**Note, the Try TV on Us offer has now expired. However, feel free to check out the first episodes for these great shows. You’ll only have to pay for them now.**
With blinkbox’s new Try TV on Us offer, we’re giving you a chance to watch the first episodes of 28 TV series on us. That means that you can finally take a punt on that show everyone’s been telling you about!
But with this many great shows on offer, which should you check out first? Are you looking for something to make you laugh? Something to keep you on the edge of your seat? Maybe something that will set your heart a-flutter?
We’ve broken down every single show from our Try TV on Us promotion to help you make your choice.
Have you ever wanted to know what it was be a young celebrity living in Hollywood? Well, look no further. Adrian Grenier plays a young movie star from New York who moves to LA to live the high life with a small group of buddies from the old neighbourhood. When they’re not going to fashion shows and glamorous after-parties, they’re chilling out and hitting on real-life celebrities and adult film stars! Based on the real-life experiences of Executive Producer Mark Wahlberg, Entourage is as fun and breezy as an April afternoon in Malibu. Breakout star Jeremy Piven is priceless as Ari Gold, the fast-talking agent you can’t help but love.
Initially pitched as an American version of the BBC political comedy The Thick of It, Armando Iannucci’s HBO show plays like a farcical antidote to The West Wing. Starring Seinfeld’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus and a strong ensemble of comic actors, the show depicts the office of the US Vice President as one of the least influential positions in Washington politics. Each episode builds to a fever pitch as her staffers furiously put out PR fires whilst trying to promote a (near-meaningless) piece of legislation. Made by many of the same writers as The Thick of It, the silliness and sheer density of jokes makes Veep one of the funniest shows on TV right now.
The Big Bang Theory
Making its debut back in 2007, no-one ever imagined that a studio sitcom about a bunch of physicists would go on to become America’s top-rated show six seasons later! The central joke of a small-town blonde living with geek-speaking geniuses is repeated an awful lot, but the super-reliable cast are capable of turning occasionally inert material into gold isotopes. Like a lot of shows, The Big Bang Theory picks up more momentum in its later series, adding great comic actors like Blossom’s Mayim Bialik to its all-star roster.
2 Broke Girls
Thor’s Kat Dennings stars in this multi-camera studio sitcom about two girls working in a New York diner. One of them is a street-smart working class girl, the other’s a spoiled rich girl whose family lost everything in the financial crisis: together they’re a modern day Odd Couple, only sexier!
Co-created by Sex and the City’s Michael Patrick King, 2 Broke Girls is quite often un-PC (and at times actually racist) in its depiction of its minority characters but there’s a definite chemistry between Dennings and co-star Beth Behrs. Plus, it bears mentioning that this was the most popular new sitcom in America last year. So make of that what you will.
A family sitcom for the 21st Century, this bona fide hit follows the various parts of a modern extended family. Claire and Phil Dunphy have three kids and live in the suburbs: Claire is highly strung and Phil is Homer Simpson made flesh; Claire’s father (Married with Children’s Ed O’Neill) is remarried to a fiery Columbian woman decades younger than him; her gay brother Mitchell lives with his partner Cameron and their adopted daughter. It’s a long way away from the My Family model of suburban life but Modern Family manages to retain the heart and sentiment found in old classic sitcoms.
It also happens to be one of the most consistently hilarious shows on TV, which never hurts.
The Big C
If there’s one indication that modern television is superior to mainstream film-making, it’s the fact that there are so many great programmes now with female leads. Laura Linney plays an uptight suburban mother and teacher whose outlook on life changes when she’s diagnosed with melanoma. Determined to live the rest of her life to the fullest, she lets her hair down in a big way and decides not to take crap from anyone anymore. While it sure doesn’t sound like the basis of a feel-good comedy, Linney’s lead performance is thoroughly joyous. If you like your humour pitch black, then you may have found your new favourite show.
Plus, the show also answers the question: whatever happened to Gabourey Sidibe from Precious?
Flying in under the radar over here in the UK, Community had already built itself a reputation Stateside as the smartest, most ambitious comedy on TV. Set in a suburban community college, it revolves around a rag-tag group of students who form a regular study group. Now, bear in mind that the previous sentence doesn’t do the show justice at all and just believe us when we say that it’s super funny.
