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Must Watch Boxsets This Winter

The days are getting shorter and colder, and it will soon be time to turn on the heating and huddle up on the sofa. But what use is a sofa without some quality TV to watch in front of it?

The days are getting shorter and colder, and it will soon be time to turn on the heating and huddle up on the sofa. But what use is a sofa without some quality TV to watch in front of it?

Here are our top recommendations for some must-watch boxsets to get you through those long winter evenings.

The Wire

Where: Difficult to find on streaming services - buy or rent it, if you can!

Seasons: 5

IMDb: 9.3/10

Genre: Police, Drama, Thriller

Starring: Dominic West, Idris Elba, Lance Reddick

Years: 2002 - 2008

A cult hit of the early 2000s from the same studio that brought us Game of Thrones and The Sopranos, The Wire starts out as little more than a police procedural set in the streets of Baltimore, Maryland.

However, each season introduces us to a new layer of the city and the rich and unique characters associated with it. Beyond the streets, we come to learn about Baltimore’s dockworkers, politicians, schoolchildren, and journalists. By the time the series is complete, it is a remarkable cross-section of the modern American city.

Created by a reporter who spent more than a decade writing for the Baltimore Sun, what is most striking about The Wire is its scope and its authenticity. Many of its dozens of major characters are played by Baltimore locals, and inspired by some of the city’s most notorious real-life residents. If you want a crime thriller that is truly like no other, look no further.

The Sopranos

Where: Sky Atlantic/NOWTV

Seasons: 6 (although the sixth season is split into two parts)

IMDb: 9.2/10

Genre: Mafia, Drama, Comedy

Starring: James Gandolfini, Lorraine Bracco, Edie Falco, Michael Imperioli

Years: 1999 - 2007

As the show that stopped TV’s decades-long reputation as the place where actors’ careers went to die, The Sopranos holds a special place in silver screen history.

Over 6 seasons and 86 episodes, we follow protagonist Tony Soprano through a long and storied tale of two families. Tony balances the everyday requirements of being a father of two and a husband with managing his headache of a mafia empire.

This is the first television show that many critics would later come to refer to as art, and a true turning point in showing people just what could be achieved through serialised TV drama. More than 20 years after it first aired, it continues to be recognised as one of the best, if not the best. Watch it if you want a show that has complexity, depth, and more than a little humour.

Stranger Things

Where: Netflix

Seasons: 3 so far

IMDb: 8.8/10

Genre: Sci-Fi, Mystery, Action

Starring: Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Millie Bobby Brown

Years: 2016 - Present

Inspired in no small part by 1980s culture, Stranger Things is a visual feast and a supernatural throwback to the decade that brought us Whitney, Prince, and Reagan (the second time).

An intriguing blend of supernatural thriller and political mystery, Stranger Things’ characters include a pre-teen escapee from a government lab, a washed-up police chief with a drinking problem, a mother desperately looking for her missing son, and three children who just want to play Dungeons & Dragons.

It is a heartwarming story and mix of genres that is unlike anything else out there, and its knack for suspense has it almost bordering on horror at times. Recommended for fans of 80s classics like The Goonies, Nightmare On Elm Street, and The Evil Dead.

Better Call Saul

Where: Netflix

Seasons: 5 so far

IMDb: 8.7/10

Genre: Drama, Comedy, Courtroom

Starring: Bob Odenkirk, Rhea Seehorn, Jonathan Banks

Years: 2015 - Present

First things first: this slow-burning prequel is not like Breaking Bad. Episode one isn’t full of guns, drugs, and money. Instead, it’s a character examination of how Jimmy McGill (later Saul Goodman) went from being a small-time New Mexico lawyer to counselling Heisenberg.

This is primarily a drama, and it’s not nearly as action-packed as all of the other titles on the list. However, its well-written dialogue, intriguing subplots (many of them including Breaking Bad fan favourite Mike Ehrmantraut), and nuanced narrative all take cues from Breaking Bad. Structurally different, stylistically similar, but worth the watch all the same.

The Expanse

Where: Amazon Prime Video

Seasons: 4 so far

IMDb: 8.5/10

Genre: Sci-Fi, Thriller, War

Starring: Steven Strait, Cas Anvar, Dominique Tipper

Years: 2015 - Present

Based on the sci-fi novels by James S.A. Corey, The Expanse is set centuries in the future, long after the colonisation of Mars and non-planetary bodies further out in the Solar System. Despite being a hit with critics, the series was cancelled by lesser-known channel Syfy in  May 2018.

However, a little over a year later, Amazon acquired the series from Syfy, and announced that it would be revived. Some sources even talk up Jeff Bezos’ direct influence (as a big fan of the novels) but this has not been confirmed.

After the acquisition, The Expanse’s big-budget fourth season was released just before Christmas 2019. With at least one more season confirmed and Rotten Tomatoes ratings above 95% for the past three, it is a must-watch for sci-fi fans.

Mr Robot

Where: Amazon Prime Video

Seasons: 4

IMDb: 8.5/10

Genre: Drama, Thriller, Mystery

Starring: Rami Malek, Christian Slater, Carly Chaikin

Years: 2015 - 2019

Starring new Bond villain Rami Malek as a hacker-for-justice with mental health issues, Mr Robot is a mind-bending tech-fuelled mystery drama with heavy political undertones.

While its first season is reminiscent of David Fincher’s 1999 film Fight Club, Mr Robot evolves over the course of the next three to tell a story like no other. Mr Robot’s outstanding camerawork, striking visuals, an excellent soundtrack, and unique narrative all make it well worth watching.

Boardwalk Empire

Where: Sky Atlantic/NOWTV

Seasons: 5

IMDb: 8.5/10

Genre: Crime, Drama, History

Starring: Steve Buscemi, Kelly Mcdonald, Michael Shannon

Years: 2010 - 2014

Believed by many to be the most beautifully-shot drama ever to air on the silver screen, Boardwalk Empire sits somewhere between mob serial and a period drama. Its pilot episode takes place on the day that Prohibition legislation comes into force, the following five seasons follow the life and times of Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (based on real-life politician and racketeer Enoch Johnson).

Boardwalk Empire’s story spans the entirety of the Roaring Twenties, and later covers the rise of notorious Chicago gangster Al Capone and the inception of what would later become the mafia. Its gunfights, cinematography, and show-stealing performances by Steve Buscemi and Michael Shannon are just some of the many reasons to give it a watch.

So, there you have it - seven boxsets to try over the next few months. Whether you’re looking for sci-fi, mystery, action, crime, or anything in between, these shows and their 32 collective seasons should have you covered.

Ross Hindle

Ross Hindle

Ross Hindle is a content writer based in London. He has previously worked on content and reports with organisations including Gallagher, First Abu Dhabi Bank, Indeed and Maersk. He is also a freelance novelist and short story writer.