Here is the Stylist guide to the best box sets ever to grace our screens, featuring strong female casts or leads, important messages, and belly laughs – all of which can be found on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Sky, NOW TV, or on iTunes.
Nowadays, of course, we don’t just have all of our old favourite television shows to choose from: there’s a plethora of big-budget, star-studded, Hollywood-worthy shows available to dip into via the buffet of streaming services, too.
All that’s left for you to do is put your phone on airplane mode, stockpile snacks and get bingeing.
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Vigil begins with the disappearance of a Scottish fishing boat out at sea – a disappearance which is followed up swiftly by a suspicious death aboard the nearby nuclear submarine HMS Vigil. Cue a murky conspiracy (and a murder most foul) for Suranne Jones’s DCI Amy Silva to solve. Too bad she’s a) claustrophobic, b) frightened of water, and c) destined to spend a significant amount of time on a submarine, eh?
A beautiful hybrid between Luther, Sherlock, and Ocean’s 11, Lupin follows Assane Diop (Omar Sy), who – inspired by Maurice Leblanc’s novels about gentleman thief Arsène Lupin – sets out to steal Marie Antoinette’s necklace from the Louvre. It’s gritty, funny, and stylish – not to mention packed to bursting with puzzles, cool capers, and surprising twists. And, yeah, it’s proven to be a Netflix hit.
The Flight Attendant
Cassie Bowden (Kaley Cuoco) is this show’s eponymous flight attendant, and she’s a reckless alcoholic who drinks during flights and spends her time off having sex with her passengers. In the first episode of the show, though, Cassie wakes up in a hotel room in Bangkok with a) a pounding hangover, b) no recollection of the night before, and c) a dead body lying next to her. Cue a murder mystery that promises to be unlike any other…
If you haven’t found the time to catch Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh in Killing Eve just yet, the time to do that is now, as Phoebe Waller-Bridges’ highly successful drama gears up for season two. Following the lives of Eve (Sandra Oh), a desk-bound MI5 officer, and Villanelle (Jodie Comer), a talented assassin, the show documents their growing obsession with one another – and the deadly game of cat and mouse which ensues. Killing Eve is a whirlwind of action, adventure and female-led anarchy: the perfect recipe for keeping you on the edge of your seat.
Netflix’s fifth-biggest original TV series launch of all time, Bridgerton is the sexy period drama to end all sexy period dramas – and, with a bevy of new seasons on the way, now is 100% the time to get stuck in.
Small Axe, an anthology of five films from writer and director Steve McQueen, takes its title from a West Indian proverb about collective struggle (“If you are the big tree, we are the small axe”), and encompasses true stories from the late 60s to the mid-80s. And, yes, we’re here to tell you that it has easily proven to be one of the most transfixing series we’ve ever had the pleasure of watching.
I May Destroy You
It’s the TV series everyone was talking about in 2020, and for good reason. Created by and starring the incredible Michaea Coel, I May Destroy You sees Arabella’s life change irreversibly after being sexually assaulted in a nightclub. And, in a series of witty, relatable, and emotionally-charged episodes, we watch as she is forced to reassess everything, including her career, friends and family.
The Mare Of Easttown
This award-winning series tells the story of Mare Sheehan (Kate Winslet), a detective in a small Pennsylvania town who carries the weight of fading hometown glory on her shoulders. When she is assigned to investigate the murder of a young girl, the line between her personal life and professional duties soon begins to blur, and it’s not long before she finds herself struggling to stop her world from falling apart around her…
The ability to inspire a spike of 24% in sales of M&S’ canned G&T’s is just one of the things which makes Fleabag such a gem. Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s witty two season comedy was an instant classic and gifted us with “the hot priest” and his predisposition for pre-mixed spirits. The refreshingly raw and realistic chaos of Fleabag’s life makes for the type of TV you just don’t see often.
Big Little Lies
Following the story of three troubled women from Monterey, California, Big Little Lies is jam-packed full of drama and deceit. Led both onscreen and offscreen by actresses Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon (the pair worked as executive producers after buying the screen rights to Liane Moriarty’s novel), this show is anything but simple. Bring on season 2, due out this summer 2019.
