Here's what you should binge watch this Christmas

Ed Power dives into the diverse streaming options for some viewing possibilities over the holidays

1: The OA, Netflix

A deeply enigmatic sci-fi mystery from actress/screenwriter Brit Marling and her creative partner Zal Batmanglij.

Seven years after her sudden disappearance, a blind woman walks back into the lives of friends and family, sight miraculously restored. This is merely the jumping off point for an esoteric drama that demands the viewer “lean in” and pay attention.

Recommended for: Fans of Stranger Things looking for an ever-more challenging watch.

2: The Grand Tour, Amazon Video

Yes, it’s just Top Gear with a fancy new logo (and a vastly beefed-up budget). Then, that’s exactly the point: This is a show that knows what it wants to be and isn’t in the least self conscious about it.

Amazon has, in essence, served up a steaming platter of unsophisticated entertainment aimed at men who have never grown up. That’s a very specific demographic, admittedly, but if that’s what you’re after, The Grand Tour, with the old Top Gear trio of Hammond, Clarkson and May, fits the bill.

Recommended for: Top Gear fans (obviously!).

3: Hannibal, Sky Box Sets

Thomas Harris’s pulp villain is reborn as an art-house anti-hero.

This extraordinary series from Brian Fuller, all three seasons of which are now available on Sky’s streaming platform, combines fever-dream imagery and subtly unnerving performances from Hugh Dancy as an FBI agent with psychic powers and Rogue One’s Mads Mikkelsen as the eponymous cannibal serial killer, whose villainy has yet to be laid bare to the world (the show is very loosely a prequel to The Silence of the Lambs).

Recommended for: Horror fans looking for something different.

4: 3%, Netflix

In this dystopian Brazilian thriller, impoverished young people compete in a face-off to determine whether they will gain entry to the elite strata (the eponymous 3 per cent) which rules society. The show has been described as The Apprentice meets Hunger Games — and is every bit as bizarre as the premise suggests.

Recommended for: Katniss devotees looking for a fresh fix.

5: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Youtube

YouTube is a surprising repository of classic television from the annals.

One of the most gripping series available to view for free is the 1979 BBC adaptation of the le Carré spy novel with Alec Guinness giving a career best performance as depressive British agent George Smiley.

Recommended for: James Bond fans who fancy a side-serving of grit with their martinis.

6: The Expanse, Netflix

Science fiction is suddenly once more in vogue on television, with a Star Trek reboot coming to Netflix next year.

In the meantime, we can feast on this noir-ish thriller set upon an deep space station bubbling with intrigue.

Recommended for: Rogue One fans.

7: Designated Survivor, Netflix

Jack Bauer is back… sort of. Kiefer Sutherland returns to action TV in this new thriller in which he plays the “designated survivor” who becomes US president after the commander in chief and the majority of the cabinet are wiped out in a terrorist attack.

As lowly secretary for housing and urban development, Sutherland’s character was tucked away in a safe location when an explosion takes out Potus in the middle the State of the Union address. Silly fun.

Recommended for: 24 fans.

8: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Netflix

With La La Land, generating deafening Oscar “buzz”, it seems the musical is an institution reborn.

So what better moment to become acquainted with this cult US show which tells of a love-struck Rebecca (Rachel Bloom) who relocates across the country to “Be with” (i.e. stalk) an old boyfriend. Funny, yet profound, with a break-out turn from Bloom.

Recommended for: Anyone counting down to the release of La La Land.

9: Can’t Cope Won’t Cope, RTE Player

This comedy from Cork newcomer Stefanie Preissner caused a fuss on arrival in that it was, a) made by RTÉ but, b) actually funny.

Seana Kerslake plays a 20- something from Mallow working in Dublin and struggling with the trials of Millennial life. She drinks too much, sleeps with the wrong guys and has developed a parasitic relationship with her best friend.

Recommended for: For admirers of comedy that is both cruel and true to life.

10: Rillington Place, BBC iPlayer

Tim Roth is chilling as mumbling post-war serial killer John Christie, who scandalised London with a series of murders through the 1940s and ’50s.

Samantha Morton is almost as unsettling as his wife Ethel, who facilitated her husband’s crimes, while Nico Mirallegro plays Timothy Evans, the innocent man sent to the gallows for one of Christie’s murders.

Recommended for: Agatha Christie fans who want to go darker

11: Stranger Things, Netflix

If you are one of the ten Netflix subscribers who hasn’t already discovered this surprise summer hit… well, Christmas is the ideal moment to become acquainted. It’s the early 1980s and in the woods outside a small American town, dark forces are at work. Winona Ryder plays the hard-toiling mom whose world is tilted on its axis when her son goes missing.

Meanwhile, directors Ross and Matt Duffer take a kitchen sink approach to influences, chucking in references to ET, Alien, Stephen King, John Carpenter and Goonies

Recommended for: Anyone old enough to remember seeing ET in the cinema.

12: Humans, Channel 4 Box Sets

This creepy sci-fi drama wrestles with artificial intelligence and what the world will look like when machines are capable of carrying out tasks nowadays reserved for humans.

Jemma Chan plays a “synth” who achieves self-awareness with The IT Crowd’s Katherine Parkinson as her creeped-out owner. Seasons one and two are available on C4’s iPlayer.

Recommended for: Fans of Westworld eager for another rise-of-the-robots binge

13: Gilmore Girls, Netflix

The cult 1990s dramedy returns with four feature length episodes, as mom- and- daughter best friends Lorelai and Rory (yes, a female character named Rory) find that growing up and making your way through the world is not necessarily straightforward.

Recommended for: Rom-com addicts

14: The Man in the High Castle, Amazon Video

America has lost the Second World War and the Nazis and Imperial Japan call the shots.

But a rag-tag of rebels is plotting to take down these nefarious overlords, with the assistance of a mysterious “man in the high castle”. Adapted from the Philip K Dick novel this is dystopian drama at its most compelling.

Recommended for: Philip K Dick fans who can’t wait for Blade Runner 2

15 Sherlock, Netflix

In preparation for season four of the Benedict Cumberbatch romp, why not catch up with the earlier adventures of the sleuth.

Recommended for: Benedict Cumberbatch admirers counting down to the dvd release of Dr Strange.

  • Note: The Weekend supplement with tomorrow’s Irish Examiner will have highlights from the terrestrial channels over Christmas


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