Over the past few years, Scott and I have become somewhat addicted to drama-related television series. After a full day of doing our own thing, putting the baby to bed, doing dishes, and picking up toys, we anticipate our down time, relaxing, and watching an hour of TV. It’s just enough time before one of us declares, “I’m falling asleep!”
Top Ten Binge-Worthy TV Series
I believe the stand-out factor in watching a TV series, over a movie, is that there is an overall depth of story elements. From learning the ins and outs of a particular setting to the most intimate details amongst the characters. A television series, with multiple episodes, has more potential to engross its audience. For the long haul.
Thankfully, Scott and I have meshed our taste in drama series. Our mutual favorite is a well done crime series. And, while I can appreciate a good historical period series, like Downton Abby and The Crown, Scott would rather pick up on the next episode of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives! So, it may come as no surprise that the majority of the series that made my list are crime series.
There are a few qualities I need in place, before committing to any particular TV show. First, and most importantly, there needs to be at least one likable character. And, not necessarily a good guy. I completely fell in love with Peter Sarsgaard, who performed a stellar performance in season three of The Killing. (I won’t spoil it for you, but let’s just say his character isn’t exactly heroic.) As long as the acting is believable and the character is charming and captivating, that’s a good start.
I also like to learn something about an era or geographical location. We recently started watching Babylon Berlin. (I already know that this outstanding drama will end up on this list, but since we’re only on episode four, I’m excluding it.) Anyway, I’m learning so much about the power struggle between Stalin and Trotsky, in the early 1900’s, thanks to this drama series. In spite of the dramatization, (to say intense would be an understatement), I like to read about the historical context, from a more reliable source, throughout the series.
So, without further ado, here are my TOP TEN Binge-Worth TV Series.
As a bonus, I’ll include a list of series that Scott and I never finished. I’d interpret that to mean they just weren’t good enough, for us. It may further assist you in determining if these recommendations would fit your liking. ; )
A British detective series starring Anna Friel as Marcella Blackland. A talented, yet disheveled investigator, who tries to solve a murder case, fix her broken marriage, and come to terms with her unexplained blackouts. Throughout the series, you’ll be going back and forth with the did she or didn’t she. Marcella is the underdog and a likable character you’ll be rooting for throughout its eight episodes. Scott and I have not watched season two, yet. I should warn you that some of the scenes from the first season were pretty intense. I think I just need time.
Starring the iconic Maggie Gyllenhaal, this is a political spy thriller that is both dramatic and suspenseful. Gyllenhaal plays Nessa Stein, an Anglo-Jewish business woman with a passion for peace in the Middle East. Yet, in spite of her powerful position, there is a vulnerability and naivety that not only gets her into trouble, but adds even more beauty to Gyllenhaal’s character. (If that’s even possible.) She did win a Golden Globe for this performance.
An American spy thriller, starring Claire Danes, as Carrie Mathison, an overly zealous CIA officer with bipolar disorder. No matter how you feel about Claire Danes, her acting is undeniably superb, especially when her character goes all Ape Sh#@t, if you know what I mean. (The pen scene, in season one, was just epic!) I thoroughly enjoyed the first three seasons, but after that, the plot becomes more of a Middle-East-vs-CIA-who-can-you-trust-drama. And, everyone’s character goes a little too crazy for my taste. But, hey, it’s been around for several seasons and won a ton of awards, so that’s pretty impressive.
This is one of those series in which you discover a new face and follow the actor/actress in other parts. Enter Olivia Colman. A British actress who is one of my favorite characters amongst this combined list of TV series! Here, she plays Ellie Miller, a detective sergeant who is outranked for a point position by her new partner. Alec Hardy (played by David Tennant) initially underestimates Miller’s talent. Together, they attempt to unravel a small town’s biggest mystery. The death of a 12-year old boy who was friends with Ellie’s son. I especially love the boy’s parents, in this series. Again, stellar acting. But, it’s hands-down, Ellie Miller (played by Coleman) who is the hero of this series, and you just can’t help but to fall in love with her character.