Best friends Issa (Issa Rae) and Molly (Yvonne Orji) always strive to find solutions to their problems by facing them together. The result? A show with a cool 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and one which offers viewers an insightful, hilarious, and stereotype-free journey through the life of a 20-something Black woman at that.
Everyone on Twitter has long been obsessed with this tense multi-season Netflix drama, all about a criminal mastermind’s plan to pull off the biggest heist in recorded history – and his eventual showdown with the police.
Dead To Me
Dead To Me, starring Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini, is all about two women who grow close after meeting at a grief counselling session. Jen Harding’s husband had been killed in a hit-and-run, while Judy Hale was struggling to come to terms with the loss of her baby… or so we thought, anyway.
A word of warning: go in expecting both seasons of this deliciously dark comedy to end on the mother of all cliffhangers, folks.
Emmy award-winning drama series Seven Seconds focuses on the hit-and-run of a Black teenager from Jersey City by a white police officer, as well as the subsequent coverup, its aftermath, and the trial of the century.
And, as such, it tackles the controversial issues of race relations between law enforcement, the people they serve, and the personal stories of those involved.
HBO’s Watchmen gives us mask-wearing vigilantes (all of whom are treated as criminals by government agencies), but none have superpowers. And, for an extra dash of realism, they’re woven into a society that’s all too reflective of our current state.
Offering up a very different perspective on Emily Dickinson – who has traditionally been portrayed as a shy New England recluse – Dickinson sees the poet (Hailee Steinfeld ) rebelling against the constraints of society, gender and family in a very millennial way. That is to say, by way of parties, clapbacks, and a bevy of secret carriage-based rendezvous.
Based on the novel You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz, this addictive series stars Nicole Kidman as successful therapist Grace Fraser, who lives in New York with her husband Jonathan (played by Hugh Grant) and their young son. From the outside, the family seems to have the perfect life: Jonathan is a top doctor and devoted father, while their son attends one of the top schools in the city. But then a young woman is murdered, Jonathan disappears, and Grace’s life quickly begins to disintegrate…
If you’ve fallen in love with Margaret Atwood’s storytelling after watching The Handmaid’s Tale, then try this adaptation of her 1996 novel Alias Grace. Based on actual 19th century events, the show documents the life of Grace Marks, a poor Irish immigrant and domestic servant, after she has been convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Told through conversations she has with a psychologist as he tries to discover the truth behind her story, Marks’ narrative is one of oppression and powerlessness at the hands of others.
From the creator of Orange Is The New Black Jenji Kohan comes Glow, a comedy series based on the world of the 1980s women’s professional wrestling circuit. Following the life of struggling actress Ruth Wilder (Alison Brie), the show documents her audition for the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling and the fictionalisation of the characters involved. And trust us when we say it is an inspirational story of female empowerment.
Each season of Netflix’s The Haunting anthology is centered on a different literary haunted house; the first is Hill House, from Shirley Jackson’s novel of the same name, and the second is Bly Manor, as depicted in Henry James’ Turn Of The Screw. Whichever you opt for, be sure to go in expecting terror, tragedy, and terrific performances from all involved, as well as a deeper message on love and loss, too.
Brazen, honest and hopeful, Netflix’s Sex Education is a must watch. Centred around the story of Otis (Asa Butterfield) the socially awkward teenager, the show follows his life as the son of a sex therapist, and the awkwardly blunt conversations his mum tries to start.
Deciding to use this insider knowledge to his benefit, Otis sets up a sex clinic in school with the help of his new friend Maeve. Featuring subjects from female masturbation to revenge porn, Sex Education is a charming reminder of the trials and tribulations of navigating relationships as a young person, whether that be with sex, family, friends, or your own body.
Set in the small mining town of La Belle, where nearly all of the town’s men have died in a mining accident, this feminist Western pits a town of women against a brutal, merciless outlaw gang. Look out for Downton Abbey‘s Michelle Dockery, who shines bright as an almost unrecognisable (and shotgun-wielding) pioneer woman who is entirely out of fucks to give.
