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Photograph: Supplied/Stan

The best TV shows to watch on Stan

We take a look at some of the best shows and movies to stream on the Aussie platform

Adena Maier
Written by
Stephen A Russell
Contributor
Adena Maier
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They say we’re the lucky country, and that's certainly true when it comes to top-notch TV options. Not only are we spoiled with two public broadcasters, but Australians also have their very own affordable streaming platform to gorge on in Stan.

With so many original and exclusive shows on offer, we pick out some of our favourites to help you while away your evenings in style. 

Looking to make the most of your Binge subscription? Check out our list of the best TV shows to watch on Binge. 

Best TV shows on Stan

Before Marvel did Black Panther there was Cleverman. Magnetic star Hunter Page-Lochard recently wondered out loud why it was that Australia’s own First Nations superhero show/thrilling dystopia wasn't available to stream here. A very good question indeed. He asked, and the gods of television listened, and now both seasons have landed on Stan. You’re welcome. It’s the perfect binge for fans of shows like Buffy that take the real world drama and reflect the evils of mankind through a monstrous lens.

Amina (Anjana Vasan) is a bit of a geek studying microbiology with a thing for playing American folk hits on her guitar. But she also has stage fright so bad it makes her puke. Which is why she’s the last person you'd think would fall into a no holds barred punk band packed with fierce and fiercely funny Muslim women who take no prisoners. One of the coolest setups for a new show in such a long time, writer-director Nida Manzoor’s London-set drama does not disappoint. It’s worth it for the fictional lyrics alone, and for the fabulous sisterhood represented.

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Most folks probably know and adore Catastrophe star Sharon Horgan by now, but if you aren’t familiar with the name Aisling Bea, now’s the time to get acquainted. She created and co-stars opposite Horgan is this devastatingly good heartsore comedy about mental illness and the long, long road to recovery. It may be a cliché, but this show will literally make you laugh and cry, often all within the same scene and leave you totally discombobulated in the very best way. It doesn’t pull its punches, but it will also leave you desperately wanting more, with two six-part seasons to smash in (we’re betting) roughly two nights.

If you’ve ever watched classic British sci-fi show Blake’s 7, you’ll get the gist of this rebels on the run show that features a ragtag bunch fighting back against an oppressive empire (ok, you’ll get it if you’ve heard of a little franchise called Star Wars). But what makes this effort really stand out from the crowd is fantastic casting that predominantly features women of colour. Savannah Steyn is great as rookie cop Ash, flying high until she gets betrayed and winds up on the run. But it’s not easy fitting in with the crew of a stolen ship when you used to be the long arm of the law. Packed with fun worldbuilding, the special effects are pretty snazzy.

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For five seasons we’ve followed the triumphs and struggles of three twenty-something friends trying to make their way in a fairy tale version of what the magazine publishing industry looks like today. But let’s face it, nobody came here for reality. And there was something glorious about its all-for-one solidarity. Now you can soak up the final (sadly shortened by you know what) run and see where Jane, Sutton and Kat wind up. It makes for perfect weekend viewing accompanied by a cocktail or two.

We love this instantly winning Aussie comic drama co-created by Claudia Karvan. She also appears as the mum of teenager Olympia (a brilliant Nathalie Morris) who, much to everyone’s surprise including her own, gives birth at school. The life-altering repercussions play out over ten easily-bingeable half-hour episodes, which manage to summon plenty of humour without shortchanging realism. Refreshingly sharp candour cuts through the requisite soaring score-set feel-good moments. The show doesn’t sugarcoat the realities of Oly’s situation, and it also features a refreshingly diverse cast, including Carlos Sanson as Olly’s secret love Santi.

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It’s hard to remember now, given the stratospheric success of the pairing, but a lot of folks were dubious when pop star Billie Piper was announced as Christopher Eccleston’s companion when Doctor Who was rebooted. Nailing the adventures through time and space, she went on to impress in Victorian spooktacular Penny Dreadful. Now she rules once more in I Hate Suzie. Re-teaming her with Secret Diary of a Call Girl creator Lucy Prebble, the irrepressible Piper plays a TV star stunned by a leak of her nude photos online. A whip-smart black comedy exploring sexuality, consent and celebrity, it’s tonally intriguing. I Hate Suzie plays with genres from horror to comedy, sci-fi to spies, and there’s a dab of musical theatre thrown in too. Blooming marvellous.

Of course, Eccleston only stuck around for one season of new Who, regenerating into Scotsman David Tennant. Tennant went on to play detective in both Blackpool and Broadchurch, but he flips to the dark side in Stan’s three-part serial killer drama Des. If you caught him being manipulatively wicked on Jessica Jones, he’s even more disturbing for the banality of evil on show as real-life murderer Dennis Nilsen. He entrapped and murdered countless men, but there’s no moustache-twirling here. He looks and acts like a middle manager at a photocopying firm. Chilling.

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Think of a cross between Donna Tartt's novel The Secret History and the darkly comic and occasionally absurdist takedown of millennial life that is Broad City (another Stan must-watch). You’re halfway to this brilliantly subversive, Brooklyn-set hit headed up by Alia Shawkat (TransparentArrested Development). She shines as self-obsessed Dorey Sief, who fixates on the disappearance of a college acquaintance she suspects got sucked into a cult. She assembles a fairly dubious Scooby Gang, but the hunt’s more about the narcissism of the searchers than the plight of the lost. The addictive show lost its network after two seasons but got scooped up again three years later, and has now been commissioned for a fourth. 

