Though Hotstar — now owned by Disney through its acquisition of Fox — is showing a newfound zeal in producing original series content, realising the vast audience potential in that field, its efforts range from deplorable to barely sufferable. Only two Indian TV shows factor on our list and one of them turned into a dumpster fire after Hotstar touched it. Instead, the majority of the best TV shows on the Star India-run streaming service — the biggest in India by some metrics, owing to its ad-supported nature and the country’s appetite for cricket — are mostly from the US, thanks to Hotstar’s tie-up with HBO. Almost half of the below list is from HBO, in fact. Beyond that, it’s a mix of FX, BBC, and Showtime, with a couple of mentions for some of the other US cable networks.
- 24 (2001 – 2014)
Kiefer Sutherland will be best remembered for playing counter-terrorist agent Jack Bauer, who would do anything to stop a terrorist plot — sometimes several in one season — no matter what the moral, ethical, or personal cost. No definitive consensus, but these are generally considered to be the best seasons (in order): seasons five, one, four, and two.
- The Affair (2014 – Present)
A schoolteacher and budding novelist (Dominic West) begins an extramarital affair with a young waitress (Ruth Wilson) trying to piece together her life in this sombre drama, which delivered two strong seasons of deep and psychological observation before a slight dip brought by plot struggles in the third season.
- American Crime Story (2016 – Present)
A crime anthology series from prolific creator Ryan Murphy, which dramatises historic criminal cases in the US, including the O.J. Simpson murder trial and the assassination of Gianni Versace by spree killer Andrew Cunanan. A terrific first season followed by a slightly less powerful second.
- American Horror Story (2011 – Present)
Another anthology series from Ryan Murphy, this one in the horror genre, with seven seasons to show for it already. The best years are season two “Asylum” set at a mental institution in 1964 and season three “Coven” following a group of witches fighting for their survival.
- The Americans (2013 – 2018)
Set during the Cold War, two Russian spies (Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell) who have kids pose as an American family living in 1980s Washington, D.C., to spy on the US government. Excellent from start to finish, thanks to terrific writing and acting, bolstered by a family focus and resonating themes.
- Arrested Development (2003 – Present)
Considered one of the best sitcoms of all time, it follows the Bluths, a formerly wealthy dysfunctional family made up of members more oddball and eccentric than the previous one. Stuck between them is the level-headed one (Jason Bateman) who must manage family affairs after the dad is imprisoned. Good for three seasons and then fell off a cliff.
- Band of Brothers (2001)
A 10-part miniseries based on Stephen Ambrose’s 1992 book about a World War II unit called Easy Company – offering an intense look at the horrors of war through dramatisation, interviews and archive footage – which begins with their training in 1942 and ends with Allied victory in Europe in 1945.
- Barry (2018 – Present)
A dark comedy about a former marine working as a hit man in the Midwest who goes to Los Angeles for a job and discovers a new passion for acting as he gets involved with eager hopefuls in the local theatre scene.
- Better Things (2016 – Present)
Pamela Adlon is the creator and star of this comedy-drama, about a single mother who struggles to balance raising her three girls and her career as an actor. Just like its protagonist, the show has charted its own path, pairing caustic humour and poignant observation in marvellous ways.
Big Little Lies (2017 – Present)
The lives of three wealthy but emotionally-troubled young women (Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Shailene Woodley) living in in an idyllic California town are upended after their involvement in a murder investigation, sending ripples across the community.