In Depth

Best UK Netflix box sets 2018: from Suits to Fargo

There are plenty of new shows to binge on this year, including The Rain, Maniac and Orange is the New Black

The dividing line between cinema and TV seems thinner than ever, with big names behind and in front of the camera. Jonah Hill, Emma Stone and the Coen brothers are all taking to the small screen this year.

Here’s our guide to the most exciting box sets released on Netflix this year:

Fargo

The third series of Fargo - described by Wired as a “dark, vaguely farcical crime drama” - is now available on Netflix alongside its two predecessors, meaning there’s no better time to introduce yourself to this masterful show.

The first season is, for all intents and purposes, a remake of the classic 1996 Coen Brothers movie of the same name, but the second and third seasons take the show down an entirely different path and forge their own story completely.

With Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton, Ewan McGregor and Kirsten Dunst making up just a handful of the cast, this is essential viewing for fans of modern, surreal dramedy.

Making a Murderer

“A poster child for Netflix, Making a Murderer became one of the streaming giant’s most talked about shows since the ten part documentary premiered in December 2015,” Radio Times writes. A second series is due out later this year.

The show follows the story of Steven Avery, a Wisconsin native who served 18 years in jail following an incorrect conviction for attempted murder, before being convicted for an entirely different murder.

The Guardian says it is “made for binge-watching”, praising it for “condensing down an almost unfathomably complex saga into an episodic narrative as compelling as any of its fictitious contemporaries”.

Maniac

One of the most keenly anticipated Netflix originals is a remake of a dark Norwegian comedy series about two institutionalised people who live

parallel fantasy lives. Little else is known about it – but there is great excitement about the starry cast. Emma Stone and Jonah Hill will co-star, with support from Justin Theroux and Sally Field.

The ten episodes are directed by Cary Fukunaga, who created The Alienist for TNT and the first series of True Detective for HBO. The first episode will air on 21 September.

Sacred Games

This dark, gritty thriller is the first Netflix original to come out of India. Based on Vikram Chandra's 2006 novel of the same name, Sacred Games follows downtrodden police officer Sartaj Singh (played by Bollywood star Saif Ali Khan) through the criminal underbelly of Mumbai.

In the eight-episode series, Singh battles crooked colleagues, a notorious criminal with a God complex, and an imminent but mysterious attack on the city. But this isn’t your typical gangster saga.

“It’s true that the elements are familiar: corrupt cops, brutal mafia bosses, intelligence officers working in the shadows, a tick-tock countdown to some catastrophic event,” says Vogue. However, Sacred Games “feels electrifyingly new” and can best be described as “Bollywood maximalism meets downbeat Euro noir meets Hollywood gangster epic”, the magazine says.

Critics also note that this isn’t a show for the squeamish or faint-hearted. “Any TV series that begins with a dog falling from the height of a skyscraper and lingers on the aftermath of the impact at ground level is not going to be one marked by subtlety,” Indiewire says. “It’s that level of brutality, meted out for plenty of humans as well, that becomes one of the cornerstones of Sacred Games.”

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Arthouse cinema deities Joel and Ethan Coen are making a new foray into TV this year, with a six-part mini-series for Netflix telling six separate stories all set in the Wild West, and all written and directed by the Coens. Characters include a singing cowboy and a sloppy cattle rustler.

It will be the first time the brothers have shot on digital media, rather than film. The mini-series will hit screens on 16 November.

Altered Carbon

The Huffington Post describes 2018 newcomer Altered Carbon as “a sci-fi crime drama set in the future, where humans can transport their minds into new bodies”.

Created by Hollywood screenwriter Laeta Kalogridis (Shutter Island, Pathfinder), it is set in a future where our minds are stored on “stacks” - discs that live in the back of our necks.

“Spikier shows such as Black Mirror, Philip K Dick’s Electric Dreams – even the trying-too-hard Star Trek: Discovery – make a huge fuss about subverting the conventions of science fiction,” says The Daily Telegraph.

Altered Carbon, by contrast, leans hard into its noir undercurrents. Netflix’s adaptation of Richard Morgan’s 2002 novel may be set in the far future but is at its best when settling for being an old school detective mystery.”

Lost In Space

Lost In Space has been touted as a “dramatic and modern reimagining” of the classic US science fiction series from the 1960s.

“The Robinsons, no longer the perfect nuclear 1960s family, have gained some 21st-century attitude and dysfunction,” The Guardian says. “The parents aren’t really together; the kids have modern anxieties and mardiness. 

“On the way to establish a new colony, they crash on a planet that looks like Canada but with even more extreme geography, weather and fauna.”

As Brian Tallerico writes on RogerEbert.com: “This is high-caliber escapism, the kind of well-done show that develops a propulsive rhythm as you get to know the Robinson family.”

The Rain

Danish survival drama The Rain tells the story of a group of teenagers who emerge from the safety of a bunker six years after a rain-carried virus wipes out nearly everyone in Scandinavia. They join a group of survivors and begin a quest to find anyone else who might still be out there.

Despite the premise originally sounding “worryingly like a family-friendly take on The Walking Dead”, says Digital Spy, the final product is “a satisfyingly full-blooded and handsomely filmic series that justifies the hype”.

It adds that The Rain shows that “there's so much more to Scandi TV than chilly murder mysteries and chunky Faroe Isle jumpers”.

The Alienist

Based on Caleb Carr's novel of the same name, The Alienist tells the story of Daniel Brühl's Laszlo Kreizler, a psychologist investigating a ritualistic killer murdering children in 1890s New York.

“Kreizler is aided by Dakota Fanning's ambitious police secretary/aspiring detective Sarah Howard and Luke Evans' newspaper illustrator John Moore,” Digital Spy says. “Together, the gang seek out the murderer via a combined investigation of his mental pathologies and the physical evidence.”

The Daily Telegraph says “squeamish viewers may find it a challenging watch”, but calls the show “a winningly grotesque and deliciously macabre period caper”.

Friends

An oldie but always a goodie, Friends is so well known that a vast majority of Brits could probably give you a quote or two from each of its 236 episodes.

However, if your memory is a little hazy, Netflix has got you covered, with all ten seasons available on the streaming service.

“With Netflix comes control: the opportunity to dip into your favourite episodes – the one with Ross’ sandwich, the one with the apartment swap, the one where Ross and Rachel were on a break – at your whim,” says Radio Times. “Who needs real friends?”

Orange is the New Black - season six

The latest 13-part series of cult favourite Orange is the New Black sees the female inmates dealing with the aftermath of the brutal riots of season five.

The prisoners are moved into maximum security, with friendships tested and new allegiances formed. “The ladies of Litchfield are back with iron wills and nothing to lose,” says the teaser.

Now in its sixth season, the prison drama is “still worth watching”, says The Daily Telegraph, describing it as “uneven, brilliant, messy and poignant”.

Suits - season eight

Meghan Markle might have attracted new UK viewers to US legal drama Suits since becoming the Duchess of Sussex, but her character Rachel Zane doesn’t appear in the latest season.

The show began with college dropout Mike Ross, whose photographic memory gets him a job working with Harvey Specter, a top lawyer in New York City, but now Ross and his love interest Zane have left.

Nevertheless, prepare to meet a slew of new characters, including Grey's Anatomy actress Katherine Heigl.

Season eight “will have everything from shifting alliances and internal power plays, to secrets, betrayals and fiery relationships”, creator Aaron Korsh tells Deadline.

He adds: “Keep an eye out for an adversarial new character that will give Harvey a run for his money.”

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