Five more TV boxsets to watch on lockdown

Hopefully you enjoyed the last five boxsets I recommended (if you didn’t see them, find the post here). But as this lockdown continues and we burn through shows like never before, I thought I’d suggest a few more to add to your list.


The Knick

Continuing our love for some historical drama, The Knick only ran for two seasons (but came to a natural conclusion, don’t worry). Set in the first decade of the 20th century, it follows the work and lives of the staff of the Knickerbocker Hospital in New York. It’s a great period setting for a drama about medicine as so much was being tried, tested and discovered at that point (the infancy of plastic surgery, blood types, and C-sections are explored among others). Led by Clive Owen as Dr Thackery, the tension ramps up with each episode, mixing medical drama with a look at the political issues of the times (eugenics, poverty and race being some of the main themes). Directed by Steven Soderbergh, every scene is rich with detail and it’s compelling right to the end.

Mrs Maisel

If you haven’t seen Mrs Maisel… well, it probably means you don’t pay money to a giant multi-national company that doesn’t pay its taxes. But if you do find yourself on its streaming service and haven’t seen this show then you are missing out. To give it a brief synopsis doesn’t do it justice. But to give it a go, it’s set in NYC in the 1960s and follows Midge Maisel, a poster-woman for ‘perfect wifedom’ and motherhood, whose ‘idyllic’ life comes crashing around her ears when her husband leaves her and she finds herself getting involved in stand-up comedy.

If the whipsmart humour hadn’t got to me, the sharp, brilliantly lovable characters would have and if neither of those had succeeded in grabbing me, then there was the classic underdog story. And if… know what, it’s just a great show and it deserves its trunk load of awards.


It was quite something when a show that I almost turned my nose up at (why does a good film need to be stretched into a whole series?) became one of my favourite things on television. Noah Hawley (who also wrote X-Men TV series Legion) went from strength to strength in this anthology series. Each set in a different decade, every season came with a superb cast, brilliant stories and twists while keeping to that ‘completely bonkers but it actually happened’ feel of the film. Suffice to say, this wasn’t a rehash of the film’s material but instead built upon it. Widening its scope and populating its past and its future until the film was just one story among many that happened around the town of Fargo. There’s too much to like about Fargo, so I’ll just say, maybe start with Season Two (you don’t need to have seen Season One at all to enjoy it) and go from there. You won’t be sorry. Oh, and Season Four is out soon!

Tin Star

On the surface, Tin Star doesn’t seem like anything new. Its a policeman, played by Tim Roth, who takes over as Sherrif in a sleepy little town in Canada, having dragged his family with him from the UK. But dark things from his past soon catch up with him.  Written like that it doesn’t seem like much. But sometimes, when you have the right cast and the right writers, magic happens. And that’s the case with Tin Star. Every character,every character, is gorgeously written and so complex, so real, that every scene brings up something new and unexpected. Tin Star takes absolute pleasure in subverting your expectations, veering off the well-beaten paths and gives you something infinitely more compelling. From the start it puts its main cast through the wringer and you can’t look away wondering how they can possibly keep on going. I heartily recommend giving it a go.

Masters of Sex

One of the unsung heroes of television, this popped up on Channel 4 for two seasons then disappeared (despite it having a full run of four seasons in the US). After it became clear that C4 wasn’t going to finish it, we had to acquire the rest by… other means. Following on the coattails of Mad Men, it’s set in the 1950s, and follows Masters (Michael Sheen) and Johnson (household favourite Lizzy Caplan, see more from her in my previous TV blog), two real-life researchers who decided to study sex and blow the lid off the myths and cultural hang-ups that surrounded it. Both Sheen and Caplan act their socks off, the chemistry between them a lynch-pin of the series, while they work (or don’t) against the adversity that their studies attract from their more conservative colleagues. Special mention has to go out to screenwriter Amy Lippman, who, when given the show’s bottle episodes, consistently delivered incredible deep dives into the characters and their motivations with cracking dialogue fit for their own West End stage plays – especially the one set around an orgy. Now that got your attention, didn’t it?

So I hope these help bring you a bit of enjoyment as we continue through this whole, weird time. It’s tough to stay sane in conditions like these and art really does make things a bit better.

In the meantime, hope you enjoy these shows and that you might consider my book, The End of the Line.

Five TV boxsets to watch while self-isolating

As we’re coming to terms with the new world order (at least for now), I thought I would use my enormous capacity for devouring TV boxsets for good! Find below some of the boxsets I would recommend indulging in over the next few weeks. I’ve tried to go a bit different from other lists (you’re not going to find The Wire or Sopranos or West Wing here) instead I’ve looked at some of the recent hits that you may have missed. Almost all of them are based on books too! So I’ve included links to the books with each entry.


