Available on Netflix
By Yvette Huddleston
Matthew Weiner’s glorious series set in the achingly glamorous world of the 1960s advertising industry in New York first appeared on our screens in 2007 and immediately gained a huge, dedicated audience.
Running over seven seasons until 2015, with the fictional time frame covering the period 1960-1970, its top quality scripts, pitch-perfect performances, high production values, beautiful costumes and overall immaculate attention to period detail made it a must-see.
In the lead role of Dan Draper, a cool, seemingly unflappable ad exec with (as it turns out) a very complicated back story, the impossibly handsome Jon Hamm channelled a whole raft of Golden Age-era Hollywood leading men, including Clark Gable, Gary Cooper and Cary Grant.
He had excellent support from January Jones as his long-suffering prom-queen wife (later ex-wife) Betty, Elizabeth Moss as ambitious secretary turned copywriter Peggy Olson, John Slattery as wise-cracking colleague, friend and drinking/smoking partner Roger Sterling and Christina Hendricks as discreet and efficient office manager Joan.
Effortlessly on point in its scope, content and delivery, Mad Men won many awards including 16 Emmys and five Golden Globes, each one of them thoroughly deserved. TV doesn’t come much classier than this. And there couldn’t be a better time to wallow in a bit of elegantly dressed and coiffed nostalgia.
Available on Netflix
By Chris Burn
A brilliant, bold and often very bloody show, the three series of Fargo are inspired by the 1996 Coen brothers film of the same name and follow an anthology format with each season set in a different era with largely new characters.
The star-studded cast includes Martin Freeman (putting on a pitch-perfect American accent, to these British ears at least), Billy Bob Thornton, Kirsten Dunst, Ted Danson and Ewan McGregor, among many, many others.
The Coen brothers are executive producers of the show which was written and created by Noah Hawley and, like many of the brothers’ films, viewers are served a mixture of crime drama and black comedy.
As with the original film, each episode begins with the entirely untrue claim “This is a true story”. Showrunner Hawley has said the programme is partly an attempt to deconstruct the nature of truth, lies and the manipulation of both. One thing that is certainly true is that this series is definitely worth your time.
Available on BBC iPlayer
By Yvette Huddleston
Written and directed by Mackenzie Crook, who also co-stars with Toby Jones, Bafta-winning comedy-drama Detectorists first appeared on BBC4 in 2014.
A lovely slow-burn of a series, this is perfect viewing for troubled times. It transports you to a rural idyll (the rolling countryside of Essex) and focuses on two slightly obsessed amateur detectorists – agency worker and perpetual student Andy (Crook) and forklift truck driver and wannabe musician Lance (Jones). Both are members of the Danebury Metal Detecting Club (DMDC), which comprises just seven members.
In series one, Lance and Andy think they might be on to an exciting and lucrative haul when they get permission to search on Bishop’s Farm. The eccentric owner (a wonderfully bonkers portrayal from David Sterne) may have something to hide, though, as his wife disappeared in mysterious circumstances several years previously and he keeps on warning them to “stay away from the paddock, don’t dig there”.
There is plenty of gentle comedy, mostly from the comfortable old friends banter between Andy and Lance. And there’s a fantastic running gag involving rival detectorists Phillip (Horrible Histories’ Simon Farnaby) and Paul (Paul Casar), of the AntiquiSearchers group, who bear a striking resemblance to Simon and Garfunkel.
There are some romantic complications too as Lance struggles to move on from his divorce and Andy is almost tempted away from his long-term relationship by perky new club member Sophie. All three series are now available on BBC iPlayer. Give yourself a treat.
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