From glossy American political dramas to gritty British crime dramas, box sets are the TV phenomena of the last ten years. I have watched A LOT of them so think I am confident I can refer to myself as a bit of an ‘box-pert’. The benefits are many – no waiting around for a week to get your next fix, no adverts – it’s a total immersion experience and one you can share with a bottle of wine and your nearest and dearest. You don’t have to watch TV in a different room anymore or skulk off to bed with the ipad while the other half stays downstairs to watch admire Gary Lineker’s ever-changing facial hair on Match of the Day. And of course, you will be bang on trend as box sets are the new middle class version of ‘a great little country walk we know’ or ‘the latest must-go meal out’. They are also the litmus test of good taste at a dinner party – “you know the Joneses – they didn’t get on with Breaking Bad – and I thought they were our sort of people….”
I’m not going to ignore the time factor, box sets take commitment, plus there is the pressure to keep up with it. A week out and you can totally forget who is winning at what throne in which game. My husband likes to binge-watch, 4 or 5 episodes in one night is not unheard of. I think two of an evening is a good number, giving you time to digest what you have just seen and catch your breath – some of them are INTENSE. But when you find that box set that you and your viewing partner agree on, it becomes an instant bond spanning over weeks or even months. It becomes a ritual to look forward to. You can talk and think about nothing else. And if that means committing time to sharing the sofa together then that really can’t be a bad thing can it?
Here are my recommendations:
What do you mean you don’t know what it’s about? Where have you been?! Walter White’s journey from science teacher to drug baron is a tour de force. Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul’s chemistry here is not just limited to the meth lab. Stunning, cinematic and incredibly tense. It’s as addictive as crystal meth and probably my all time favourite.
Game of Thrones
George RR Martin’s epic series of novels ‘Songs of Fire and Ice’ have been converted into this incredible televisual feast (and you don’t need to be a fan of fantasy to enjoy it). It follows a huge number of characters across the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, all engaged in a bitter battle for the Iron Throne. It also features some fantastic female characters, both young and older. So unpredictable, I advise you NOT to get attached to any character. Seriously. You have been warned.
House of Cards
Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) and his wife scheme and plot their way to the top of the political tree in Washington DC. Based on the BBC’s eponymous drama, it loses none of its power in translation and is currently in season three. They are the ultimate power couple and their Washington townhouse is to die for.
The first, and the best of the recent influx of Nordic noir. In Danish, it’s called Forbrydelsen; in English, it’s just fantastic. Sofie Grabol plays Sarah Lund, a woman who doesn’t mind an itchy jumper as long as the job gets done.
My husband would add in:
New Jersey mob boss Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) struggles to balance the conflicts caused by his family and the criminal empire he runs. A staple of 2000s US pop culture. Gritty, so realistic it almost hurts and with a great witty edge – few will get this level of acclaim ever again – RIP Mr G.
The critically acclaimed HBO crime drama is often called one of the greatest TV dramas ever. Set in the Baltimore drug scene, it stars Dominic West and a young Idris Elba. Tough and unrelenting, if you get through the first few episodes without having to switch off from the violent scenes, you’ll be hooked.
Possibly the best new TV series from 2014, it’s the story of two homicide detectives in a 17-year hunt for a serial killer set in the swamps of Louisiana. Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson are on top form as the ill matched duo. Just proving the immense power of the box set genre – these are multi Oscar nominated actors appearing in a TV series. It’ll get you in the mood for series two, which is just about to air with Colin Farrell and Vince Vaughan.
The Idris Elba murder-detective drama started strong and never let up. The character of Luther is brilliant and dangerously passionate. There are rumours of a film spin-off, but until that materialises enjoy the three series, with a fourth currently being filmed.
I currently have all seven series of Mad Men in waiting but what box-set would you recommend? M