Ten Standout TV Shows You Can Stream from Start to Finish
Prepare to get binging.
When your friends start talking furiously about how The Wire is the best TV show ever made, do you go quiet, trying not to let them know that you haven't watched it? The moment that the final season of Game of Thrones ended, did you instantly feel the urge to start all over again, because you just weren't ready to say goodbye yet?
Whether there's a big gap in your pop culture knowledge or you're eager to revisit one of your favourite shows, that's where binging comes in. Serious binging — not just sitting on the couch and watching whatever your streaming platform of choice's algorithm happens to suggest. Serious binging involves committing time and effort to a show, working your way through it from start to finish and finding yourself obsessed with every last detail. It also means that you become that person who tells all their friends to watch or rewatch something. Yes, we've all been there.
Finding time to hop into serious binging mode hasn't really been a problem in recent months, but if you're wondering what to watch next, we're here to help. Australia now has more streaming platforms than ever, and one of them is probably playing a TV series you desperately want to devote a big chunk of time to. Here are ten television standouts that you can currently watch from their very first seconds until they ultimately fade to black.
The gangster genre has been part of popular culture since cinema's early days, but on TV, nothing is an essential and influential as The Sopranos. If you've watched any mob-related show or movie since 1999, it'll owe as much of a debt to David Chase's New Jersey-set crime drama as it does to the filmography of Martin Scorsese. Across six exquisitely written seasons, James Gandolfini and Edie Falco led the way — with Tony Soprano's work life, leading a local branch of the mob, intertwined with his home life with his wife Carmela and their kids Meadow (Jamie Lynn-Sigler) and AJ (Robert Iller). In fact, when the show starts, all of the above is giving Tony panic attacks, inspiring a visit to psychiatrist Dr Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco). Also featuring everyone from Steve Buscemi and Joe Pantoliano to Janeane Garofalo and Ben Kingsley, The Sopranos was simply the best thing on TV until it wrapped up in 2007.
Over the past few months, almost everyone has rewatched Contagion, with Steven Soderbergh's prophetic outbreak thriller hitting rather close to home during the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2011 film is just one of the highlights on his busy resume, though — and if you're eager to watch the best thing he's ever made, then hit up medical series The Knick. Set at the turn of the 20th century, it follows the staff of a New York hospital as they endeavour to navigate everyday illnesses without the aid of modern advancements, pioneer experimental (and dangerous) surgical techniques, and try to stop their patients from dying. Also in career-best form is Clive Owen, who plays opium-addicted chief surgeon Dr John Thackery, while Moonlight's Andre Holland is similarly excellent as his new assistant chief surgeon. And, because that's the way he approaches most things he works on, Soderbergh directed, shot and edited every tense and thrilling episode.
You've seen 30 Rock, the brilliantly funny Tina Fey-created sitcom set within the TV industry. But if you haven't watched Great News, which she executive produced, then you're missing out on one of the other ace television-focused comedies of the past decade. This time around, it all takes place within a TV news program. Katie Wendelson (Briga Heelan) works on The Breakdown as a segment producer, but she wishes her boss Greg (Adam Campbell) would let her handle the show's top stories. There's plenty of workplace hijinks stemming from that premise alone, as well as from the overinflated ego of newsman and host Chuck Pierce (John Michael Higgins), and the celebrity antics of his co-anchor Portia Scott-Griffith (Nicole Richie). Complicating matters, though, is the arrival of Katie's overprotective mother Carol (Andrea Martin) as the show's new intern — and the results are equally smart and silly, as well as highly topical.
All of Great News' two-season run is available to stream via Netflix.
It's the mind-bending small-town mystery-drama that comes with its own menu — and with plenty of thrills, laughs and weirdness. Whether you're watching Twin Peaks for the first or 31st time, you'll want to do so with plenty of damn fine coffee, fresh-made cherry pie and cinnamon-covered doughnuts to fuel your journey to this place most wonderful and strange. And, of course, David Lynch and Mark Frost's seminal TV series doesn't just serve up 90s-era oddness centred around the tragic murder of popular high-schooler Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), but returned for a mesmerising third season back in 2017 as well. There's simply never been anything on television like Twin Peaks, because no one can make movies and TV shows like Lynch. No one can play a kind and quirky FBI boss like Lynch either, or a dedicated agent like Kyle MacLachlan as Dale Cooper.
All three seasons of Twin Peaks are available to stream via Stan.
