Top Five Shows on Sky Atlantic

By Charlotte Whyatt - Wed 5th Oct 2016 Features

Struggling to decide which acclaimed American import to binge-watch next? Here are our top five suggestions.

The Affair

Managing to take the simple, well-worn premise of an extra-marital affair and elevate it to a piece of compelling television is no mean feat, but Sarah Treem’s and Hagai Levi’s drama does it brilliantly.
 
Dominic West is Noah, a schoolteacher and struggling writer on holiday with his wife and children in a wealthy part of Long Island, New York. He meets Alison (Ruth Wilson, following her excellent turn on Luther as psychopathic Alice Morgan) an unhappily married waitress grieving over the death of her young son. Soon, they begin having an affair.  

The story is told unusually through a dual perspective first Noah and then Alison, a la Gillian Flynn’s wildly successful novel Gone Girl, but unlike so many recent Gone Girl knockoffs it’s done well enough so as to add a genuine sense of intrigue. When everything is told so differently, it’s clear somebody is lying. But who do we know who to believe?

Exceptional performances from the two leads also do a lot to set this show apart. Both West and Wilson excel as the damaged pair of illicit lovers and there’s a great supporting cast in the form of Alison’s husband Cole (Joshua Jackson) and Noah’s wife Helen (Maura Tierney). 

Silicon Valley

Beavis and Butthead creator Mike Judge’s latest TV project is a geeky sitcom set in Silicon Valley, starring relative unknowns Thomas Middleditch, T.J. Miller, Josh Bremer, Zach Woods, Martin Star and Kumail Nanijiani as the founders of a small tech start-up attempting to strike it rich. 

Having worked briefly at an identical kind of company in the late 1980’s gives Judge an insider knowledge of the technology industry and has allowed him to create a whip smart, hilarious satire that perfectly captures the spirit of the quirky yet ruthless world of Silicon Valley. 

Everyone involved nails their part, with particular highlights being sarcastic programmer Dinesh (Nanijiani) and network engineer come LaVeyan Satanist Bertram (Starr), helping to create a funny and genuinely likable cast of characters. 

The Night Of 

A more recent addition to the Sky Atlantic line up, HBO’s latest crime mini-series premiered in the U.K on 1st September to much critical acclaim. Based on Peter Moffat’s excellent 2008 BBC series Criminal Justice, The Night Of is updated for a new city, Islamophobia and post 9/11 prejudice. 

British-Pakistani actor Riz Ahmed plays Nasir Khan who, after a night of sex and drugs with a woman he’s only just met wakes up to find her dead on the floor from multiple stab wounds. He flees, only to be arrested later for a minor traffic violation and linked to the murder.

As well as stunningly presenting a sinister, hazy version of New York and an intriguing mystery (all the clues seem to point to Nasir, but could he really be the killer?), The Night Of is also an exploration of the racial bias of the American Justice system. 

The police racially abuse Nasir, a young practicing Muslim, and debate how can they force him to play up to certain Muslim stereotypes in order to secure a conviction whilst a white lawyer offers to take Nasir’s case for free once she realises the kind of good publicity a white saviour role like this could bring. 

It’s gripping stuff and with a terrific performance from Riz Ahmed not one to miss.

Westworld

Based on Michael Crichton’s 1973 science fiction film of the same name, HBO’s new series is part Jurassic Park, part classic Western and part Game of Thrones

Westworld is the name of a futuristic theme park designed in the vein of an Old Wild West town and populated by very human looking androids. Guests pay for the privilege of entry and to interact with these robots in any way they wish, whether that be something as innocent as a guided tour or as horrific as a violent murder. Each evening the park and the android’s memories are reset, causing the whole day to start over again. 

Only one episode has aired so far but already a number of intriguing threads have been introduced, with the android’s beginning to remember fragments of things gone before due to a glitch in their latest system update and behind the scenes tension between the park’s creator, managers, technicians and storytellers being two of the most thrilling. 

Critics have been incredibly positive calling it “must-see TV”, “sweepingly seductive” and a “truly terrific, gripping premiere episode that quickly draws you in”. If Westworld is able to continue on in this way, Sky Atlantic may have another huge hit on their hands. 

Veep

If you fancy a breather from House Of Cards’s twisted scheming then political satire Veep may be just the thing. 

Former Seinfeld star Julia Louis-Dreyfus is Vice President Selina Mayer (the titular Veep) who along with her team of wildly incompetent staff, which features amongst others Anna Chlumsky as cynical Chief of Staff Amy Brookheimer and Tony Hale as Selina’s eager-to-please personal aide Gary Walsh, attempts to navigate her way through the crazy world of American politics.  

With a shadow of brilliant British comedy The Thick of It (Veep was conceived by its creator Armando Iannucci), Dreyfus is hilarious in the lead role using her considerable comedic talent to create a vain, profanity happy and ambitious character desperate to rise above a powerless role. 

Despite the show having won a massive 12 Emmy’s (five of those won by Dreyfus herself) it never quite got the recognition it deserved in the UK. Do yourself a favour and watch it now.