The best limited series you can watch right now

It can be good to have a TV present in your rotation that you know isn’t ending any time quickly. However generally, you need one thing with an finish level in thoughts from its creators. Free of the pressures of renewal and cancellation, limited series can give us a few of the best storytelling the medium of tv has to supply.

That’s been on full show not too long ago, with a robust run of limited series in 2024 alone. The best TV of the yr consists of a number of “one and done” exhibits: The Regime, Child Reindeer, Masters of the Air, and the superb Shōgun, one of many best American TV exhibits in current reminiscence. And extra are on their approach: Park Chan-wook’s The Sympathizer is operating by means of its season on HBO, The Veil and Beneath the Bridge simply began on FX on Hulu, and even Knuckles is getting in on limited series motion.

All of the robust one-season exhibits on supply this yr had the Polygon workers questioning: What are the best limited series ever that you can watch at dwelling right now? Anthology series and exhibits that received cancelled after a season don’t depend — we’re trying solely at exhibits that had been deliberate as one-and-done entities.

Band of Brothers

Picture: Warner Bros. Leisure

The place to watch: Max and Netflix

Loads has modified about status TV within the 23 years since Band of Brothers first premiered on HBO. However it doesn’t matter what tendencies have come and gone since then, one factor that hasn’t modified is absolutely the excellence of Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks’ World Conflict II series.

Band of Brothers follows a regiment of troopers, nicknamed Straightforward Firm, from paratrooper coaching by means of their experiences within the Second World Conflict’s European theater. The present’s depiction of battle is downright hellish: a muddy, bloody, and terrifying portrait of battle that manages to seize each the moment-to-moment crucial of survival, and the often-futile feeling of particular person gun fights and victories.

All that is given unbelievable life by the series’ spectacular filmmaking in addition to its parade of recognizable faces and future film stars. Damian Lewis, Ron Livingston, Michael Fassbender, David Schwimmer, Tom Hardy, Simon Pegg, Colin Hanks, Dominic Cooper, James McAvoy, and extra all present up at one level or one other.

Every episode begins with a real-life interview from a member of Straightforward Firm, on which the characters and occasions of the series are based mostly. It’s a jarring option to at the present time, however one which helps underscore the true-to-life horrors of the present and serves each creatively and virtually as a profound memorial to the troopers themselves. The interviews additionally give the series a stately really feel that each makes it really feel right at dwelling with status TV, and oddly out-of-step and distinctive from all the things that’s come earlier than or after. —Austen Goslin


A character stands in a golden room, gazing at something behind glass

Picture: FX

The place to watch: Hulu

Can a limited series survive on vibes alone? Devs supposes that maybe, with sufficient luxurious techno-religious set design and otherworldly electro-drones, you can. Fortunately, the remainder of Alex Garland’s 8-episode silicon valley espionage thriller additionally delivers. Nick Offerman effortlessly places his dry, understated supply to sinister impact as mysterious tech CEO Forest, a person who talks like a guru but additionally orders a homicide the second his quantum machine is threatened. And what a machine it’s: the cubic, shimmering gold set is sort of as iconic as the previous Parks and Rec star.

What precisely this machine does is on the coronary heart of the present’s thriller, as is the aforementioned homicide Sonoya Mizuno’s Lily is attempting to resolve. Her uncooked, heart-wrenching efficiency takes many twists and turns, preserving the entire thing emotionally grounded. Although the present luxuriates in poetry readings and languid establishing photographs, it’s nonetheless extra than simply cerebrally intense viewing thanks particularly to Zach Grenier’s menacing flip as Forest’s head of safety Kenton. Few exhibits can so effortlessly shift from gripping hand at hand fight to ruminations on the character of free will and again once more. —Clayton Ashley

I, Claudius

A young Patrick Stewart, in Roman legionaire garb and wig, in I, Claudius

Picture: BBC Two

The place to watch: Acorn TV, free on Hoopla with a library card, digital buy on Amazon/Apple

There are a number of causes you ought to watch I, Claudius, the basic 1976 BBC miniseries, not least of which is: Have you ever wished to see Patrick Stewart in probably the most weird Roman legionnaire wig you’ve ever seen?

