Top TV shows on NOW TV and Sky Box Sets
Ivan Radford | On 25, Aug 2017
Looking for something to watch on a lazy weekend? Sky has you covered, with a whole host of TV series old and new, all available through your set top box. The good news is that if you don’t have Sky, streaming service NOW TV gives you access to the same shows, all for £7.99 a month, with no contract. Either way, it’s an impressive library to choose from, not least because of Sky’s exclusive deal with HBO. We go through and pick out the best of the bunch, from UK drama to Italian crime thrillers, US documentaries and classic comedies.
From Billions to Band of Brothers and Spaced to Sex and the City, these are the to box sets available to binge watch on Sky and NOW TV:
Twin Peaks: Season 1 and 2 (and The Return)
An idiosyncratic FBI Agent investigates the murder of a young woman in the small town of Twin Peaks. If that premise sounds familiar, wait until you see David Lynch and Mark Frost’s show in action. Things quickly go from weird to strange, from strange to odd, from odd to disconcerting and from disconcerting to fascinating. Kyle MacLachlan is our window into this world as the FBI’s Dale Cooper, who has a thing for pie and coffee (and dictating things to his secretary, Dianne, who may or may not exist). But as a parade of bizarre characters grace our screen, the story takes a back seat to atmosphere and style, resulting in something that’s inexplicable, scary and downright iconic. Sometimes, it’s even funny too. If you’ve never binge-watched this remarkably unusual programme, do so – and then catch up on the 2017 revival. If you’ve seen it already, you don’t need us to convince you to watch it again.
Victoria: Season 1
Jenna Coleman as Queen Victoria. As soon as those words were put together, ITV must have known they were on to something special. Coleman, after stealing the show from Peter Capaldi in Doctor Who – no mean feat in itself – is sensational in the spotlight, bringing us a young Victoria as we haven’t really seen her before: Coleman manages to be regal and determined, but also childish and petulant; she’s composed yet naive; confident but uncertain. She has a crown in one hand – and a doll with a crown on it in the other. Written by creator and executive producer, Daisy Goodwin, the show follows her burgeoning relationship with Albert (a deliciously prickly, yet compassionate Tom Hughes) and her long-standing devotion to her Prime Minister and private secretary, Lord Melbourne (Rufus Sewell). Both couples crackle with chemistry. Before Season 2, don’t miss the chance to catch up with Season 1, courtesy of ITV Encore.
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Seinfeld co-creator Larry David plays a version of himself in this improvised series, which ran for so long you’ve probably already started to tire of hearing about it. Trust us: you won’t get tired of watching it.
The Trip to Spain
Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan are as laugh-out-loud as ever in the third season of their post-modern comedy-drama about fictionalised versions of themselves touring restaurants. Come for the Michael Caine impressions, stay for the nuanced observations on success and ageing. Read our full review
Based in 1970s London, the group of activists go head-to-head with a racist police force who are dedicated to crushing them. Idris Elba plays Kent, a second generation Brit dedicated to achieving equality for black people in Britain through peaceful and intellectual methods, who finds himself at odds with Frieda Pinto and Babou Ceesay as a young couple who become increasingly active, as the political becomes personal. Examining the nature of a relationship under pressure, it poses the question: what if the original Black Power movement in London had used violence?
The Night Of
“If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” That’s a lawyer speaking at the trial of Nasir Khan (a sensational Riz Ahmed), a young Pakistani-American, in HBO’s The Night Of. Invited to a party in downtown Manhattan, he borrows his dad’s taxi to get there, but ends up picking up a fare by mistake. Her name’s Andrea. A night of booze, drugs and other naughty things later, he wakes up in the kitchen, finds her dead in the bedroom, and ends up on trial for murder. Sound familiar? That’s because this is a remake of Criminal Justice, the 2008 BBC thriller starring Ben Whishaw. HBO’s new version a magnificent takedown of the modern legal system, one that proves that justice isn’t blind or biased, but simply indifferent – a never-ending, messy machine that turns, not for what’s right or even what’s wrong, but for what’s easy and affordable. The people crushed in the middle of the cogs? They’re forgotten about, soon to be replaced by someone else. Read our full review
Fortitude: Season 1 and 2
Sky’s first major drama in its recent push for original programming, Fortitude’s bizarre blend of detective thriller and supernatural horror makes for a refreshing (if uneven) cocktail, as we see a gruesome murder committed in the tiny Arctic town. The icy location, with its frozen corpses and isolated community, adds to the eeriness, while The Killing’s Sofie Gråbøl, Richard Dormer and a scene-stealing Stanley Tucci led an impeccable cast. Season 2 is now available as a box set, with double the horror and even more star names waiting to be bumped off.
