50 TV shows you probably aren’t watching – but should be

·14 min read
Watch this: Nicola Walker in Annika
Watch this: Nicola Walker in Annika

Abbott Elementary

Quinta Brunson’s irresistible mockumentary-style sitcom follows the beleaguered teachers of an underfunded Philadelphia school. The whole cast is tremendous, but Janelle James is the ultimate scene-stealer as the self-obsessed, social media-savvy principal Ava. (Where to watch: Season 1 on Disney+)


Roughly inspired by the comic film How to Be a Latin Lover, Acapulco hits that Ted Lasso/Schitt’s Creek feel-good sweet spot. It’s set at a luxury Mexican resort in the 1980s, where wide-eyed staffer Maximo chases wealth – and the girl of his dreams. (Where to watch: Season 1 on Apple TV+)

The Afterparty

Following a murder at a high school reunion, different characters shares their perspectives – in the form of genre spoofs for each episode of this inventive whodunit, from action movie to animation, musical and thriller. The sparky cast includes Tiffany Haddish and Dave Franco. (Where to watch: Season 1 on Apple TV+)


Originally a Radio 4 drama set in Oslo, this crime drama about a marine homicide unit has been transported to Glasgow – although Nicola Walker’s Annika Strandhed is still Norwegian, and still a wry presence, whether dealing with corpses or her stroppy teenage daughter. (Where to watch: Season 1 on NOW)


This Bill Hader-starring black comedy has grown ever murkier over its gripping three seasons. Hader plays a dissatisfied hitman who finds new purpose in an acting class (run by Henry Winkler’s eccentric coach), but who can’t escape his violent past. (Where to watch: Seasons 1-3 on Amazon Prime Video, Sky)

The Chair

Killing Eve’s Sandra Oh swaps assassins for infighting and identity politics in academia. She plays the newly appointed chair of a prestigious university English department, but when her colleague does a mock Nazi salute during a lecture, a cancel culture scandal erupts. (Where to watch: Season 1 on Netflix)


After succumbing to a hasty one-night stand when their flight is delayed, Josh (Joshua McGuire) and Fola (Susan Wokoma) arrive home to find they’re now neighbours – and each has a long-term partner. Can they resist temptation? Happily, this moreish romcom comes in 10-minute episodes. (Where to watch: BBC iPlayer)

Chef’s Table

David Gelb’s mouthwatering documentary series takes us into the kitchens of some of the world’s greatest culinary talents. It’s a veritable feast of food porn, as well as offering genuine insight into what makes the likes of Massimo Bottura, Alain Passard and Asma Khan tick. (Where to watch: Seasons 1-6 on Netflix)


Cold War spy games meet futuristic sci-fi. JK Simmons is lowly bureaucrat Howard, who relays messages between two parallel Earths – at least until his alternate-world self pitches up, on the track of a deadly assassin and with a secret about Howard’s wife. (Where to watch: Seasons 1-2 on Amazon Prime Video)

JK Simmons in Counterpart - Alamy
JK Simmons in Counterpart - Alamy


The ever-versatile Bertie Carvel makes a convincing account of PD James’s modest, poetry-scribbling detective in this classy new adaptation with a detailed 1970s setting. If you missed the premiere on Channel 5, you can now find it on Amazon. (Where to watch: Season 1 on Amazon Prime Video)


Humming with zany high-energy and a dedication to the surreal which would impress the Monty Python team, Tim Robinson and Sam Richardson play a pair of low-rent commercials makers whose strike rate is inversely proportional to their screw-ups. It’s breathless – but boy is it fun. (Where to watch: Season 1 on Amazon Prime Video)

Difficult People

Billy Eichner and Julie Klausner play aspiring comedians and caustic best friends in this deliberately abrasive cringe comedy. It’s like a cattier version of Curb Your Enthusiasm, with a similarly impressive guest star roster and close-to-the-bone, pop culture-savvy gags. (Where to watch: Seasons 1-3 on NOW)

Documentary Now!

