Sunday 25 February 2018

Top 10 TV box sets to binge-watch this Christmas

Office politics: Jon Hamm as advertising executive top dog, Don Draper, and Jessica Pare as Megan in a scene from TV series 'Mad Men'
Office politics: Jon Hamm as advertising executive top dog, Don Draper, and Jessica Pare as Megan in a scene from TV series 'Mad Men'
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

Whoever your service provider, however you watch TV, whichever device you use, one thing is true for all of us: DVD box-sets are the best way of doing it.

They don’t freeze or depend on a fast connection. They don’t get accidentally taped over by your housemate. They don’t require signing up to an account. They don’t give you that annoying “Buffering – please wait” message on screen. They don’t even need electricity, so long as your battery is charged.

DVD box-sets are great.  You have two shopping days left to buy them so here are ten of the best for you to check out this Christmas:


Love/Hate Collector’s Edition

Twenty-four hours of content for devotees of the finest Irish television show ever made. This box-set comprises all five series of Love/Hate, interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, and comes very cutely designed as a hardback book. (FYI, books are sort of like an early prototype of DVDs, made of paper and ink.) Literally and figuratively, it’s bleedin’ massive.


Winds of change: Love/Hate has been one of RTÉ's big successes.


Justified – The Complete Series

Finally, and just in time for Christmas, the terrific US crime drama is collected into one handy box-set. For six seasons we’ve followed the life and crimes of a wonderful cast of Kentuckian cops, criminals and coal-miners. Justified ended this year – perfectly, I might add – and if you haven’t seen it yet, I am very, very envious. You’ve got a real treat in store.

Oliver Callan Live at the Olympia

Although technically not a TV series, in the absence of a collection of Callan’s Kicks, this is the next best thing. (And why, one might add, is the show not on DVD yet?) This is taken from Callan’s recent, and first, Irish tour. It’s essentially the TV show, transposed to stage. And it’s exceedingly funny.

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Oliver Callan at the launch of his new DVD


Game of Thrones Seasons 1-4

Yes, we know GoT is still running – Season 6 is due to land, with a bloody thump, next spring. But we also know that the show kind of jumped the shark at the end of Season 4, so why not remember Game of Thrones when it was actually good. And man, at its best – it was damn good.


Maisie Williams as Arya Stark is mistreated


Poldark Series 1

Aidan Turner buckled his swash, derringed his do and basically gave it socks as Ross Poldark in this latest adaptation of the corny (but beloved) Cornish adventure novels. His half-naked scything scene – really – was the big talking point, but the show was great fun anyway. (Incidentally, you can also buy the original 1970s Poldark on DVD. Contains significantly less half-naked scything.)


Aidan Turner in Poldark.


Fargo Season 1

Fargo the movie was deemed to be “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress – that, even more than the Oscars, shows how well-regarded the film is. Incredibly, Fargo the TV show is even better. Season 1 was a taut, literate and brilliant thriller and meditation on moral corruption. Billy-Bob Thornton, as a sociopathic hitman, has rarely been better. They all have those cute Mid-West accents. What are you waiting for?


Kirsten Dunst in Fargo.



Aiden Gillen is possibly Ireland’s biggest TV star, with seminal shows like The Wire and GoT under his belt. So I guess it’s appropriate that he would play Ireland’s biggest political star of the modern era. For good and ill, Charlie Haughey was box-office gold. Gillen captures his essence without just putting forward an imitation in this intelligent drama.


Aidan Gillen in Haughey


Hannibal Seasons 1-3

They’ve cancelled this, you know. Despite impeccable critical reviews, a fanatical following of aficionados and the spectacularly cool Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal Lecter, the maths couldn’t be denied: not enough people tuned in to this strange, artful and powerful thriller. Don’t be one of those people.




Clean Break

Written by the acclaimed playwright Billy Roche, this was sold as being “the new Love/Hate”, and probably suffered from the comparison. But it was an unfair one. Clean Break felt quite different, in tone and pace (albeit also featuring a contemporary crime storyline): atmospheric, unsettling and provocative.


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Clean Break Episode Four L-R: Adam Fergus as Frank Mallon and Packy Lee as Teeth RTÉ One

Mad Men – The Complete Collection

Another one that bit the dust in 2015. After seven seasons across ten years, tortured ad-man Don Draper and the supporting cast reached some sort of resolution. The rather oblique ending didn’t satisfy everyone, but getting there provided some of the finest television ever created.


Office politics: Jon Hamm as advertising executive top dog, Don Draper, and Jessica Pare as Megan in a scene from TV series 'Mad Men'

The best of Christmas TV: A date with Lady Mary, Luke Kelly and Dr Who

Your guide to the best films on TV this Christmas 

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