Best box sets and TV shows on NOW TV and Sky
Ivan Radford | On 27, Nov 2020
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.
Don’t have Sky? Streaming service NOW gives you access to most of the same shows, all for £8.99 a month, with no contract. We go through and pick out the best of the bunch, from UK drama to Italian crime thrillers and US comedies. Click here to find out more or sign up
From Deadwood to Twin Peaks, these are the top box sets available to binge watch on Sky and NOW:
Succession: Season 1 and 2
The biggest media and entertainment company in the world is controlled by the formidable Logan Family. However, their world changes when their father makes a life changing decision about his role in the company. Created by Jesse Armstrong and starring Brian Cox, this impeccably acted and hilariously painful saga is one of the best TV shows of the past five years. Don’t miss it.
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 Good Lord Bird
Is there anything Ethan Hawke can’t do? The versatile actor has brought his earnest brand of charisma to everything from the Before Sunrise trilogy and the intensely disturbing First Reformed to the romantic comedy Maggie’s Plan. But you’ve never seen Ethan Hawke like this – he turns up everything to 11 in The Good Lord Bird, the true tale of John Brown, an abolitionist who may or may not have triggered the American Civil War. A witty, funny, moving and insightful tale of history, civil rights and how to be an ally, this is a contender for one of 2020’s most entertaining and thought-provoking shows.
Available until: 8th January 2021
Gangs of London
Gareth Evans’ first TV series serves up dizzyingly brutal action in a grippingly dark underworld.
Game of Thrones: Season 1 to 8
HBO’s fantasy epic based on George RR Martin’s saga of novels may have divided fans with its ending but nonetheless remains one of the definitive show of modern TV, setting a standard of scale, budget, action and suspense that most other series now are fighting to live up to.
The Vow: Season 1
Describing itself as a “multi-level marketing company”, the controversial group NXIVM claims to offer personal and professional development seminars through its “Executive Success Program”. However, the group has been dogged with claims that it is closer, in truth, to a cult with links to sexual slavery. Inspired by her own experience of attending the group’s seminars, Emmy winning director Jehane Noujaim explores the group with this shocking, gripping documentary. Nine episodes might feel like too many, but that won’t stop you watching every horrifying minute.
Available until: 1st February 2021
I Hate Suzie: Season 1
Billie Piper’s bold and bittersweet TV show is sly, sardonic and simply unmissable.
Will & Grace: Season 1 to 8
This award-winning American sitcom following the adventures of New York-based interior decorator Grace Adler and her temperamental best friend Will Truman, who works as a lawyer, has lost none of its charm, humour or heart.
The Third Day
Jude Law and Naomie Harris star in Dennis Kelly’s absorbingly ambiguous and atmospheric drama, told over six episodes and in two distinct, but interconnected halves: Summer, following Sam (Law), after he is drawn to a mysterious island off the British coast inhabited by a group of islanders set on preserving their traditions at any cost; and Winter, following Helen (Harris), who also comes to the island seeking answers, but whose arrival precipitates a fractious battle to decide its fate.
Damon Lindelof’s remix of Watchmen is compulsively unusual, excitingly ambitious and challengingly pertinent television. Read our full review
Aaron Sorkin’s portrait of TV news is an overly earnest, well acted and compelling piece of escapism.
The Wire: Season 1 to 5
David Simon’s superb, hard-hitting drama stars Dominic West (The Affair) as Detective Jimmy McNulty, who along with his fellow investigators attempts to infiltrate a West Baltimore drug ring headed by the elusive Avon Barksdale (Wood Harris) and his lieutenant, Stringer Bell (Idris Elba). Still influential, still insightful and still as gripping as when it first aired.
Season 5 available until: 20th December 2020
The Knick: Season 1 and 2
Steven Soderbergh has famously hung up his movie hat for TV land several years ago and, while he’s picked up his movie hat since, The Knick was a promising sign of what he could offer on the small screen. The period series, which stars Clive Owen as the head surgeon in the titular hospital and co-stars a brilliant Andre Holland, is a gripping tale of outdated ER practices, racial prejudices and drug addiction. Plus it has a soundtrack by Drive’s Cliff Martinez.
