From Succession to The Wire, all the best shows on Now TV
From Succession to The Wire, and from Game of Thrones to The Sopranos (and that’s only the tiniest selection of their extensive roster of hits) HBO, it seems, only produces knockouts.
And happily they’re now all in one place, over on the ever-expanding Now streaming platform (which includes Sky Atlantic, the UK home of HBO).
So if you have a subscription to Now, but you’re not sure about where to start, here are some of our favourite shows – from golden oldies such as Sex And The City and Six Feet Under to new dramas such as House of the Dragon.
A Shakespearean family drama about a Rupert Murdoch-type media tycoon Logan Roy (played brilliantly by Brian Cox) whose children all jostle and usurp him. His offspring are equally intriguing: Connor, the eldest and only child from Logan’s first marriage has never worked a day in his life; Kendall is addicted to many things, including power; Roman is immature and attention-seeking, though there’s trauma in his past; Siobhan “Shiv” is a left-leaning political analyst whose sights are never truly contained to helping her candidate win the presidential election. Consistently explicit, expect three seasons of back-stabbing and powerplays against some truly gorgeous backdrops (they’re billionaires after all).
The White Lotus
If you are looking for a proper laugh – the merciless cackling kind – look no further than the five-time Emmy Award-winning show The White Lotus. Set in a luxury hotel (the first season’s is in idyllic Hawaii, the second is in one of Sicily’s most opulent spots) creator Mike White faultlessly anatomises relationships, wealth, racial politics, sex, family and loneliness – using a motley crew of overpriviledged clientele, and the staff who look after them. The two seasons are stand-alone stories, with only one cast member (the fabulous Jennifer Coolidge – the series arguably resuscitated her career) making the crossover.
House of the Dragon
This Game of Thrones prequel spin-off was not as good as the original, but it wasn’t expected to be – after all, how could the power struggles between the Targaryen family (and its few rivals) ever really compete with the major showdown of the nine great houses of Westeros that played out across eight seasons in Game of Thrones?
However, it was still an enthralling watch, as audiences (in late August, when it was released) were dragged into the very tense drama that led to The Dance of the Dragons - the Targaryen civil war that took place about 170 years before Daenerys’ birth. For Game of Throne fans it was great to see Dragonstone, King’s Landing, The Red Keep and the Throne Room back on screen, too – so much went down there – meanwhile, new viewers were introduced to the scheming dragon-riding noble family at the peak of its power.
Gangs of London
This British crime drama starring Joe Cole, Colm Meaney, Michelle Fairley, Lucian Msamati and Sopé Dìrísù about rival gangs in modern-day London immediately became one of Sky Atlantic’s mega-hits (reportedly it was the channel’s second-biggest original drama release when it came out in 2020).
When crime boss Finn Wallace (Meaney) is assassinated, a battle begins over filling the new power vacuum – and the competition is fierce. There are London’s own rival gangs, an Albanian Mafia, Kurdish freedom fighters and a Pakistani drug cartel, to name a few of the city’s underworld players. Then, if your heart wasn’t beating fast enough, an undercover policeman (played by Dìrísù) infiltrates the mobster Wallace family. Brutal and action-packed, the much-awaited second series was released in October this year, but pulled in mixed reviews.
HBO’s answer to E4’s Skins, Euphoria is a two-series drama focused on the lives of some high school students in the fictional town of East Highland. The teenagers are all dealing with their own demons but their issues are a little more on the nose: one of the teens is a recovering drug addict, one is a drug dealer, one has anger issues and another is haunted by her sexual history.
On the whole, the show was praised by critics – particularly for its cinematography and performances (Zendaya, for example, won two Emmys for her portrayal of Rue Bennett) – though some felt the nudity and adult themes were bordering on being excessive: Euphoria deals with the full roster of hardcore topics, including domestic violence, sexual assault, repressed homosexuality and human trafficking.
For better or for worse it became the third most viewed series on HBO after Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon after its 2019 release. It was also the show that launched a thousand memes – it’s likely that even if you didn’t see the popular series you have a very good idea of what went down thanks to the number of clips that circled the internet. Maude Apatow, Angus Cloud, Alexa Demie, Barbie Ferreira, Sydney Sweeney, and Hunter Schafer star alongside Zendaya.
The 2004 French documentary The Staircase first brought the tragic tale of husband and wife Michael and Kathleen Peterson to our screens. Michael was accused of murdering his wife, who was found dead at the bottom of the stairs of their house. The subsequent story keeps twisting and twisting. The miniseries followed his legal battle from just after his 2001 arrest to its denouement 16 years later (later episodes detailing the trial’s verdict were released in 2013 and 2018).