There are many things that are phenomenal about The Wire, from the complexity that seethes through every episode and season, to the fantastic cast centred around Dominic West, Wendell Pierce, Lance Reddick, Sonja Sohn, Michael K Williams and Andre Royo. It's the show that helped make stars out of Idris Elba and a very young Michael B Jordan, and it's absolutely unflinching in its exploration of law and order — and cops versus crime — in Baltimore. That said, as based loosely on the experiences of former homicide detective Ed Burns, and created and primarily written by ex-police reporter David Simon, the best thing about The Wire is how far and wide it ranges in exploring the Maryland city's relationship to law enforcement across its five seasons. Drugs, ports, the government, the school system and the media all fall into the series' remit, contributing to a show that feels as urgent now as when it first aired between 2002–08.
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER
Back in 1992, big-screen horror-comedy Buffy the Vampire Slayer introduced the world to a plucky California cheerleader who just happened to be fated to slay the undead. That's not the version of Buffy that everyone adores, obsesses over and has watched and rewatched for decades, however, with that honour belonging to Sarah Michelle Gellar in Joss Whedon's 1997–2003 TV series. And, from the show's witty sense of humour to its willingness to put its viewers through the emotional wringer, it's easy to see why television's Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the Buffy of record. A new slayer might be born into every generation, as the series taught us, but only one will always have our hearts — while grappling with trying to be a normal person, killing vamps and sometimes even falling for them, of course.
All seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer are available to stream via Stan.
ROUND THE TWIST
Sometimes, you want to spend your time binging your way through serious dramas or clever comedies. And sometimes, feeling nostalgic by revisiting the local TV show every Aussie kid watched is on the agenda. For two seasons between 1990–93, then another two from 2000–01, Round the Twist adapted Paul Jennings' popular books into an offbeat fantasy series — and, if you were the right age, it was must-see TV. It's the source of plenty of lighthouse obsessions, given that's where the Twist family lived, and it's also a show that knew how to balance humour, strangeness and scares. And yes, the latter two seasons aren't as great, but we're betting they're still baked into your childhood memories anyway.
All four seasons of Round the Twist are available to stream via Amazon Prime Video.
If The Sopranos was the show that defined the 2000s, and it definitely was, then Mad Men did the same in the 2010s. Matthew Weiner's 60s-set advertising agency drama made a splash from the moment it started in 2007, but Mad Men is the epitome of a slow burn — with the series' charms apparent at the outset, but its full power accumulating and growing over time. That applies to the complicated Don Draper (Jon Hamm), Sterling Cooper's creative director and the show's point of focus, and to everyone in his orbit. Indeed, while Mad Men always tells Don's story, the depth and richness afforded not just fellow major characters such as Roger Sterling (John Slattery), Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) and Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks), but the series' huge range of supporting players, is one of the show's biggest strengths. That, and its meticulous period look, obviously.
All seven seasons of Mad Men are available to stream via Netflix.
Forget Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, the 2016 film that really isn't funny and definitely didn't need to be made. Completely erase it from your memory, and just focus on the British comedy's five TV seasons and numerous television specials instead. No one plays booze-swilling, trend-chasing, self-obsessed pals like Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley — and on the small screen, at least, their performances as PR agent Edina Monsoon and her magazine fashion editor bestie Patsy Stone are never less than hilarious. There's no scenario too outlandish for this pair, as Eddie's long-suffering mother (June Whitfield), daughter (Julia Sawalha) and assistant (Jane Horrocks) all endure in every episode. And, amidst all the laughs, over-the-top antics and satire, few shows have so astutely explored what it means to be growing older while refusing to let go of your younger years.
All five seasons of Absolutely Fabulous are available to stream via Stan.
GAME OF THRONES
Maybe you adored every second of Game of Thrones, including how it ended. Perhaps you'd rather pretend that the last season didn't happen. Or, you could be looking for something to pass the time until George RR Martin finally releases a new book in his A Song of Fire and Ice series — aka the novels that HBO's big fantasy blockbuster is based on. Whichever category you fall into, the eight-season TV show unravels quite the story. Even if you're just in it for the dragons, the endless (and often literal) backstabbing, the soap opera-like relationships, Peter Dinklage's wonderful performance, the inevitable fate that awaits Sean Bean and the chance to say "you know nothing, Jon Snow" a few more times, that's completely understandable as well.
Published on May 29, 2020 by Sarah Ward