There’s something immensely satisfying about discovering a quality TV series before it becomes “cool” and the hype machine goes into overdrive. Consequently, you won’t find Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, or The Walking Dead on this list. Here are five undiscovered gems of television that are every bit as enthralling, addictive and worth your time as the big name shows.
This beguiling and brilliant series from Damon Lindelof (Lost) and Tom Perotta involves the disappearance of two per cent of the world’s population in a Rapture-like departure. However, the show isn’t concerned with where they all went and why, but rather how the event has affected those left behind, including Justin Theroux, Christopher Eccleston and Liv Tyler. A creepy and obliquely plotted mystery that will appeal to fans of Stephen King and David Lynch, The Leftovers’ first and second seasons are both are distinctly different from each other, but feature the same characters. The third and final season will be set in Australia, so now is the perfect time to discover this enigmatic HBO offering.
This cool Canadian sci-fi series about the scientific and ethical implications of cloning is as complex as the human genome, so you’ll need to pay attention. It’s also a conspiracy-laden thriller that consistently delivers surprising narrative twists across four seasons. The real enjoyment of Orphan Black comes from watching talented star Tatiana Maslany playing multiple cloned siblings, and the technical wizardry that allows them all to seamlessly interact with each other. Stylish, high concept, and highly addictive.
A chilling series, and not just because it’s set in a remote Nordic locale. A grim mood settles over the arctic town of Fortitude following an unthinkable murder, which London cop Stanley Tucci is called in to investigate. In the process, secrets are defrosted (along with a mammoth carcass) and things get progressively weirder. Best described as The X-Files meets Fargo, with lashings of R-rated sex and violence, Fortitude is a spellbinding police procedural like no other. A second season is due later this year.
Cinemax’s hyperactive crime series is pure pulp fiction and plays like the ultraviolent offspring of Twin Peaks and Justified. Like its wailing namesake, the town of Banshee, Pennsylvania, can be scary – a place where the locals harbor dark secrets and criminal agendas, and people can disappear. Along with a killer concept – ex-con assumes the identity of the new town sheriff and makes a major difference – this shamelessly over the top series features one of TV’s most fearless and resilient antiheroes, played by Kiwi actor Antony Starr.
DA VINCI’S DEMONS
Created by superhero specialist David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight), this historical series reinvents the legendary painter/inventor as a dashing Renaissance rogue who’s as adept with a sword as he is at devising war machines and flying contraptions. Handsome Brit Tom Riley gives this young Leonardo substantial sex appeal, too, and his adventures across three seasons range from the search for an arcane book to foiling the invasion by the Ottoman Empire. It’s The Borgias meets Game of Thrones.