Another gem written by and starring Michaela Coel (hurrah!), Chewing Gum tells the story of Tracey Gordon, a religious, virginal, Beyoncé-obsessed 24-year-old living in London’s Tower Hamlets. Tackling everything from Pentecostals to periods, this brilliantly funny sitcom taps into a feeling we all of us know far too well: that the more we learn about the world, the less we understand.
My Brilliant Friend
This adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s moving tale of female friendship is the perfect combination of heart-warming innocence and devastating reality. Following the lives of Elena and Lila, two girls from post-war Naples, My Brilliant Friend tracks their journey as they grow up and experience the world. The casting really shines here; the young Italian actresses cast to play both child and teenage Elena and Lila have an authenticity about them which gives the show something special.
When two become one after a fling ends up in an unexpected pregnancy, Sharon and Rob must figure out what to do next. Written by and starring Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney, Catastrophe follows the couple as they decide to try and forge a relationship while juggling the realities of pregnancy complications and family feuds.
Set in a tiny Irish town during the economic downturn of the 2000s, Normal People begins with a secret schoolyard romance: Connell (Paul Mescal) is well-liked by his peers, and so does his utmost to hide his relationship with the unpopular Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones).
But it doesn’t follow the path of so many other love stories and wrap things up neatly with a bow, however. Instead, it follows Marianne and Connell’s relationship as it continues well into adulthood.
And, as the lonesome Marianne finds her footing at university, and Connell finds himself on the sidelines, we’re left to ponder whether their intense bond can ever hope to last.
When They See Us
Ava DuVernay’s powerful miniseries dramatises the true story of the Central Park Five, five boys who were wrongfully convicted of rape and assault in 1990 and spent years in prison for a crime they didn’t commit as a result of police corruption and racism.
After making its TV debut at the end of summer 2018, Bodyguard was all anyone could talk about, and for good reason. The show follows the story of Police Sergeant David Budd (Richard Madden), an Afghanistan war veteran who is working as a protection officer for the Metropolitan Police. Having been assigned to protect the Home Secretary Julia Montague despite despising her politics, Budd finds himself seriously conflicted. The narrative that ensues is thrilling, mysterious and unpredictable.
Based on Deborah Feldman’s memoir of the same name, the critically-acclaimed Unorthodox tells the story of young ultra-Orthodox Jewish woman Esther Shapiro (Shira Haas), who flees her arranged marriage that sours as she struggles to consummate the relationship and produce a baby.
Dear White People
Based on the acclaimed film of the same name, this award-winning Netflix Original series follows a group of students of color at Winchester University, a predominantly white Ivy League college.
The Handmaid’s Tale
Margaret Atwood’s dark and compelling dystopian tale translates brilliantly to the screen in this adaptation of her best-selling feminist novel.
Following the character of Offred, The Handmaid’s Tale is based in a future America where fertility rates have dropped, and those who are still able to produce have been enslaved and forced to bare children for the upper classes.
And, yeah, you better believe it hits a little close to home. Especially now.
My Mad Fat Diary
My Mad Fat Diary still shines for its painfully real and simultaneously funny portrayal of living with mental illness. The show tells the story of Rae (Sharon Rooney), a 16 year-old girl, as she is discharged from the mental health ward where she has spent the last four months and gears herself up to enter the real world again.
Alongside the humour and portrayal of cringy teenage angst comes refreshing reminders of the day-to-day reality of mental illness; this isn’t one you’re going to want to skip.
One Day At A Time
Dealing with topics from mental illness to homophobia, One Day at a Time is a powerfully honest sitcom with characters you’ll love from episode one. Featuring award-winning performances from its central cast, the show focuses on a Cuban-American family living in Los Angeles as they tackle issues including sexism, immigration and racism; this is feel-good TV which makes you think.
The Good Wife
The Good Wife is a classic courtroom drama that will have you on the edge of your seat with a killer performance from Julianna Margulies throughout the series.
The show-runners Robert and Michelle King wanted the series to centre on the wife of a politician following his sex scandal, similar to Bill Clinton’s and John Edwards’s. However, the creators didn’t want their female lead standing behind her husband as he admits his infidelity publicly, so instead, the show is based on Alicia Florrick being a litigator while supporting her two children.
