It was a fine year in television on home entertainment formats, with some perennial favourites coming to an end, and a raft of compelling new series to keep bleary-eyed bingers watching well into the wee hours.

TWIN PEAKS: A LIMITED EVENT SERIES

25 years after David Lynch and Mark Frost changed the landscape of TV with their surreal mystery series, this return visit to the eponymous town turns television on its head once again. It’s one of the boldest, baffling and brilliant series’ resurrections to date, and arguably even better than the original. 18 episodes of pure undiluted Lynch – what could be better than that? One to binge-watch with a damn good coffee and slice of cherry pie.

 

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THE HANDMAID’S TALE: SEASON 1

Set in a sterile future America ruled by a brutal theocracy, the remaining fertile women are rounded up and forced to bear children to the male Commanders of this dictatorship. There’s a reason this long-form adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel dominated the Emmys in the Drama category – it’s superb television.

 

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THE CROWN: SEASON 2

Where season one of introduced the characters, season two layers on the flesh. Creator Peter Morgan’s deft ability to captivate and entertain viewers extends to the JFK assassination, the Suez Canal crisis that embarrassed the United Kingdom on the international stage, and even the Profumo affair. This is television given the royal treatment.

 

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WESTWORLD: SEASON 2

The split timeline of HBO’s cerebral sci-fi series may leave viewers struggling to make sense of it all, but that’s what we all love about Westworld. Season 2 doesn’t make things any easier to decipher and features one of the show’s best episodes to date – beautifully encapsulating the philosophical themes at the core of this perplexing and brilliant series.

 

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SHARP OBJECTS

This limited HBO series, adapted from the novel by Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl), follows a journalist’s return to her hometown in Missouri, where demons of the past are waiting. Anchored by a knockout performance by Amy Adams, this dark and moody psychological thriller is a must-see for fans of Big Little Lies.

 

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THE EXPANSE: SEASON 2

The best new sci-fi series to fly under the radar gets even better in its second season, ramping up the action and politicking as the tension between Earth and Mars escalates, and the alien protomolecule begins to spread. Gritty, hard SF in the tradition of Battlestar Galactica, and highly recommended.

 

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BLUE PLANET II

Another triumph for the BBC’s Natural History unit. It isn’t just all about the fishes in the deep blue sea – David Attenborough gently educates us on the incredible interconnectedness of the oceans with the weather and various species’ behaviour. A jaw-dropping visual feast and one of the go-to discs when showing off your 4K Ultra HD setup.

 

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THE DEUCE: SEASON 1

The sleazy milieu of New York City’s 42nd Street in 1971 is the setting for this gritty HBO series from the creators of The Wire. It’s recreated with incredible period detail and populated by a sprawling character ensemble, whose stories provide the dramatic impetus. This is provocative stuff, although some of the ’70s fashion crimes are more confronting than the adult content.

 

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THE AMERICANS: SEASON 6

The Cold War epic reaches its inevitable conclusion and, not surprisingly, does so in style. As US/Russia tensions continue to escalate, will the Jennings’ – who’ve committed unspeakable things over the course of six seasons – actually be the ones to bring about world peace? Comrades, don’t deprive yourselves of what will go down as classic television to rival the likes of The Sopranos and Breaking Bad.

 

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BARRY: SEASON 1

TV comedy goes dark – and unmissable – in this startlingly good new show. Former US Marine and current (if rather disillusioned) hitman Barry Berkman (Bill Hader) is in LA to carry out a job, when he’s seduced by the local theatre scene. The group in which he finds acceptance is overseen by acting teacher Gene Cousineau, who’s played to perfection by Henry ‘The Fonz’ Winkler.

 

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