With the long, cold winter nights descending, we’re turning to our televisions to keep us entertained as it gets harder and harder to face the outside world and its chilly indifference. Winter nights don’t have to be a sorry affair though. Working your way through a good box set can be great fun (particularly if you’re watching it with someone special) and can take out the stress of picking what to watch on an evening. So prepare to repeat that mantra of “just one more episode” as we put a spotlight on the top 5 box sets to keep you entertained this winter.
The series that has inspired it’s very own pop-culture phenomenon (not to mention a wonderful sequel series and upcoming film), Breaking Bad is the ultimate binge-watch. Best of all, its 5 seasons now available to consume as you see fit. Enough has already been written already about the adventures of cancer patient and meth cook Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and his accomplice Jessie Pinkman (Aaron Paul), so I won’t add to the hyperbole here. I will say though that it is still perhaps the single greatest televised drama of all time.
Don Draper is perhaps one of the most unlikable protagonists in the history of American drama. It’s to the credit of the cast and crew of Mad Men then, that despite this crutch it still managed to last 7 seasons as one of the most critically acclaimed shows on television. And with good reason. Many of the shows protesters argue it’s a show which favours style over substance, with the glamour of the 60’s era New York backdrop off-setting the shows lack of creativity, character development or plot. These protesters have obviously never given the show a proper chance. It’s a difficult series to really latch on to but once it hooks you the rewards are plentiful.
Dan Harmon, the creator of the cult hit “Rick & Morty” is a man with a real knack for controversy. Indeed, he’s so controversial, he was effectively booted out of his own show during its 4th season (which was posthumously written off as the “Gas leak” year). I’m referring, of course, to Community. For 6 seasons, the irreverent show centred around a group of misfits at the fictional Greendale community college. Led by disgraced lawyer Jeff Winger (Joel McHale), the narrative followed the mismatched gang as they made their way through college, whilst engaging in a vast array of metaphysical shenanigans. Work watching if only to see where Donald Glover (Childish Gambino) got his big break.
True Detective (Season 1)
This series is quite a generic crime drama on the surface. We have damaged partners Rust Cohle (a career-best Matthew McConaughey) and Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) who don’t get along but work so well together that neither seems to care. The murder mystery surrounding the shows multiple decade spanning narrative is quite typical of the genre. It’s the performances, the tone and the script that make the first season of True Detective such commanding and necessary viewing though. The less said about the major misfire that was season 2, meanwhile, the better.
Arguably the show that started it all. The Sopranos followed the late, great James Gandolfini’s Tony Soprano as he underwent therapy at the hands of the smug, but undeniably charismatic Dr Melfi, played with studied calm by Lorraine Bracco. To say the Sopranos is ‘about’ gangsters would be a little like saying Breaking Bad is ‘about’ cooking crystal meth. The show is all about the characters and there are few casts in televisual history that have this much talent in their ranks. It’s true that the show didn’t always fire on all cylinders and that the finale irritated as many fans as it delighted (deservedly so) but more often than not The Sopranos was one of the most consistently engaging shows on television, and all of the other shows on this list owe it a supreme debt.
Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.