Filled with film and TV references, genre spoofs, intricate running gags and flashes of out-right silliness, this is the television show of choice for hardcore comedy fans everywhere. The show has regularly featured on critics’ ‘best of’ lists over the past few years, much to the delight of Community’s devoted and vocal fan-base. Not since Arrested Development has a TV comedy inspired such a passionate online following.
Men at Work
A quintessential hang-out comedy, Men at Work is a studio sitcom about four best friends who happen to work at a magazine together. Milo (That 70s Show’s Danny Masterson) has just broken up with his girlfriend and is readjusting to life as a bachelor, Neal is the buttoned-up one in a solid relationship, while Tyler and Gibbs are their cool-dude pals who have much to teach them in the ways of being a modern man.
I’m Alan Partridge
One of British comedy’s most enduring creations, Steve Coogan’s chat-happy alter ego is hitting the big screen in a few weeks with his first theatrical film. But before that happens, let’s rewind to 1997: TV chat show host Alan Partridge has been exiled to presenting local radio after punching out a BBC commissioner on live telly; he lives in a travel tavern and his only remaining acquaintances are his put-upon assistant Lynn and Michael, an unintelligible Geordie who works in the hotel. In other words, he’s in a pretty bad place in his life. Co-created by Armando Iannucci, I’m Alan Partridge has remained one of BBC Comedy’s all-time high water marks: its 12 episodes have endured for almost two decades and are still quoted in pubs all over the country.
Foot on a Spike! White Toblerones! Monkey Tennis! Dan!
If you have no idea what any of that means, you are in for a treat: watch the first episode on us today!
Thanks to the Japanese invention of a synthetic blood that keeps their hungers at bay, vampires are finally ‘coming out of the coffin’ and integrating with human society. In the sleepy Southern town of Bon Temps, telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) falls head-over-heels when a 173 year-old vampire rolls into town, bringing with him a whole heap of strange. Based on the popular novels by Charlaine Harris and developed by Six Feet Under creator Alan Ball, the show has proven incredibly popular with women in their 20s and 30s. It’s a bit reductive to suggest that its success is down to the cavalcade of attractive men populating the cast: great writing and a fascinating mythology makes this show unusually addictive. Give it a nibble and we’re confident you’ll be back for a bigger bite.
Oliver Queen, the wastrel son of a wealthy industrialist is rescued after years of being stranded on a deserted island. We discover that he was in a shipwreck with his father (or more accurately, it was a luxury yacht-wreck). Before Daddy Warbucks dies on the life raft however, he tells his boy how he squandered his success and completely failed the city that he always intended to protect. He gave Oliver a list of names: each name is someone who has found success preying on the weak and poor people of Starling City. A bit like The Dark Knight with a bow and arrow, the creators of Arrow have taken a page out of the Christopher Nolan playbook, delivering one of the best actions shows on TV.
The Vampire Diaries
High school student Elena Gilbert is having a hard time dealing with the death of her parents until a mysterious new boy arrives at her school. She develops an instant attraction to him, a romance that complicates once she discovers that he’s actually a 160 year-old vampire whose malevolent older brother has returned to wreak havoc on her small town!
Sure, it all sounds a little Twilighty and perhaps a wee bit True Bloody as well; but when you’re dealing with such an attractive cast and scripts by Kevin Williamson (creator of the Scream films and Dawson’s Creek) you know you’re in for quality teen drama with a healthy dose of horror!
Sam and Dean Winchester are a pair of supernaturally good-looking brothers who travel through America hunting down evil demons, many of whom form the basis of local urban legends. Dean has been following in his father’s footsteps for many years, tracking and eliminating paranormal beings, while Sam is forced to join him after their father disappears in the middle of a ‘hunting trip’. Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki have an easy charm that makes this show very watchable. On top of that, the writing is incredibly strong for a show that’s aimed at a younger demographic! Even if you’re a fan of serious cable fare like Mad Men and Breaking Bad, we think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the pilot episode of Supernatural.