The cult hit web series Broad City brings us nothing but the highest of high jinks in its tale of Ilana Wexler and Abbi Abrams , two best friends struggling with their low-paying jobs while balancing daily lives in New York City.
The Marvellous Mrs Maisel
Miriam Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) is a 50s Jewish American housewife who lives a seemingly perfect life in New York’s Upper East Side. But one evening, her husband – who she has two children with – says he is leaving her to start a new life with his secretary.
Midge reacts by uncharacteristically swigging a whole bottle of wine, jumping on the subway in her nightgown and heading to the Gaslight Club downtown, where she ends up performing one hell of a stand-up routine that changes her life forever… and that’s where our story kicks in.
Line Of Duty
Another gem from the mind of Jed Mercurio, this BBC drama deals with the murky schemings of AC-12 as DI Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) and DS Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) dig up high-level police corruption, treachery and bloodshed at every turn.
The Queen’s Gambit
This feminist TV sensation tells the tale of orphaned chess prodigy Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) as she struggles with addiction in a quest to become the greatest chess player in the world. And people have become besotted with the lush seven-parter, praising the miniseries for its searing performances, emotionally-charged storyline, and gorgeous period aesthetics.
How To Get Away With Murder
Viola Davis is an absolute goddess, always, but she truly shines bright as How To Get Away With Murder’s Annalise Keating.
For those who haven’t seen the award-winning series, Keating is a criminal defence lawyer and professor, who spends her days teaching and inspiring a group of aspiring law students. However, her life is flipped upside-down when she finds herself entangled entangled in an aberrant murder.
Cue the drama.
They may call it Happy Valley, but it’s anything but happiness and sunshine. Talk about a flood of emotions, as you watch the main character Catherine Cawood struggles to cope with her daughter’s suicide while also becoming obsessed with the man responsible for her daughter’s rape.
Perhaps the biggest TV hit of 2021 so far, Wandavision sees superheroes Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) living idyllic suburban lives. However, it seems as if this might be… well, a massive grief-inspired illusion. Which, considering (sorry, massive spoiler) Vision died at the end of Avengers: Endgame, seems incredibly likely, as theories go…
This is Us
When This is Us first graced our screens, we knew it would be quite a tearjerker right after the pilot episode. Heck, we knew it after the first trailer was released. Parents Jack and Rebecca are expecting triplets, but one of their babies ends up being stillborn in the very first episode.
Convinced that they were destined to have three kids, the parents adopt another baby. The show flashes forward to the lives of the three siblings: Kevin, Randall and Kate and how they battle with their own inner demons.
The Good Place
The Good Place stars Kristen Bell whose character Eleanor enters a mysterious afterlife following her death. The Good Place is reserved for those who lived selfless lives so they are now to be rewarded with their greatest desires. The only issue with this is that Eleanor was a terrible person, and she knows it, so she tries to become a better person during this afterlife while also hiding her true identity from others. Her main fear is ending up being asked to go to The Bad Place.
After what The A.V. Club deemed an “outstanding season with a masterful twist” The Good Place continued its momentum with two more seasons with a 100% Rotten Tomato approval ratings.
Remember when The Affair won Best Actor and Actress during the 72nd Golden Globes back in 2015 and everyone said: “The Affair…what’s that?”
The show explores the aftermath of a passionate affair between Dominic West and Ruth Wilson’s characters following the tragic death of her son. Flash forward three more years and the critically-acclaimed guilty pleasure show is now in its fifth and final season.
Everyone on Twitter has long been obsessed with this tense drama, all about a criminal mastermind’s plan to pull off the biggest heist in recorded history – and his eventual showdown with the police.
Boasting a whopping 93% ‘fresh’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, is it any wonder Money Heist was awarded an International Emmy Award?
The award-winning smash hit retells the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, as the drama gives an inside look at her marriage with Phillip Duke of Edinburgh, the Suez Crisis of 1965 and her sister, Margaret and her relationship with Peter Townsend.
