TV connoisseurs pride themselves on watching shows that are well written and acted, as well as programs that are a little unconventional when it comes to plot or structure. They also prefer shows that fly under the pop culture radar—making it a challenge for most of us to learn about them. But here are four shows worth the extra effort it might take to find them on cable or streaming online.
A British crime drama, Luther stars the ever-dreamy Idris Elba as Detective Chief Inspector John Luther, a brilliant cop consumed by his work in the Serious Crimes Unit (later the Serious & Serial Crimes Unit). His dedication to work destroyed his marriage, and Luther is not adverse to bending some laws to solve a crime. Elba won a Golden Globe for the role.
The show has run for three seasons, each less than six episodes so you don’t need to make a serious time commitment to watch it all. (That’s the genius of British shows: They’re not confined to lengthy seasons and long runs, so they don’t seem tired or dragged out. Don’t believe me, compare the BBC and the NBC versions of The Office.)
Where to watch it: BBC America (On Demand). Seasons 1 & 2 are also on Netflix & Amazon. Series 3 available for purchase on Amazon and iTunes.
This modern retelling of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle classic has made a household (and sex symbol) out of star Benedict Cumberbatch (his legion of female fans are called Cumberbitches). This Holmes, a bit of a cocky arse, uses modern technology to solve crimes. And of course, he has the help of his blogging buddy and flatmate Watson (played by Martin Freeman, or Jim in the original The Office), a vet from the war in Afghanistan. The show is edgy and quite witty, and each season contains three 90-minute episodes.
Where to find it: Season 3 airs on PBS starting in Jan. 19, 2014. Seasons 1 & 2 are available on Netflix & Amazon.
The Wrong Mans
This BBC dark comedy, co-produced by Hulu, follows Sam Pinkett (Matthew Baynton) & Phil Bourne (James Corden), two regular Joes who get caught up in an underworld after Sam answers a ringing phone at the site of a car crash. Corden and Baynton also created the show; these critics’ darlings are being compared to Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, the duo between Shaun of the Dead. The first season has six episodes; no announcement has been made about season 2.
Where to find it: Hulu
Piper Chapman, a Waspy New Yorker, is sentenced to a year in prison after being convicted of a drug crime committed almost 10 years ago. On the surface, she has a perfect life with a loving fiancé (Jason Biggs all grown up after the American Pie series), and underneath she has her drug-runner lesbian ex (Laura Prepon from That 70s Show) from a previous life. The show not only follows how Chapman navigates this strange world, it also delves into the situations that got her fellow inmates thrown in the slammer. Fans of Weeds will recognize many of the supporting players—not surprising given the show’s creator is Jenji Kohan (and yes, she’s American). The first season was nominated for Emmy and Golden Globe awards. The second season is scheduled to be released in 2014.
Where to watch it: The show is streamed on Netflix, so you need a subscription to watch it.