The very best of TV: everything you should be streaming this month

By Brad Newsome

Top streaming in October (from left): sci-fi series Foundation, the ultra-violent hit Squid Game and the ABC’s Fires.Credit:Apple TV+, Youngkyu Park/Netflix, Ben King/ABC

Another month, another slew of TV shows to keep you entertained across your platform of choice.

While the options can seem daunting, imagine if someone had waded through all the platforms and come up with a best-of list that covers all the major providers? That’s what streams are made of.

A mix of old, new, funny and true; our ‘what to watch’ list for October is guaranteed to offer something for everyone. Let us know what you think in the comments and don’t forget to tell us what you’re watching.

Find out the next TV, streaming series and movies to add to your must-sees. Get The Watchlist delivered every Thursday.


Clockwise from main: Squid Game’s candy colours mask explosive violence, Hating Peter Tatchell and Rosa Salazar in Brand New Cherry Flavor.Credit:Youngkyu Park, Netflix

Our top recommendation on Netflix is Squid Game, which gets ★★★★½.

The wild popularity of this bloody Korean series isn’t just down to its creepy, candy-coloured centrepiece – a competition in which desperate adults play children’s games and the losers are murdered en masse. To begin with, Squid Game is more of a stylish, street-level crime drama that’s all about establishing characters such as degenerate gambler Seong Gi-hun (the brilliant Lee Jung-jae) and revealing why they’re desperate enough to get involved. Pathos powers an ingenious plot and explosive violence.

Finished Squid Game? Here are eight things to watch next.

What else to watch on Netflix:

If you want a bio with meaning … Hating Peter Tatchell chronicles the Australian human rights campaigner’s 50 years of activism on behalf of LGBT people and other groups. Australian filmmaker Christopher Amos’ nuanced and compelling portrait lets Tatchell and his critics have their say.

If you want a nostalgia hit … The Toys That Made Us is a fascinating, good-humoured and gimlet-eyed dive into the human stories behind some of the world’s biggest toys. The one about My Little Pony gives the most insight into product development, marketing and mansplaining.

If you want a strange but addictive thriller … Brand New Cherry Flavor is one of the best shows on the streamer right now. The eight-part series is a surreal dive into sex, death, magic and the dark side of Hollywood – all bathed in neon light and set to a pulsing early-’90s soundtrack. Influenced by the films of David Lynch, it’s utterly bonkers and deliriously fun.


Clockwise from main: Clive Owen and Beanie Feldstein in Impeachment, What We Do in the Shadows and Y: The Last Man.Credit:FX/Binge

Our top recommendation on Binge is Impeachment: American Crime Story, which gets ★★★★.

The American Crime Story team lays out a sober yet engrossing look at the events that led to the impeachment of US President Bill Clinton (Clive Owen), with Beanie Feldstein delivering a poignant portrayal of the young Monica Lewinsky. Edie Falco, Sarah Paulson, Cobie Smulders and Billy Eichner round out the terrific cast across the 10 episodes, each of which is streaming for a limited time. With the real Lewinsky serving as a producer and showing Feldstein how to rock a big fringe and a scrunchie, it’s hugely immersive television.

Read our review.

What else to watch on Binge:

If you want wicked adult comedy … What We Do in the Shadows goes from strength to strength as the misfit vampires of Staten Island get themselves into one scrape after another. A sublimely inspired piece of work built on scalpel-sharp writing and brilliantly defined characters, it’s also perfectly cast and delivered.

If you want a world (almost) without men … Y: The Last Man follows the chaos as American women try to salvage their civilisation after (almost) everyone with a Y chromosome carks it. Based on a comic-book series by Lost veteran Brian K. Vaughan, it arrives with a world thoughtfully built and issues well considered.

If you want nutty American soap … Days of Our Lives: Beyond Salem is a mad mini-series in which Days stars old and new chase stolen jewels across Miami, Zurich and New Orleans. Watch out for Lisa Rinna as a secret agent posing as European royalty – she’ll dance a tango in the street at the drop of a hat.


Clockwise from main: Jean Smart in Hacks, One of Us is Lying and Heels.Credit:HBO Max, James Dittiger/Peacock, Stan

Our top recommendation on Stan is Hacks, which gets ★★★★★.

Jean Smart is a marvel in this acerbic and unsentimental treat of a comedy-drama series, which won three Emmy Awards last month. Smart stars as comedy legend Deborah Vance, a towering Joan Rivers figure stagnating while performing old routines to tourists in her Vegas casino residency. Sparks fly when an unwelcome young comedy writer (Hannah Einbinder), freshly cancelled after an ill-considered social media post, is foisted upon her. The dialogue is naturalistic, but it’s as expertly honed, timed and tagged as a well-oiled stand-up routine.