Now in its third season, the show has shifted dramatically as all of its main roles have been recast with season three and four being shot back to back: Olivia Colman reigns as Queen Elizabeth II, and actor Tobias Menzies takes Matt Smith’s spot as Prince Phillips.
This is England, ’86, ’88 and '90
It’s hard not to watch Shane Meadows’ gritty but heart-warming tale of a misfit group of punks-turned-mods from behind shaking hands. The effect is visceral. Vicky McClure’s turn as hard knocks heroine Lol is one of British TV’s best ever.
Game Of Thrones
Warring noble families fight for the Iron Throne (the seat of Kings in the Seven Kingdoms). Comedy, sex, murder, incest, treason, dragons, flesh-eating zombies… you name it, Games of Thrones has it all. And, whether you love or loathe that big finale, there’s no getting away from the fact this is one of the biggest TV shows ever made. Ever.
The Get Down
Baz Luhrmann has been working on this high-energy, high-drama musical for 12 years - and it shows. Set in the late Seventies, the series chronicles the inception of hip hop. It follows a wannabee DJ, Shaoline Fantastic, his wordsmith, Zeke, and his ambitious love interest, Marlene, as they try to overcome the tumultuous political climate in the Bronx to make it as music stars.
After picking up an Emmy award in 2019, Succession has become one of the most fascinating and talked-about shows on television.
The show gets us up close and personal with the ridiculously wealthy Logan family, who is perhaps best known for controlling the biggest media and entertainment company in the world.
Their world changes, however, when their father steps down from the company.
The Morning Show
One of the jewels in Apple’s crown is The Morning Show, a drama about the lives of the news presenters that wake America up every day. Inspired by Brian Stelter’s book Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV, the starry series (yes, that really is Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon) explores how the world of morning news deals with the complicated power dynamics between men and women.
In a crowded field of critically adored antiheroes, The Americans delivers two of the best. This Cold War-era series about a husband and wife who seem like regular middle-Americans but are really Russian spies is the espionage thriller/family drama crossover you never knew you needed. There’s also some criminal 80s fashion to spy throughout the six-series run.
If you haven’t seen Stranger Things on Netflix, where have you been? The nostalgia-inducing Eighties drama about a spooky town where kids are going missing, boasts an epic soundtrack, Goonies-esque levels of camaraderie and sci-fi twists to leave you on the edge of your seat.
Orange is the New Black
Piper Chapman is just your average 30-something living in New York until she finds herself facing a 15-month sentence for transporting a suitcase full of drug money for her then girlfriend, an international drug smuggler, ten years ago.
OITNB has pulled in record viewings for its sensitively-told and gripping personal stories about the inmates, not to mention the camaraderie and corruption of prison life.
This off-beat black comedy was written by Judd Appatow of Knocked Up fame. Maverick Mickey and cautious Gus strike up an unlikely friendship after Gus is dumped, and then more. But will they, won’t they? That’s the question.
The West Wing
Showing the inner workings of the Federal Governement, The West Wing won three Golden Globe Awards and 26 Emmy Awards. All you need to know about American politics. Or so we believe.
The X Files
Two FBI special agents – one a sceptic, one a believer – trying to find the truth in unsolved paranormal cases. Whether Mulder and Scully (Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny) were dealing with Arctic ear worms or stretching genetic mutants, it was unmissable midweek TV back in 2001, so we were overjoyed when it returned for more in 2016 after a 15-year hiatus.
If you are a millennial woman, put a date in your iPhone with Girls, the show that follows four female friends – Hannah, Jessa, Marnie and Shoshanna – as they navigate their 20s in New York. Tackling issues from UTIs to unpaid internships with humour and admirable honesty, the six series are a groundbreaking depiction of young womanhood.
Recommended snack: The remnants of your fridge – try peanut butter out of the jar washed down with a box of cheap wine.
Gavin and Stacey
Tidy. What’s occurring? Gavla. Written by Ruth Jones and James Corden, Gavin & Stacey could have its own Catchphrase special…Essex boy meets Welsh girl, the BAFTA-winning show follows the relationship of Gavin and Stacey, from long-distance dating to marriage and babies.