A peerless mockumentary series which sends up a different genre in each episode, aided by big-name guests. Highlights include a remarkable Sondheim spoof, with John Mulaney as the exacting composer, and Cate Blanchett playing a tortured performance artist. (Where to watch: Seasons 1-3 on Amazon Prime Video)

Cate Blanchett in Documentary Now! - Alamy
Cate Blanchett in Documentary Now! - Alamy

The Dry

Aptly named, this bone-dry Irish comedy – impeccably scripted by playwright Nancy Harris, and produced by Normal People’s Element Pictures – sees recovering alcoholic Shiv return home to her dysfunctional family. Ciarán Hinds plays her philandering father. (Where to watch: Season 1 on NOW)


Deliciously blending laughs with a real streak of horror nastiness, the three seasons of Evil star Mike Colter as a trainee Catholic priest who teams up with Katja Herbert’s psychologist to investigate supernatural phenomena. It’s The Exorcist put through the National Lampoon wringer. (Where to watch: Seasons 1-3 on Paramount+)

The Exorcist

Speaking of Walter Peter Blatty’s seminal horror, this series follows a pair of psychic investigators working in the aftermath of the 1973 original film. It’s a direct sequel, too, so you can safely ignore the increasingly shonky film successors. (Where to watch: Season 1 on Amazon Prime Video)


Israeli television has been responsible for a number of imported gems, and this spy thriller is one of the finest. Its three seasons follow an Israeli Defence Forces operative hunting a ruthless Palestinian assassin. Based on the writers’ own time in the military, it’s murky and disorientating as a sudden sandstorm. (Where to watch: Seasons 1-4 on Netflix)


Inspired by Slate’s acclaimed podcast Slow Burn, this political thriller tells the story of Watergate from the perspective of those surrounding Nixon. It centers on Martha Mitchell, the wife of Nixon’s Attorney General, played by Julia Roberts, who was the first person to expose the affair. (Where to watch: StarzPlay)

Sean Penn and Julia Roberts in Gaslit - Starzplay
Sean Penn and Julia Roberts in Gaslit - Starzplay


This Tina Fey-produced sitcom about a girl group reuniting in middle age has a ridiculously great cast (Sara Bareilles, Busy Philipps, Paula Pell and Renée Elise Goldsberry), a head-spinning joke rate, and a clutch of slyly satirical, but genuinely catchy, original songs. (Where to watch: Seasons 1-2 on NOW, Peacock)


A gleeful braiding of Deadwood with Lysistrata, this Western from Queen's Gambit creator Scott Frank has a 10-gallon hatful of acting talent with Jack O’Connell leading as a murderous outlaw seeking revenge in a frontier town populated almost entirely by women – courtesy of a mining accident which has wiped out the menfolk. Jeff Daniels, Michelle Dockery and Thomas Brodie-Sangster also star. (Where to watch: Season 1 on Netflix) 

The Good Fight

No other TV series so perfectly encapsulates the fury, frustration and sheer surreality of the President Trump era. Christine Baranski leads this stylish legal drama (a spin-off of The Good Wife); scenery-chewing guests include Mandy Patinkin and Michael Sheen. (Where to watch: Seasons 1-5 on Amazon Prime Video and Virgin Go)

Christine Baranski in The Good Fight - CBS
Christine Baranski in The Good Fight - CBS


This pitch-black comic crime series about two brothers covering up an accidental hit and run in Edinburgh is like a Caledonian Coen Brothers caper. Mark Bonnar is in career-best form as the sardonic, amoral lawyer Max, and there are plenty of twists in this riveting tale. (Where to watch: Seasons 1-2 on Amazon Prime Video; Season 2 on BBC iPlayer)


Sweat, Spandex and fraternal rivalry make for a heady brew in this wrestling-based drama. Two brothers try to resurrect their father’s (somewhat improbable) pro-wrestling business in small-town Georgia. But which will be the hero, and which will be the “heel” and take a fall? (Where to watch: Season 1 on Starzplay or Virgin Go)

Home Before Dark

Inspired by the real-life nine-year-old reporter Hilde Lysiak, this compelling crime drama sees our pint-sized newshound on the trail of a momentous cold case in her father’s secretive hometown. Brooklynn Prince is the precocious Hilde and Jim Sturgess plays her dad. (Where to watch: Seasons 1-2 on Apple TV+)

In My Skin

This underrated Welsh gem is well worth hunting down on iPlayer. Teenager Bethan has a challenging home life – her father is a violent drunk, her mother has bipolar disorder - but also finds moments of hope via exquisitely tender adolescent romance. (Where to watch: Seasons 1-2 on BBC iPlayer)


