There can be many reasons one has a Disney+Hotstar account. For the IPL. For Laxmii. For Mare Of Easttown. The catalogue, apart from Disney+Hotstar’s original programming, is curated from HBO, Star, Asianet, and ABC Studios, among others. It has movies by Pedro Almodóvar and Jafar Panahi, along with Indian soap operas like Saraswatichandra and Pratigya. There is something for everyone. Here are 20 shows you can stream on the platform.
1) Mare Of Easttown
Kate Winslet’s debut at the small screen as Mare, a detective of a closely knit insular-incestuous small town facing a spate of disappearances and murder, is a masterclass in multi-thread storytelling. She lives in a home that houses four generations — Mare’s mother, Mare, Mare’s daughter, Mare’s grandson from a son who died by suicide. Over 7 episodes each thread unravels — her best friend, her ex-husband, her co-worker, her one-night fling — till it climaxes in an unbelievable, tragic, yet hopeful conclusion. Keep the pen and paper ready, some of these white-people names sound very interchangeable.
HBO’s first gay show, and one of American television’s only gay shows, was as celebrated as it was criticized — too milquetoast, too white. It ran for two seasons, Following a gaggle of gays in slowly gentrifying San Francisco, each becoming part of the friend circle through gym, sex, or platonic companionship, the show has a range of interesting side characters that attempts a diversity it failed in its main casting — the HIV positive bear, the Mexican hairdresser, the Black lawyer, the Black artist, and an ageing florist. The show hones in on the unique sexual stresses of queer life, of which there are plenty — cruising, promiscuity, and open relationships — while also front-centering the universal dilemma of jealousy.
3) Allen V Farrow
The four-part documentary is a stunning takedown of Woody Allen, painting him as a predator and a monstrous PR machine. The show treats the allegation of Allen’s sexual abuse of his daughter Dylan Farrow as fact. With rare glimpses into the life of Dylan and her mother Mia Farrow, the documentary was unable to get Woody Allen to explain his side of the story; what we hear from Allen are from his interviews, press-conferences, taped phone-calls, and audio snippets from his controversial memoir. (Which was dropped by its publisher, picked up by another one)
4) I May Destroy You
Michaela Coel’s sharp, cutting, almost flesh-chewing show, described as a “consent-drama”, is about the aftermath of a rape that one wasn’t entirely conscious to, but subconsciously impaled by. Filled with birdsong and brutality — though the brutality isn’t meant to make you squirm as much as doubt your every pre-conceived notion of what rape and rape-adjacent acts even includes — it will leave you with an uneasy feeling, making you doubt your politics, your semantics, and how far your empathy can stretch.
5) Out Of Love
Based on the BBC One series Doctor Foster, this show, about infidelity and insecurity, transplants the action to Coonoor. Starring Rasika Dugal and Purab Kohli it is dark in its telling, slow in the cooking, till it bursts in a tense Dinner Table Scene™. Kohli plays the cheating husband with a refreshing honesty and fallibility. Duggal plays his wife, the doctor draped in sarees, who is always looking for an excuse to unravel. Tragedy is guaranteed.
The nine-episode WandaVision is a cypher. It uses formats of undeniable charm and popularity — sitcom, mockumentary, Marvel superhero — to deliver an undeniably prescient message on grief. You must have seen a screenshot of the following dialogue floating on the viral internet, meme-ed into nothingness, “What is grief if not love persevering?” Featuring the characters Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and her android lover Vision (Paul Bettany) from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it gives them the emotional muscles to flex their pain, loss, and grief, which here looks a bit like revenge.
Eight seasons of dunk-drunk humour, following Vincent Chase’s (Adrian Grenier) acting career in Los Angeles, the show provides a lush access into the innards of Hollywood, with guest appearances every other episode, while tethered to a story that is about male friendships in the late 20s — first as childhood friends from Queens, New York, and later adults who uproot themselves to find green pastures of success (and sex) in LA.
The latest addition to the evergreen teen-drama genre, the show follows a group of high school students who experience the tv-teenage acrobatics of sex, drugs, friendships, love, identity, and trauma, headlined by Zendaya. If you have binged Elite on Netflix, or Gossip Girl in your teens, this is the show to head to, one that is as criticized as it is coveted for its excessive nudity and sex.
This 5-part historical drama follows with granular, pedantic detailing and heartbeat intensity the cleanup efforts after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986. It’s as morally horrifying, as it is visually extravagant, with flares of nuclear dust and the masked wintry greyness of the aftermath. The reviewers at the time pointed out the striking parallels with modern society, with Chinese netizens drawing a parallel between Soviet Russia’s campaign of disinformation and the Chinese propaganda machine at the onset of the Coronavirus outbreak.
