For the purposes of this list, we’re setting aside the HBO gem that is the Sopranos (which, in just eight years, redefined what television could be) because we’re assuming you’ve already streamed all six seasons on Showmax and now need something to fill the not-insubstantial Tony Soprano-shaped hole in your life.
So, since the Sopranos launched 20 years ago this year, we thought we’d get you up to speed with 13 more drama series – of the thriller, courtroom, medical and dystopian varieties – that have graced our screens in recent years.
Here’s our pick from streaming services in South Africa.
Money makes the world go around for those who’ve got it, like investment genius Bobby “The Axe” Axelrod (Damian Lewis). But they’re always watching their back because the law – US States Attorney For The Southern District Of New York Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) – wants to bring them to their knees for every single little red cent that has been made illegally. And for Bobby, that’s pretty much all of his fortune. Seasons 1 to 3 are available to catch up on from the beginning on Showmax, while new episodes of Season 4 land every Wednesday at 21:00, at the same time as the DStv broadcast.
2 13 Reasons Why S1-2 (Netflix)
Suicide affects everyone linked to the person who has died. This show is an emotional rollercoaster with epic highs and fantastically low lows, lifting the lid on a serious topic and showing how the suicide victim’s life continues to impact their loved ones long after they’re gone. Entertaining and educating and enthralling at the same time.
Idris Elba’s Detective John Luther is dark, brooding, intense and mesmerising as he goes about hunting down London’s every criminal. He’s got two problems that he must face in his quest for justice: the fact that each case drains him more and more physically and emotionally, and the fact that he’s being toyed with by sexy seductive serial killer Alice (Ruth Wilson).
4 Bodyguard S1 (Netflix)
Richard Madden has swapped swords and horses in Game of Thrones to play a troubled ex-soldier-turned-bodyguard. He’s so good at protecting his politician boss that this role could help him become the next James Bond, but it’s the twists and turns you need to keep an eye on in this six-episode thriller. You never know who’s going to shove a knife in your back in this dog-eat-dog world.
Each crime in this anthology series is complex, intricate, fragmented and decidedly cruel. From a serial killer with split personalities in Season 1, to Season 2’s organised underworld deals and Season 3’s child murders, you’ll be sitting on the edge of your seat every episode. Having big-name actors like Mahershala Ali, Woody Harrelson and Colin Farrell adds to the genius of the series.
6 Designated Survivor S1-2 (Netflix)
Terror attacks are nothing new on TV shows but throwing Kiefer Sutherland into the mix changes the story. He’s best known as secret agent Jack Bauer in 24, but seeing him as a reluctant Secretary Of Housing And Urban Development thrust into the spotlight when the US President is murdered is interesting. Who knew that people would turn down that much power?
All hail farmer-turned-Viking warlord Ragnar Lothbrok! Ex-model Travis Fimmel gets dirty, bloody and tattooed up as the legendary Norseman who doesn’t just want to explore the world outside of Scandinavia, he wants to rule it all. But he’s about more than just raping, pillaging and plundering – he wants to learn and experience cultures so that he can be a god.
8 Dirty John S1 (Netflix)
Nothing John says and does can be believed in this biographical drama. He’s a conman who’s spent years perfecting his craft, but John (Eric Bana) may have met his match in his new target Debra (Connie Britton) – the successful businesswoman has four failed marriages to her name, so she won’t just let her new lover pull the wool over her eyes.
Look away if you’ve got a fear of censorship – this is as brutal as it gets. A new world order exists in this dystopian drama where most of the female population has become infertile. The solution? Create a cruel, monstrous pecking order of bosses and servants – except the handmaids aren’t only cleaning the floors and doing the ironing… they’re fertile and get raped once a month by their owners (with their madams in attendance, to “experience the creation of life”) as a way to continue population growth. Season 3 arrives on Showmax later this year.
10 Sons Of Anarchy S1-7 (Netflix)
Get ready to rev those engines, baby – the world of organised crime just got a sexy biker makeover as Jax Teller tries to get through each day without being arrested, shot at or stabbed by a crazy ex-lover. Who knew that biker gangs could be this entertaining? And watch out for Jax’s mean-as-sin mother Gemma (Katey Sagal) – she’s the last person on the planet anyone should mess with!
Dr Shaun Murphy is autistic, and this medical condition is both a crutch and a hurdle as he tries to work at the San Jose St Bonaventure Hospital. On the plus side, he’s got an eidetic memory – if he’s read or seen something, he can recall it almost instantly. He’s also a perfectionist who’s set in his ways – he has to brush each tooth in the same order, at the same time every day. But he struggles to relate to his colleagues because he is socially awkward and perceives the world literally – even jokes are “real” to him. Watching him win over his sceptics and prove that being different isn’t something to look down on is the best part of this touching medical drama.
12 Breaking Bad S1-5 (Netflix)
This cult hit series is as addictive as the blue-ice crystal meth the two lead characters are making. Take one part dying-from-lung-cancer school science teacher (Walter White – played by Bryan Cranston) and add one part wheeler-dealer-down-on-his-luck-scheming-drug-dealer Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) and the end product is adventure, terror, joy, tragedy, emotion and everything else you want in a TV show.
Politics and the law go together like a horse and carriage – and that’s a problem for legal eagle Alicia Florrick, whose hubby is a politician. And if you think it’s hard work being a lawyer, you ain’t seen nothing yet! It’s all business, all the time as Alicia and her crew knuckle down on cases – keep an eye on the interpersonal relationships at the Alicia’s law firm… the lines often get blurred to perfection.