It’s that time of year folks, New Year is old hat and the bleak mid-winter has finally kicked in. Our walls are bare (as are our wallets) and some of us are even crazy enough to try and get through it without a drop of alcohol!! But fear not, you may be too skint to go out on the lash or for that expensive trip to the cinema but there are plenty of gems to watch on TV. So forget the January detox. Grab your party leftovers, rifle through the empty wrappers of Quality Street; here’s my guide to the best binge watches on iPlayer and Netflix to get you through the next few weeks:
Starring: Jessica Lange, Susan Sarandon
Looking for some nostalgic, vintage bitching? This 8 episode dramatization of the bitterest rivalry in Hollywood is for you. Lange and Sarandon do a great job recreating the relationship between Joan Crawford (Lange) and Bette Davis (Sarandon) right through from the production of the infamous Hag Horror ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane’ to the sad demise of both Hollywood legends in the 70’s/80’s. Both leads do a great job (particularly Sarandon) as well as the supporting cast which deals well with the gender politics of the time – quite topical if you take a look at the stories coming out of Hollywood at the moment. The sets and costumes are a huge celebration of old Hollywood glamour, full of rich saturated colours and the sets work as extensions of Crawford/Davis personalities; one regal and fashionable the other a traditionalist ode to the East Coast. Even if a Hollywood bitch fight isn’t your thing it’s an easy watch and great excuse to kick back and look at a bye gone era lovingly restored.
Spiral Season 6 (iPlayer)
*Seasons 1-5 on Amazon*
If your idea of a binge worthy TV show is gruesome murders and complicated cops then get involved with this French offering. As we’re into the 6th series some commitment is required but for those of you who have pined for the next great complicated detective noir you could have found the winner. Spiral follows a murder investigation team in Paris and the obstacles involved when government and the judiciary are involved. The stories are dark and the good guys are darker still; a lot has been made of this show being the great successor to The Wire – some even suggesting its better. You can probably get away with watching Series 6 and missing out the previous but for those of you wanting a show with enough binge watching minutes as possible this will be right up your street. Although beware all the grimness may not help rid you of the post-Christmas blues.
Inside No.9 (iPlayer)
Starring: Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith
I’ve got to say I’m still in shock at the amount of people who are yet to discover the brilliant Inside No.9. Similar to classic series such as Tales of the Unexpected and the Twilight Zone, ‘No.9’ has a new cast and story each episode (except Pemberton and Shearsmith) which takes horror and comedic themes and takes them behind a no.9 (settings have included a mansion, hotel, dressing room….even a karaoke room). Fans of League of Gentlemen will already be sold on the premise but those not already converts to the church of Royston Vasey don’t worry. Yes, there is that element of ‘dress up’ which follows through from League of Gentlemen but the writing and characters are much more in the realist realm than the surreal. There has been some great cast members too (Sheridan Smith, Gemma Arterton and Jack Whitehall to name a few) but the best part of No.9 is how every episode can take you from creased up laughter to complete tragedy in a heartbeat – Sheridan Smith’s episode is a complete tear jerker.
Starring: Jonathan Groff and Holt McCallany
This has been on Netflix for some time now but thought I had to give it a mention as it has bypassed loads of people. It’s the 1970’s and two FBI agents, Ford and Tench (Groff and McCallany) begin research into the psychology of murders hoping to transform the way murderers are hunted and caught. Their research uncovers some gruesome and unsavoury characters and finds the pair getting uneasily close to them and the truth behind their motives. I know a few people who started this and said they couldn’t get into it but trust me, give it a shot. Yes, the first episode is quite slow paced and you wonder where its going but if you stick with it you will be hooked by episode 3. With David Fincher on board as producer (and director of 4 episodes) the production levels are brilliant and there’s few better at creating that kind of tension where the audience knows something dastardly is afoot but when will it reveal itself and by whom? Give the cheap channel 5 crime documentaries a miss for the night and binge on this, you won’t be disappointed.
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Starring: Jason Bateman and Laura Linney
After being impressed by Bateman in the thriller The Gift (2015) I decided to give this a go and oh boy, it does not disappoint. Bateman stars as Marty, a seemingly straight laced financial advisor who’s dealings with the cartel lead him to uproot his family to the Ozarks, Missouri. I don’t want to say too much more but there are many facets to this story which reminds me of Twin Peaks and the peculiar characters you meet along the way. But be prepared for violence, where there’s a story about the cartel there is a body count and from the get go the brutality can go from 0 to 100 very quickly – the ending scene was a real heart in mouth moment for me. The fact we are used to seeing Bateman as this nice guy of screwball comedies contrasts really well with what we see happening to Marty, it almost feels like a dark version of one of those movies.
Now that should help count the hours down until payday and the end of dry January. Granted you may need a stiff drink after a binge on a couple of these shows!