Read our review.

What else to watch on Stan:

If you want a paranoid teen mystery … One of Us Is Lying deftly tweaks its balance of suspicions to keep things interesting. Based on the wildly popular young-adult novel by Karen M. McManus, the series kicks off when five high school students head into detention. Imagine Gossip Girl crashing into The Breakfast Club.

If you want tough family drama … Heels is a well-cast series starring Stephen Amell (Arrow) as a devoted wrestler trying to keep alive his late father’s promotion in small-town Georgia. The tension between brothers Jack (Amell) and Ace quickly leads to a stunning heel turn.

If you want Daniel Radcliffe and Jon Hamm in a bathtub … A Young Doctor’s Notebook is a strange black comedy that’s depressingly bleak one moment, slapstick farce the next. Inspired by real life, it stars Radcliffe as an inexperienced surgeon at a small Russian hospital in 1917. Hamm is Young Doctor’s weary, morphine-addicted older self. Wild.

Amazon Prime

Clockwise from main: The Rafters are back, Lily James in The Pursuit of Love and Jeremy Clarkson.Credit:Brook Rushton, Amazon

Our top recommendation on Amazon Prime is Back to the Rafters, which gets ★★★½.

It’s nice that there’s still room for the Rafters. And with the way things are in the world, the domestic-sized triumphs and tragedies of this regular Aussie family might be as much as any of us need to contemplate right now. That’s not to say Dave, Julie and their brood don’t have issues to deal with – there’s homelessness, dementia, miscarriages and the looming spectre of divorce. It’s just that you’re never really in any doubt that their levelheadedness, no-fuss resilience and underlying bonds of love will win through.

Read our review.

What else to watch on Amazon Prime:

If you want a hidden gem … Wayne is a teenage runaway story with a couple of teens who are vulnerably childlike on the one hand and fearlessly stiff-necked on the other. They’re pursued by a gallery of lowlife rogues colourful enough to tickle Elmore Leonard. Ultra-violence explodes when you least expect it.

If you want a classy period drama … The Pursuit of Love is a witty adaptation of Nancy Mitford’s novel about the women in an upper-class English family in the years before World War II. Lily James and Emily Beecham star as the cousins who strain against expectations. The supporting cast is glorious, too.

If you want a rev up from Jeremy Clarkson … The Grand Tour Presents: Lochdown is stonking motoring TV with imaginative set pieces. Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May try to work out why American cars were never really popular in the UK by driving gigantic old gas guzzlers through Scotland’s narrow streets and country lanes.

Apple TV+

Clockwise from main: Leah Harvey in Foundation, Kate Hudson and Octavia Spencer in Truth Be Told and Mark Ronson.Credit:Apple TV+

Our top recommendation for Apple TV+ is Foundation, which gets ★★★★.

Isaac Asimov’s acclaimed Foundation trilogy finally comes to life in the kind of spectacular, big-budget series it deserves. Maths genius Hari Seldon (Jared Harris) thinks the galactic empire is about to collapse – a treasonous sort of thought to have – and a spectacular act of terrorism suggests he might be right. Asimov might initially have been inspired by the fall of Rome, but the contemporary resonances are abundant. Series creators David S. Goyer (Da Vinci’s Demons) and Josh Friedman, who developed Snowpiercer for TV, make sure it looks amazing too.

Read our review.

What else to watch on Apple TV+:

If you want a gripping murder mystery … Truth Be Told takes crime solving out of police hands. Kate Hudson joins Oscar winner Octavia Spencer for the show’s second season. An early shock and creepy dollhouse motifs indicate a chilling thriller indeed.

If you want action-packed adventure … The Mosquito Coast has Luther creator Neil Cross reimagining Paul Theroux’s 1981 novel as an episodic escape thriller starring the author’s nephew, Justin Theroux, and Melissa George. Expect grand desert vistas, a grotesque drug cartel and other things that remind you of Breaking Bad.

If you want to see how music gets made … Watch the Sound with Mark Ronson is an illuminating series. The super-producer and a small host of big-name guests show how autotune, reverb, synthesisers and samplers actually work, and reveal the seismic effects they’ve had on music in recent decades.


Clockwise from main: Star Wars Visions, Ryan Reynolds in Free Guy and Peyton Elizabeth Lee in Doogie Kamealoha, M.D.Credit:Disney+

Our top recommendation for Disney+ is Star Wars Visions, which we give ★★★.

