From the latest releases to the classics, here are the best TV shows on Hotstar across genres streaming right now. How many of these have you ticked off your watchlist?
1. Mildred Pierce (2011, miniseries)
The year is 1931. America is in the grip of the Great Depression. A middle class housewife in LA can’t take more of her husband’s infidelity and turns him out. Based on James M. Cain’s 1941 novel, this miniseries is about how a single mother rebuilds her life from ground zero, baking pies, selling chicken and waffle dinners, her troubled relationship with her elder daughter, the men in her life, her rise and fall.
Kate Winslet embodies the persona of Mrs Pierce and delivers a piercing (sorry couldn’t resist being trite) Emmy-winning performance. She is resolute and determined but ain’t a perfect woman. Her strength and fragility are beautifully etched by Kate. She is a mother, she is a woman; she is proper, buttoned-up and hosed-up, she is carnal and free. Evan Rachel Wood sparkles as the malicious, ungrateful, unforgiving daughter who turns on her mother.
2. Olive Kitteridge (2014, miniseries)
Based on Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer-winning novel, ‘Olive Kitteridge’ is a study in love, loneliness and loyalty and how ‘horrors’ of one can be visited unto the other. Is Olive all about self-preservation? What’s behind her alienated, almost misanthropic, behaviour? Does she need to be so tough on her son, take her loving husband for granted? What are her inner compulsions that drive such insularity? Was her father’s suicide the last straw? The show is a searing examination of these troubling questions but doesn’t provide any redemptive answers, for Olive refuses to take a penetrative look at herself. She refuses to peer into the mirror because deep down she knows the mirror is cracked.
What the narrative provides, however, is an insight into the art and craft, and many inscrutable intensities, of a method actor. Frances McDormand delivers a hauntingly biting performance. It disturbs and elevates at the same time. The series went on to win 6 Emmys including best actress award for Frances. No, Olive may not be impressed by that.
3. Grahan (2021)
Created by: Shailendra Jha
For me, this turned out to be the surprise package of this year so far. An unrequited love story set in the backdrop of the horrific 1984 anti-Sikh riots, and the horrors are revisited when in 2016 a daughter, now an IPS officer, begins to investigate the crimes that shook our faith in humanity. Will the conjoining threads lead to a discovery that will shatter her world?
While Pavan Malhotra and Zoya Hussain bring remarkable modulation and gravitas to their acts, it is Anshuman Pushkar and Wamiqa Gabbi that steal the show as star-crossed lovers caught in the fire of events beyond their control. Their gentle encounters, their demure rooftop dalliances are suffused with unexpected delights and their bashful and tenuous bond sparkles with a pristine probity that is refreshing to the core. Anshuman with his deep voice and hairstyle reminds me of a young Amitabh Bachchan and Wamiqa as an effervescent and ‘chulbuli’ Punjabi kudi delivers a stirring performance.
4. I May Destroy You (2020)
Created by: Michaela Coel
London born, of Ghanaian descent, Michaela Coel is an explosive talent. She creates, writes, co-directs this extraordinary, unsettling, intensely introspective work of irascible art that is set in London and explores questions of drug induced rape, consent, sexual violence, racism and prejudice.
While this is essentially a semi-autobiographical story of Coel’s unfolding, it also takes a deep, piercing look at contemporary Black British society as seen through the troubled eyes and woke consciousness of a survivor who is struggling to put the pieces of her life together. Among other things, she needs to finish the draft of her second novel but her life is a story now and that takes precedence. The novel is pending closure because she needs closure.
In real life, Coel wrote 191 drafts of ‘I May Destroy You.’ No wonder a BAFTA for Best Writer: Drama followed. For her sterling act as the troubled lead protagonist, Coel won a BAFTA for Best Actress. Described by The Guardian as ‘a true TV gamechanger’, this show, uber-hip and cutting-edge in its treatment and tonality, also deservedly grabbed BAFTAs for Best Mini-Series and Best Director: Drama in 2021.