Run, don’t walk, to your remote to tee up this razor-sharp satire of the 18th century Russian court. The Beguiled star Elle Fanning delivers a career-best performance as the down-on-her-luck German noblewoman with a hefty destiny who is promptly married off to True History of the Kelly Gang’s Nicholas Hoult as the viciously slimy Emperor of Russia. Created by seasoned Australian screenwriter Tony McNamara (The Secret Life of Us), who penned The Favourite alongside historian Deborah Davis, The Great is Game of Thrones meets The Thick of It. It’s equal parts hilarious and horrifying as Catherine plots to get rid of her rotten husband and seize power for herself – a once-naïve believer in true love careering down a Daenerys-like warpath. Huzzah!

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Kevin Costner continues the trend of major movie stars making the shift to the small but increasingly bigger-in-scope screen in this contemporary western soap. Folks of a certain vintage who miss the backstabbing feuds of the Ewing clan in Dallas, look no further. For everyone else: Costner is the cowboy hat and denim-uniformed patriarch of the Dutton family’s expansive cattle ranch in Montana. Both oil developers and the dispossessed First Nations neighbours want in. There’s quite a lot of gruff snarling, from both the humans and the animals, and a fair whack of sexy time too.

It's hard to get an adaptation of a beloved book right, and especially hard not to get it horrendously wrong. Folks were understandably excited and trepidatious about this miniseries tackling Sally Rooney’s bestselling, universally adored and emotionally discombobulating novel about Irish teenagers falling in love. They needn’t have worried. It’s all in the casting of Paul Mescal as working-class Connell and Daisy Edgar-Jones as well-to-do Marianne, who navigated the troubled eddies of two Irish teenagers from very different worlds falling in love. It's delivered in a dozen half-hour eps directed by Lenny Abrahamson (Room) and Hettie Macdonald (Beautiful Thing) and they nail the emotional complexities.

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The power of nostalgia is strong, but sometimes older actors returning to a much-loved show long since wrapped can feel mercenary. Not so with Will & Grace. The show is as comfortable as slipping into an old pair of slippers, and the chuckle factor's high as the single-again besties (Eric McCormack and Debra Messing) move in with each other again. The new incarnation broaches big subjects that catch you off guard, from tear-jerking family drama to mortality, and Martini-swigging Karen (Megan Mullally) steals the show as ever. 

Jacki Weaver. We repeat, Jacki Weaver. This is not a drill. The Animal Kingdom legend shares a role with The Vampire Diaries’ Phoebe Tonkin in this majestically shot supernatural series. Filmed in Clunes, it follows the aftermath of a very biblical flood that devastates a fictional Victorian country town and the appearance of a mysterious plant promising the gift of eternal youth. Hence the Weaver/Tonkin team-up. Also look out for ubiquitous Ryan Corr, one of the busiest actors in this country.

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The set-up for this New York-set contemporary fairytale is ridiculous, but somehow it sings (at least until the disappointing final season). Chock full of Broadway luminaries, Tony Award-winning Sutton Foster plays Liza, a forty-something single mum struggling to get back into the book publishing industry who accidentally on purpose fakes being in her twenties. Promptly landing a new gig, she finds herself in a ‘will they, won’t they?’ love triangle with her actual age-appropriate publisher (Peter Hermann) and a hunky young tattooist (dreamy Nico Tortorella). But really we’re shipping Miriam Shor as her eternally arch boss, plus Hilary Duff and Debi Mazar as Liza's BFFs.

Stand-up comedian turned TV genius Josh Thomas delivered one of the finest Australian shows ever made in the heart-breakingly funny Please Like Me. Lightning clearly strikes twice. He plays the strange and estranged half-brother of two LA-raised younger sisters who suddenly become his wards when their dad dies unexpectedly. Maeve Press, as the younger sis, has dry comic timing to a tee as the most sensible person in the room, with Kayla Cromer also excellent as her autism spectrum, sex-positive sibling dreaming of heading to Julliard.

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Speaking of complicated parenting, we can’t get enough of this two-season slice of perfection about a twenty-something single mum working the hustle in a struggle-town neighbourhood of Boston. The show is loosely based on creator Frankie Shaw’s real life, and she plays lead Bridgette, as well as taking on writing and directing duties. Miguel Gomez sensitively portrays her co-parenting ex Rafi, with local hero Samara Weaving as his kooky new partner. But it’s Rosie O'Donnell who gets most of the mic drops as Bridgette’s no-nonsense mum.  

Remember last year when climate change was the biggest freak out we were all worried about? Well, this Stan original series tapped into that other great existential crisis with unnerving aplomb. It's set in a Sydney of the not-too-distant future, where going outside is far from ideal in a world where the very elements are against us. Golden Globe winner Joanne Froggatt (Downton Abbey) plays a neuropsychologist led down a dark path by her determination to get pregnant at all costs, even if it does seem like the end is nigh. Ryan Corr pops up again, as does the equally busy/brill Damon Herriman.

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Honorary Aussie Russell Crowe secured a Golden Globe for portraying creepy disgraced Fox News founder Roger Ailes in this starry miniseries, which also recruits Sienna Miller and Aussie Naomi Watts. The latter pipped her good mate Nicole Kidman to the post as network anchor Gretchen Carlson in the similarly themed movie Bombshell. A gripping but uncomfortable true story, it traces abusive Ailes's downfall thanks to the talented women who ultimately unseat him.  

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