Monday 17 June 2019

Sweet streaming - 28 new and classic TV series to binge on over Christmas

From Netflix, Amazon, All 4

Black Mirror season 4
Black Mirror season 4

Pat Stacey

Fancy maxing out on television this Christmas, but don't much care for the traditional tinesel-fringed offerings the main channels are throwing our way? Not a problem. Streaming means you can custom-build a Christmas schedule that doesn't even include the word 'Christmas'.

Netflix is the king of original content and the highlight of the festive break is unquestionably season four of Charlie Brooker's brilliant Black Mirror, arriving on December 29.  Until then, the previous three - as well as a wonderfully twisted, extra-length Christmas instalment starring Jon Hamm - are all up there.

Everyone will tell you to watch Breaking Bad - and if you haven't, you should - but you should also watch the perennially under-rated prequel Better Call Saul, a very different animal yet every bit as compelling.

There are plenty of terrific older series too, including the original (and superior) BBC House of Cards (1990), starring the magnificent Ian Richardson, and its sequels To Play the King and The Final Cut.

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Holt McCallany and Anna Torv in Netflix series Mindhunter

Also recommended: The Crown, Narcos, Mindhunter, Fargo (first two seasons) and stunning western miniseries Godless.

Amazon doesn't yet offer Irish subscribers a similarly vast catalogue, but there are a couple of unmissable gems in Neil Gaiman's breathtaking American Gods, worth it for the playful performance of Ian McShane as god-in-hiding Mr Wednesday alone, and the brilliant, gorily off-the-wall comic book horror romp Preacher, featuring the fabulous trio of Dominic Cooper, Ruth Negga and Joseph Gilgun (as hilarious Irish vampire Cassidy).

Ian McShane and Ricky Whittle on American Gods

Also recommended: The Man in the High Castle, based on Philip K Dick's alternative history novel, the critically acclaimed Transparent (whose star, Jeffrey Tambor, has quit amid sexual harassment allegations), rollicking Treasure Island prequel Black Sails, with the excellent Toby Stephens, and the uncut Ripper Street, which contains scenes that weren't in the BBC edit.

Dan Stevens and Michelle Dockery

If you're feeling nostalgic for Christmas TV past, you can even watch Downton Abbey all over again.

Often overlooked is Channel 4's superb streaming site All 4, which is free to everyone and an indispensable resource.  As well as offering a catch-up service for all current Channel 4, More4 and E4 programmes, its Walter Presents strand boasts an ever-expanding library of international dramas and comedies.

Deutschland '83

Top picks here include gripping and evocative German Cold War yarn Deutschland 83; dark Mexican thriller Mr Aviva, about an insurance salesman who leads a double life as a hitman (both of these are international Emmy winners); and newly arrived French thriller Vanished by the Lake, a kind of Gallic Broadchurch.

Even better, All 4 gives you access to Channel 4's huge archive, stretching all the way back to the night it came on air in 1982.  Want to watch every episode of Father Ted, Black Books or groundbreaking police drama Hill Street Blues?  All available.

Father Ted

So are 23 episodes of The Comic Strip Presents, Alan Bleasdale's GBH, drugs trade epic Traffik and scorching 1988 political thriller A Very British Coup, which features Ray McAnally's finest hour and is more relevant today than ever.

And don't forget YouTube, which features any number of vintage television daramas and comedies.  You never know what you'll find there.  Searching is half the fun.


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