Fortunately, I, Claudius’ legacy is larger than something that curly hair might invoke in us. The series, tracing the early Roman Empire’s historical past by means of the eyes of eventual emperor Claudius (Derek Jacobi), boasts a forged longer than any British miniseries you’ve ever seen, and there’s not a dud within the bunch. The tangled, intricate internet of deception, backstabbing, and politicking is the blueprint and inspiration for exhibits like Recreation of Thrones and The Sopranos. Its manufacturing — each visually and in its generally clunky updating — is completely of its time. It’s a relic and a legend, a historic report that gave us the TV of in the present day. —Zosha Millman

The Little Drummer Woman

Florence Pugh points a gun while wearing a large orange coat while Alexander Skarsgård stands next to her in a woody area in The Little Drummer Girl.

Picture: AMC

The place to watch: Digital buy on Amazon/Apple

Legendary director Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, Determination to Depart) has a brand new buzzy mini-series out in The Sympathizer. However it isn’t his first foray into the format.

In 2018, Park’s adaptation of certainly one of John le Carré’s best spy novels paired two burgeoning film stars (Florence Pugh and Alexander Skarsgård) with the director’s impeccable consideration to element, creating some of the underrated exhibits of the century.

A younger actress (Pugh) meets a good-looking stranger (Skarsgård) whereas on trip. What seems at first to be a summer season fling quickly comes into focus as a recruitment operation — the stranger works for Israeli intelligence, and he brings the younger lady into the damaging world of espionage.

The Little Drummer Woman is a pitch-perfect match of expertise and supply materials. Le Carré’s espionage tales are intricate and nuanced, by no means inclined to take the simple approach out, which makes Park the right director to deal with his tales. —Pete Volk

Midnight Mass

Hamish Linklater as Father Paul in Midnight Mass in the middle of mass

Picture: Netflix

The place to watch: Netflix

Whereas different Mike Flanagan Netflix miniseries could be extra excessive profile, nothing stands out like Midnight Mass. On the time he launched it he referred to as the present his “most personal” work, gestating for years as he constructed up the clout and ability to make it.

Midnight Mass tells the story of a small, dying city all of the sudden inundated with miracles and bizarre occasions after a charismatic priest strikes in. Flanagan imbues the story with quite a lot of coronary heart, and an equal quantity of pointed horror. The result’s daring and clear: An formidable piece that’s without delay punching extensively and touchdown particularly, a splendidly imperfect and deeply private masterpiece. —ZM

Mildred Pierce

Kate Winslet stares off into the middle distance while wearing a waitress uniform in Mildred Pierce. She holds a coffee cup and behind her a sign advertises drinks for very, very low prices.

Picture: HBO

The place to watch: Max

In some methods, this 2011 HBO adaptation of the basic Nineteen Forties James M. Cain novel is the basic archetype of a status miniseries. It’s organized round one show-stopping efficiency from an enormous star — Kate Winslet, at all times riveting as Mildred. It’s a interval piece, with luxurious, shiny manufacturing values – plenty of heat mild and good garments — which can be cinematic with out abandoning the comforting, close-up body of TV. However as a result of it’s directed by Todd Haynes, it’s additionally gently subversive, reframing Cain’s key noir textual content about an strange L.A. housewife pushed to desperation as one thing much less heated and extra affected person — a post-modern, queer-coded, feminist melodrama. —Oli Welsh

Over the Backyard Wall

A boy holding a frog with an upside down tea kettle on his head (Greg) and an older boy wearing a red pointed hat and a navy blue cape stand in a river in Over the Garden Wall.

Picture: Cartoon Community

The place to watch: Hulu

Most of the entries on this listing make nice watches, and permit for rewarding rewatches. However for my cash, that is the one one which calls for an annual rewatch. Over the Backyard Wall and all its many, lyrical charms are best consumed on the onset to fall, the right New England Gothic to parallel the freshly crunchy leaves.

The story follows two brothers, Wirt (Elijah Wooden) and Greg (Collin Dean) as they try to make their approach out of a supernatural forest and discover their approach dwelling. Alongside the way in which they meet a number of colourful characters — a speaking bluebird and a haunted woodsman, to call solely only a couple — and encounter conditions each goofy and spooky. It’s good for autumn, or simply every time you have a free afternoon. —ZM

The Prisoner

Patrick McGoohan talks to George Baker (in a circular sci-fi chair) in The Prisoner

Picture: MGM-British Studios/Courtesy Everett Assortment

The place to watch: At no cost with adverts on Crackle, Plex, Pluto TV, The Roku Channel, Tubi

One of the vital influential TV exhibits ever made, The Prisoner is a improbable 17-episode series from 1967 a few British spy held captive in an odd coastal village after making an attempt to stop his job. Created by star Patrick McGoohan, The Prisoner comes by its status actually — it’s thrilling spy-fi with a terrific central thriller, a robust main performances, and an iconic line of dialogue that has lived on in popular culture historical past: “I am not a number! I am a free man.”