A young mute boy in New York City is obsessed by a seemingly random series of numbers that occur around him. His widowed father (Keifer Sutherland) doesn’t know how to help him and the woman from Child Protection Services is convinced that he should be institutionalised. But as they learn one day, the numbers all mean something. Playing on the idea that an action on one side of the world has a knock-on effect continents away, the very first episode deals with a sprawling mystery that involves a 9/11 firefighter, a pub singer in the UK and a young boy getting into trouble in Baghdad. There’s a bit of science-fiction, a lick of pop-spiritualism and a nebulous central mystery: elements which really reminds us of Lost. And really, that’s no bad thing.
On a side note, this is the first time since 2001 that Sutherland’s played a man on TV who isn’t Jack Bauer – so it may take some time to get used to him not torturing all his problems away.
American Horror Story
Connie Britton (Nashville) and Dylan McDermott (The Practice) are a married couple whose relationship is on the rocks. Moving from Boston to LA, they make a very critical error by taking up the lease on a Haunted Mansion. Their next door neighbour is a very creepy Jessica Lange, who steals the show by acting a LOT MORE than her co-stars.
In these little synopses, we’re supposed to give everything a positive spin but American Horror Story’s first season is incredibly patchy. Critical opinion picked up for Season 2, resulting in an astounding 17 Emmy nominations last week. That’s more than any other show on TV this year.
But frankly, after watching the pilot episode, you might not want to persevere.
A sexy drifter with the power to influence the desires of men (and feed on their life-force) discovers that she is ‘fae’, belonging to a race of paranormal beings who live in secret among us. As she learns to control her abilities, she ends up helping people and finding out more about her past. In the first episode, she saves Kenzi, a young woman who encourages her to use her powers to become a private investigator. Together they’ll track down missing people, uncover con-artists and bust-up vampire cartels in an unnamed North American city that is obviously Toronto. A fun, sexy time is had by all!
The West Wing
One of the most-beloved television shows in recent memory: if you haven’t seen The West Wing yet, you’re about to embark on one of the best viewing experiences of your life. Following the professional lives of White House staffers, writer Aaron Sorkin uses the show to examine a wide spectrum of ideas and topics. The characters often find themselves dealing with anything from proctecting freedom of speech, fighting religious intolerance or simply struggling with their father-daughter relationship. The uniformly awesome cast is anchored by Martin Sheen in a career-defining performance as Jed Bartlet, the Commander-in-Chief that everyone wished for during the Bush years!
In the eternal struggle between police and the drug dealers of Baltimore, the line between right and wrong has never been hazier. Sprawling in its scope, precise in its detail and rich in its characterisation, The Wire is some of the most essential television ever made. Over its 5 seasons, the show focuses on the failures of City Hall, the Unions, the school system and The Press — painting a portrait of American institutional failure. Most shows are lucky to have at least one stand-out character but The Wire has enough depth to its cast to populate 10 great shows!
Once you’re hooked on The Wire, you can never turn back.
Having created the cult favourite Sports Night and the somewhat disappointing Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Aaron Sorkin’s considerable talents return once more to the subject of television. This time, he zeros in on the ethically dubious world of primetime network news.
The show opens with veteran news anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels), who commits a journalistic taboo by airing his incendiary political views during a panel. As a form of atonement, he’s forced to start again with a new production staff led by Emily Mortimer, a bolshie English firebrand who also happens to be his ex-girlfriend. This being an Aaron Sorkin joint, you can expect highly intelligent characters spitting clever dialogue at 100 miles an hour. Nobody writes smart characters better than Sorkin and fans of great TV are really in for another treat with The Newsroom.
Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys) are just an average American couple: with their jobs, picket fences and their two perfect children. The only thing that sets them apart from their neighbours is the fact that they’re both Soviet spies, deep undercover for over 15 years. Set in the 80s with a period appropriate soundtrack, the show’s heart and soul come from their conflict of ideals: while Elizabeth still believes in the Motherland, Phillip has begun to fall in love with his ‘fake’ family and his American way of life. It’s the strongest new drama of the year; a show that has quickly become a favourite of ours!