Westworld: Season 1
In a futuristic theme park staffed by artificial beings, guests can live out their wildest fantasies. However, when the ‘hosts’ begin to run amok, the guests find themselves in a world where anything can happen. Adapted from the Michael Crichton film by a team including JJ Abrams and Jonathan Nolan, and starring Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris and Thandie Newton, if you missed HBO’s sci-fi series last year, this is your chance to catch up before Season 2 next year. Read our reviews
Sex and the City: Season 1 to 6
One of the most iconic TV shows celebrating women, men, friendship, love and wanton credit card abuse, since Sex and the City ceased its run on the small screen in the early noughties, the show has survived in the popular consciousness of Cosmopolitans and anyone who ever says “abso-f*ckin-lutely” – and, oh, some movies, which most of us try to forget about. Whether you’re the quip queen Carrie, the pastel princess Charlotte, the cynical suited Miranda or the brash and brilliant Samantha (and whichever one of them you loathe the most), the show’s four central friends still remain some of the most timeless female characters written for the screen. Never dipped your toe in? Now’s your chance. Read: 8 Reasons why we love Sex and the City.
Legion: Season 1
Dan “The Guest” Stevens stars in this superb, stylish X-Men series from Fargo’s Noah Hawley. Stevens plays David Haller, a.k.a. Legion, a haunted man with power beyond comprehension. His power does not come free, but at the steep cost of David’s mind. Plagued by numerous split personalities – each commanding a different aspect of his power – David is trying to find his way back to sanity. But he’s getting tired and about to give up, until he meets the girl of his dreams…
Deadwood: Season 1 to 3
Everyone talks about the golden age of TV, but way back in 2004, Deadwood was making its own golden age, before Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones came along and ruled the living room. The result is an under-seen western that doesn’t deserve to be overlooked, not least because of its cast (Timothy Olyphant and Ian “Lovejoy” McShane) and the fact that the show is being revived for a feature-length outing.
Penny Dreadful: Season 1 to 3
When was the last time a TV show surprised you? Penny Dreadful, starring Eva Green, Timothy Dalton and Timothy Dalton’s moustache, mashes up classic horror literature, such as Frankenstein and Dorian Grey, to produce a piece of pulp art that sounds trashy but rings with class. How close will it stick to the stories we all know? John Logan’s script weaves it all together with a taste for mortality – and adds a whole heap of freaky witchcraft in Season 2 (and Brian Cox in Season 3). The result would scare even the manliest of facial hair off, and never quite goes where you expect.
Gomorrah: Season 1 and 2
Based on the book Gomorrah by Roberto Saviano, this Italian TV series is a gripping, gritty insight into the underworld of Naples. It follows fierce Neapolitan crime organisation the Camorra through the eyes of Ciro (Marco D’Amore), the obedient and self-confident right-hand man of the clan’s godfather, whose loyalty is tested to its limits. The drama is partly directed by acclaimed Italian writer and director Stefano Sollima (Romanzo Criminale, All Cops Are Bastards), who is also responsible for the overall art direction. The programme is shot on location in and around Naples, Barcelona, Milan and Ferrara – and that authenticity runs through the whole production, from locations and language to the realistic violence. A must-see for crime fans.
Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti. That’s all you need to know about Showtime’s superb thriller, which is set in the ego-driven world of New York high finance. Lewis plays billionaire hedge fund kingpin Bobby Axe Axelrod, alongside Giamatti who plays Chuck Rhoades, the tenacious U.S attorney who tries to take him down. The gripping drama sparks to life as the two actors go head-to-head, setting up a thrilling game of cat and mouse.