In this HBO reimagining, which follows both the legal battle and the making of the French documentary, Colin Firth and Toni Collette play the unhappy husband and wife, Dane DeHaan plays Michael’s eldest son and Sophie Turner plays one of Michael’s daughters. Juliette Binoche, Olivia DeJonge and Rosemarie DeWitt also star.
It’s fascinating that as the wealth gap increases and as the cost of living crisis becomes more pressing, TV viewers seem to be ever more obsessed with shows about the ultra-rich behaving badly (think, The White Lotus, Succession, the upcoming ITVX series, Riches). Billions is arguably more of the same, but here Damian Lewis is a hedge fund manager who plays a risky game, with his business strategy sometimes entering illegal territory. Meanwhile, States Attorney Charles ‘Chuck’ Rhoades, Jr. (Paul Giamatti) is trying to catch him out. Set in New York and Connecticut, Billions ran for six seasons.
In case you missed it
Curb Your Enthusiasm
If you can deal with comedy of the utterly excruciating style, you might like Curb Your Enthusiasm, the long-running sitcom from Seinfeld co-creator Larry David. In this semi-documentary style show David and his longtime friends (including Ted Danson, Richard Lewis and Wanda Sykes) play exaggerated versions of themselves, making fun of absolutely everything – including life in Hollywood, meaningless exchanges, getting older and love and divorce. No person or group is safe from David’s cynical prodding.
Chernobyl is absolutely worth your time if you missed it in 2019 – although it does not exactly make for a ’fun’ watch. The drama is about the real Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986, near the Ukrainian city of Pripyat. The five-part award-winning series starts on the day of the disaster and then follows what happens to the men who were there, the emergency services and staff who initially went in to stop the leaking radiation, the behind-the-scenes fight between politicians and scientists, the decisions that lead to the larger clean-up operation and the lives of the Pripyat inhabitants. Jessie Buckley, Emily Watson, Stellan Skarsgård, Paul Ritter and Jared Harris also star.
There are surely few roles better suited to Benedict Cumberbatch than that of the stoic English aristocrat Patrick Melrose from the TV adaptation of the Patrick Melrose novels by writer Edward St Aubyn. The novels are based on St Aubyn’s own life – he grew up in a dysfunctional upper-class English family - but somehow the heavy topics, which include substance abuse, sexual abuse, addiction and death, are not only readable but are darkly humorous when relayed on the page by St Aubyn.
The five-part TV series, which was adapted by One Day author David Nicholls manages to recreate that same tone on screen. “St Aubyn detests the mores of the purposeless rich with the ferocity of an appalled insider. An appalled insider on heroin, and cocktails, and pretty much anything else that comes to hand,” said The Standard which concluded that the series was “more Withnail and I than Fear and Loathing, but this time Uncle Monty is re-cast as an actual monster.”
The Night Of
Riz Ahmed’s career has gone from strength to strength with a CV that includes Four Lions, Nightcrawler, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Sound of Metal. On TV, he received huge acclaim for his role in Sound of Metal. The 2016 award-winning show is a crime drama about Ahmed’s character Nasir ’Naz’ Khan, a Pakistani-American college student who is accused of raping and killing a woman. The show brutally dissects the American justice system: it doesn’t matter that Naz could be innocent – his life and the life of his family are drawn into the destructive forces of the unforgiving institution. Not exactly a jolly watch, the eight-part show is somehow incredibly informative (without being didactic) as well as being a real nail-biter.
Mare of Easttown
When Mare of Easttown came out nearly all that anyone could talk about was how great it was that Academy Award-winning Kate Winslet had let herself look so unkept for the role: “It’s especially surprising to watch Winslet, with her history of inhabiting rosy ingenues, disappear into the colourless drudge of Mare,” said the Atlantic. “Thoughts of Winslet running around the Titanic with an axe or being a bit of a simp in The Holiday will vanish from your mind,” said the Daily Mail. It was all very strange.
The series had Winslet playing a tough police boss in an impoverished Pennsylvania town where alcohol and drug abuse is a pervasive issue. But despite being ground down by life in the unhappy area, as well as grappling with her own family tragedy, Mare is a great cop. There’s been a murder of a teenage mother which she starts to investigate. Meanwhile, there’s another case of a missing young girl which Mare still hasn’t been able to solve, and town members are bitter about it.
Hugh Grant is often pigeonholed as versions of Will Thacker, his bumbling, affable, emotionally tied-up character from 1999’s blockbuster rom-com Notting Hill. But in The Undoing, despite, as The Standard put it, oscillating “between his two most frequent on-screen settings — Richard Curtis hero and sleazeball cad” Grant cuts a much more terrifying figure. He plays Jonathan Fraser, a seemingly devoted father and husband to Nicole Kidman’s Grace, a therapist. The couple is wealthy and successful, running with New York City’s social elite. When Jonathan is accused of murder, Grace’s life starts to fall apart – is her husband really a killer? The show, which was written by Big Little Lies creator David E Kelley, keeps its audiences guessing until the end.