5. Mrs. America (2020, miniseries)
Created by: Dahvi Waller
Mrs America is a story of power women who defied all odds to give a voice to millions of women in America and rewrite their destiny. Rose Byrne as Gloria stands out with her ultra-hip, laid-back, cerebral style. Cate Blanchett plays Phyllis Schlafly, a deeply polarising conservative activist and author, and plays it so well that one begins to almost loathe her as a ‘traitor to her sex’ and suspect her motives. It’s a terrifyingly beautiful performance by a class actor. The showrunner of this brilliantly scripted nine-part miniseries is a graduate in history from Princeton, Dahvi Waller, a Canadian television writer, playwright, producer, and director, who also co-wrote ‘Mad Men.’
In all, this is a serious watch, populated by serious women who find themselves at a historic juncture and resolve to throw away the cloak of invisibility and fight abuse at the hands of self-serving patriarchy that seeks to diminish them. They may not have fully succeeded then because of the complexity and non-linearity within the issues of gender, feminism and race but the fire they lit continues to rage even today, decimating in its wake centuries of discrimination and prejudice.
6. Chernobyl (2019) – Miniseries
Created by: Craig Mazin
“Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later, the debt is paid.” This is a haunting miniseries that dramatically recreates the 1986 nuclear meltdown in Chernobyl in erstwhile USSR.
It’s explosive in its reconstruction of what went wrong and the war-like efforts that were taken to contain the fallout and limit the damage. Yes, it may have taken some liberties with the truth but the story it tells is of the state coverup, incompetence of key engineers and ultimately the heroism of ordinary people, few brave nuclear scientists and a senior party functionary. The world owes a debt to them.
The five-hour rendition is bleak and unremittingly stark but it’s engaging and educative. Do watch it!
7. Billions (2019)
Created by: Brian Koppelman, David Levien, Andrew Ross Sorkin
It’s fast, pulsating, intelligently scripted and gives us a good peek, howsoever exaggerated it may be, into the stratospheric world of hedge-fund managers and money movers on the Wall Street. Damian Lewis as an antihero is brilliant and razor sharp and his protege and eventual bête noire, Taylor, is one of the most memorable characters ever created in the multiverse of high finance.
Outstandingly essayed by Asia Kate Dillion who is gender-fluid, Taylor, a financial genius, is non-binary and prefers to use a ‘singular they’ pronoun. And what a controlled, classy act! John Malkovich as a Russian billionaire-badass is a sterling gift. There are other great performances (and a main plot and myriad subplots) but these three standout for me.
8. Game of Thrones (2011-19)
Created by: David Benioff and D. B. Weiss
Sexposition, blood, gore, mutilation and decapitation apart, ‘Game of Thrones’ is most impressive, expansive, imaginative, explosive and overwhelming television drama that I have seen so far. One runs out of words to describe the magic and the majesty of this medieval fantasy hyperdrama.
I don’t think I can even attempt to review GOT. Such is the scale of its ambition that it dwarfs ordinary men.
Previously I had loved ‘Twin Peaks,’ ‘Lost,’ ‘Peaky Blinders’ and ‘Outlander’ but GOT with its fire-spitting flying dragons, the petite and conquering dragon queen, the dwarf and the eunuch, the king in the north, the three-eyed raven, the wall and the night king with his army of the dead takes storytelling to a different level. (Read Game of Thrones full review | Game Of Thrones Season 8 Ep 3 | Ep 4 | Ep 5 | Ep 6
9. The Wire (2002-08)
Created by: David Simon
‘The Wire ‘was the ‘Game of Thrones’ of its generation. No other show managed to capture the various faults of the entire system – political, judicial, educational – in such brutal fashion. There was a fine line between good guys and bad guys. The show made us realize how far the infrastructure had collapsed, and whether it would be possible to repair it. Each character, gangster or cop, from Jimmy McNulty to Stringer Bell had smartly written, complex storylines that resonated so well with the general narrative. The first couple of seasons weren’t given much recognition, but by the time the show ended, critics and audiences alike viewed ‘The Wire’ as one of the greatest TV shows ever made.
