopping from body to body. Now little more than a vessel, the bodies that carry us around are referred to, rather glibly, as sleeves.

At the heart of the story is Takeshi Kovacs (aka House of Cards’s Joel Kinnaman), an elite, interstellar warrior whose consciousness has been awakened for the first time in over 200 years and placed inside the body of a US soldier. The man who brought him back, aristocrat Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy), has done so in order for Kovacs to solve his own murder…

Kinnaman was replaced by Avengers star Anthony Mackie in series two, and there’s a slightly-less-headscratching companion anime movie Altered Carbon: Resleeved to enjoy, too.

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Skins

For a particular generation, this was the defining series of their teenage years, much like Sex Education is right now. Set in Bristol, it’s a ferociously fun comedy drama with a tender heart, focusing on a group of teenagers in their final years at school. The show refreshed the cast every couple of years to avoid the trap of characters outgrowing the premise – a smart move.

It’s a series that didn’t hold back – storylines included depression, substance abuse, bipolar disorder, bereavement and eating disorders – but it never felt heavy-handed because we were watching characters we were invested in. Its bold, honest storytelling is exactly what appealed to fans.

The show stands the test of time and watching it now provides the added bonus of seeing big stars like Nicholas Hoult, Dev Patel, Kaya Scodelario and Daniel Kaluuya in their younger years. It’s a series that launched careers, broke hearts and had us absolutely hooked.

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Homeland

Sometimes a TV series comes along and the whole world pays attention. That’s certainly how it felt when Homeland first arrived on our screens. It was the timely tale of troubled CIA agent Carrie Mathieson, played to great acclaim by Claire Danes, and Nicholas Brody, a US marine portrayed by our very own Damian Lewis. Carrie suspects Brody was turned by al-Qaeda during his time as a prisoner of war, and keeps a close eye on him – as a nation celebrates a war hero, is he actually plotting their demise? Or has Carrie got it all wrong?

The show is currently on its eighth and final season, and let’s face it, most of us have given up on it by now. But when it started it was stupendous – superbly scripted and wonderfully unpredictable. While Danes and Lewis put in powerhouse performances, the show is also elevated by a stellar supporting cast including Mandy Patinkin, David Harewood and Rupert Friend.

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Ugly Delicious

Easily one of the most watchable TV chefs, David Chang takes his no-nonsense, no-holds-barred approached to foodie traditions and cuts into their soft underbelly.

The thing about food is, we should only really care about what it tastes like. But there’s so much more to consider when you get down to it – how it looks, what it reminds you of, who you’re eating with, who is serving it to you. Which is why dishes take on associations that might be rather unfair. For example, why should Neapolitan pizza be considered the best pizza? And, if we’re looking at this closely, who actually does BBQ better: Korea or America?

Let the arguments begin as David picks a different food each episode and tries to unpick its heritage. He travels wherever he needs to in order to get to the bottom of these foodie conundrums. Our favourite episode is Fried Rice, in which he looks at the gaping disparity between real Chinese food and what we love to order from the takeaway.

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Monty Python’s Flying Circus

Monty Python's Flying Circus logo
Monty Python’s Flying Circus logo

Sometimes we get so obsessed with all of the shiny new shows dropping in front of our eyes, we forget to look back at some of the all-time greats.

Monty Python, formed by titans of comedy including John Cleese, Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin, is a comedy troupe with sketches so silly that they are ultimately timeless. The cult series inspired a generation of comedians with skits including Dead Parrot, in which a pet shop owner tries to convince a customer that his pet bird is snoozing not deceased, and the Ministry of Silly Walks, which will have you crying with laughter with its surreal humour (it’s what John Cleese’s long limbs were made for). The impact of these series can still be felt today, and for all the new comedians launching onto the circuit every year, you’ll still be hard-pressed to find anyone funnier.

You’ll also know the Pythons for their films including The Life of Brian and The Holy Grail, which are available to view too.

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Narcos/Narcos: Mexico

Diego Luna, Narcos: Mexico season 2 (Netflix)
Diego Luna, Narcos: Mexico season 2 (Netflix)
Carlos Somonte/Netflix

This is a spectacular drama series, too often unfairly dismissed as a successor to Breaking Bad. The story, based on real events, follows the never-ending game of cat and mouse between infamous drug king Pablo Escobar, the Colombian authorities and the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), breaking down the myths and telling the story of Escobar’s turbulent life. The first two series were filmed in Colombia, where Escobar made his billions distributing cocaine, and takes us from the late 1970s to the early 1990s, when the authorities finally caught up with him.

The series returned for a third outing, but with the Escobar story told it turned its attention to the new drug lords on the block the Cali Cartel. Season four was initially intended to follow the same path, but development led the writers in another direction entirely, with a spin-off called Narcos: Mexico, exploring the country’s war on drugs and taking inspiration from real-life incidents.

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Derry Girls

Lisa McGee’s inspired sitcom about a group of girls navigating teenage life during The Troubles in Northern Ireland in the 1990s explores the usual teen melodramas through the prism of an international conflict. No mean feat, but the balance of humour, heart and just the right amount of pathos is what made the show such a colossal hit for Channel 4 when it launched in 2018 – as well as a fantastic soundtrack. After all, just because adults are embroiled in political turmoil, it doesn’t stop young girls worrying about spots, boys and friendship dramas.

The haunting final scene of series one summed it all up. The much-talked about ending juxtaposed the girls’ school talent show with their families watching breaking news on the TV, while the Cranberries’ Dreams played in the background – one of the TV moments of that year, it left many in tears.

