While the COVID-19 crisis has taken so much away from our day-to-day lives, one thing it’s given us is a wealth of downtime at home. As such, there’s never been a better time to catch up on all those amazing TV shows you’ve been meaning to binge. To find out which ones are worth your precious time, we invited Greg Walker, Director of Manchester’s annual celebration of the small screen Pilot Light TV Festival, to share his must-watch picks. Get comfy and dive in…

The Leftovers

Top of the list is, in my opinion, one of the best series of the decade. Based on the book of the same name, the concept for the series is that 2% of Earth’s population spontaneously disappears and how the remaining 98% handle the emotional fallout of that global cataclysm. Dubbed a ‘personal post apocalypse story’ by series creator and Lost alum Damon Lindelof, the show is not about the why of the ‘Sudden Departure’, but more about the toll on everyday life.

Its first season adapts the study of grief that is the book, then the second and third seasons are further wildly original, weird, emotional and stunning stories told by Lindelof and the book’s author Tom Perrotta, featuring a mute post-rapture cult, karaoke in purgatory and a sex cruise with a sprinkle of lion worshipping (I said weird right?); the second season is widely regarded as one of the best seasons in the history of television (also containing one of the best episodes).

This is a show with all involved firing on all creative cylinders. From Lindelof’s sublime mix of weirdness, heart, comedy and imagination – to all-timer performances from the likes of Justin Theroux, Carrie Coon and Salford’s own Christopher Eccleston; through to Max Richter’s pitch perfect score, this is a show that is up there with all the other greats and deserves multiple binge watches.

High Maintenance

This show started its life as a web series project by Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfeld that ran on Vimeo for five seasons before being picked up by HBO (just recently closing out Season four). This sort-of-anthology show tells the lives of an eclectic selection of people living in New York, the connecting thread being that of an unnamed weed dealer (known as The Guy, played by showrunner Ben Sinclair). This is, however, not a weed show.

High Maintenance places us into the lives of all these different New Yorkers with tales that can be laugh out loud, heart-warming, heart-breaking and everything in between. Over its 44 episodes so far, we’ve seen many perspectives on New York life (and life in general) from a varying cast of characters ranging from an agoraphobic Helen Hunt fan, to an asexual magician – though to elderly Korean parents and a dog named Gatsby. The web series episodes are quite short (1-3 mins) so an easy gate-way drug to a binge on the 30 min HBO instalments which simply continue show on the same amazing level.

Halt and Catch Fire

This show is up there with another on this list as ‘the best show no-one watched this decade’. The pitch is ‘Mad Men meets the computer boom of the 80s’. It doesn’t sound too sexy but it’s a superb story of creativity, persistence, feminism and what it means to be an underdog. The writing and its stellar cast (Lee Pace, Scoot McNairy, Mackenzie Davis and Kerry Bishe) will have you cheering and weeping in equal measure. In addition to the interpersonal stories throughout, this is a fascinating delve into the early days of home computers, video games development and the wild west genesis of creating search engines, that can be compared to Mad Men’s authentic and often hilarious cultural observations of the time.

Steven Universe

In these times we need shows that are funny, beautiful, heart-warming, imaginative and most importantly: really easy to binge. Cartoon Network’s Steven Universe is absolutely that type of show. For fans of the likes of Adventure Time & Gravity Falls, Steven Universe is set in Beach City, a town where a group of mystical alien beings known as The Crystal Gems protect the city and earth from a range of extra-terrestrial threats.

The story centres around the pre-pubescent title character who is half human and half Crystal Gem and the trials and tribulations of that split in him; dealing with all the normal problems of growing up as a young boy, all whilst dealing with being connected to an intergalactic race and their generations of secrets, wars and struggles.

Steven’s journey is one that is filled to the brim with heart, hope, comedy, inclusivity and a hefty amount of imaginative mythology. The show just recently wrapped up with a mini-series called Steven Universe Future, which was preceded by a feature length film (a musical) and the original five season run. Steven Universe is a great comfort blanket watch for your lockdown.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Last week we very sadly lost musician and songwriter Adam Schlesinger. Most knew him for his time in the band Fountains of Wayne but for TV fans, we know him for writing 157 songs for the Emmy award winning musical dramedy Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

When its first season aired, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s creator/star Rachel Bloom won a Golden Globe for her performance, despite the show’s fairly modest viewing figures. And rightly so. This musical dramedy follows Rebecca, who uproots her life as a successful lawyer in New York to pursue her childhood boyfriend in his hometown. Through four seasons and well over 150 musical numbers, Rebecca’s journey is a wholesome delve into themes of mental health, queerness, feminism, female sexuality and so much more.