Deadwood’s Timothy Olyphant is Raylan Givens: a US Marshal whose bad-ass demeanour and reluctance to keep his gun holstered has marked him out as a maverick. When he shoots a Miami mobster in a quick-draw duel, he’s transferred back to Kentucky and the life he left behind. Returning to a hometown infested by white supremacists, drug dealers, the Dixie Mafia and his criminal father, Givens finds new meaning in the idea that ‘you can never go home’.
Based on a short story by Elmore Leonard, the show manages to strike a nice balance between telling one-off stories and continuing a weekly narrative. Watch out, Breaking Bad: when this show gets firing on all cylinders, it’s as good anything else on TV.
Gosh: that Henry VIII was all fat and ugly, right? Wrong! As played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, the pickiest of all British monarchs is now a sexy beast with a tidy beard! Over the course of 4 seasons, his reign is tested by a series of historically accurate-ish diplomatic incidents. At the same time, his faith and fidelity are also brought into question as he puts a series of wives to the sword (both literally and figuratively).
Replete with steamy historical romances and political back-stabbing, fans of historical fiction will lap this up like a salty lamprey broth (or some other period-appropriate soup).
In the world of TV lawyers, there are attorneys who will do anything to win the case: ones who will fight tooth and nail for their clients, putting in long hours and sacrificing their personal lives. There are those lawyers, and then there’s Patty Hewes. As played by Oscar-nominee Glenn Close, she’s one of the great TV antiheroes: a powerful, uncompromising and (perhaps literally) cut-throat professional.
Each season follows a single case, but the sheer number of twist and turns in every episode ensures that the pace never flags. Close is surrounded by a killer supporting cast that (in the first season, at least) includes Bridesmaids’ Rose Byrne and Ted Danson. It’s a dark, gripping, legal thriller of the highest order.
Carrie Wells is a New York police detective with a medical condition that allows her to remember virtually everything. While this makes her just about the most effective homicide police on the force, it also means she can’t forget the tragedy of her sister’s murder.
Just about every TV detective has a hook these days: they’re either magicians, scientists or best-selling authors. Carrie’s abilities to step back into her memories and re-analyse everything she’s ever seen is a pretty cool central conceit for a cop show.
Star Poppy Montgomery has a tough time concealing her native Australian accent but that’s only a problem if you let it get in the way of the fun. Much like TV’s The Mentalist, Unforgettable is distinguished by the way in which it makes murder investigations fun again!
Rizzoli & Isles
And speaking of fun murder investigations: TV sisters are doing it for themselves!
Jane Rizzoli (Angie Harmon) is a tough Boston cop who leads with her gut instead of her head. Maura Isles (Sasha Alexander) is a police medical examiner who leads with her head before her heart. Together, they’re super best friends who work together to stop the murderers that seem to crop up every week. In the wake of ‘bromances’ like Superbad and I Love You Man which celebrated male bonding, Rizzoli & Isles has been described as a ‘womance’, which is exactly what it sounds like. Following on in the style of Cagney and Lacey, the great chemistry between the two leads has led to this show to become one of the highest rated cable programmes in America, not to mention the inspiration for some of the most gently creepy fan art on the internet.
Head on a trip back to 1963: to when men drank whisky, women wore corsets and air travel still held a modicum of romance in the public imagination. Following a crew of Pan Am stewardesses, we take a look into the ins and outs of their jet set lives: from an idealistic purser (Christina Ricci) to a cabin attendant who doubles as a Cold War spy, each one of them has a secret from their past. The first episode alone packs in a whole lot of backstory, giving a lot of space for characters and plot arcs to develop over the series!
“Alright, Bacons! We’re going to television!” – ‘A Few Good Men’ Bacon
For his first soiree into the world of TV drama, Kevin Bacon plays a tortured former FBI investigator, called back into the service when a notorious serial killer (James Purefoy) escapes from death row. As the man who caught him back in 2003, Bacon is perhaps the killer’s only psychological and intellectual match. Okay, there’s very little point in hiding the fact that this is directly inspired by Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lector novels, specifically Red Dragon. But hey, accepting that there are no new ideas, this is still a very appealing show for fans of the thriller genre.
But just beware, The Following gets quite brave when it comes to showing gore: definitely not a show for the faint of heart!
So now that you’ve got an idea of all the shows we have on offer, head over to our Try TV on Us page and get started on your new favourite show.