Irresistible limited series on Showmax

8 February 2018

Irresistible limited series on Showmax

In the last few years, the Emmy Awards category now known as Limited Series has had a number of facelifts, all of them reflecting the changing tides and trends of the medium of TV. In 2017, for the first time, the Limited Series category was so full of incredible titles that it was difficult to predict who’d take the trophies, with nominees including The Night Of and Big Little Lies. And the amazing thing is that, not long ago, this category struggled to justify its existence.

But what is a limited series, even?

Right now, the term can mean one of two things. (Remember that TV is a fluid medium, changing faster than you can say “binge the entire boxset”, so the definition is likely to change over time.)

The Night Of on Showmax
HBO’s The Night Of, a miniseries nominated for the Emmy for Outstanding Limited Series in 2017, starred Riz Ahmed, who won the Emmy for Actor in a Limited Series. Image: HBO

“Limited series” encompasses miniseries, which are intended as one-offs – there are no subsequent seasons, and the story is told in its entirety, beginning to end, in a relatively small number of episodes (usually six to eight). BBC’s Thirteen and HBO’s The Night Of are two examples, and they’re both on Showmax. Watch now »

Fargo Season 3 on Showmax
Ewan McGregor was nominated for the Emmy for Actor in a Limited Series for Fargo, Season 3. Image: MGM

“Limited series” can also refer to anthology series, which are not confined to only one season. Fargo, for example, has three seasons (all three are on Showmax) – but if you’ve ever watched it, you’ll know that one season carries one self-contained storyline. In each season, a new story begins and ends. There may be a few overlaps, but they don’t follow on from one another, and you don’t need to have seen the previous season to pick up Season 2 or 3. Watch Fargo now »

And why are limited series suddenly so popular?

For one thing, we’re now able to binge entire series in one go thanks to internet TV services like Showmax. This means that shows with a limited run are 100% snackable, and much more satisfying than series like Friends and The Sopranos, which were made to be viewed one episode at a time, week by week, over a number of years. Okay, so it’s possible to binge long-running series like these in a few sessions (you’ll find the full boxsets of both on Showmax), but it requires commitment, stamina, and the willingness to miss out on things like socialising and sleep.

Whereas a miniseries will only take you a week, max, to get from beginning to end.

Big Little Lies on Showmax
Image: HBO

Another thing that’s made limited series so popular recently is that they’re usually jam-packed with Hollywood A-listers, probably because big-name stars know that when they sign up for a role in limited series, they won’t be tied into a TV show that could take up the next 10 years of their careers. A few years ago, the idea that Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Alexander Skarsgard and Shailene Woodley would all star in a TV show would have been unimaginable, but now we all know them as some of the Emmy Award-winning actors in Big Little Lies. Watch now »

Now you know what they are, and why they’re so irresistible, here are 10 of the top limited series you can binge all in one go, or, at least, in one week, on Showmax.

Must-watch miniseries

Big Little Lies

First up, we have a miniseries that has ended up totally defying the definition of “limited series”. Perhaps because the show absolutely cleaned the floor in the Limited Series Emmy categories last year, the show’s producers and writers have decided not to keep the show as a one-off. They’ve heeded fans’ calls for a second season, and it’s set to continue the storyline from Season 1 (so it doesn’t even qualify as an anthology series). So sometime next year, we’ll be treated to more of the deception, intrigue, rocky relationships and fierce friendships among the wealthy moms of Monterey that we know so well from having thrown ourselves headfirst into this stunning HBO series. Season 2 is now streaming. Watch now » 

The Night Of

There aren’t any plans to release Season 2 of The Night Of, which makes this HBO miniseries, for now, true to the “limited series” label. Riz Ahmed stars in an Emmy-winning role as Naz, a student in New York who finds himself in the wrong place at a spectacularly bad time – and, because he’s not quite as innocent as he seems at first, ends up accused of murder. With eight brilliantly dark episodes, and a finale that’s not open-ended enough to leave you wondering what happened, this is one of the most satisfying and addictive miniseries you’ll ever see. Watch now »

The Young Pope – FIRST on Showmax

In this miniseries, which you’ll only find on Showmax, Jude Law stars as Lenny Belardo, the good-looking young American who is selected as the Catholic Church’s new pontiff, Pius XIII. He smokes, he’s addicted to Cherry Coke, and he’s much more conservative and dangerous than anyone imagined. Interestingly, HBO have announced that there’s a new season called The New Pope in the works by the creator/director of The Young Pope, Paolo Sorrentino – but since it’ll star a totally new cast, and will follow, yes, a new Pope, we suppose this will boot The Young Pope into the anthology series category. But since The New Pope hasn’t been released yet, we’ll leave Jude Law and his butt (which makes episode 1 essential viewing) right here, in the miniseries section. Watch now »

Astounding anthology series

Fargo, Seasons 1-3

Fargo Season 3 on Showmax
Image: MGM

Seasons 1 to 3 of Fargo share three things – they’re all based on the Coen Brothers movie of the same name (also on Showmax); they’re all set in the snowy, remote climes of North Dakota and Minnesota; and they’re all about law enforcement officials on the trail of organised crime, hitmen and the hapless, ordinary people who get caught in their webs and end up becoming criminals themselves. There are a few characters who overlap as well, with an unlikely hero emerging in Season 3 who you might remember as a hitman’s lackey from Season 1. Each season is as darkly funny and appealing as the last, with stars like Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton and Ewan McGregor keeping you hooked. Watch now »

Room 104 – FIRST on Showmax

This HBO series by the Duplass Brothers takes the concept of an anthology series to its most extreme – each episode is completely self-contained. The only things that don’t change from one episode to the next are the setting, Room 104 in a nondescript motel, and the sense of discomfort you’ll get from voyeuristically watching the very strange behaviour of the people who occupy the rooms for one night each. Every episode features different characters, played by well-known stars, and each one is set in a different era. The most accessible is episode 2, starring James van der Beek as a manipulative husband, while sensitive viewers should probably skip episode 3 (let’s just say, it’s not one you want to watch with your parents). But this is the beauty of an anthology series – you can skip a whole episode without missing anything. It’s first and only on Showmax. Watch now »

True Detective, Seasons 1-3

Another limited series that went on to release a second instalment or season, HBO’s True Detective remains one of the most gripping, intense, brutal and addictive crime dramas of the last few years, and Hollywood heavy-hitters Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson in Season 1, and Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughn and Rachel McAdams in Season 2, don’t hurt one bit. Season 3 has been hailed as the best of the lot, with Mahershala Ali playing an investigator who worked a murder and missing-persons case in 1980, revisited the case a decade later, and then in 2015 is forced to relive it when a true-crime documentary filmmaker seeks him out. Watch now »

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