Alan Partridge’s Mid Morning Matters: Season 1 and 2
The UK’s most popular Norfolk radio DJ presents his daily morning show on North Norfolk Digital, the site of a recent hostage crisis, as chronicled by Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa. His show began life as a web series way back in 2010 on YouTube, before it was edited together to form a six-episode season for broadcast on Sky Atlantic in 2012. Now, after the Alpha Papa ordeal, Partridge has given us a second season too, once again written by Alpha Papa scribes Steve Coogan, Neil Gibbons and Rob Gibbons. The result is as funny as ever, with more ridiculous conversational topics than you can shake a stick at. Jurassic Park!
The Affair: Season 1 to 3
Showtime’s drama, which stars Dominic West and Ruth Wilson, follows Alison, a young woman waiting tables at a popular Hamptons diner, who begins an affair with West’s married husband. What follows is a conflicting series of flashbacks, as we follow the story of their infidelity from alternative perspectives. The result is a mesmerising study of memory, lies, control and story-telling. What makes Season 2 just as gripping is creators Sarah Treem and Hagai Levi’s decision to add two more POVs to the mix: Helen’s and Cole’s. That extension forces us to spread our sympathy further, adding more shades of grey to the emotional palette. We can’t wait for Season 4, where we get the perspective of the local bus driver. Or Season 5, where we find out what the postman makes of it all.
The Last Panthers
Sky’s latest original crime drama is a six-part pan-European production with CANAL+ in France, with a cast as epic as its ambition. Samantha Morton, Tahar Rahim and John Hurt star in the six-part thriller about a shadowy alliance of gangsters and banisters that rule the continent – kicking off with a daring diamond heist. As if that weren’t enough, the show’s opening credits feature a new song by David Bowie.
The Enfield Haunting
Not impressed by The Conjuring 2? Sky’s mini-series telling the same true story is wonderfully spooky stuff. The three-part drama is a dramatisation of the terrifying and bizarre events that took place at an ordinary house in Enfield during the autumn of 1977. Timothy Spall plays Maurice Grosse, a paranormal researcher who strikes up a connection with Janet (Eleanor Worthington-Cox), when he investigates the strange happenings at the Hodgson family home. Matthew Macfadyen plays Guy Lyon Playfair, Grosse’s sceptical co-investigator, while Juliet Stevenson plays his wife, who is struggling to come to terms with his all-encompassing obsession with the investigation.
Spaced: Season 1 and 2
Before they hopped to the big screen, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (along with directing pal Edgar Wright) made this sensational Channel 4 sitcom about 20-somethings in a flat. Surreal antics and pop culture references follow, as Pegg’s Tim hangs out with Daisy (the always-excellent Jessica Hynes) and the weird artist neighbour downstairs, Brian (the equally-always-amazing Mark Heap). If you like Shaun of the Dead but haven’t seen this, you’re doing something wrong.
Broadchurch: Season 1 and 3
“I can’t be outside. I don’t want to be.” That’s DS Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) to DI Alec Hardy (David Tennant) in Broadchurch Season 1. The ITV drama follows their investigation into the death of a local boy – 11-year-old Danny Latimer – who is found lying on a beach. When forensics suggest strangulation rather than suicide, the familiar procedural plot begins to unravel. But Broadchurch is more than a compellingly plotted and densely layered crime thriller: it’s a study in grief that reverberates with humanity, even as it pulls it apart. A tragedy, the saying goes, can bring people together. This is a distressingly brilliant piece of television. Season 2 and 3 are also on Sky and NOW TV. We’d recommend skipping the middle part.
There’s a lot to be said for a time limit. It can make anything exciting. Secret service operations. Bomb disposal. In a hospital’s major trauma centre, it’s the difference between life and death. Critical follows the “golden hour” of treatment for severe trauma patients; the first 60 minutes after they arrive in the building, when every second counts. Events occur in real-time, something demonstrated by a large red clock on the wall, which visibly ticks away the moments between vital decisions. The message is clear: we’re a long way from Casualty. Jed “Line of Duty” Mercurio makes sure we never leave the hospital, which makes things even more intense and claustrophobic. The result is a thrillingly fast-paced drama that has you hooked from start to finish.