Series one is available to view now.

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Derren Brown

Prepare to be bamboozled all over again, as you relive the incredible work of British illusionist Derren Brown. Whether you think he’s a skilled psychological manipulator, or just a great showman, it is difficult to fathom what he is able to achieve by challenging our beliefs, using his own version of magic.

The shows see Derren set up outrageous, ambitious and sometimes ethically dodgy social experiments, often involving a real person, thrown into a staged scenario. The Push involves Derren setting out with the aim of turning a normal, perfectly pleasant person into a murderer, while in Sacrifice he tries to create a hero, someone who will take a bullet for a stranger. Can he manipulate people into behaviour they would think impossible?

In Miracle, Derren aims to expose the fraudulence of the so-called supernatural powers of faith healers, mediums and others, by mimicking what they do without contacting the other side…

You’ll be left thinking about these shows for weeks after you’ve watched them.

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Big Mouth

You might know Nick Kroll best as The Douche, the DJ who makes your skin crawl in Parks and Rec. In 2017 he teamed up with friend Andrew Goldberg, who has written for Family Guy, to create an adult animated comedy series based on his teenage years. It follows two adolescent boys, unsurprisingly named Nick and Andrew, living in New York and locked in a battle of wills with their “hormone monsters”. They’re confused, horny and don’t quite know what to do with themselves, but the advice they receive comes from all sorts of untrustworthy sources including a ghost and the Statue of Liberty.

Three series explore the subject of puberty with both outrageous humour and sometimes surprising poignancy. The show boasts an excellent voice cast, including John Mulaney, Jordan Peele, Maya Rudolph and David Thewlis, and another three series have already been commissioned by Netflix, which is the ultimate vote of confidence.

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Fargo

At first there were a few raised eyebrows: how would the classic Coen Brothers film work as a TV show? Would they ruin it? Then we watched it and felt an instant wave of relief – this series is nothing short of exceptional.

The “true” story of crime in Minnesota has three largely stand-alone series on Netflix, all of which are 100% worth your precious viewing time. Series one stars Sherlock’s Martin Freeman as a mild-mannered insurance salesman in a provincial Minnesota town. His life unravels after meeting a mysterious stranger played superbly by Billy Bob Thornton. The twists and turns keep you guessing right up to the end of this moody and intelligent drama.

Series two had a new cast including Kirsten Dunst, Patrick Wilson and Ted Danson. Set in March 1979 the story acts as a prequel to the first series and follows the complex story of the town during investigations of three murders. Meanwhile series three of Fargo stars Ewan McGregor in a dual-role as brothers Emmit and Ray.

Apart from the weirdness of hearing Martin Freeman do an American accent, this is near-perfect TV.

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The Thick of It

Armando Iannucci’s satire on modern British government is heralded as one of the best comedies of the modern age. And although politics in recent times has arguably moved beyond satire, there is still plenty to enjoy in this breathtakingly well-observed comedy, set in the fictional Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship.

Don’t watch it with your grandma, though, or any small children. Peter Capaldi stars as foul-mouthed spin doctor Malcolm Tucker and the language is extremely strong. The character is inspired by Tony Blair’s advisor Alistair Campbell, who apparently finds the show hilarious. You’ll also spot comedian Chris Addison as junior policy advisor Ollie Reeder and Rebecca Front as an MP, Nicola Murray.

The Thick of It has gone on to inspire a film, an American version and the US comedy Veep, from the same creator. All four series of the original ground-breaking show are available to watch right now.

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QI

The great thing about watching this popular BBC quiz is that you always manage to pick up a few impressive facts to make you sound like you’re more intelligent than you actually are, which is a huge bonus when you’re stuck for small talk at parties.

If you’ve never watched it before, we will warn you that the questions are deliberately impossible. Comedian Alan Davies is the only regular panellist and the fall guy, his role being to give the stupid answers we’re all thinking of but are too embarrassed to say out loud. Regular guests include Joe Lycett, Sarah Millican, Bill Bailey, Jimmy Carr, David Mitchell and Dara O Briain, so there’s no danger of this becoming an educational snooze-fest. It’s always riotously entertaining as well as informative.

Netflix has now added extra series to its offering – from M to P – taking us out of the Stephen Fry era, into Sandi Toksvig’s reign.

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The Movies That Made Us

Some films are entertaining, others are life-changing. Not just for the fans but for the cast and crew, who find themselves responsible for an iconic chapter in cinema history that touches millions of lives. This simple and fascinating series takes a look at some of the films that turned into box-office gold in the 1980s and 1990s, interviewing the people responsible for them. We’ll discover behind-the-scenes secrets, the moments that threatened to halt filming and the 11th-hour changes we never knew about as we take a trip down memory lane and see some of our favourite movies in a whole new light.

With Die HardHome AloneGhost Busters and Dirty Dancing all going under the microscope, this series celebrates some of the most beloved movies of a certain era. Of course you’ll want to make sure you’ve got access to the movie to watch afterwards, now that you know all the blood, sweat and tears that went into bringing it to screen!

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Whitechapel

Jack the Ripper’s old stamping ground becomes the scene of a modern-day crimewave in this grimly gothic whodunnit. Rupert Penry-Jones heads up a team of ‘tecs that includes Phil Davis and Steve Pemberton dealing with murders that replicate historical crimes. Series one focuses on a Ripper-esque copycat, with later outings centring on the Krays’ impact on east London, and the notorious Ratcliff Highway Murders. Bonkers but addictive.

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In the mood for a film? Check out 50 of the best Netflix movies available now

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