Set in the heart of government during a time of national crisis, this high-stakes British drama stars Robert Carlyle as Prime Minister, Robert Sutherland, and Victoria Hamilton as his Chief of Staff, Anna Marshall. Under the name COBRA, a team comprised of Britain’s leading experts, crisis contingency planners and the most senior politicians must now assemble to help bring society back from the brink of collapse, as they deal with an unfolding national emergency after catastrophic events literally throw the nation into darkness.
Created by Armando Iannucci, Avenue 5 is a space tourism comedy set 40 years in the future when the solar system is everyone’s oyster. Wonderfully performed and enjoyably silly, this underrated sitcom is worth a launch.
Parks and Recreation
This flawless sitcom stars Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope, whose leadership of the Parks and Recreation department in Pawnee, Indiana is as earnest as it is incompetent. She and her trusty group of office mates are followed around by a documentary crew, offering a quirky look into their everyday lives. When that ensemble includes Aziz Ansari, Aubrey Plaza and a pre-Marvel Chris Pratt – not to mention Rob Lowe and a scene-stealing Nick Offerman as man’s man Ron Swanson – the result is one of the funniest workplace comedies ever made.
This brilliantly grim series chronicles the real-life events of one of the most well-known disasters in history, which is also one of the least discussed; most people don’t know the details of what happened. This six-part thriller clinically hones in on one key fact: nobody there knew what happened either. Written by Craig Mazin, the show thrusts us into a chaotic nightmare where the ground is shifting beneath everyone’s feet, in all senses of the word; while scientists try to diagnose what went wrong and how to fix it, politicians make the contaminated water even muddier than it already is, coming up with false truths, alternative facts and half lies to insist everything is ok. Superbly acted by Mad Men’s Jared Harris and Wild Rose’s Jessie Buckley, this leaves your hands so clammy with dread you can’t grip anything.
Mark Strong is a magnetic lead presence in this thrilling remake of Norwegian series Valkyrien. He plays Daniel, a surgeon who sets up an underground clinic beneath the titular Tube station to try and save his wife from an incurable condition – a clinic that is set up with doomsday prepper Lee (Daniel Mays). But as criminals use their service and their secret threatens to come to the surface, tensions keep rising and the stakes get higher and higher. The plot is as ridiculous as it gets, but the pacing is superbly quick and Strong and Mays ground everything with sincere, convincing performances, supported by Game of Thrones’ Carice van Houten as a former colleague faced with moral boundaries she had never considered crossing. Electric stuff.
The Loudest Voice
Russell Crowe is unrecognisable in Showtime’s drama about the Fox News founder Roger Ailes and how he changed the media world forever. A vital, timely insight into the way events are now report, it sees Ailes hit upon a bleak truth: that news doesn’t need to appeal to everyone, just a core demographic, and that opinions are more popular than facts. It may fail to scratch the surface of Roger’s own motivations, but this is a slickly made drama with strong performances that remains provocatively pertinent.
Brassic: Season 1 and 2
Fresh from stealing scenes in Preacher, Joe Gilgun shines in this comedy about Vinnie and his group of working class mates in the North of England, which manages to be simultaneously hilarious and surprisingly compassionate towards a group of people underrepresented on screens.
Kidding: Season 1 and 2
In his first serialised role for two decades, Jim Carrey stars as a beloved children’s presenter struggling to cope with the real world. Poignant drama from director Michel Gondry, this is heartbreaking and amusing – often at the same time.
Get Shorty: Season 1 to 3
Chris O’Dowd stars in a reimagined adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s bestselling novel as Miles Daly – a mob enforcer who’s looking for a new life in Hollywood. Funny, gripping, well acted and stylish, this thrilling crime comedy-drama has the potential to be the next Breaking Bad.
Julia Davis’ exquisitely horrible comedy follows Sally (Catherine Shepherd), who falls into an unexpected affair with Emma (Davis), an actress and singer. And a poet. And also an author. Oh, and a songwriter. The result is howlingly funny – and seriously depraved.
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). With the movie that reunites the whole gang also available, first catch up from the beginning see what everyone foolishly wasn’t talking about.
Witty, wealthy, and carrying a litany of issues. Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Patrick Melrose in this sumptuous, darkly hilarious adaptation of Edward St Aubyn’s acclaimed novels.
Billions: Season 1 to 5
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.
