Friday 9 December 2016

Eight underrated TV shows you should be watching now

Published 29/11/2016 | 13:39

Before there was The Wire there was Oz
Before there was The Wire there was Oz
Archer
Utopia
Justified
Drawn Together
Threads
Jesse Stone
The Newsroom

Ever feel like there’s just too much new TV out there? Yeah, me too. Apparently more than 350 drama and comedy series now debut each year, which is more telly than God Him/Herself could watch, even with an eternity to do the watching. Also, because so many of these shows come slathered in enough hype to make Don King embarrassed, you never quite know which ones to commit to.

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So forget about all the new, super-hyped stuff cluttering up the global airwaves, and let us make that choice for you. In the run-up to Christmas, we’ve put together a selection of great but criminally underrated and unheralded shows, of recent and not-so-recent vintage.

All are available on DVD at Amazon UK, thus making the ideal Yuletide gift to the one you love the most. And if you’re anything like us, that would be yourself…

1. Archer (2009-now)

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Very, very funny – and beautifully animated – spoof espionage show, featuring the boneheaded Bond-esque title character, his Medusa-like mother, beautiful-and-deadly spy Lana, and a supporting cast which includes a strangulation fetishist and one of Hitler’s cloned children. Archer is ridiculously daft but revels in it. It’s also ridiculously entertaining. (PS Seasons 1-7 are on Netflix too.)

2. Utopia (2013-2014)

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Brilliant thriller from Channel 4, about a murky conspiracy theory on a grand scale, clues to which are supposedly hidden inside a cult comic book. Utopia is exceptionally well-written, gorgeously filmed and – unlike many sci-fi shows – makes sense (mostly) and has a proper resolution, albeit open-ended. Basically, this is what Black Mirror would be like if it was actually as good as all the fanboys claim it is.

3. Drawn Together (2004-2007)

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Animated comedy which satirises both a plethora of Big Brother-style Reality TV shows, and the type of stock characters you get in cartoons (everything from Betty Boop to manga to superheroes to SpongeBob). Drawn Together is lewd, hysterical, inventive, violent, manic. But it’s not crude or stupid – this is hugely clever (while also hugely dumb) comedy.

4. Justified (2010-2015)

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Best TV drama I’ve ever seen, outside of the incomparable Twin Peaks. (Yes, I did say the best.) And the finest adaptation of the great author Elmore Leonard there’s ever been. Just two reasons to watch this Kentucky-set saga of good ol’ boys and bad-ass federal marshalls, but they’re pretty good ones.

5. Threads (1984)

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Unbelievably grim but hypnotically compelling two-part British drama about a nuclear strike on Sheffield. If you’re old enough to remember the Cold War – and even if you’re not – watch this and feel those “what might have been” shivers down your spine.

6. Oz (1998-2003)

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Brutal, brilliant drama set inside a max-security prison. Sometimes almost unbearably tense and violent, but there’s also an uncommon intelligence, emotional depth and even – the very odd time – the possibility of redemption.

7. Jesse Stone (2005-2015)

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Not so much a TV series, as a series of feature-length films, made for TV. Based on Robert Parker’s novels and starring Tom Selleck as an LA cop relocated to small-town New England, these are as thoughtful, engaging and often witty crime dramas.

8. The Newsroom (1996-1997)

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Not that Aaron Sorkin thing, but a great, 13-episode Canadian comedy which skewers the world of network news and did that David Brent thing way before David Brent. And way funnier.

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