Best TV shows: where to watch and download your favourite programmes

Netflix, Lovefilm, Blinkbox: where can I watch my favourite TV shows?
The services that are streaming the best television

This feature will be continuously updated with new TV shows as soon as they are announced by Netflix and Lovefilm. Head to page two to read about all the new announcements.

Thanks to huge sprawling story arcs, high production values and more water cooler moments than an Evian convention, it's TV and not movies that have become the biggest draw for booming on-demand video services.

Even Hollywood's biggest blockbusters can't beat the allure of a box-set weekend. But thanks to bewildering licensing deals, it's far from obvious just where those shows you want to catch up with actually reside.

The two titans of subscription VOD are Netflix and Amazon-owned Lovefilm Instant. On paper the Lovefilm vs Netflix fight looks near identical. Both offer monthly all you can eyeball £5.99 deals, and there's clear crossover in their respective catalogues too.

Netflix recently announced a complete redesign of its TV functionality, proving that when it comes to TV it's deadly serious bout changing the game.

But these behemoths have growing competition in the form of Sky's rapidly expanding Now TV operation. Launched as a platform for movies and sports, Now TV has added an Entertainment package that pulls TV content from Sky's entertainment bouquet as well as Discovery, MTV, Comedy Central, GOLD, Disney and FOX. Although it doesn't offer the same depth of content as its rivals, and has listings that come across a bit like a starter menu, it's priced at a mere £4.99 a month.

Of course if you don't fancy a no-contract subscription deal, there're some tantalising Pay-As-You-watch offerings to be had. The Tesco-owned Blinkbox, Apple iTunes and Google Play sell a huge range shows and series on a pay as you go basis.

Netflix gets original

It says much about the popularity of the low cost VOD market that Netflix is now aggressively commissioning its own content. The Emmy award-winning House of Cards set the bar high, and Orange is the New Black has outpaced the rebooted Arrested Development and horror outing Hemlock Grove to become a breakout second hit for the service.

Hemlock Grove

Netflix has also secured itself a slice of Marvel mania, negotiating an exclusive deal with Disney that will see it deliver four TV shows from 2015, featuring spandex-clad Marvel stalwarts Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and Iron Fist. The interlocking universe will culminate with a shared Defender miniseries. Our collective hearts are already going pitter-pat.

Amazon is trying to follow suit, but doesn't yet have much to show beyond some rather lackluster pilots. The service's biggest exclusive is period drama Vikings. It was obviously snapped up to pull in Game of Thrones fans, although it's seriously lacking in the dragons department.

HD or SD?

When it comes to online streaming, fixed definitions such as Standard and high definition don't easily apply. Adaptive bitrate technologies mean what you see from your service provider tends to change depending on the speed of your broadband connection. The best audio visual performer currently available is Netflix. Offered a fat pipe, it's a match for the HD transmissions seen on network TV. It also looks likely to be the first content provider to bow a 4K resolution streaming service in 2014.

Ultimately where you want to watch your streaming TV could dictate what service you opt to support. For example, Lovefilm Instant isn't available on iPad or Android, outside of Amazon's own Kindle Fire slates. Netflix, Now TV, Google Play and Blinkbox are more ubiquitous.

So just who has the best TV choice and what's worth watching? Check out our updated guide to Tech Radar's 15 favourite on demand or downloaded shows for the full skinny…

The Walking Dead: Seasons 1 -3

HD: Yes

Available on: Now TV, Lovefilm Instant, Blinkbox

Walking Dead

The first three season's AMC's lauded reworking of the monstrously successful graphic novel are arguably the best reason to take out a monthly pass on Now TV. You can also find season one of this shambling sensation on Lovefilm Instant. Blinkbox is serving up bite-sized episodes too. Tasty, if a little rancid.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D

HD: Yes

Available on: Blinkbox, Google Play


Still riding a hurricane of goodwill from Marvel's Avengers Assembled, Joss Whedon's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D has transpired to be a curiously dated episodic plodder. But Whedon always does this with his shows and then blows the doors off – so we're sticking with it and so should you.

Game of Thrones: Seasons 1- 3

HD: yes

Available on: Blinkbox

Game of thrones

This breakout fantasy hit based on George RR Martin's epic books is one of HBO's hottest properties, which probably explains why it's not yet available on Netflix, Lovefilm Instant, Google Play or iTunes. Sky has first dibs, so expect it to (be)head to Now TV before too long. In the meantime, catch up with the first three seasons on Blinkbox.

Breaking Bad: Season 1-5

HD: yes

Available on: Netflix, Blinkbox, Google Play, iTunes

Breaking Bad

The poster show for streaming VOD, Breaking Bad is arguably the single best reason to buy a chunk of Netflix streamtime. The ability to mainline all five seasons for not much more than a fiver is a sweet deal, whatever way you cook it. Alternatively catch the Breaking Bad saga piece meal. But be warned, it's addictive. The iTunes boxset Deluxe editions come with a good selection of extras, making them a solid choice for BB fans.

