TV

The best TV shows nobody’s watching

There’s a lot out there beyond Game Of Thrones, True Detective and EastEnders – here are the shows that need some love

  • The best TV shows nobody's watching

    Happyish

    Here we have a fortysomething white guy who works in advertising – but wait, this one is Steve Coogan, and it’s set in the present day! Coogan steps into a role Philip Seymour Hoffman was supposed to play, and it’s telling how few what-ifs emerge. Fans of Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue will eat up Coogan’s spiels, and if it can’t quite match up to a certain other show about an ad man, there’s still plenty to get your teeth into.

    Where to watch: Now TV and Sky Go

  • rick-morty-still

    Rick-and-Morty

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    Bob's Burgers

    The animation field is crowded, which has resulted in something of an arms race in edginess – luckily, Bob’s Burgers is here to restore a gentler comedy. Which is exactly what you’d expect, given one of the producers also worked on King Of The Hill. Centred on a family-run burger bar in a constant struggle to stay afloat, this is reminiscent of early Simpsons, and boasts some of the finest voice actors around – including Archer himself, H John Benjamin, and Kristen Schaal.

    Where to watch: Netflix

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    The Mind of a Chef

    Narrated by Kitchen Confidential legend Anthony Bourdain, The Mind of a Chef was always going to be a winner. The show features a host of top chefs – including David Chang, April Bloomfield and Magnus Nilsson – exploring different cooking techniques and ingredients in each episode. Food porn and travel blog rolled into one, it features everything from Scandi Michelin-style dishes as well as more robust southern American plates. A real treat for food fans.

    Where to watch: Netflix (Seasons 1-3)

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    Banshee

    Today’s 14-year-old boys don’t know their luck, because if ever there was a show fine-tuned for that audience, this is it. An ex-con assumes the identity of a small town’s sheriff – naturally, this small town is where his former lover and accomplice is in hiding, and there’s a kung fu-practising Amish gangster running things. The fight scenes are better than those of most films, everything is turned up to 11, and the male lead (Antony Starr) is one of the very few actors under 40 who doesn’t look like a strong wind would blow him over. Seriously, this one is great.

    Where to watch: Sky Go

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    Channel Zero

    A horror anthology, Channel Zero’s first series, Candle Cove, aired on Channel 5 in October 2016 with a second set for release on Syfy in the autumn. Syfy has already commissioned two more seasons, which tells you what TV execs think of the show. Tapping into the creepypasta phenomenon that saw the birth of the likes of Slender Man et al, Candle Cove centres on a child psychologist’s (Paul Schneider) return to his hometown and his efforts to solve the mystery disappearance of children including his twin brother.  

    Where to watch: Pay to view on various platforms

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    The OA

    Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij’s sci-fi drama was only released in December 2016 but it’s already garnered somewhat of a cult following. As well as co-producing and co-writing the show, Marling stars as its lead, Prairie Johnson, aka The OA of the title. With comparisons to 80s-inspired brilliance Stranger Things, it’s got a similar supernatural vibe with Prairie reappearing after an unexplained seven-year absence – and fans are still scratching their heads over its dramatic finale.

    Where to watch: Netflix

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    Vikings

    Sure, you can practically hear the meetings where some exec bellowed, “We need our Game Of Thrones,” but that’s not to say Vikings doesn’t bring a lot to the table. It’s set apart by its claim to some degree of historical accuracy, and by a focus on a tight ensemble that seems to be gradually deserting Westeros. Also, Vikings had a fascinating culture that has seldom got its due, so it’s refreshing to see a version that doesn’t caricature them as bloodthirsty savages – although there is plenty of blood spilled.

    Where to watch: Amazon Prime Instant Video

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    Danger 5

    An off-brand Australian cousin to Archer? Blending everything from Godzilla films to Connery-era Bond to Miami Vice, this series’ deliberately low production values makes The Mighty Boosh look like Lawrence Of Arabia – but it has surreal imagination in spades. Concerning a band of spies set on a quest to assassinate Adolf Hitler, it may not reach the heights Archer hits, but fans of kitsch might just explode with delight.

    Where to watch: Netflix 

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    The Americans

    A victim of the main UK channels’ cluelessness in how to handle US imports – ITV dropped it earlier this year – this Cold War drama has matured into one of the very best of the post-Mad Men period of quality TV. A seemingly normal couple in Eighties Washington DC are in fact KGB sleeper agents – a premise that could get camp pretty fast, but is kept grounded by being written by a former CIA officer. This is one of those series that gets better as it goes on – by the time things get to amateur dentistry, it’s clear you’re watching something special.

    Where to watch: Amazon Prime Instant Video

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    Outlander

    It may seem odd for the man behind the awesomely gritty Battlestar Galactica reboot to turn his hand to a blend of time-travel story and historical romance, but somehow this tricky-to-categorise show works. A Second World War nurse wanders into a stone circle and is transported to 18th-century Scotland – which is a heady idea, but if you run with it, and embrace the pulpier elements, there’s a lot to enjoy – not least some gorgeous Scottish landscapes. Caitriona Balfe is fantastic in the main role too, doing a lot more than the standard Marty McFly bafflement.

    Where to watch: Amazon Prime Instant Video 

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    Halt and Catch Fire

    It may be a pretty transparent attempt to do a Mad Men for the Eighties tech industry, but let’s face it – that is an awesome idea. Especially if you throw in Lee Pace and Scoot McNairy as basically the Jobs and Wozniack of a small Texas computer company – they’re two of the most underrated actors working right now, and if the show around them has its ups and downs, it’s still a pleasure to see them work together. Extra points as well for the period detail, which – just like a certain show about men who work in advertising – is spot on, without being overwhelming. 

    Where to watch: Amazon Prime Instant Video

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    Bojack Horseman

    Amid all the noise created by House Of Cards and Orange Is The New Black, it’s easy to forget that Netflix makes other programming as well – and this sitcom is right up there. Dealing with a washed-up actor (who’s also a horse – it’s an animation) mounting a comeback, this stars a rogues’ gallery of young-ish US comic talent – Will Arnett, Alison Brie, Patton Oswalt and Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul all appear. And what’s not funny about a show which featured a dog who both used to have his own reality show and is called Mr Peanutbutter? Nothing.

    Where to watch: Netflix

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    Sense8

    Jupiter Ascending may have been one of the more, ahem, questionable films of recent times, but this proves the Wachowskis aren’t quite done yet. This is the story of eight strangers (played by actors including Aml Ameen and Doona Bae) around the globe who suddenly become aware of each other’s perceptions, and attempt to work out why. Naturally, they find themselves embroiled in a science-fiction conspiracy. It may not always be clear what is going on, but what’s clearer is that the Wachowskis were saving their best ideas for this show.

    Where to watch: Netflix

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    Orphan Black

    Seeing good acting in TV is hardly news these days, but on Orphan Black Tatiana Maslany doesn’t give one great performance, she gives loads. She plays a con artist who gradually realises she is just one of a whole brace of identical clones – and that she just might be part, of course, of a massive conspiracy. Maslany is superb, creating a whole range of performances that are not only strikingly different but also each as good as the other, challenging you to accept it’s the same person playing them all. It’s mind-boggling, and a beautiful illustration of just what actors actually can bring to the table given the broad canvas of TV.

    Where to watch:Netflix