Gilmore Girls is a feel-good series that follows mother-daughter duo Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory (Alexis Bledel) as they navigate life and love in the sleepy town of Stars Hollow. And the hugely popular show saw early performances from actors who have since become big A-list stars, including Melissa McCarthy and Rami Malek.
A mysterious blogger spills on every intimate detail of this group of privileged Upper East Siders lives, as well as Lonely Boy, Dan, and sister Jenny from Brooklyn. Also, look out for Blair and Serena’s seriously covetable wardrobes.
Human appearing extraterrestrial Time Lord, The Doctor has been a part of British television history since 1963. Regenerating 13 times over the years we’ve seen so many great actors take on the role. Everyone has their first doctor. And now the 13th regeneration has blessed us with our first female Doctor.
Go deep into the archives or jump right in with the wonderful Jodie Whittaker . It’s a universe roaming monster-filled institution.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Kimmy Schmidt escapes from a cult after 15 years (it’s funnier than it sounds) and decides to make a go at life in New York. Her wide-eyed enthusiasm is counteracted by her hilariously egotistical housemate, street performer Tituss, and the two become unlikely friends.
Strap in for a bumpy ride, sassenachs. Based on Diana Gabaldon’s book series, Outlander tells the story of Claire Randall, a nurse during the Second World War. While honeymooning in Scotland, she accidentally time travels back to the 18th century where she meets Highlander Jamie Fraser. Together they go on to try and rewrite history.
Yes, it’s as nuts as it sounds. But the costumes and locations are beautiful, the storyline bonkers and Claire and Jamie’s relationship iconic.
The Mindy Project
Mindy Kaling is brilliantly funny as Mindy Lahiri, an ego-centric OB/GYN living in New York and looking for Mr Right. Don’t be fooled by Mindy’s celebrity obsessions and often inappropriate behaviour; she is a strong, successful woman that runs circles around her male colleagues.
The Bluth family is ruined and eldest son Michael has the task of pulling them back from the brink. Unfortunately the brink is where the rest of them seem happiest. Whip-smart one-liners and surreal mania redefine the family sitcom.
Pride and Prejudice (1995)
BBC screenwriter Andrew Davies’ adaptation of Jane Austen’s most famous novel about the Bennett sisters won a BAFTA and an Emmy. And, yeah, it is 100% six hours of the finest period drama ever made.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
In 1997, the world changed forever when Buffy kicked down gender barriers. In 2020, the show still feels as fresh and furiously funny as ever before. Skip series one to launch straight into the good, progressive stuff, and go armed with plenty of cake – the Scooby Gang talk about baked goods almost as much as they do vampires, so you’ll be craving delicious spongey goodness before long.
Sex and the City
You know the plot – four single 30-somethings in NYC – so here are some more reasons why SATC is genius: Big vs Aidan, Samantha’s sassy one-liners and a walk-in closet we would live happily ever after in.
The beauty of this Emmy hoovering US comedy is that it’s so darn relatable. As tender as it is toe-curling, it follows the dysfunctional lives of father/ step-father/grandfather/new father Jay Pritchett and his extended family in mockumentary style.
Set in 60s New York, Mad Men revolves around a Madison Avenue advertising agency and the people who run it. It’s synonymous with its enigmatic male protagonist Don Draper, but you’ll really root for supporting stars Peggy (played by Elizabeth Moss) and Joan as they navigate a man’s world.
The real-life issues and historical moments make for compelling viewing and the sumptuous mid-century sets will leave you with an urgent desire to redecorate.
Friday Night Lights
This is not just a drama about a Texan high school football team and their charismatic coach – it’s also about ambition, racism, poverty, small town dynamics and, at the heart of it all, family in all its different guises. Tackling serious topics with a wholesome dose of Southern charm, you will become incredibly invested in the key characters and start annoying your friends by using ‘y’all’ in every sentence.
Parks and Recreation
A US government official building a new park is not a riveting premise for a comedy, but add a series of mishaps (an accidental shooting, a controversial penguin marriage), characters written with affection and TV’s most iconic tache and we’re sold.
