Are you looking for the very best box sets to watch in the UK?
I’ve written previously about my favourite TV box sets – with 40 box sets to see before you’re 40.
Well, now I’m over 40 and it turns out… I still love box sets.
Actually, I worry I love box sets a bit too much. Given the choice of engaging with friends and family and immersing myself into an amazing ongoing drama, I’d throw my family under the bus, frankly.
Nevertheless, if you’re a fan of box sets, here’s 20 more to add to your viewing list – in part 2 of this post, which I’ll share tomorrow, there will be another 20 gems. Most of these shows can mostly be found on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+ or through Apple’s iTunes or Google Play, others on alternative streaming services. It just depends what you’re in the mood for…
Crime and Legal
Castle: A light, frothy watch based on the idea of a bestselling, playboy crime author, played with a lot of charm by Nathan Fillion, shadowing a NY murder detective, who becomes increasingly blonde and glam as the seasons pass. It’s easy viewing, and it’s worth a watch for Fillion’s comic timing and all the sneaky Firefly references.
Kate: Okay, Castle, but it’s accompany and observe, not participate and annoy. Got it?
Castle: Participate and annoy is a lot more fun, but alright.
Chuck: This one’s a family-friendly comedy drama based on the ridiculously unlikely premise that a guy somehow absorbs the entire CIA database into his head and is now the key to solving any number of international espionage cases. What makes it worth a watch is the relationship between badass CIA dude Casey, and Chuck – a nerdy PC World type shop assistant by day, utterly incompetent CIA assistant by night. A great option to watch with the whole family.
Casey: Sure thing, Chuck. I’ll just call all the criminals, rogue spies and let them know to hold on a second because Chuck Bartowski needs to sort out his lady feelings.
Suits: So you’re a super-genius college drop-out and you never got around to qualifying as a lawyer, but accidentally end up being offered a legal job while you’re running away from drug dealers. That’s the starting premise of Suits, which is a story of various amoral characters who swap snarky one-liners and constantly stab one another in the back. I love that there are some proper strong, interesting female characters in this show, aside from the two leads, the moderately interesting Mike (the phony lawyer) and the ridiculously cool Harvey Spector.
Harvey: Sorry, I can’t hear you over the sound of how awesome I am.
Psych: This show is in a similar vein to shows like Monk, and Chuck in that it’s a family-friendly crime show without very much actual crime. The fun is actually in the one-liners, the characters and the premise – in this case, a genius who can solve crimes through deduction passes himself off as a Psychic Detective in order to work with the local police force. For my money, this is sillier and funnier than Chuck, with some cute 80s references and cameos.
Gus: I have something big to tell you.
Shawn: You know you can say anything to me, Gus. We’ve known each other forever, and there is absolutely nothing that could dent our impenetrable bond.
Gus: I have a secret girlfriend.
Shawn: You’re dead to me.
Bones: Based on the novels of Kathy Reichs, this is the story of Dr Temperance Brennan, a female forensic anthropologist who winds up working as partner to an FBI agent, solving murders through improbable-sounding investigations into the victim’s bones. There’s a fun opposites-attract dynamic between the ‘guy’ behaviour of Agent Brennan and science-nerd “Bones”. Occasionally gruesome, this is a sort of mix of Castle and CSI – worth a watch, especially if you’re an admirer of the work of David Boreanaz.
Booth: Reason for wanting a gun?
Brennan: To shoot people.
Booth: Not a good response.
Brennan: It’s the truth.
Booth: I’m writing “self-defense in the performance of my duties pursuing suspected felons as contracted out to the FBI.”
Brennan: So I can shoot them.
White Collar: I could tell you that this is a show about a fine art thief and fraud who winds up giving his expertise to the FBI in return for a break on his sentence. I could also mention that it’s easy viewing and has some intriguing puzzles built into the show. Or I could tell you it features Matt Bomer, and he regularly takes his shirt off. If that sort of thing matters to you. *cough*
Mozzie: Behind every worst case scenario there is a worse, worst case scenario.
Neal: Is there a child somewhere whose balloon you need to pop?