As much as the wholesome yet flawed cast of characters will stay with you long after watching, Schlesinger songs will be ear worms with you for much longer. Once you have binge watched the show, all songs & videos can be found over on the CXGF YouTube page and I recommend watching both the live show and documentary on shooting the finale, which respectively made me giggle and weep like a baby.

Mr Robot

The opening scene of Mr Robot is one of those classic ‘instant hook’ scenes, just like Walter White’s flying trousers or Don Draper’s first onscreen smoking pitch. It lays out the core themes of just how vulnerable our personal lives are in this digital age, the evils that can occur due to this technology and the people at the top playing God with these facts.

Mr Robot follows Elliot Alderson (played by Oscar winner Rami Malek), as he teams up with a hacktivist called Mr Robot (Christian Slater) who is working with digital anarchists F-Society with the aim to topple the biggest conglomerate in the world, E-Corp. As the series progresses, we journey deeper into Elliot’s mind which suffers from depression, anxiety and several other serious mental illnesses whilst the exploits of his work with F-Society lead him on an increasingly dangerous path.

This is one of the rare occurrences in TV where almost all of the shows four season run, was written and directed by creator Sam Esmail. This results in some of the most exciting, innovative and stunningly authored work in contemporary TV. For a gripping binge that will have you double guessing your second life online, check out this show.

RuPaul's Drag Race

I’m not a fan of Reality TV or contest shows in that vein really. The last thing I watched before this entry was likely Big Brother – the first series when it moved to Channel 5. I also didn’t think I was a fan of Drag Queens either but then I caught the first two seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race in dribs and drabs whilst my partner watched it, fast forward to now where I’m 140 episodes deep, quoting it constantly and can brag I’ve hosted Season three legend Stacy Layne Matthews.

For those who’ve been living under a rock the past few years, the concept of the show is that 13 aspiring Drag Queens compete through a selection of challenges (raging from high fashion shows to gross out comedy sketches) in order to become ‘Americas Next Drag Superstar’, all whilst being judged and mentored by Drag icon RuPaul.

What comes out of this challenge is one of the most entertaining pieces of TV in recent history. There’s drama, comedy, competition, artistry, meaningful discussions of LGBTQ issues and so much more. I challenge anyone who thinks ‘this isn’t my thing’ to watch the show and not get hooked. For a more familiar induction, check out the first season of Drag Race UK from last year, which featured a whole host of UK guest judges such as Graham Norton, Maisie Williams and Andrew Garfield.

The Americans

This is another ‘best show no-one watched this decade’. This drama revolves around the complex marriage of two KGB deep cover spies posing as Americans in suburban Washington D.C. during the Reagan administration. Their children don’t know, and their FBI agent neighbour definitely doesn’t know.

The Americans contains all the suspense, drama, violence and high stakes that Breaking Bad was known for, mashed up with the intricate international political espionage that made up Homeland; with the addition of more sex appeal than the previously mentioned combined (it’s Keri Russell & Matthew Rhys ‘playing’ a married couple, of course it does!) and far more increasingly ridiculous spy disguises (the show is known for its supporting cast of wigs). The Americans is up there with the best US TV dramas of all time and is an intense ride from start to finish.

Stath Lets Flats

You might have seen one of the Demetriou siblings as either the big toothed guy from Fleabag or as a Romani vampiress in the US version of What We Do in The Shadows. This Channel 4 series, written by Jamie Demetriou and starring his sister Natasia is one of the best new British comedies in years.

Stath is a Greek-Cypriot letting agent and all round ridiculous human being that works for his father’s company, usually failing miserably in the process. He is surrounded by an equally hilarious cast of characters, equal in awkwardness to that of The Office. Whilst a third series is likely going to be delayed due to COVID-19, if you need a healthy serving of belly laughs then look no further than Stath Lets Flats.


Deadwood is one of HBO’s unappreciated greats. A lot of this is due to the fact it was cancelled before it got a chance to wrap up with a final season but last year this was remedied by long awaited release of Deadwood: The Movie which tied everything up beautifully.

Featuring all the HBO hallmarks of crime, violence, sex and the lives of morally ambiguous white men; Deadwood picks up in the late 1800s in South Dakota where its inhabitants take advantage of its lawless state of affairs whilst an increasing number of new arrivals due to the gold rush nearby causes complications for its longstanding residents. If you think you’ve seen all the classics but have yet to give Deadwood a chance, do not miss out on one of the best modern westerns you’ll see anywhere.

Guest Post
Published on:
Tue 7 Apr 2020