Game of Thrones
It seems like a very long time since we said goodbye to Game of Thrones, but in fact, it was just three and a half years ago. The eight-series fantasy blockbuster, which is based on the best-selling novels by American writer George R R Martin, follows the power struggles between different noble families in a medieval-adjacent time, all very very loosely based on the War of the Roses. But, making things a little more exciting (for people who find period dramas a bit tiresome) is a load of sex, dragons, magic, prophecies and white walkers (ice zombies from The North).
Big Little Lies
Based on the 2014 best-selling novel of the same name by Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies stars Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern and Zoë Kravitz and tells the story of five women who become involved in a murder at a school fundraiser. The show received huge critical acclaim and won eight Emmys. The two season’s 14 episodes are super starry, with Meryl Streep, Alexander Skarsgård and Adam Scott (Severance) also putting in appearances.
An American crime drama set in New Jersey’s Atlantic City in the Roaring Twenties, created by The Sopranos writer and executive producer Terence Winter, and starring Steve Buscemi? Yes please. Others also agreed: Boardwalk Empire ran for five series and landed a whopping 20 Emmy Award wins.
Buscemi’s character Enoch ‘Nucky’ Thompson is based on the real-life crime boss Enoch L Johnson, who ran riot in Atlantic City from the 1910s to 1941 (he was up to all sorts of no-good business ventures including bootlegging, prostitution and gambling and apparently had much of the Atlantic City government under his thumb). The show follows his life over the decades as he runs his operations, interacting with the city’s biggest players. Michael Pitt, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Shannon, Michael Stuhlbarg and Stephen Graham also star.
If you ever read ‘best TV show of all time’ lists, The Wire and The Sopranos are usually battling it out for the top spots. Whatever your own placement, The Sopranos, a mafia drama set in Noughties New Jersey, is definitely up there among the very best and was one of the defining shows of its era. James Gandolfini is the somehow lovable Italian-American mobster Tony Soprano. The six-season show, which ran from 1999 to 2007, is about his life as a crime boss and family man.
The Wire was arguably an even more ambitious project, with each of its five seasons exploring one of Baltimore’s undeclared institutions (season one focuses on the city’s illegal drug trade, season two looks at the port and shipping system, season three focuses on the city’s government, season four on education, and season five on the media).
A no-holes barred inspection of the establishments and subcultures that make up a city, the show which was created by former police reporter David Simon, went on to be nominated for 50 awards and garnered near-universal acclaim. It ran from 2002 to 2008 and turbo-charged the careers of numerous actors including Dominic West, Idris Elba, Frankie R Faison, Wendell Pierce, Lance Reddick, Andre Royo, Michael K Williams, Michael B Jordan and Michael Potts.
Six Feet Under
A programme about a family that runs a funeral home may not initially soundsound that enticing. But this award-winning series, which ran for five seasons in the early Noughties, is widely regarded as one of the greatest shows of all time.
Peter Krause is Nate Fisher and Michael C Hall his brother David, the sons of the funeral director Nathaniel Samuel Fisher Sr (Richard Jenkins). When their dad dies they inherit the Fisher & Sons Funeral Home and decide to keep the business going. The show is a meditation on life (family dynamics, in particular, are put under microscope) and death (obviously; every epsiode begins with a heavenly departure). We Brits typically aren’t very good at discussing death, but Six Feet Under’s darkly humorous exploration of interment makes for brilliant viewing.
Sex and the City
Carrie Bradshaw, Miranda Hobbes, Charlotte York and Samantha Jones are arguably TV’s most famous singletons. Known for their clothes as much as their social observations, over six seasons the quartet fall in and out of love, get married, get ill, do fabulous fashioney things, go dancing and get promoted. Since Sex and the City was filmed between 1998 and 2004, new audiences might be shocked by how badly some parts of the show have aged (gender stereotypes aplenty, there are few non-white lead characters). But if you can overlook that, it’s pure frivolous gold. It returned in 2021 under the guise of And Just Like That (which is also available on the streaming site).
Band of Brothers
This award-winning miniseries follows an American battalion of paratroopers from their training camp, to jumping out of a plane during the Normandy landings in June 1944, to the invasion of Germany and the war’s end. It is a must watch. An adaptation of the book of the same name by Stephen E Ambrose (which was based on the real trials and tribulations of some of the E Company soldiers who made the treacherous route to Berlin through France and Germany) Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg direct a packed cast of stars including Damian Lewis, Ron Livingston, David Schwimmer, Scott Grimes and Colin Hanks.