The Outsider

The Outsider - HBO - Stephen King

Only just finished on Sky Atlantic, for a while this was the highlight of our TV week. Based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, the story begins when Terry Maitland (played by Jason Bateman) is arrested for the murder of a young boy. One witness saw him pick the boy up in his van, while another saw him covered in blood. But Terry has proof that he was out of town at the time of the crime. It’s based on a Stephen King novel, so of course the explanation is supernatural but it’s a real pleasure to watch it all play out. The cast were brilliant (especially Cynthia Erivo, who is always someone different in everything she’s in) and even the bit characters got their moments. It was written by Richard Price, who has long been a terrific writer (The Wire and The Night Of are just the tip of the iceberg for the shows, films and novels he’s written. And the direction was out of this world with strange camera angles often giving the impression of the characters being watched from afar. Overall, it was just a fantastic production, a slow burn that steadily built the tension and pulled the characters and viewers alike into the hunt for the truth. Creepy, unsettling, brilliant.

The Outsider is based on, you guessed it, The Outsider by Stephen King. You can buy it here.

Babylon Berlin

Babylon Berlin

If you love historical drama then this is the show for you. In its third season now, it’s one of Europe’s highest budget productions, re-creating 1920s Berlin in startling detail. It would spoil things to delve too deeply into the plot but it follows Detective Gereon Rath and temp-worker Lotte Ritter as they become embroiled in the power play between the various factions fighting to shape Berlin’s future. Featuring Nazis, Bolsheviks, communists, loyalists, criminals and the government, every character has their own politics and an agenda. You have to keep your wits about you to keep up with dealings and double-dealings of the various players. Impeccably researched, and utterly thrilling, I can’t recommend this series enough.

Babylon Berlin is based on the Gereon Rath series by Volker Kutscher. You can get the first in the series here.

The Magicians

Some shows take a while to find their feet and The Magicians is certainly one of them. But what starts as a pretty basic ‘what if Hogwarts but it was a US college?’ idea flourishes in Season Two into something altogether more compelling. The writers pull a blinder by putting the characters in some incredible predicaments, perfectly pitched to test them and to change them in ways you wouldn’t predict. The outcome being that by the end you can’t help but love them, flaws and all. The show should also get a bit of kudos for its inclusivity on gender, sexuality and race. It’s a show that wears its heart on its sleeve and balances the humour with the drama and has an added bit of meta thrown in. It’s a favourite in our house.

The Magicians is based on a trilogy by Lev Grossman. You can get the first book, The Magicians, here.

Schitt’s Creek

An unexpected delight. We picked this up after having seen so many people talking about it on Twitter and we’re so glad that we did. What starts as a typical ‘fish out of water’ comedy as the wealthy, powerful Rose family find themselves down and out in the titular town, develops into something so much more. It isn’t the laughs (though there are plenty of those) but the nuance that carries this series. Character progression is slow but pronounced and believable as the Rosees adjust to their new situation. And there’s a romance in it that’s so adorable I’ve cried over it at least twice. If you’ve watched it already, you know exactly the pair I mean.

This isn’t based on a book, as far as I know, but if it was, it would be awesome.

Castle Rock

Nothing had prepared us for this unexpected gem. We’re big Stephen King fans in our house and many a weekend has been polished off with a bottle of wine and a King film. When we put on Castle Rock, one cold December morning, we hadn’t expected to watch the whole first season in two days. But that’s just what we did. Set in Stephen King’s popular setting of Castle Rock, it brings in characters and locations from a number of King’s books and bounces them off one another in weird and wonderful ways. Even to tell you how the first season starts feels like a spoiler, but we found it compelling and we’re always glad to see André Holland in a lead role. An anthology series, season two can be watched without having seen season one (but it adds more fun in later episodes), and is uplifted by Lizzy Caplin (another household favourite) playing a young Annie Wilkes (Misery). If you’re a fan of Stephen King, this is well worth a watch, especially for all the King Easter eggs.

Castle Rock is based on allll the Stephen Kings. So here’s Misery in honour of the amazing Lizzy Caplin. And it’s, like, the ultimate self-isolation book? Maybe?

So there you have. I may follow up with a further five if there’s interest (and this whole thing keeps on going. In the meantime, hope you enjoy these shows and that you might consider my book, The End of the Line. Maybe if you buy enough copies, that might become a TV show one day. Who knows?!