Elementary: This re-make of Sherlock Holmes doesn’t have Cumberbatch, but it does have Jonny Lee Miller as a modern-day Sherlock living in NYC and recovering from a drug habit. Lucy Lui is his sober companion, and supports Miller in his return to his day job – as a crime scene consultant for the NYPD. I love that the story has a bit of edge, and the setting is atmospheric – definitely worth a watch.
Sherlock: Which is why I am considering possibility two.
Watson: [looks at board] It’s blank.
Sherlock: Possibility two has stubbornly refused to reveal itself.
Watson: Well, keep staring at the wall, I’m sure it’s hiding in there somewhere.
Chicago Fire: Stop everything for this show if you haven’t seen it yet. Join Firehouse 51, home to an elite group of firefighters who put out fires and rescue people from squashed cars and gas leaks and … ooh, it’s all just VERY exciting. There’s an ER-style ensemble cast and plenty of personal drama to round things out and this show isn’t afraid to show that key characters? Well sometimes they get burned/squashed/shot or otherwise bumped off the mortal coil. Oh, and Taylor Kinney.
Dawson: Chief, I don’t know who Roger Maddox had to step on to get where he is in life. but he picked the wrong people this time. We’re the ones who run into the fires when the rats are running out. He’s just another rat. We’re gonna step on him.
ER: Speaking of ER, I’ve recently started watching the original drama from the start and, oh boy, it’s still good to the last drop. I love the involving medical dramas and the way the show gradually builds the ensemble cast until you feel like Mark and Susan and Benton and Ross are all people you know inside out. And then things move on and it’s Abby and Luka and Romano and, oh my God, the helicopter… It’s pretty much flawless. If you’re an ER newbie, DO go back to Season 1 – it’s totally worth it.
Weaver: Did you even take the Hippocratic Oath?
Romano: Yeah, I had my fingers crossed.
Forever: The central idea of this show is a man cursed with immortality is living in New York and working as a medical examiner – guess what? He’s amazing at solving crimes, on account of being 200 years old, or something. But Dr Henry Morgan is haunted by the loss of his First World War love, so the show mixes flashbacks to WWI and his original life on a slave ship with modern day police procedural. It’s good fun, if you don’t take its earnest parts too seriously – think Elementary mixed with a bit of Castle.
Henry: Revenge is a long game, Abraham, and all I have is time.
Humans: There aren’t many Brit shows on my list but this is definitely one to watch. Humans is the story of an imagined near-future that looks at what would happen in a future where our homes were served by ‘synths’ – artificially intelligent synthetic humans that do all our domestic chores. It’s based on a Swedish drama so you won’t be hugely surprised to find it goes to a dark place, with rogue synths becoming sentient. But it’s really a very thought-provoking, exciting watch. There’s due to be a second season this year, so I suggest catching up with the first before then!
“I don’t believe that he’s a human. But I also don’t believe that he’s an inanimate object that I should be ashamed of having a connection with…We can’t keep insisting that they are just gadgets. They are more than that. We have made them more than that.”
UnREAL: One of my favourite new shows of 2015, Unreal is the fictional story of a reality TV show called Everlasting, which is loosely based on The Bachelor. At the heart of the story is Rachel, the sort of feminist, smart, great woman we’d all like to be friends with. The only problem is that Rachel happens to be incredibly good at her job – which is to manipulate, exploit and cajole reality TV contestants into making a great “story” for her show, no matter the personal cost to them. UnREAL feels like a sneak peek into how these shows are produced, and while you’re enjoying the ‘show’ you’re peeping through your fingers at the production. Love it.
Rachel: Maybe I’m just sick of being a manipulative bitch.
Quinn: Oh sweetheart, let me tell you, there’s no sense fighting it. That’s who we are.
Secret Life of American Teenager: This show is interesting to watch with older kids, as it’s an insight into teen pregnancy, and interesting because it’s the first major role of Shailene Woodley, who went on to star in Divergent. Being realistic, the sets are cheap and some of the dialogue in season one is about as wooden as it comes, but the story of 15-year-old teen Mum Amy is fun and has sparked some really interesting conversations in our house. It’s also kinda worth it to wonder how and why Molly Ringwald ended up appearing in this show…
Ben: What’s the right thing? To be obligated to someone for the rest of their lives because of one night? Or is the right thing to have the courage to realize that despite that one night you still have to live your dreams or else you’ll be miserable.
