Streaming and catch-up options for Christmas TV viewing

Streaming and catch-up options for Christmas TV viewing

Just in case the regular schedules don't float your boat, Des O'Driscoll suggests some of the must-sees on Netflix and the other online offerings.

Escape at Dannemora

Sky Now

A superb drama that really didn't get the profile it deserved when it ran on Sky Atlantic earlier in the year. Based on a real-life prison break in upstate New York in 2015, it has the juicy twist that both the inmates who got out were having 'liaisons' with a female worker at the facility. She's brilliantly played by Patricia Arquette, while Benicio del Toro brings a nice mix of charm and menace to his role as one of the prisoners.

The Boys

Amazon Prime Video

This quirky and rather adult series is well worth the free trial sign-up. A superhero drama with a difference, the characters with special powers are actually part of a corrupt corporate entity, using all sorts of nefarious means to secure lucrative public contracts for crime-fighting. Hugely cynical and a whole lot of fun.

The Two Popes

Netflix

Also released in cinemas, his film joins The Crown in helping to push Netflix beyond its young'n'happening demographic. Based on the real events of the handover of the papacy from Pope Benedict to the current Pope Benedict in 2013, Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce are superb in the lead roles. It's essential viewing for anyone with an interest in the affairs of the Catholic Church, and is decent enough to appeal beyond that congregation. You'd imagine the current pontiff in particular would be happy with the way he is portrayed.

Chernobyl

Sky Now

Up there with Fleabag in the battle for best TV show of 2019, this sublime disaster drama brought us behind the scenes of the 1986 nuclear accident we suddenly realised we knew so little about.

Russian Doll

Netflix

A sort of Groundhog Day plot features a woman stuck in a loop where she keeps popping up at the same party in bohemian New York. It does sag a bit in the middle when proceedings get a bit samey (Duh, that's the whole point!), but stick with it for a surprisingly satisfying resolution.

Deadwood

Sky Now

Back in the mid-Noughties, the great Ian McShane banished the ghost of Lovejoy with a captivating performance across three seasons as brothel owner Al Swearengen. Unfortunately, the expletive-laden HBO show ended abruptly without tying up several loose ends, and we had a long wait until this year's movie provided a sense of closure. All three seasons and the film version are available.

The Crown

Netflix

Streaming and catch-up options for Christmas TV viewing

By a strange coincidence, season three was released around the same time as Price Andrew's infamous TV interview, and one of the plot lines in the new series mirrored some of the PR blundering by the sweaty royal. The jury is still out on whether the new cast are as good as their predecessors, but overall the new series still provides irresistible viewing that's part soap-opera, part history.

Pure Mule

RTÉ Player

This mini-series from 2005 stands as the closest rival to Love/Hate as the best domestic drama of this century. Sex, drink and drugs all featured strongly in the midlands-set tale that had an excellent cast featuring the likes of Charlene McKenna, Eileen Walsh and the late Tom Murphy. A two-part revival in 2009 didn't live up to the original, but those first six episodes are well worth a revisit.

The Irishman

Netflix

The prospect of 207 minutes in a cinema was too much for many people, so the streaming option allows for several sittings. Martin Scorsese's real-life mob story brought together a dream-team that included Robert de Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, in a time-jumping tale that made use of digital effects to render the characters at different ages.

Succession

Sky Now

Thankfully, by the time series two came around this year, more people in this part of the world had heard the word-of-mouth about one of the best drama series on TV. It's set among a mega-rich media-owning New York family who are jockeying for position to take over from the ailing patriarch Logan Roy. A string of selfish, odious characters are played by a brilliant ensemble cast featuring the likes of Brian Cox, Matthew Macfadyen and Holly Hunter.

Marriage Story

Netflix

The third of the Netflix offerings that were originally released in cinemas, and lookling likely to be in the frame for major film awards to mark what has been a really strong finish to the year for the streaming service. Essentially a divorce drama, director Noah Baumbach based some of the story on his own break-up from Jennifer Jason Leigh, and cast Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson as the rupturing couple. They decide on an amicable split, but then she gets a lawyer involved, and it all goes down a more complicated road. Laura Dern is a good bet for a best supporting actress Oscar, and we also get decent turns from Alan Alda and Ray Liotta.

State of the Union

RTÉ Player

If relationship dramas are your thing, then this 10-part series of episodes of just 10 minutes each may fill a few gaps in your viewing schedule. Chris O'Dowd and Rosamund Pike play a couple who meet in a pub before their weekly marriage-counselling session. It's a bit of a push to imagine them clicking in real life, but they just about get away with it thanks to a smart script penned by Nick Hornby.

Atypical

Netflix

Want to give older kids an idea of what life is like for those on the milder end of the autistic spectrum? Over three seasons, this comedy drama has managed to be insightful and entertaining without ever feeling preachy. It follows a family whose 18-year-old is trying to negotiate the tricky terrain of dating, college, and other social situations.

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