10. The Sopranos (1999-07)
Created by: David Chase
A crime drama with strong undertones on themes like family, mental illness, gender roles and so on, ‘The Sopranos’ was truly one of a kind. Instead of adhering to the traditional, dramatized life of a mafioso we usually see in movies, ‘The Sopranos’ gave us a look at the everyday life of an ordinary mobster living in the suburbs with his family. James Gandolfini stars as Tony Soprano, an Italian-American gangster who struggles to balance life as a family man whilst running a criminal organisation. Regarded as the greatest piece of American pop culture in the last few decades and one of the best TV shows on Hotstar right now, ‘The Sopranos’ is definitely one to add to your list.
11. The Americans (2013-18)
Created By: Joseph Weisberg
The year is 1981. It is the height of the Cold War. Ronald Reagan has been elected President of the United States. Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Philip Jennings (Matthew Rhys) are living their normal lives as a family with this newfound sense of security. But in truth, they are actually KGB spies.
A show which focuses on familial values in addition to the political intrigue, ‘The Americans’ is probably the most underrated show on this list. Now is a perfect time to binge the entire show on Hotstar.
12. Boardwalk Empire (2010-14)
Created by: Terence Winter
Steve Buscemi’s career-defining role as Nucky Thompson, tyrannical kingpin of Atlantic City in the height of the Prohibition. The pilot was directed by Martin Scorsese, and a Sopranos producer joined in to fund the project. ‘Boardwalk Empire’ got off to a flying start. With its attention to historical accuracy as well as the show’s characters, led by the charismatic Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire is every Scorsese fan’s wet dream, with the show’s visual style inspired by the show’s pilot.
13. American Horror Story (2011 – present)
Created by: Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk
Beginning in 2011, it’s a horror anthology series from Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy that is loved for its craziness and unpredictability. There are heroes, villains, vampires, witches, ghosts, and anything wicked you can imagine. The creepy storytelling and shock elements have made it stand out from its dozens of counterparts.
‘American Horror Story’ Season 10 will premiere this year on FX.
Early this year, it was announced that the show will be renewed for at least 3 additional seasons.
14. Band of Brothers (2001)
Season: 1 (10 episodes)
Ranked as one of the best mini-series ever made, ‘Band of Brothers’ depicts the history of the “Easy Company”, part of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Covering the heroics of the 101st airborne division during World War II, the show is relatable to those who fought in the war because of the astute portrayal. Produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, it’s a gem of a show that excels in intricate detailing and captivating atmosphere.
15. Doctor Who (2005 – present)
Created by: Sydney Newman, C. E. Webber, Donald Wilson
It has been 54 years since ‘Doctor Who’ first aired on Television. The iconic show has rolled out over 800 episodes and more than a dozen incarnations of the character. The protagonist is an alien who is travelling through time and space in TARDIS (a phone booth that has its own Wikipedia page). The show is properly British and the ideas and imagination imbued in it make it better than you think!
Owing to the spiralling pandemic, it might be a long wait before we get the 13th season.
16. The Flash (2014 – present)
Created by: Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, Geoff Johns
If there is a superhero with his memes spread all over the Internet, it’s Barry Allen. Arguably the strongest comic book show on TV, CW’s The Flash is a funny, fantastic superhero show that targets both the nerds and the novices. Centered on the titular character who acquires super powers through an accident, it’s a fun ride that’s being renewed for its 7th season. is still going strong in its fourth season. Catch up with Earth’s Fastest Man Alive if you haven’t yet.
17. Grey’s Anatomy (2005 – present)
Created by: Shonda Rhimes
‘Grey’s Anatomy’ is one of the longest running shows on TV. Beginning in year 2005, the show is now renewing for the 17th season. Centered on the personal and professional lives of the doctors of Seattle Grace Hospital, it’s an emotional roller coaster of love, heartbreaks, success, failures and more.