Life Unexpected: This CW show is better than you might expect considering it was cancelled after just two seasons. The story centres on Cassie, a teen who has grown up in foster homes, but tracks down her birth parents and starts to build a relationship with them. It’s a warm-hearted show and balances the teen and adult stories well, and Shiri Appleby and Kris Polaha are very watchable as the shell-shocked 30-somethings who suddenly find themselves trying to parent a teen.
Cate: Mom needs your help.
Abby: Why? All the wine is twist off or in a box.
Suburgatory: Teenager Tessa gets busted by her single Dad with a packet of condoms and before she can blink, she’s moved out of the city and into the ‘safe’ suburbs. The result is a fresh, snarky comedy about life in the suburbs, with preening mothers, over-sexualised teen girls and rich Dads hiding out at the country club. I love that this show presents a smart teen heroine who is individual (although this means the locals assume she’s a lesbian, naturally) and shows that the ‘burbs can be every bit as dangerous as the big city.
Dalia: My parents are getting a divorce, you know.
Tessa: I know. And that sucks, and I’m sorry. I’m sure it’s really painful.
Dalie: You know what’s gonna be painful? When my mother remarries your father and I’m your new sister and Dad likes me best, and we send you away to an all-girls boarding school where you find true love, and on visiting day, I come up and steal your new girlfriend. The following spring we marry in a civil ceremony which you are forced to cater. And everyone hates your catering. And you get a bad review on Yelp, which pretty much sinks your organic lesbian catering venture.
Grimm: If you love a bit of supernatural telly, then Grimm is a surprisingly fun, albeit gruesome option. Each episode takes a Grimm fairy tale and turns it into a horror story based in Portland, Oregon. Lead character Nick is a cop who finds out he’s also a “Grimm” – which means his destiny is to hunt down creatures (or “wesen”) disguised as humans. There are dozens of different kinds of creature, some good, some bad, some mad and dangerous to know. And there are a lot of dead bodies. Sounds a bit bonkers, but it works.
Hank: It looks like an animal attack, which it probably wasn’t.
Arrow: We love superhero drama in this family, and Arrow is one of our recent favourites. It’s the origin story of Oliver Queen, which comic book nerds will know has always been something of a mystery, giving Arrow’s makers the opportunity to run a years-long back story charting Oliver’s journey to becoming Green Arrow, alongside a contemporary story showing the vigilante balancing crime-fighting, family and romance. It’s great fun and requires no amazing comic book knowledge, but this isn’t a kids’ show – there are lots of scenes of killing and torture, which make it unsuitable for younger viewers.
The Flash: This one is a family-friendly alternative to Arrow, showing Barry Allen’s journey to becoming the fastest man on earth. Although it’s from the same universe as Arrow, and there are a couple of crossover shows, these are different shows entirely – villains in Flash don’t tend to kill people, and problems are mostly solved by locking bad guys away. There’s some comedy here, too, which makes the show a much lighter watch.
Quantum Leap: I have loved introducing Flea to the story of Sam, the scientist who accidentally spends his life leaping from one body to another via a wonky time-travel experiment, experiencing all the key moments in American history in the process. All five seasons are available to stream, meaning you can once again join in with the tagline… “putting right what once went wrong… and hoping each time, that his next leap will be the leap home.”
Smallville: Everyone knows the origin story of Superman, and everyone knows Superman the adult, but this TV show took the interesting point of view of what happened in between? For my money, this show is brilliant – great cast, strong writing and great stories, particularly given the fact that Superman can be a bit, well, bland… Tom Welling is perfectly cast as the nerd who grows into a superhero and there’s a strong supporting cast, with a great soundtrack to boot.
NEED EVEN MORE? CHECK OUT PART 2 BY CLICKING BELOW:
Have I missed any of your favourites? Let me know in the comments and don’t forget to check back tomorrow for Part 2 of this list, which will feature comedies, sci-fi, teen drama and more!