Season 5 available until: 11th December 2020
Save Me (and Save Me Too)
“I’ve just gone to see me dad.” Those are the last words recorded by Jody, in a video to her mum, Claire (Suranne Jones). So when she disappears, her dad, Nelly (Lennie James), is naturally the first suspect. Estranged from the 13-year-old girl, he’s a loser, a barfly, the kind of man everyone on his South London housing estate knows. He’s also been receiving messages from her, and got a phone call from her just before she went missing. But Nelly, while far from the best guy in the world, is innocent – and so he sets off on his own investigation to find the person who’s abducted, or possibly even killed, his daughter.
It’s a premise that might sound familiar, but Save Me proves wonderfully unique at every turn. A large part of that comes down to the script, which is written by James himself. After impressing repeatedly with his sincere turn as Morgan in The Walking Dead, he brings that same authenticity to his screenplay, which twists and turns with the best detective dramas, but never lets plot get in the way of character. Season 2, Save Me Too, is also available and just as excellent.
Britannia: Season 1 and 2
“History is just one thing after another,” Alan Bennett once wrote. He could well have been talking about Britannia, Sky’s lavish new epic that has about as much to do with history as Breaking Bad does with CBeebies. Set in 43AD, it takes us back to a time when men were men, women were women, giant squids were giant squids and druids were possessing people and chatting to their disembodied heads. The History Channel, this ain’t. Our guide to this strange, sceptred isle is General Aulus (David Morrissey), an armed leader determined to invade and conquer Britain, 100 years after Julius Caesar rocked up on our shores, saw what the locals looked like and promptly ran away again. It doesn’t take long to see why: Britannia imagines the UK as a weird, remote realm, one where nonsense reigns, people believe in age-old traditions and war is just waiting to erupt. It could almost be a glimpse of the country after Brexit.
Within an hour, we’ve seen Aulus bully his troops, shout about going to toilet and chickens without heads and seen one of his troops fall foul of dark magic – the trippy opening credits, accompanied by 60s pop track Hurdy Gurdy Man, is only the start of it. The script, meanwhile, trades convincing speech for modern, sweary outbursts at every opportunity – and, after an hour of sipping this insane cocktail, you won’t want it any other way. A swords-and-sandals adventure sporting a hoodie and sneakers, Britannia is gory, scary, and immensely fun. It’s one thing after another. You’ll devour the whole lot.
Gomorrah: Season 1 to 4
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.
The Trip to Spain / Greece
Reuniting Coogan and Rob Brydon for yet another culinary tour of foreign climes, The Trip to Spain sees the pair embark on a trek across, well, Spain, sampling restaurants, writing and waxing lyrical about every topic under the sun – as long as that topic involves Michael Caine. They’re like Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, and, just like Quixote, they undertake a third quest across 1,000 miles of Spanish terrain. Repeating itself over and over, this is an endless cycle of shallow, strangely philosophical nonsense that gets more delectable with every course. The Trip to Greece, meanwhile, proves a poignant farewell tour for the duo, as real life intrudes increasingly upon their overseas escape.
The Sopranos: Season 1 to 6
Every episode of the multi-award-winning mob drama – named the best-written television show in history by the Writers Guild of America – returns to Sky Box Sets. Over the course of six seasons, James Gandolfini and a superb ensemble cast, including Edie Falco, Lorraine Bracco and Michael Imperioli, deal with myriad personal and professional problems, from power struggles and affairs, to violence and the threat of exposure and betrayal. Hailed as a masterpiece by critics, The Sopranos is one not to miss.
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.
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 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.
The New Pope / The Young Pope
“I do not perform miracles.” Those are the words of Pius XIII (Jude Law), aka. Lenny, the Catholic Church’s first American pope. He swaggered into the Vatican in 2016, crowned The Young Pope by Paulo Sorrentino, and to say he shook things up for the Holy See is an understatement. Sorrentino has always been a filmmaker with a strong belief in the power of the profane as well as the sacred, juxtaposing the two with an unshakeable faith in their unholy union. It’s no surprise, then, that his first TV show was about the Vatican, one of the wealthiest states and organisations on the planet. What was a surprise, though, was how sincere the series was, not only in its plumbing of political depths but in its study of faith too; for all the gratuitous and adult content, it was a serious study of religion, personal and institutional, and forgiveness. The New Pope builds upon that rock with a deceptively subtle meditation on grief and healing, married with an thoughtful exploration of identity and duty.
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.