Has The Boys left you hankering for more foul-mouthed, super-powered violence? Then sink your teeth into this – very much adults-only – animation about a boy who discovers his father, the superhero Omni-Man is not perhaps as squeaky-clean as he seems. (Where to watch: Season 1 on Amazon Prime Video) 


We’ve already had Meryl Streep’s version of 1960s TV chef Julia Child on the big screen, but Sarah Lancashire’s take is just as delicious – and includes some Mad Men-esque social commentary. David Hyde Pierce, Bebe Neuwirth and Judith Light are scrumptious support. (Where to watch: Season 1 on Sky)

The Knick

Picture House set in turn-of-the-century New York, with added racial tension. Steven Soderbergh directed the first season of this scalp-sharp medical drama, set in the titular Knickerbocker Hospital, chronicling its brilliant, but opium-addicted leader of the surgery staff (Clive Owen) and a pioneering black doctor (André Holland). Moonlight’s Barry Jenkins has been tapped to direct the forthcoming third season. (Where to watch: Seasons 1-2 on NOW, Sky)

Last Chance U

You don’t have to be a sports buff to appreciate the sheer human drama of this riveting documentary series, which follows the beleaguered football teams of American community colleges. Can they band together to win? Not always. Think Friday Night Lights, but for real. (Where to watch: Seasons 1-5 on Netflix)

The Lazarus Project

In this propulsive sci-fi thriller from Joe Barton (Giri/Haji), Paapa Essiedu’s George discovers he’s part of an elite group who can reverse time to prevent an extinction event – but will also erase anything else that happened, adding a wrenching emotive element. (Where to watch: Season 1 on Sky)

The Lazarus Project - Simon Ridgway
The Lazarus Project - Simon Ridgway

The Mick

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Kaitlin Olson stars as Mickey, a scuzzy wastrel who winds up caring for her rich, prissy sister’s children in LA after her sister and husband are jailed for fraud. It’s got Always Sunny’s wicked delight in offending, and the same knockabout energy. The dirty uncle’s Modern Family. (Where to watch: Season 1-2 on Disney+)

Midnight Mass

Created by The Haunting of Hill House’s Mike Flanagan, this slow-burn  horror centers around an isolated American fishing community which becomes enraptured by a new Catholic priest who can seemingly perform miracles. As always, the payoff is less engaging than the premise – but it’s still a chillingly fascinating exploration of faith. (Where to watch: Season 1 on Netflix)

Miracle Workers

This imaginative anthology comedy series has the same terrific cast throughout, but transposed into different settings: from a bureaucratic Heaven to the Dark Ages and then the Oregon Trail. Daniel Radcliffe, Steve Buscemi and Geraldine Viswanathan star. (Where to watch: Seasons 1-3 on NOW, Sky)

Mythic Quest

This brilliantly detailed workplace sitcom is fuelled by the power struggle between egomaniacal video game creator Ian (Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Rob McElhenney) and talented engineer Poppy (Charlotte Nicdao). F Murray Abraham is scene-stealing as a soused sci-fi novelist. (Where to watch: Seasons 1-2 on Apple TV+)

Nathan for You

Canadian comedian Nathan Fielder plays a socially awkward version of himself in this reality documentary-style prank show. It’s a pitch-perfect, jaw-droppingly elaborate parody of management consultants and commercialism, with victims ranging from a petting zoo to the rebranded Dumb Starbucks coffee shop. (Where to watch: Seasons 1-4 on Amazon Prime Video)

Only Murders in the Building

Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez are true-crime podcast fanatics who team up when there’s a murder in their own New York apartment complex. Blissfully silly parody and generation-gap gags are balanced with riveting mystery-story reveals. (Where to watch: Seasons 1-2 on Disney Plus)

Selena Gomez, Steve Martin and Martin Short in Only Murders in the Building - AP
Selena Gomez, Steve Martin and Martin Short in Only Murders in the Building - AP

The Outsider

Based on a Stephen King novel, there are shiversome strains of True Detective in supernatural crime-horror. It follows Ben Mendelsohn’s detective who wrestles with his rationality when investigating the murder of a child, apparently by a lonely outcast (Jason Bateman). (Where to watch: Season 1 on Amazon Prime Video)

