It’ll soon be summertime, when the livin’ ain’t easy. Hide from the heat with our pick of the latest box sets
Castle season 1
The setup: Richard Castle, a charismatic but museless crime novelist, is paired up with a female homicide detective with whom he shares a sparky relationship; cue much sexual tension, witty banter and entertaining murder-solving.
It’s a bit like: Remington Steele meets Due South.
Try it if you like: Lightweight but thoroughly entertaining episodic crime shows. Nathan Fillion is undeniably likeable as the dissolute but good-hearted writer, and Stana Katic is spot on as his smart, sharply written foil. Castle’s family – his overbearing mother and studious daughter – provide light relief, and the mysteries, while never particularly taxing, are always fun to watch.
Samantha Who? season 2
Episodes: 15 The setup: After a car accident leaves her with retrograde amnesia, Samantha Newly discovers that her old self wasn’t particularly nice to the people around her and decides to make it up to them, one step at a time.
It’s a bit like: My Name is Earl meets Memento.
Try it if you like: High-concept feelgood comedy. This Golden Globe-nominated, Emmy Award-winning show does a good job exploring Samantha’s post-amnesia crises, but also grows beyond them, developing into an engaging and well-realised comedy-drama with a great cast. Alas, it was cancelled after this second season, but is still well worth a shot on DVD.
Greek season 2
Episodes: 22 The setup: University newcomer Rusty Cartwright tries to shed his high-school nerd image by joining a fraternity and making new friends – much to the annoyance of his popular sister, who’s so embarrassed by him she denies he even exists.
It’s a bit like: Animal House meets The OC.
Try it if you like: Watching attractive teens partying, dating and angsting, all wrapped up in a tasty comedy coating. It may sound unbearable to some, but the light-hearted tone and talented cast make it a sure-fire winner, and the well-developed characters mean that there’s plenty to get your teeth into.
Eli Stone season 2
Episodes: 13 The setup: Slick attorney Eli Stone develops an inoperable aneurysm, causing him to experience visions of the future – visions that may be messages from God – and to use his skills to fight for underdogs rather than corporate fat cats.
It’s a bit like: Ally McBeal meets Field of Dreams.
Try it if you like: Quirky character comedy mixed with genuinely heart-warming drama. Part legal show, part comedy, part fantasy, part musical, Eli’s marriage of the fantastic and the mundane is effortlessly charming and highly watchable. As Eli, Johnny Lee Miller eats up the screen, but he is only one part of a uniformly strong cast that includes Natasha Henstridge.
Burn Notice season 2
The setup: In the middle of an operation, CIA agent Michael Westen discovers that he’s been given a ‘burn notice’ – he is no longer an employee of the Agency, his assets have been frozen and he cannot leave his home town of Miami. On his quest to find out why he got canned, he sets up shop as a freelance PI and gun for hire, helping those who can afford it.
It’s a bit like: The Equalizer meets MacGuyver.
Try it if you like: Spy-centric action shows with likeable anti-heroes and occasionally dark undertones. Actually, make that consistently dark undertones. Michael is, after all, an ex-CIA agent, and his girlfriend – played by Gabrielle Anwar – is a borderline psycho ex-IRA operative. But the omnipresent Miami sunshine and Bruce Campbell’s ace turn as an ex-Navy Seal and gold-digging lothario keep things from getting too grim.