10) New Girl
Two Best Friends In A Room
They Might Kiss
They kinda did in New Girl when Jess (Zooey Deschanel), the loveable-quirky school teacher moves into a Los Angeles loft with three men. She befriends them all with the kind sunny spirit of a … well… teacher, and then things unravel when the two best friends … kiss. Seven seasons of kindness, friendship, and love — all things that make the grisly life somewhat grand.
11) How I Met Your Mother
A lot can be said about how this show hasn’t aged well, its humour, its antics, its stereotypes it took so seriously they felt like truth. But with one of the most intimate opening credits songs — friends casually in a bar, taking photos of each other, with those oil-leak flats and the nostalgic filter as if shot on film — the show created the yearnings for a friend circle like this. The couple who is steady, the couple who is deeply unsteady, the philanderer. It was easy to want to see our friends and us in these characters because adulthood felt like such a barren land otherwise.
12) Grey’s Anatomy
17 SEASONS (Renewed for an 18th Season). 380 EPISODES. Known as the juggernaut of American television, jettisoning its actors to fame and lists of “highest paid television actors”, this medical drama is a feat unto itself. It follows Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) from her acceptance as an intern into the surgical residency program at the fictional Seattle Grace Hospital, as she moves up the ladder, growing increasingly confident in her intense indifference. A lot happens, but if you need one piece of advice walking in, it is this: don’t fall in love with any character, because the ruthless show will kill them off and you’ll be left mourning for hot and sweet men who… don’t exist.
13) Sarabhai VS Sarabhai
Over the years this show, revolving around an upper-class family living in South Mumbai, has gained cult status. Starring an ensemble cast including Satish Shah, Ratna Pathak Shah, Sumeet Raghavan, Rupali Ganguly, and Rajesh Kumar, it was a rare beast that gave each of its characters the space and lines to stretch their comedic muscles. The first “season” was broadcast on television in 2004-2006. Due to the sudden surge of popularity in the post-meme internet, a second season was released on Disney+Hotstar in 2017.
14) The Americans
The Americans is a period spy thriller television series, six seasons strong, that explores the conflict between Washington’s FBI office and the KGB Rezidentura in the 1980s. It follows the perspectives of agents on both sides of the iron curtain with an emotional acuity. It was rightly named the “Sopranos of this decade”.
15) Game Of Thrones
There is very little to say about this fantasy adaptation of George R R Martin’s novels that you already don’t know or have made up your mind about. Lots of sex, violence, and great characters who do odd things for odd reasons. The 8th season was a complete washout for fans, but that they stuck around for 8 seasons of “dragons and shit” must mean something.
16) Sex And The City
The iconic show of the late 90s narrated by Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw the “sexual anthropologist”, Sex And The City is a striking moodboard of Manhattan fashion. But it’s also, at its heart, a moving story of friends, living through their 30s trying to see if “women having sex like men” can be a thing. Two spin-off films, one prequel series, and another special in the making, the show’s legacy engine is still churning.
Probably the best show to come out of Disney+Hotstar India, Ram Madhvani took the Dutch source material of Penoza, got Sushmita Sen back on screen in the most stunning high-fashion of Rajasthan royalty, and spun a story of poppy, family, and gangsterdom with a gripping pace, charming wit and, the genre trappings of ending an episode on a high you desperately want closure on.
18) Modern Family
One of the kindest sitcoms, told in a mockumentary format, it follows the family of Jay Pritchett (Ed O’Neill) in suburban LA, whose gay son (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and controlling daughter (Julie Bowen) have families of their own. Jay is married to the much younger Gloria (Sofia Vergara), and there are kids, step-kids, step-parents, but with none of the rancour or easy drama. Instead the show, strung along for 11 seasons, eases you into a comfortable lull of the most egregious kind of humour, where the kids, the teens, and the adults are all equal opportunity offenders.
An American satirical comedy-drama television series, it centers on the dysfunctional Roy family helmed by Logan Roy (Brian Cox), founder of Waystar RoyCo, a global media and hospitality empire. The two seasons showcase a family fighting for control of the company amid uncertainty about Logan’s health. It brings together its acid humour, bleak outlook, and relentless sympathizing with even the worst of the characters.
20) Koffee With Karan
The much-loved, much-despised, always discussed talk-show hosted by Karan Johar spun its own success from its potty mouthed, irreverent guest list. With the kind of filth of friends conversing, with the glamor of cinema and burnished popularity, the show created an impression of intimacy and joy. Running 6 seasons from 2004-2019, the latest season had a stream of younger talents who all noted how they “grew up on the show” much to Johar’s chagrin. Clips from the “Rapid Fire” rounds still make the occasional viral rounds of social media, and it’s a vortex one falls willingly into.