Orange is the New black

HD: Yes

Available on: Netflix

Orange is the new black

From the creator of Weeds, this engaging dramedy tells the story of a middle-age yuppie mom sentenced to 15 months in a brutal women's prison for decade old drugs offence. A Netflix exclusive, it's wowed critics and earned an early second season renewal. It's what you turn to when you finish Breaking Bad.

Battlestar Galactica: Seasons 1-4

HD: Yes

Available on: Netflix, Lovefilm Instant, Blinkbox, iTunes, Google Play (S4)

Battlestar Galactica

VOD is a frackin' brilliant way to catch up with arguably the best science fiction show of the past decade. You can gorge on a box set of Cylons via both Netflix and Lovefilm Instant, including the Razer two-part special. The ubiquity of the Netflix service makes it much easier to spin up those FTL drives both on mobile devices and connected devices. Curiously, only Lovefilm Instant also offers the underrated prequel series Caprica.

X-Men: Days of Future Past

HD: No

Available on: Netflix, Lovefilm Instant


Admittedly not the X-movie, which units the team from X-Men: First Class with Patrick Stewart's mutants, but a glorious two-part from the fanboy-tastic animated show of the early Nineties (actually season 1, episodes 11 and 12). Slavishly faithful to the Chris Claremont and John Bryne comic book original, this is a solid gold classic. We can only hope Singer's epic is half as much fun.

Dexter: Seasons 1-6

HD: yes

Available on: Netflix, Lovefilm Instant, iTunes


Curiously only the first six seasons of Dexter are available on demand, but iTunes does have the increasingly bonkers seven and eight available. Newcomers to this hapless serial killer can look forward to plenty of memorable chills before the performing sharks appear.

The Killing: Seasons 1- 3

HD: yes

Available on: Netflix

The Killing

The US reworking of the Danish police drama Forbrydelsen has proved a compelling hit for Netflix. The platform is exclusively delivering third season episodes the day after they screen in the US, and has both previous arcs on tap. Netflix also offers the first two seasons of the original Nordic noir. In a similar vein, only Netflix offers the gritty French police drama Spiral (three seasons).

Arrested Development: Seasons 1- 4

HD: yes

Available on: Netflix, Blinkbox (seasons 1-3)

Arrested Development

This cult comedy was brought back from cancellation limbo as a Netflix original production, so don't expect to see it on any other platforms. All three original three tightly written seasons, plus the somewhat baggier new season are available for viewing every which way.

Doctor Who: Seasons 1 -7

HD: Yes

Available on: Netflix, LoveFilm Instant, Blinkbox

Doctor Who

Fans of the iconic Time Lord are becoming increasingly well served online, and it's about time. The Eccleston reboot onwards is widely available, while Netflix offers a smattering of pepperpot classics: Doctor Who: Genesis of the Daleks (1975), Resurrection of the Daleks (1984), Revelation of the Daleks (1985) and Remembrance of the Daleks (1988. However Whovians should run and not walk to iTunes which has the richest library of classic Gallifreyan hijinks, including the recently rediscovered The Web of Fear and The Enemy of the World.

Sons of Anarchy: Seasons 1-4

HD: Yes

Available on: Netflix, Blinkbox, Lovefilm

Sons of Anarchy

The convoluted antics of the outlaw motorcycle gang have revved up a huge following over the years, but there's still to catch up with the clan. Both Netflix and Lovefilm Instant offers the first four season in HD, while pay as you play Blinkbox stretches to five, although only in SD.

Star Trek TOS, Star Trek Voyager: Seasons 1-3, 1-7

HD: yes

Available on: Lovefilm Instant

Star Trek

You might be forgiven for thinking that Paramount's huge Trek canon would translate to gold-pressed latinum in the VOD universe, but most shows appears to be lost in space (no, that's not available either). Only Lovefilm Instant supports the Federation, with the original 4:3 series ready to beam down alongside a compete run of Voyager. So, no Next Gen, DS9 or Enterprise for you dear Trekkers. On the bright side, there's a heck of a lot of Seven Of Nine to go around.


HD: Yes

Available on: Now TV


Far more than just a twisted police procedural, this dark exploration of hijinks the world's best known gourmet serial killer is as tense as modern TV gets. Beautifully shot and intelligently scripted, it delivers with gory aplomb. It's a Now TV boxset much-watch.

Heroes: Seasons 1-4

HD: Yes

Available on: Netflix, iTunes, Google Play, LoveFilm


OK so while you're keeping the faith with S.H.I.E.L.D and loving the return of Arrow, find time to catch Tim Kring's Heroes too. Sure the show wobbled over it's four year run, but the inaugural season is as near perfect superhero pulp as has ever been made, and Heroes never commits the cardinal sin of being dull.

Steve May
Home entertainment AV specialist

Steve has been writing about AV and home cinema since the dawn of time, or more accurately, since the glory days of VHS and Betamax. He has strong opinions on the latest TV technology, Hi-Fi and Blu-ray/media players, and likes nothing better than to crank up his ludicrously powerful home theatre system to binge-watch TV shows.