Time to play CATCH-UP*


THE days of “event-TV” – when everyone in the office would crowd around the water-cooler to discuss what was on the night before – have been diluted by the advent of box-sets and on-demand viewing.

Breaking Bad was an exception; it’s been difficult to find anyone who hasn’t been discussing what became of Jesse and Walt in the grand finale.

But what happens now it’s all over? What else is there to talk about? Will office conversation grind to a shuddering, awkward halt? Not necessarily... If the thought of life after Breaking Bad has you shaking like a meth addict, fear not: here’s a selection of some of the best American drama out there, from Mad Men to David Lynch’s classic Twin Peaks. Clear your schedule, fill up the water-cooler: this is some seriously high quality TV.

The Sopranos
If you only watch one thing for the rest of your life, make it The Sopranos. This seminal series walks a tight-rope between soap opera and Goodfellas without wobbling once. It’s the series that made HBO the force it is today and spawned a hundred imitators. Watching it now is all the more bitter-sweet following the death of its star James Gandolfini.

Mad Men
This series about the advertising executives of Madison Avenue moves at the pace of a glacier and it’s just as cool. Don Draper has entered the fashion lexicon as a by-word for urbanity and understated style. It depicts a misogynistic world peopled with scheming, Machiavellian toads working out how to sell more cigarettes, but you can’t help but love them.

The Wire
This crime series ranks as one of the greatest series ever produced. It follows a bunch of kids from the Baltimore projects peddling narcotics and the cops trying to catch them at it, eventually expanding to address the education system, the media and politics. The thick accents will leave you baffled for the first few episodes but your perseverance is more than justified.

Twin Peaks
This surreal tale set in the logging town of Twin Peaks is one of David Lynch’s greatest triumphs. It asks the central question: “Who killed Laura Palmer”, the town’s homecoming queen, who washes up at the start of episode one. After a lengthy legal row, the second series was eventually released on DVD in 2007, 16 years after Twin Peaks ended. It’s worth watching for the soundtrack alone, which is one of the best ever recorded.

Boardwalk Empire
Another HBO book adaptation, this prohibition-era gangster drama stars Steve Buscemi as a fictionalised version of racketeer Enoch L Johnson who controlled the political elite of Atlantic City, New Jersey. The pilot episode was directed by Martin Scorsese and cost a reported $18m to make. The show was renewed for a fifth season last month and it has received a whopping 40 Emmy nominations to date.

This foul-mouthed western is based on real-life events in the frontier town of Deadwood, where Wild Bill Hickok would play cards in spit and sawdust bars, with varying degrees of success. Ian McShane takes centre stage as Al Swearengen, a lovable rogue who owns the Gem Saloon. It is epic in its approach and Shakespearian in its delivery. That it was axed after three seasons is TV’s greatest travesty.

Game Of Thrones
From its grandiose theme tune to its unfathomable family trees, Game of Thrones doesn’t do things by halves. This HBO epic is an adaptation of fantasy book series A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin, following several noble families during a civil war as they fight it out for the Iron Throne to rule all Seven Kingdoms.

In Treatment
Portrayals of psychotherapy tend to be wildly unrealistic, but In Treatment makes real drama out of real(ish) therapy. Like psychoanalysis, it unfolds slowly, but the rewards are great. Each half hour episode is a single session with a client – the perfect setting for the extraordinary acting talent to show their range. Gabriel Byrne as Dr Paul Weston and a young Mia Wasikowska both turn in mind-blowing performances.