CREDIT: SCHITT’S CREEK
The West Wing
For a long time, landing a walk-on role on The West Wing was the ultimate for all aspiring TV actors. Aaron Sorkin’s political drama was smart and witty, showcasing the writer’s ability for rapid-fire banter and rich, politically resonant themes, proving that television could be both amusing and intellectual at the same time. After Sorkin’s departure at the conclusion of Season 4, the show underwent a brief dip, but quickly recovered with a slew of startling adjustments to both character roles and format. It all came to a logical end at the end of President Bartlet’s second term, but The West Wing remained one of the most cerebral shows on television throughout its tenure and a comforting image of what a more democratic government could be like.
Star Trek: Discovery
The Queen’s Gambit
Gangs Of London
Gangs Of London is unquestionably the most violent show on television; it’s also a masterclass in action direction and choreography — which should come as no surprise given that it’s directed by Gareth Evans, who also directed The Raid. The show stars Joe Cole as Sean Wallace, the violent scion of the Wallace crime family, who goes on a revenge-fueled rampage when his father (Colm Meaney) is murdered. However, emerging performer Sope Dirisu steals the show as enforcer and undercover police Elliot Finch, crushing skulls and breaking limbs. Yes, it’s scarier than most horror films, and you’ll spend a lot of time wincing and watching through your fingers, but it’s a thrilling trip from start to finish.
CREDIT: CHANNEL 4
Lisa McGee’s Norn Iron-set sitcom from the 1990s has had two great seasons, cementing itself as Britain’s favorite new comedy. While The Troubles give a serious backdrop to events, the foreground stays gut-bustingly amusing, with its beloved cast — Saoirse-Monica Jackson, Louisa Harland, Nicol Coughlan, Jamie-Lee O’Donnell, and Dylan Llewellyn – delivering lightning-fast quips at a breakneck pace. The ideal balance of warmth and wit.
UK: Stream on all four channels
Netflix in the United States
I May Destroy You
Few shows cross the line from incendiary to vital, history-making television, but I May Destroy You does. The show is based on the mind of Chewing Gum creator Michaela Coel, specifically the memory of a sexual assault that she survived during a difficult period of her writing career. Arabella (Coel) and her best friends are tasked with untangling the knotty, overwhelming topics of sexual consent and pleasure, as well as the aggressions that they face as members of the Black and queer communities. I May Destroy You could easily have been a drama that left you reeling from the heaviness of its subject matter, but Coel avoids this by weaving humour and kindness into the fabric of a production that is much needed today.
Alex Garland’s transition to television would never be conventional. Devs is anything from boring, delving into such weighty topics as fate, quantum theories, and the countless worlds buried under Nick Offerman’s gorgeous beard. Sonoya Mizuno’s Lily investigates her boyfriend’s odd absence from the software company Amaya, where they both work, and the tale just goes deeper from there. Garland’s ability to weave technology and morality together is on full display here, with Devs feeling at home with Ex Machina while also being afforded the breathing room that a TV series (even if it is only eight episodes long) provides.
iPlayer in the United Kingdom
Hulu in the United States
M. Night Shyamalan has haunted TV before, but with his new Apple series, the budget was boosted, the episode count lowered and the tension ratched up to almost unbearable levels. Created by Tony Bagsgallop, the show follows couple Dorothy (Lauren Ambrose) and Sean Turner (Toby Kebbell), who are in mourning after an awful tragedy. The devastated parents turn to a hyper-realistic baby doll that looks like their late son Jericho, as a therapeutic device to get through their debilitating grief. But what was supposed to be a short-term solution turns extra creepy when the mother bonds a bit too much with the doll. And when they hire a nanny, Leanne (Nell Tiger Free), things get even creepier… Paranoia builds, live eels are skinned and by the end of the first run of episodes, you might just be doubting your own senses. A horrific delight.
UK & US: Stream on Apple TV+