Wow. This series is riveting. I was surprised at how much Scott liked it. But, that just goes to show you that period dramas are not just for chicks! Grace Marks (played by the beautiful Sarah Gadon) is a poor Irish immigrant, accused and convicted of murdering her employer and his housekeeper. The six episodes, which seemed to fly by, unravel more and more of her narrative. The questions are, “Is she telling the truth? Is she a victim? Or. is she a calculated, murderer.” You’ll be intrigued. I promise.
Tom Hiddleston, (Aka Loki, in the Marvel series), plays Jonathon Pine, a British soldier turned night manager. He is recruited by an intelligence officer (played by Olivia Colman, from Broadchurch) to spy on and help take down a corrupt entrepreneur. Pine turns out to be freakishly 007 talented. He successfully infiltrates his adversary’s inner circle, falls for his mistress, and outsmarts everyone who stands in his way. This is a delicious nail-biter that I would actually watch again. It was that good.
In this eight part crime drama (that initially aired on HBO), Naz (played by Riz Ahmed) is a college student living in New York. After stealing his dad’s cab for a night out, he inadvertently picks up a young woman who persuades him to hang out with her. The next several hours are a blur, and Naz mysteriously wakes up to a vicious murder scene. And, it’s the girl who is murdered! Uncertain, at times, of his own innocense, Naz tries to navigate the judicial system and keep his parents from falling apart. All the while surviving the violent prison complex of Rikers Island. As likable as Ahmed’s character is, he doesn’t hold a match to his counterpart; A rough-around-the-edges public defender, Jack Stone (played by John Turturro). In my opinion, this series lacks the attention it deserves. The acting and script were superb! Maybe because it was initially on HBO and not Netflix?
While I initially feared this show could have been potentially dangerous for younger audiences, I am glad that Scott and I watched it. If we had teenagers (who, let’s face it, would find a way to watch it if they really wanted to), we would invite them to watch it with us. This series is undoubtedly intense. The issues are realistic. The acting is extraordinary. Both seasons (Believe it or not, season two is better than the first!) address Every. Single. Atrocity. Imaginable. It’s raw and sometimes painful to watch. (The last episode in both seasons left me a blubbery mess.) But, since these are real issues, and this show is not going away anytime soon (they’re already planning for a Season Three), Scott and I gave this series a shot. I’m glad we did. These young actors are incredible. The best element, in my opinion, is observing how these classmates, who were originally worlds apart, came together to fight back against the evil within their school walls. Our takeaway? We all have the power to make a positive impact and help those in need.
This is a British-Irish psychological thriller, that stars Fifty Shades star Jamie Dornan, as Paul Spector, a devoted husband and father by day and an undercover serial killer by night. Gillian Anderson plays the sexy and smart Stella Gibson. A detective superintendent assigned to the case of unsolved Belfast murders. This series was entertaining and suspenseful enough to keep our interest for all three seasons. Both actors are phenomenal and both accents, in my opinion, was an added bonus.
My all time favorite. I am still hoping to wake up someday and learn that The Killing is coming out with a season five. Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) is a dedicated police investigator with the Seattle Police Department who is assigned to mentor Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman). Undoubtedly it’s Linden’s and Holder’s chemistry that sets this series apart from the rest. Both have their own demons to deal with, but when it comes to solving a murder mystery, these two are a dynamic force to reckon with. Overall, this series has everything it takes to keep its viewers coming back for more.
The TV Series We Never Finished:
1.) Collateral – I love Carey Mulligan. I honestly feel that this series is very good. But, we may be the problem here, as our standards in critiquing TV series has probably now reached an all time snob-level. Sorry, Carey!
2.) Top of the Lake – We will probably return to this series. It was good, although I was waiting for something I can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe a character to bond with? Holly Hunter was…interesting, to say the least.
3.) Bloodline – We really liked Season One. The acting is extraordinary! But, this show got increasingly more ridiculous and unbelievable, with each season. In a nutshell, Bloodline is about a family covering up secrets with one lie after another. It was a bit excessive. To the point of giving me anxiety.
4.) Ozark – I love Jason Bateman. But, I felt the script was completely lackluster matched against its powerhouse actors.
5.) House of Cards – Actually Scott finished this way ahead of me. I think I could have enjoyed this series centered on corruption in politics. I just don’t have time to catch up!
Ok, so there you have it! My top ten favorite binge-worthy TV series and the few that didn’t quite make the list. Which is your favorite?