This new series of animated shorts (each ranging from 15 to 20 minutes) is produced by some of Japan’s most respected anime studios. It’s a lot more interesting than your typical, blandly stylised Star Wars animation. That we’re in a different creative galaxy is apparent from the opening moments of The Duel, a mostly black-and-white homage to the films of Akira Kurosawa. Think Seven Samurai, but with one Jedi and with bandits terrorising a feudal village that’s clad in bits and pieces of stormtrooper armor. Oh, and there’s an R2-D2 style droid sporting a woven roningasa hat.

What else to watch on Disney+:

If you want a bright and breezy blockbuster … Free Guy stars Ryan Reynolds as an office worker who’s horrified to learn he’s just a “non-player character” in an online video game. This knowing action-comedy, which recalls films such as Ready Player One and The Matrix, also stars Jodie Comer of Killing Eve fame.

If you want a feel-good reboot … Doogie Kamealoha, M.D. is quite charming, thanks to Peyton Elizabeth Lee as 16-year-old Hawaiian hospital doctor Lahela “Doogie” Kamealoha. Also charming are Kathleen Rose Perkins (Episodes) and Australian comedy gem Ronny Chieng as a hospital colleague. The blend of medical drama and growing pains really works.

If you want besties behaving badly … Alone Together stars Esther Povitsky (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) and Benji Aflalo in a highly bingeable comedy about self-involved, self-sabotaging friends trying to fit in with the trendy crowd in Los Angeles. He’s idle rich, while she’s the poor platonic pal with a pinball of an id.


Clockwise from main: Conviction: The Case of Stephen Lawrence, Maisie Williams in Two Weeks to Live and Jeff Daniels in American Rust.Credit:Paramount+

Our top recommendation on Paramount+ is Conviction: The Case of Stephen Lawrence, which gets ★★★★.

Steve Coogan, Sharlene Whyte and Hugh Quarshie star in a compelling drama about the reinvestigation of the murder of Stephen Lawrence, which achieved a measure of justice nearly two decades after the London teenager was fatally stabbed in a racist attack. “Not right, is it?” says Coogan’s character, Detective Chief Inspector Clive Driscoll. “A case like this needs solving.” There’s a lot to unpack in a series that runs only the length of a long movie, but screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce (Hilary and Jackie, 24 Hour Party People) provides forensic exposition in impressively organic ways.

Read our review.

What else to watch on Paramount+:

If you want a cross-border crime drama … Coyote gives Michael Chiklis his biggest role since The Shield and he tears into it with gusto. He plays a retired Border Patrol agent who heads down to Mexico to work on a holiday house, only to fall foul of a local cartel.

If you want to catch up with Maisie Williams … Two Weeks to Live has the former Game of Thrones star playing to her strengths in a pitch-black crime comedy-drama. She plays a young woman on a cross-country road trip to honour her dead father. Things get bloody quickly.

If you want a postcard from the Rust Belt … American Rust stars Jeff Daniels as a small-town police chief and Maura Tierney as a single mum in a part of Pennsylvania devastated by the decline of the steel industry. A murder investigation opens against a backdrop of grinding poverty, and desperate people find themselves making fateful decisions.

ABC iview

Clockwise from main: Hunter Page-Lochard in Fires, Steve Coogan as Alan Partidge and David Tennant in Des.Credit:Ben King/ABC, Gary Moyes, New Pictures

Our top recommendation for ABC iview is Fires, which gets ★★★★½.

This six-part anthology takes us back to the summer of 2019-20, a time of trauma as bushfires raged across the country. Created by Tony Ayres (The Slap, Stateless) and Belinda Chayko (Safe Harbour), it is a superb piece of storytelling from some of the best screen talent in Australia. The impressive cast includes Richard Roxburgh, Miranda Otto, Hunter Page-Lochard, Eliza Scanlen, Anna Torv, Noni Hazlehurst, Kate Box, Shareena Clanton and Daniel Henshall. Incredibly powerful, but hard to watch.

Read our review.

What else to watch on ABC iview:

If you want top-shelf comedy … This Time with Alan Partridge finds Britain’s most inappropriate broadcaster back on the BBC, sharing the couch with a consummate professional. Steve Coogan is brilliant as ever as the enormously vain, jealous and insecure Partridge.

If you want a critique of Australian politics … Ms Represented with Annabel Crabb is a short but powerful history lesson, and a reminder of how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go. The four half-hour episodes include insights from Julia Gillard, Penny Wong, Julie Bishop, Natasha Stott Despoja, Cheryl Kernot and Carmen Lawrence.

If you want David Tennant at his darkest … Des has Britain’s national teddy bear playing real-life serial killer Dennis Nilsen. Tennant has an uncanny resemblance to the man who murdered more than a dozen young men and boys in London between 1978 and 1983, and Daniel Mays (White Lines, Code 404) is compelling as the detective who caught him.