Kerry Washington is Olivia Pope, Washington DC’s finest fixer, in Scandal, the Shonda Rhimes show that insists you make an ‘OMG’ face every five minutes. The plot twists are off the scale as Pope manages other people’s crises while sleeping with the US president. Bonus points: he’s played by the bad guy from Ghost, Tony Goldwyn.
Recommended snack: A goblet of blood red wine and a gargantuan bowl of popcorn, Pope’s nightly routine.
The neighbouring New York apartments, the lack of 9-5, even with Fat Ugly Naked Guy in the mix, we all wanted to be part of the Friends’ crew. 12 years on it’s still the most quotable show that ever was and it taught us exactly what it means to be ‘ON A BREAK’. For this, Friends will always top our best box set list.
The Walking Dead
The focus in The Walking Dead is on a community rebuilding their lives after being ripped apart by the undead, not just, “Zombies! Run away!”
This makes for compelling family drama, but with the added tension that at any time somebody might get their arm chewed off.
No-one matches Helen Mirren’s chain-smoking DCI Jane Tennison. She’s the original, brilliant-yet-flawed woman battling it out in a man’s world. Watching her career soar, while her personal life dissolves, is simply unmissable.
My So-Called Life
The sullen heartthrob musician (Jared Leto), the coming-of-age protagonist (Claire Danes) and the rebellious best friend. It had the epic lovelorn storylines of Dawson’s Creek flanked by 90s grittiness. The original teen drama.
Six Feet Under
It makes us well up just to think about how deeply we care for the Fishers, the dysfunctional family who run a Los Angeles funeral home in Six Feet Under. That’s the power of Alan Ball’s momentous series, which uses the everyday drama of death to deliver a profound story about what it means to be alive. The finale – which you will need several tissues for – is one of the best in box set history.
Never mind the jumpers. Or the wellies for that matter. Sofie Gråbøl’s portrayal of the brilliant, obsessive and isolated homicide detective Sarah Lund in the tense Danish series is one of the great performances of our time. Doggedly persistent, slightly mad, and you know she’s going to be wrong before she’s right. Watch with a pillow to hide behind.
The Big Bang Theory
A group of nerdy friends have their eyes opened when a beautiful blonde moves in across the hall. Unlikely friendships blossom and both sides learn a thing or two about life. After the show went on to embrace the underrepresented female nerd, growing it’s female cast, the male cast members took a pay cut to match their female co-stars.
It was widely assumed Alec Baldwin’s career was on the slide. Then came Tina Fey’s 30 Rock, on life behind the scenes of a fictional Saturday Night Live-style TV show, and Baldwin the comedy genius emerged. Coupled with Fey’s Liz Lemon they’re a dream double act.
The premise of this cult teen series might sound far-fatched: Ryan is the boy ‘from the wrong side of the tracks’ who gets adopted by his youth attorney’s well-to-do family; the Cohens, who also happen to live in the rich kid’s playground of The OC.
But when the storylines are this good, who cares? Ryan is plunged into a life of private schools, pool houses and charity balls, and strikes up one of our favourite ever unlikely TV friendships with the Cohen’s sarcastic, comic book-obsessed son Seth.
Nothing takes the edge off a Sunday evening like the pure escapism of Downton. The gowns, the houses, the massive sweep of the story arcing through generations of the same family. Yes, it’s a bit like a theme park version of history, but the ride is simply charming.
Shonda Rhimes wasn’t messing around when she created the world’s longest running medical drama about a team of surgeons at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital. Every single episode has you catapulting from sobbing to smiling to fist-pumping to googling the mad medical condition you’ve just seen on screen.
If you don’t love Cristina (played by Sandra Oh) then we won’t get along. We cannot think of a better box set to hunker down with.
Wisteria Lane: my favourite cul-de-sac of curtain-twitching, stiletto-toting neighbours where no plot line – no matter how absurd – is out of bounds.
This gripping series followed Carrie Mattherson, a bipolar CIA agent, throughout her career at the Agency and proves that it is a career that she will never be able to leave behind.
When Oceanic Flight 815 crashed on to an island with a host of genius characters, addictive TV was redefined. Add black smoke and a sinister underground lab into the mix and you can’t help but jump on the conspiracy theory bandwagon headfirst.
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Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.