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The top 10 TV shows on Lightbox in 2021
One of Netflix's strongest local competitors, Lightbox brings Kiwis some of the best TV shows from around the world.
This New Zealand content provider has been steadily growing in scale in recent months, offering some primo TV that’s worth bingeing. Where to begin can be a bewildering choice if you haven’t been keeping up to date with the developments in this golden age of television we now find ourselves in. Fortunately for you, you have us…
1. Breaking Bad
Let’s start this list with one of the best shows you’re ever likely to watch. By day, meek human trampoline Walter White is a science teacher and a goofy dad. On the side, though, he’s dabbling in meth production to fund his cancer treatment and to posthumously give his young family a future.
The problem: his meth-addled partner is a magnet for trouble, his brother-in-law is a DEA agent and Walter is discovering a hidden talent for criminality.
Breaking Bad‘s five seasons are riveting and constantly evolve to subvert expectations. Seriously must-watch stuff.
Talk about a holiday gone wrong. It’s 1946, and former World War II nurse Claire Randall and her husband Frank are visiting Inverness, Scotland, when she is whisked back in time to the 18th century from the standing stones at Craigh na Dun. Landing in 1743, she encounters the dashing Highland warrior Jamie Fraser and becomes embroiled in the Jacobite risings (aka the War of the British Succession). What follows is many a fish-out-of-water scenario where Claire’s modern femininity clashes with the mindset of the day. There’s also the worrying knowledge that the faction she’s absorbed into is going to be on the wrong side of history.
High-flying corporate lawyer Harvey Specter has a secret weapon: uber-talented college dropout Mike Ross, a phenom who isn’t legally qualified to be in a courtroom, but frequently is. As is to be expected, Specter elevating a stranger to associate (while keeping his fraud status hidden) displeases his firm partners to no end. Suits is basically a mishmash of courtroom drama, in-fighting, betrayal, fiery relationships and dangerous secrets. Definitely worth watching.
4. The Handmaid’s Tale
This is bleak. The world of The Handmaid’s Tale is more or less the USA gone turbo-conservative after Civil War 2.0. Fertility rates crash for a variety of reasons, forcing a totalitarian society to subject a small minority of fertile women, called “Handmaids”, into child-bearing servitude. The series centres on June Osborne (renamed Offred), a Handmaid desperately trying to escape her life while also doing her utmost to avoid a worse fate (like being sent to clear toxic waste until she dies from overexposure to radiation). Hey, we told you it was bleak. It’s also about as addictive as dystopian tales get.
5. The Office
Most say the UK version was the better of the two, but after the airing of 10 seasons we think it’s safe to say that the US version of The Office has found its own niche. Sounds insane, but you’re about to obsessively binge-watch triple-digit hours of a group of people doing their menial day-to-day in a paper company in Scranton. That said, life’s anything but ordinary when your employer is Michael Scott, a self-described “world’s greatest boss” who takes buffoonery and cringe to all new levels. Throw in office romances, plus some pro-level pranking and The Office will burrow its way into your heart in no time.
6. The Good Doctor
Meet Shaun Murphy, a young surgeon with autism and savant syndrome, who has relocated from relative obscurity in the country to join one of the country’s best surgical teams in the big city. Facing hostility and scepticism from his older and more orthodox peers, Murphy must use his extraordinary powers of healing to solve the sort of prognosis conundrums that’d make even the great Dr Gregory House shrug in defeat. Even with some wins on the board, Shaun must also tackle the more difficult task of achieving meaningful emotional connections with the people in his new world.
7. Mr Mercedes
Retired detective Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved case of “Mr Mercedes,” who claimed 16 lives when he drove a stolen Mercedes through a line of job-seekers at a local job fair. Meanwhile, brilliant young psychopath Brady Hartsfield, the real Mr Mercedes, re-emerges to focus his attention on Hodges. What begins as an online cat-and-mouse game between the two soon has deadly real-life consequences as an increasingly desperate Hartsfield becomes bent on leaving his mark on the world.
8. Downton Abbey
If you love a bit of upstairs-downstairs drama, Downton Abbey is quite the addictive prospect. This historical period series is set around the outbreak of WWI and centres on the aristocratic lives of the Crawley family. The old world is ending and their social influence is fading. Worse, due to the rise of the working class and a number of scandals, both overseas-based plus a few homegrown ones stemming from their own servant’s quarters, the Crawley family honour is often in jeopardy. Honestly, this series is worth a watch purely for the dry as heck one-liners from Dame Maggie Smith.
9. Mr Robot
By day, Elliot Alderson is the quiet, punctual employee at cybersecurity firm E Corp. By night (and most likely on his coffee breaks too) he’s a vigilante hacker doing his level best to take the whole place down from the inside. Holding the company responsible for the death of his father and the mother of Angela, a close childhood friend and fellow employee, Elliot enlists with an underground hacker cabal. That said, what sounds like a straightforward revenge tale is constantly twisted by Elliot – an unreliable narrator with social anxiety disorder, clinical depression, delusions and paranoia.
10. Castle Rock
When it comes to settings for his books, Stephen King has been more or less obsessed with the north-eastern state of Maine. This psychological horror series takes place in the titular town of Castle Rock, a location that serves as a (possibly supernatural) divining rod of sorts for the multiverse woven by 50-odd years of King’s stories. It all kicks off when an anonymous phone call lures death-row attorney Henry Deaver back to his less-than-quaint hometown. Cue: a basket full of Easter eggs for King novel fans and after a slow start, one of the most suspenseful ongoing mysteries since Lost.
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