SBS on Demand

Clockwise from main: Shelle and Mike in Lost For Words, David Duchovny in Aquarius and Welcome to Sweden.Credit:Nigel Wright, Jim Fiscus/NBC

Our top recommendation for SBS on Demand is Lost for Words, which we give ★★★½.

How can something most of us take for granted make others feel worthless? This three-part series hosted by Jay Laga’aia, who only began to improve his literacy when he started reading children’s stories on Play School, follows eight adults who are illiterate to varying degrees. They struggle with public transport, shopping, reading recipes and even helping their children with homework. Distressing as some of it is, though, the series is not a downer. There’s determination to change and joy in small victories.

Read our review.

What else to watch on SBS on Demand:

If you want David Duchovny v Manson … Aquarius shows that match-up is almost as delectable on the screen as it is in the imagination. Gethin Anthony (Game of Thrones) is great as Charles Manson, but the series gets into everything from the history of racism in Los Angeles to the death of the ’60s ideal – a dream on which Manson’s crimes would nail the coffin shut.

If you want true crime and tragedy … Dark Side of the Ring tells the most shocking stories to emerge from American professional wrestling through unvarnished eyewitness accounts. You don’t need to be a wrestling fan to be riveted by the tales of drug abuse, betrayal, fatal accidents and murder.

If you want a fish-out-of-water comedy … Welcome to Sweden is a gently quirky little thing. In real life, Greg Poehler (brother of Amy) quit his job as a lawyer and moved to Sweden to be with his future wife. His experience inspired this semi-autobiographical comedy series, in which he stars opposite a procession of celebs including Will Ferrell and ABBA’s Bjorn Ulvaeus.

Other paid streamers

Clockwise from main: Lesley Manville in Mum, Shira Haas in Asia and Andy Cohen.

Our top recommendation on BritBox is Mum, which we give ★★★★.

This rewarding series stars Lesley Manville (Another Year, Phantom Thread) as Kathy, a recent widow who’s juggling grief and family. Like a very British Kath & Kim, this slow-moving sitcom generates much of its humour from tasteless props and amusingly self-important characters. Mum also delivers exquisite observations across its three seasons and the kind of emotional nuance that will have you laughing out loud one minute, sobbing quietly the next. Manville is taking over the role of Princess Margaret for the next two seasons of The Crown, so here’s your chance to see her in an earlier, BAFTA-nominated role.

What else to watch on other subscription services:

If you want blood … you got it with Slasher: Flesh and Blood on Shudder. It’s a mash-up of Succession and Survivor in which the awful offspring of the awful rich are forced to compete to the death for the fortune of a dying patriarch played by horror legend David Cronenberg.

If you want heart-rending drama … Asia on Chaiflicks is an award-festooned film in which Shira Haas delivers an achingly poignant performance to rank alongside her work in Unorthodox (Netflix). She plays an Israeli teenager in the tightening grip of a degenerative disease.

If you want toe-curling sex talk … Ex-Rated with Andy Cohen on Hayu takes poor saps who consider themselves luckless in love and asks their exes to rate them on everything from communication and hygiene to specific sexual techniques.

If you want an endearing documentary … Dina on iwonder follows Dina Buno and her fiance, Scott Levin, in the lead-up to their wedding. Both are on the autism spectrum, but have had very different journeys.

Other free streamers

Michael Chiklis, left, in The Shield.

Our top recommendation on 7Plus is The Shield, which we give ★★★★.

Shawn Ryan’s white-knuckle bad-cop drama remains the high-water mark of the genre. Michael Chiklis brings huge physicality and emotional range to the lead role of brutal LAPD detective Vic Mackey, and Walton Goggins is nothing short of magnetic as crooked, sleazy, redneck cop Shane Vendrell. Los Angeles comes to colourful, crazy life and the stunning first episode should have you hooked. The show is Kurt Sutter’s alma mater, so it’s compulsory viewing for Sons of Anarchy fans too.

What else to watch on other free streamers:

If you want life-and-death realityAbalone Wars on 9Now* is an Australian documentary series that turns shockingly tragic. No sooner have we started getting to know abalone diver Peter Clarkson than we learn that he was killed by two great white sharks off South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula while this series was being filmed.

If you want an action-packed drama … Kingdom on 10Plus uses the world of mixed martial arts as the setting for a complex, engrossing family story. Nick Jonas – the youngest of the Jonas Brothers – delivers some serious wallop as an up-and coming MMA fighter, as does Jonathan Tucker as his burnout big brother and Frank Grillo as their old man.

* Nine is the owner of Stan, 9Now and this masthead.

Find out the next TV, streaming series and movies to add to your must-sees. Get The Watchlist delivered every Thursday.

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