18. The Originals (2013-18)
Created by: Julie Plec
Making a spin-off of a popular show isn’t always the smartest move. However, ‘The Originals’ proves this wrong as it was one of the rarest shows to become as famous and successful as its source. Focusing on the original vampire family from ‘The Vampire Diaries,’ the show featured intricate storytelling and multiple twists and turns to satisfy the fans of the original as well as create some new ones.
19. Prison Break (2005-17)
Created by: Paul Scheuring
Creating impossible circumstances for the characters to overcome and then, getting them out of everything is what the show has been doing since its very first season. And it isn’t yet ready to give up. A compelling thriller revolving around two brothers – first, who is framed for a crime he didn’t commit and second, who tries to clear his sibling’s name, ‘Prison Break’ is unpredictable (often unbelievable), taut, and suspenseful. This one is for the thrill seekers.
20. Twin Peaks
Created by: Mark Frost, David Lynch
Who killed Laura Palmer? This is the one, big question that will linger in your mind while watching ‘Twin Peaks.’ Focused on an FBI agent who investigates the murder of the aforementioned girl, this is one helluva intense show. A blend of several different genres, ‘Twin Peaks’ is unlike anything you’ve seen before. A trailblazer!
21. Six Feet Under (2001-05)
Created by: Alan Ball
A recipient of numerous awards, ‘Six Feet Under’ was a fantastic drama that focused on the fundamental thing of life: Death. From the characters to the various noteworthy dialogues, everything was remarkable about this show. Quoting Nate Fisher, “Love isn’t something you feel, it’s something you do. If the person you are with doesn’t want it, you know, do yourself a favor and save it for someone who does.”
22. True Detective (2014-present)
Created by: Nic Pizzolatto
What do you expect from a TV show that has Matthew Mcconaughey and Woody Harrelson in the lead roles? It should be bonkers. ‘True Detective’ is a gem of a show, sublime storytelling and excellent performances. Circled on two homicide detectives from Louisiana, it’s a journey that encompasses murder, mayhem, and mystery spanning 17 years.
23. The Newsroom (2012-14)
Created by: Aaron Sorkin
Admittedly, the Aaron Sorkin scripted series has evoked bipolar reactions but I loved it unambiguously. As my better half says, there are two series (for us) that have taken the power of a good script to a different level: ‘Billions’ and ‘The Newsroom.’ That the script is the hero in this outstanding rendition of what goes on behind the scenes in a livewire broadcasting house is something to celebrate about and all the lead actors did more than justice to it. Critics often forget that it’s a drama that leverages the political reality of the times and it does that with intelligence, finesse, compelling dramatic quotient and at a thrilling pace.
I loved all 25 episodes unreservedly and I feel sad that S4 is currently not on the horizon. Emily Mortimer makes the world’s best EP and she is a star act. Jeff Daniels is a powerhouse that puts in a commanding performance of a news anchor who is pushed by the EP with a history with him to get his mojo back. Olivia Munn, a speed racer of a number cruncher with a view, is a financial rockstar, and Jane Fonda shows what makes her oh, well, Jane Fonda!
Ah, and don’t forget Dev Patel as a nerdy hack.
24. Succession (2018)
Created by: Jesse Armstrong
One of the largest media empires in the world is run by an autocratic, caustic and maverick patriarch who despite his ill health refuses to let go. His family is equally dysfunctional; insecure, vitriolic and run over in their own ways. The series is about their stratagems and shenanigans to seize power, at one level; at the other, it’s a study in top corporate battles, gargantuan egos, unbridled ambition, sibling rivalry and lust for power.
The show begins at a tepid pace and its manner is rather lacklustre in the initial episodes, but please persist with it and you will be amply rewarded, both by the pace it sets and by the story it tells. Brian Cox and Jeremy Strong deliver power-packed performances. No wonder, ‘Succession’ has won a couple of Golden Globes. World class production values and a strong script underline this winner from HBO. Among the best TV shows on Hotstar right now, Jesse Armstrong’s ‘Succession’ is highly recommended. Glad it is renewed for Season 3.
There we are! These are the best TV shows on Hotstar right now. What are you binge watching? Tell us your favourites in the comments below.