Tatler Holiday TV Marathon Guide
The “Peak TV” era offers an endless selection of series to binge on. So if you feel like you don’t know where to start, read on for our picks which you can enjoy this lengthy holiday season.
American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson
The highly controversial murder trial of star athlete and media personality O.J. Simpson captivated America. In this riveting look at the sensational case, series creator Ryan Murphy pulls back the curtain on the dealings and maneuvering by both the prosecution and defense as they try to win over the jury. The show has amassed an impressive number of awards due to its dark and effective storytelling, as well as the astounding performances courtesy of Sarah Paulson, Courtney B. Vance, Sterling K. Brown, and Cuba Gooding Jr. as the charismatic Simpson.
Mozart in the Jungle
3 seasons, Amazon Prime
Rarely do we find a show that exudes so much joy. Amazon Prime’s Mozart in the Jungle follows the lives of the members of the fictional New York Symphony Orchestra. The show begins with the introduction of the orchestra’s new conductor, an eccentric and flamboyant character played by the endlessly charming Gael García Bernal, who takes up the baton from Malcolm McDowell’s maestro. García Bernal’s Rodrigo has a colourful future planned for his orchestra, and in his first action as conductor, he takes under his wing a young female oboist who’s brimming with potential. The series is an easy watch, as each season features only 10 half-hour episodes and features a dizzyingly beautiful mix of classical music.
1 season, Netflix
As one of the buzziest series of 2016, Stranger Things lives up to the hype. The show provides a hefty dose of nostalgia—from the retro title card, the ‘80s setting, to the science fiction flourishes of Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter, and Stephen King, and the beguiling presence of Winona Ryder. However, the stars of the show are the five kids, led by Millie Bobby Brown’s Eleven, whose outfits were the costumes of choice this past Halloween. The story kicks off with the disappearance of young Will Byers, which prompts an investigation that unravels a series of frightful mysteries. If you really haven’t seen this show, it’s high time to get on with it!
Better Call Saul
3 seasons, AMC
If you were a fan of Breaking Bad, then you will find Better Call Saul just as compelling (and less grim). The spin-off series follows the story of Saul Goodman—originally named Jimmy McGill—and his early years as a well meaning but morally challenged small-time attorney struggling to pay his bills and support his “ailing” ace attorney of a brother. Often an underdog, Jimmy’s cunning sometimes proves to be too risky, and it clashes with the kind of career and life he has envisioned for himself. There is an interesting paradigm to how his story is told, with the viewers already knowing where the character will end up eventually (incognito in a Omaha Cinnabon). But if that’s not enough to get you to watch the show, wait until fan-favourite Mike Ehrmantraut pops up.
1 season, Netflix
The world's most popular royal family is front and centre in Netflix's most expensive show to date. While they may be the most recognisable of all of royalty in the world, it's amazing how the show reveals so much more than what we already know. The first season sees the young Elizabeth taking over the throne after the untimely death of her father, King George II, and goes through the many significant political developments throughout her first decade of service as queen. All of this as she deals with the pressure that comes with the responsibility, including the tension between her and her husband. While some points have been fictionalised for obvious reasons, the show remains true to facts and is at times very educational especially for people living outside the UK. The gorgeous production value and all-around great performances, especially from Claire Foy, Matt Smith, and John Lithgow, a well-known American actor who plays Winston Churchill, has made the series a hit worldwide.
3 seasons, Netflix
If you’re a fan of the philosophies of Jean Paul-Sartre or Albert Camus or perhaps you’re obsessed with anything to do with Holywood and celebrity, then Netflix’s BoJack Horseman brings you a mish-mash of existential dread and the fixation with limelight and popularity. The lead character BoJack Horseman is a middle-aged anthropomorphic horse who used to star in a long-running sitcom in the ‘90s. The series begins with his decision to write a novel in the hopes of stumbling upon new meaning in and of life, but more importantly, a successful comeback. Time.com named one of its Season 3 episodes as the best TV episode of 2016, noting its surreal beauty and the realities of regret and the longing for absolution.
For sarcastic, witty, and highly-referential jokes, binge-watch Bojack Horseman and be exposed to the wonderful world of “Holywoo”.
The Night Of
The show begins on a seemingly innocent note, when the Pakistani-American college student lead goes out to party, but wakes up the next day to find himself in the middle of a crime scene. On the surface, The Night Of may look like one of the many shows that try to examine the US’ criminal justice system, but the captivating performances care of John Turturro and one of 2016’s breakout stars, Riz Ahmed, and the careful work of the writers and directors elevate the show to something so much more.
Original series 2 seasons; Chef’s Table France 1 season, Netflix
Foodies and aspiring chefs will learn a whole lot from this Netflix original documentary series. Chef’s Table features prominent chefs in the world, and takes the viewers through their creative minds and kitchens. The original series profiles the likes of current World’s Best Restaurant titleholder Massimo Bottura, Dan Barber, Dominique Crenn, and Gaggan Anand. Meanwhile, France has made a spin-off of the series, which focuses on the stories of Alain Passard and Michel Troisgros, among others.
2 seasons, USA Network
The first season of Mr. Robot served as a breakout vehicle for its star Rami Malek, but it was also lauded for being one of the most unique shows on the telly. The series follows the disillusioned Elliott who works as a cybersecurity engineer during the day and doubles as a vigilante hacker at night. His clandestine work has attracted the attention of the mysterious Mr. Robot, who convinces Elliott to join his underground organisation which is bent on taking down corporate America. Every episode is rife with unsettling conspiracies, which are further exacerbated by Elliott’s escalating instability. While the second season may have fallen short, something has to be said about how the series reflects the collective frustration on how the richest 1 per cent of the world’s population owns 50 per cent of total wealth.
3 seasons, BBC Two
Peaky Blinders stars the underrated Cillian Murphy in the role of a leader of a clan that runs an illegal betting operation in Birmingham. His plans to expand the bookie operation gets derailed with the arrival of an government agent who is bent on cleaning up the city. The first two seasons were written by one person—the show’s creator—and thus boast a narrative cohesion that’s easy to follow.
4 seasons, FX
Set in the cold war era, Elizabeth and Philip Jennings are soviet spies posing as regular middle-class Americans, trying to live peacefully with their children in suburban Washington. By day they run a tour operator, but by night they go about accomplishing missions for Mother Russia. Things take a turn with the arrival of a new neighbour, FBI agent Stan Beeman, whose team is tasked to fight foreign agents in the US. Every episode is a thrilling ride through emotions, paranoia, and presents a character study of the two enigmatic leads who often go at odds with each other. The show thrives in the tense moments and each twist feeling refreshingly exciting. With each season, the show keeps getting better, which is a rare feat for television shows.
The Night Manager
Miniseries, BBC One
This crafty tale of spycraft based on a John le Carré novel centres on hotel night manager and former soldier Jonathan Pine’s mission to infiltrate the inner circle of a dangerous arms dealer who is suspected of selling chemical weapons. The gorgeous production values, the exciting game of cat-and-mouse, and the suspenseful pace will keep you at the edge of your seat. Not to mention the captivating performances of Hugh Laurie and Tom Hiddleston, who’s said to have increased his chances of being the next James Bond with his work in this limited series.
3 seasons, HBO
The show centres on Richard and his ragtag group of programmers and managers as they struggle to get their startup off the ground. The show relishes in the joys of failure and pokes fun at the tech industry with ridiculous bits. Disregarding the jargons, the script is packed with the wittiest jokes, matched perfectly with just the right amount of physical comedy.
Cover photo courtesy of Netflix