Perry Mason

In this origin story of the great TV defence lawyer, set in a sinful 1930s LA, Perry Mason is a broke, boozy PI haunted by his wartime experiences. It’s visually sumptuous Old Hollywood noir, complete with dodgy cops, dodgier evangelists and hard-boiled dialogue. (Where to watch: Season 1 on Amazon Prime Video)


As pitch-black as the Mississippi night, this neo-noir follows a Vietnam vet who returns to Memphis and becomes a mob enforcer and hitman. Soused in Deep South atmosphere, it’s a finger lickin’ serving of delicious amorality. (Where to watch: Season 1 on Amazon Prime Video, Sky, Virgin Go)

Reservation Dogs

Taika Waititi (of the goofier Thor movies) and Sterlin Harjo supply a sweetly offbeat, Tarantino-riffing comedy about a group of Native American teenagers – and hapless petty criminals – who long to escape their Oklahoma community for California. (Where to watch: Season 1 on Disney+)

Shining Girls

The always excellent Elisabeth Moss is Kirby, who barely survived a brutal assault and is now hunting her attacker (a thoroughly creepy Jamie Bell). But this serial killer thriller has a supernatural twist: Kirby’s reality keeps changing, and the intricate plot involves time travel. (Where to watch: Season 1 on Apple TV+)

Slow Horses

Mick Herron’s series of novels about paper-pushing MI5 rejects who become ensnared in a dangerous spy game is now a thoroughly entertaining drama. Gary Oldman, playing the grizzled but still shrewd Jackson Lamb, spars brilliantly with an icy Kristin Scott Thomas. (Where to watch: Season 1 on Apple TV+)

The Spy

Try to shake Borat from your mind as Sacha Baron Cohen plays an Israeli spy sent to infiltrate the Syrian government. It’s based on the astonishing true story of Eli Cohen (no relation). (Where to watch: Season 1 on Netflix)

The Staircase

Not the mediocre Colin Firth-starring drama, but the original documentary – a classic of the true crime genre. Michael Peterson is accused of murdering his wife, and this bizarre case features surprises like an eerie cold case, a bisexuality reveal, and, yes, the infamous owl theory. (Where to watch: Season 1 on Netflix)


For Bourne fans, Operation Treadstone will have a chilling resonance. It was the CIA black ops programme which created super-assassins through behavioral modification – and from which Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne did his damndest to escape. This prequel series traces the programme’s origins and explores the backstories of some of its other alumni. (Where to watch: Season 1 on Amazon Prime Video)


Rafe Spall and Esther Smith play a couple who find they can’t conceive and so begin the process of adopting a child in this winning comedy-drama. A fantastic ensemble features Imelda Staunton, Ophelia Lovibond, Oliver Chris, Darren Boyd, Phil Davis and Cush Jumbo. (Where to watch: Seasons 1-2 on Apple TV+)


Parks and Recreation’s Greg Daniels wrote this high-concept sci-fi comedy which follows a computer programmer who finds his consciousness uploaded into a VR afterlife when he dies – complete with in-app purchases. Like a cheerier, shinier Black Mirror. (Where to watch: Season 1 on Amazon Prime Video)


Taylor Sheridan’s dyed-in-the-denim series about a Wyoming cattle rancher out of time (Kevin Costner) is all-conquering in the US, but somewhat overlooked here. It’s high time that changed as this ultra-violent neo-Western is well worth saddling up for. (Where to watch: Seasons 1-3 on Paramount+)

You Don’t Know Me

Hero is about to go down for murder – but is he really guilty? This adaptation of barrister Imran Mahmood’s novel by Vigil creator Tom Edge cleverly dramatises the racial prejudice and social challenges that Hero faces, while keeping us guessing about his ultimate culpability. (Where to watch: Season 1 on BBC iPlayer)


Based on Gomorrah writer Roberto Saviano’s book of the same name, this globe-trotting drama orbits around a drug-smuggling family, moving cocaine across the globe. The lavish production values scream big bucks, and there’s a gritty presence to its depiction of criminality. (Where to watch: Season 1 on Amazon Prime Video, Sky)

Are you currently watching or have watched any of these shows? Tell us in the comments section below

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