“Everything I write has a precedent in truth.” That’s the opening rationale behind Sky Atlantic’s Fleming, a four-part biopic of Ian Fleming. The parallels between the writer of James Bond and his fictional creation are familiar to die-hard fans of the series – read: there weren’t that many – but John Brownlow and Don MacPherson’s script wastes no time in playing them up. We open with a dark-haired man swimming underwater, harpoon in hand. A woman in a skintight scuba suit turns to face him. He fires. A cloud of dark liquid puffs into the water, accompanied by a familiar burst of John Barry-esque brass. But this isn’t 007 doing his thing: this is Ian and his wife, Ann. It’s one of many playful touches, as Fleming layers up the dramatic irony to the point where the difference between character and creator is almost negligible. Dominic Cooper oozes charm in the lead. Yes, there’s precent in truth, but the fun is in the fantasy.
24: Live Another Day
Season 9 of TV’s longest-running action series keeps its real-time shenanigans going for one more day, albeit for a shorter run of 12 episodes. Relocating to London, Live Another Day sees everyone’s favourite angry secret agent, Jack Bauer, hop around the UK capital, shooting terrorists on the Central Line and chasing through the East End. Kiefer Sutherland is joined by returning cast member Mary Lynn Rajskub as computer guru Chloe O’Brian, alongside Stephen Fry as the British Prime Minister and Game of Thrones’ Judy Davis as British terrorist Margot. The result isn’t particularly smart, but it’s a whole lot of fun, proving that there’s life in the real-time format yet.
The Young Pope
“Ever since I was little I’ve learnt to confound people’s ideas of what’s going on in my head”, confides Lenny Belardo (Jude Law) some way into the first episode of The Young Pope, before adding, “I’m also intransigent, irritable, vindictive – and I have a prodigious memory.”
All of which is to say that Lenny is a messy character – manipulative, Machiavellian, far from likeable, and studiously impenetrable – and these complexities make him a fascinating study for a 10-part TV series. Add to this that Lenny is also, as the title suggests, young, ‘telegenic’ Pope Pius XIII – the first American ever to fill the post, elected, despite all the question marks about his past and his politics, by a Conclave determined that his older, conservative mentor Cardinal Michael Spenser (James Cromwell) should be prevented from ascending to the Papacy – and you have the formula for an intimate yet dizzying examination of the point where an individual’s foible-stricken humanity, a religion’s Byzantine bureaucracy and the inscrutable ideals of divinity all come into stunning collision. Read our review of Paolo Sorrentino’s drama.
Nashville: Season 1 to 5
Callie Khouri’s TV series, which follows a range of country singers in Nashville, Tennessee, is a treat for folk fans, stuffed with guitars, gossip and people grappling with fame. On the downside, the musicians are all fictitious. On the plus side, one is played by the brilliant Hayden Panettiere. With characters who are far from country clichés, some cracking numbers, such as powerhouse hit Don’t Put Dirt On My Grave, and the Blue Bird Café, a real place where some real songwriters have performed, the result combines heart and heartfelt music to moving, absorbing effect. Read: 7 reasons why you should be watching Nashville.
“Can you believe that?” cries a waitress halfway through the opening episode of Supergirl. “A female hero. Someone for my daughter to look up to.” It’s hardly understated, but Supergirl’s USP can’t really be overstated: she joins Jessica Jones as the first female hero in the modern age of comic book films and TV. The hero in question? Kara Zor-El (Whiplash’s Melissa Benoist), who is sent to Earth hot on the heels of her younger cousin, Kal-El (Superman), to protect him. But after a bit of timey-wimey space stuff (involving “The Phantom Zone” and a jail full of mean alien prisoners – hello to the show’s monster-of-the-week premise), she arrives on the planet years later. He’s already become Superman, so she has to find her own path. Kara’s surrounded by other equally super women, from her adoptive sister Alex (Chyler Leigh) to her smart, ruthless boss, Cat (Calista Flockhart). Even her aunt, Astra, is the villain. The result is a show full of fantastic female role models (well, maybe not the aunt), underlining the show’s message of support and empowerment. If that all sounds a bit cotton candy, that’s because it is: Supergirl is the superhero world painted in bright, primary colours. But if you’re tired of DC’s dark, stormy films, Greg Berlanti’s upbeat series is the perfect antidote.