In contrast to a few of the different exhibits on this listing, The Prisoner had a fairly open-ended finale — garnering some controversy — however it’s effectively definitely worth the watch. —PV


Toranaga (Hiroyuki Sanada) holding up a piece of paper

Photograph: Katie Yu

The place to watch: Hulu

TV is usually in comparison with motion pictures in an try to elevate it; it seems, the one factor folks allegedly need greater than a movie is one thing that’s “actually more like a 10-hour movie.” FX’s Shōgun is simple to attract the comparability with, sharing DNA with quite a lot of battle motion pictures as a lot because it does good miniseries.

However finally the present stands tall as precisely what it’s: tv, and rattling good tv at that. Throughout its 10 episodes, Shōgun builds its story methodically and exquisitely. Watching it’s like tracing down a fuse solely to search out it’s already been lit, all wonderful fireworks you couldn’t damper if you tried. Its power comes from its elegant diffuseness, its belief of the viewers, and fixed consciousness of learn how to construct a narrative. That’s TV, child, and rattling good TV at that. —ZM

Small Axe

John Boyega sits in police academy in Small Axe: Red White and Blue

Photograph: Will Robson-Scott / Amazon Prime Video

The place to watch: Prime Video

It’s debatable whether or not Steve McQueen’s one-off anthology series about Black life in Britain within the Nineteen Seventies and ’80s is known as a miniseries in any respect, however what else would you name it? Nicely, a masterpiece, for one — most likely the director’s best work, which is saying one thing. The centerpiece is the gripping feature-length courtroom drama Mangrove, however even that good movie is exceeded by Lovers Rock, a soulful slice-of-life ode to the Brixton reggae home occasion scene, and a deeply transferring tribute to the facility and resilience of neighborhood (with nice tunes). There are excellent performances throughout the series, too — significantly from Shaun Parkes and Letitia Wright in Mangrove, and John Boyega, battling the duality of being each Black and a police officer in Pink, White, and Blue. —OW

Station Eleven

Older Kirsten (Mackenzie Davis) looks down at Younger Kirsten (Matilda Lawler) in a crowded apartment

Photograph: Ian Watson/HBO Max

The place to watch: Max

Max’s beautiful miniseries adaptation of Emily St. John Mandel’s novel Station Eleven got here at an opportune time — shut sufficient to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic for its story a few pandemic apocalypse to really feel related and narratively necessary, however not so shut that it felt “too soon.” (Beating The Final of Us to air didn’t harm both, given the exhibits’ very broad narrative similarities.)

Showrunner Patrick Somerville tweaked the story and its construction, however the thrust stays the identical — because the story jumps forwards and backwards from pandemic onset to what life is like for the survivors 20 years later, a story emerges about neighborhood and creativity, how folks make sense of trauma and disaster by means of artwork, and preserve a way of connection and commonality by passing that artwork down. It’s a fantastically shot and fantastically acted limited series that isn’t about empty feel-good uplift or wallowing in apocalyptic doom — like The Leftovers, which Somerville labored on as a author, it feels nearly surreal and surprisingly sensible similtaneously it lays out its many separate threads about characters discovering objective after an enormous and sudden upheaval. —Tasha Robinson

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Alec Guinness as George Smiley leafs through a book in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Picture: BBC

The place to watch: YouTube

This BBC adaptation of John Le Carré’s well-known spy novel from 1979 effortlessly outclasses the 2011 film — despite the fact that that’s a fairly good, stylish movie. Partly that’s as a result of, over seven 50-minute episodes, it has extra room to untangle Le Carré’s devious plot a few mole hunt within the canine days of the Chilly Conflict, and to soak within the melancholy of the characters. Partly that’s as a result of it’s no interval piece, and it was capable of seize the environment of wounded, jaded patriotism on the time, on gorgeously pale 16mm movie, in gorgeously pale places. Largely it’s as a result of Alec Guinness’ George Smiley is likely one of the most good bits of casting in TV historical past: a affected person, lugubrious, unhappy genius of spycraft whose unblinking gaze penetrates each shroud. Even Gary Oldman might by no means match it. —OW

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