A quick look at some outstanding series that do not belong to Netflix but should be watched ASAP.
etflix, the most common streaming service in the world, changed the way we view films, documentaries, television shows in 2013. It managed to do so by first releasing the entire first season of House of Cards ft. Kevin Spacey – for 5 years before the MeToo moment and stories about his misconduct on the set alone made it essential to dump him – and Robin Wright in lead roles with David Fincher as executive producer of the series as well as director of the gripping pilot and other episodes in-between.
But that was then.
“What cannot be cured must be endured.” – The Anatomy of Melancholy
Netflix can be appreciated for creating a model that was followed by others like Apple, Disney, Amazon, HBO as well as major networks including NBC and CBS. But because Netflix was the first to create this paradigm shift, it was selected by everyone as the go-to streaming service to get. And let’s be honest. No one or at least most of us cannot afford to subscribe to every single streaming service in the world.
So, when we think of binge-worthy shows or films, we often look towards Netflix (staggering losses in its last quarter) that may or may not have every appealing series in the world. But if you remove Netflix, where are some of the most brilliant, entertaining shows to watch with A-list Hollywood actors in the mix?
Instep has done its due diligence and these are the shows, offered by other services, that you should consider. Not every production on Netflix is as smart as they’d want you to think so here then is our selection of viewing material…
Streaming service: Amazon Prime
Cast: Priyanka Chopra and Richard Madden
Okay, so this cast alone makes Citadel worth watching. Madden has a body of work where everything he does is absolute gold.
Working with HBO (cable) for Game of Thrones for several years allowed the actor to work in a string of high-profile films and limited series afterwards.
Marvel Studios’ star-studded film, Eternals notwithstanding, his performances in limited series like Bodyguard (Netflix) and Medici (Netflix) were captivating to say the least. However, his newest role is not in a Netflix series but one in which he is starring with Priyanka Chopra.
If Madden endeared himself to fans of Game of Thrones, Chopra did so (in addition to her work in Bollywood) by starring in some terrible films as well as a high-profile network series called Quantico that she carried on her shoulders even though it eventually crashed and burned. The series was the incompetent cousin of every good cop series from another network show but it ran for a couple of seasons because the audience was enchanted by Chopra. Some terrible films or cameos, if you want to call a spade a spade, she has finally earned a strong role in a series that is not using her sexuality to promote itself (read: Quantico).
Citadel is a series that is a cut between Jason Bourne, Memento (a film by Chris Nolan) and Alias but that’s just the surface. Six episodes have released and Citadel is actually a spy-series that is smart, sharp, entertaining and worth watching. It is the first role for Priyanka Chopra where she is given due credit as an actor and a role as complicated as that of Richard Madden. South Asia rising!
Mare of Easttown
Streaming service: HBO Max
Cast: Kate Winslet, Jean Smart
A small eerie Pennsylvania town, a crime that shakes it to the core and a terrible personal tragedy make Mare of Easttown one of the most compelling series in Kate Winslet’s extensive and brilliant body of work. But there is just one caveat: it is not on or by Netflix but is an original HBO Max production. Small towns as we have seen in shows across the board, can often be stereotyped but this one is different because women lead the series by and large and that differentiates it from several others. The town is a place where everyone has a dark, and sometimes homicidal secret and because everyone knows everyone, the creep factor is higher. But the 2021 series is (a) still not seen by as many people as those who watch something on Netflix and (b) could come back with another season since Winslet plays a detective. Watch it, watch it now. You are losing out.
Series: I Am Ruth
Cast: Kate Winslet, Jeany Spark, Mia Threapleton,
Streaming Service: Channel 4 on demand
In 2022, Kate Winslet starred in the trilogy, the anthology series called I Am Ruth, another compelling production that hasn’t gotten its due.
Starring Kate Winslet in the third episode from the anthology trilogy series created by Dominic Savage, it is primarily led by women as leading characters dealing with personal realities and emotions that will hit you in the gut. If you’ve already seen Mare of Easttown, look for I Am Ruth (2022) and if you haven’t seen the former, just watch both. It is an exercise in viewing what electrifying acting feels like – if nothing else seems appealing about either show. I Am Ruth is a product of Channel 4’s in-demand service and the anthology featuring Kate Winslet is co-written by her with Dominic Savage and features her real-life daughter so this one is not something to miss out on.
White House Plumbers
Cast: Woody Harrelson, Justin Theroux, Lena Headey
Streaming service: HBO Max
Did you ever think (if you have seen the first season of True Detective) just how brilliant Woody Harrelson was as he faced a knockout performance/character by Matthew McConaughey? He was the perfect complement to the jaw-dropping performance McConaughey delivered as Rust Cohle.
Harrelson often goes underused or is seen in an understated light because of his co-stars’ celebrity power. But if you can hold your own against a man in existential crisis, who spouts nihilistic ideas as you hunt for a serial killer in a southern, deteriorating town, you can do a lot. Harrelson was as important to the success of True Detective’s first season as McConaughey.
Now, leaving his cop character behind, Harrelson is starring in a series that is a satirical effort set in a political world, also by HBO Max. It feels like fate.
The synopsis sums it up well: “A five-part series that tells the true story of how Nixon’s own political saboteurs and
Watergate masterminds, E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy, accidentally toppled the presidency they were trying to protect.”
Add to it the mixture of actors like Woody Harrelson and Justin Theroux and you have a pretty cool and binge-worthy series on your hands. It also makes you wonder? What story beyond Watergate could be told about former-POTUS Richard Nixon? But White House Plumbers, released in 2023, does manage it. According to NPR, “it makes you laugh,” and who doesn’t need some comic relief?