We’ve all been there, the credits roll on the series finale of your latest TV obsession, and you suddenly have a complete feeling of emptiness. Now you begin the process of finding a new binge-worthy show. You ask your friends, and run into the same handful: “Man do you watch Game of Thrones?”. Of course I do, Steve, I’m not a damned Pilgrim. “You should rewatch LOST, it’s so good!”. Frankly a LOST rewatch sounds exhausting. I’ve seen a handful of great shows that upon discussing with friends, many hadn’t even heard of, or considered watching. The shows listed below either don’t have a big following, or many just haven’t been given a shot, for one reason or another.
You probably haven’t heard of these 5 shows, and if you have, why haven’t you watched them?
5. The Americans – Available for streaming via Amazon Prime
Set in the 1980s during the Cold War, The Americans is the story of Elizabeth (Keri Russel) and Philip Jennings (Matthew Rhys), a married American couple with two kids, and a dark secret. The husband and wife are actually Soviet KGB officers, who, to top it off, are next door neighbors and good friends with an FBI agent. While the seasons are a slow burn, this is a great character driven period piece at it’s core. Our two leads are married, but it was arranged by the KGB, and they often have romantic relationships with other people. Elizabeth and Philip seems to be good people, but they will kill innocent Americans to get what they need for their government.
The show is so good at building out these two characters that you root for them to win against our own damn country. The acting is top notch (even the kids, who are the best child actors on TV right now), the suspense is razor sharp, and it’s actually a pretty funny show as well. With 5 seasons, and one final season on it’s way in 2018, add The Americans to your binge queue.
4. Spartacus – Available for streaming via Netflix
I wrestled with whether or not to put this show on here, because it can get quite silly and gratuitous with blood, violence, and sex. The fact that my wife loved this show as much as I did means it passed the “wife test” and I’m comfortable recommending it. Spartacus tells of a Thracian gladiator who leads a major slave uprising against the Roman Republic from 73 to 71 BCE. Season 1 tells of the events leading up to the slave uprising, but when the actor playing Spartacus, Andy Whitefield passed away, Season 2 came to a halt. The next season went in the prequel direction, and told much of how the characters in Season 1 came to power, or slavery. With a recast of Spartacus(Liam McIntyre)in Season 3 and Season 4, they then pick up after the events of Season 1. Confused yet?
Spartacus definitely has the action, violence, and sex thing going for it for the guys, but with many love stories throughout, and gladiators with six packs rivaling the cast of 300’s, there’s enough to keep the ladies interested as well. That funny dude from 1999’s The Mummy, John Hannah, is a riot in the series, alongside another 90’s star in Lucy Lawless from Xena: Warrior Princess. On the gladiator front, the two Spartacus leads (Whitefield & McIntyre) are serviceable, but the supporting cast of the brotherhood of slaves steal the show. As a final warning, this show is brutally violent, with one scene involving a crucifixion and a penis “detachment”. Push through the over the top violence however, and this show could be your next guilty pleasure.
3. Hannibal – Available for streaming via Amazon Prime
I’ll admit it, I’m a Fannibal. I initially gave this show a hard pass due to 1.) It being on NBC, a likely lack of gore. 2.) Really? A Hannibal procedural? 3.) Thinking nobody could ever top Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter. After hearing some buzz from the twitterspheres, I decided to give it a shot and I can safely say Madds Mikkelson is the definitive version of Hannibal Lecter in my mind. Helmed by TV darling, Bryan Fuller (Dead Like Me, Pushing Dasies, American Gods), Hannibal tells the story of the fascinating and almost brotherly relationship of Hannibal Lecter, and FBI special investigator Will Graham (Hugh Dancy). Pulling from Thomas Harris’ novels Red Dragon and Hannibal as it’s lore, we begin the series with Hannibal as a forensic psychiatrist working closely with the FBI.
Season 1 definitely feels like a procedural, ‘catch the killer of the episode’ type show, but after being renewed for Season 2, Fuller got a bit more of a leash to run with and the show really hit’s it’s horror stride. The supporting cast is also quite good here, with FBI agents serving as much needed comedic relief, love interests, and as eventual prey for Hannibal to feast on. Did I mention MORPHEUS is in this? With mind blowingly disgusting cinematography and visuals, an unique and unnerving soundtrack, and very little else like it on TV, Hannibal should be on your binge list ASAP. Hannibal did wrap up nicely after three seasons, and although it was technically cancelled, there are rumors of it making a comeback. I’m crossing my tasty fingers for a bloody revival.
2. Luther – Available for streaming via Netflix
Fair warning, Idris Elba is probably in my top 10 favorite actors right now, so I’m a bit biased, but Luther is a show I believe should be next up on your binge list. Elba plays the obsessive, violent, and dedicated Detective Chief Inspector John Luther. The very first episode of the show introduces us to psychopath Alice Morgan, played by the brilliant Ruth Wilson (The Affair), who sticks around as Luther’s nemesis one moment, and sidekick the next.
Each episode introduces you to a new mystery that needs solving, with murderers and psychopaths coming up with inventive ways to wreak havoc on London. For example, one episode has a killer seemingly playing a game of real life ‘Grand Theft Auto’, murdering people at random using whatever nearest weapon is at his disposal, Luther soon finds the killer really is playing a ‘game’ versus another killer for ‘points’, and has to find a way to end the rampage. Luther is a show that I can only compare to Sherlock in that both shows seem to have a ‘bad guy of the episode’, but each story builds on top of other character arcs. If you’re looking for a gritty crime drama, pulpy thrills, and one hell of an anti-hero in John Luther, make sure to catch this series.
1. Utopia – Available for streaming via Netflix or 4OD using Hola to change your region to UK
Utopia is one of those shows that is much better going in ‘blind’ (without much prior knowledge of what it’s about), but if you’re not that brave, read on. Set in modern day Europe, Utopia follows a crew of strangers who somehow end up with a graphic novel that has a cult following. This novel is rumored to predict every major disaster of the last century, and our characters are soon on the run from a creepy organization dubbed “The Network”. That’s all I’m going to say on the plot, if this sounds like it’s up your alley, check out the Season 1 opening scene below.
Utopia has been heralded for it’s use of vibrant colors, a weird as hell soundtrack, and great performances by the cast, but it’s the plot and characters that kept me hooked. Each scene is oozing with cinematic mastery, and the plot is right up my alley as a sci-fi lover. I ranked this show #1 as I don’t think I’ve met another person who has seen this show, and it’s a damn shame. David Fincher was supposed to bring the series to the US at some point, but that fell through. There are rumblings that it’s coming with Gone Girl writer Gillian Flynn at the helm. Honestly while the idea excites me to revisit the universe, the UK version was already so great it’d be a shame if the original was tarnished. Utopia should absolutely be the next show you binge through, if you can figure out how the hell to watch it!
Honorable Mentions (but you’ve probably heard of these, and likely watched them): Sherlock, Black Mirror, Peaky Blinders, The Leftovers.