Entertainment TV The best free on-demand TV shows available now

The best free on-demand TV shows available now

Midnight Sun
Scandinavian series Midnight Sun on SBS is a buried treasure. Photo: SBS
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There’s a veritable feast of fabulous TV around at the moment. Seriously!

And, it’s free, always available and you don’t need a television set to watch it.

It’s sport or slim pickings on the free-to-air broadcasts over summer, but if you head to the TV stations’ on-demand services, a whole new world awaits.

Particularly if you start with SBS – the industry leader in on-demand because, for years, it’s treated the service as a separate entity, commissioning and acquiring hundreds of hours of first-run content to be seen solely on that platform.

It’s well curated and easy to use – although watching the same advertisements for hours on end when you’re binge watching is absolutely infuriating.

There are 900 films from all corners of the globe and from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Check out Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, the 1964 sci fi number regarded as arguably the worst film ever made. So bad, it’s funny.

At the other end of the spectrum is the George Clooney film Goodnight and Good Luck – the amazing story of TV broadcaster Edward R. Murrow.

There are hundreds of documentaries, covering social issues, sex, food, history – the list is endless. Here’s a few that caught my eye:

Unicorns – an SBS Viceland profile doco that explores people who identify as Unicorns and create their own world to live in.

A WI Lady’s Guide to Brothels: Women from Britain’s equivalent of the Country Women’s Association set out to legalise UK brothels.

A WI woman's guide to brothels
Strange bedfellows: A WI Woman’s Guide to Brothels is an on-demand gem.

Alexander’s Lost World: Australian photographer and director David Adams visits some of the most dangerous places in the world and reveals their fascinating histories.

There’s also a Good Sports series which launched earlier this month, including a Williams sisters documentary, Venus and Serena.

But for me, it’s the serious drama where SBS On Demand comes into its own and, in particular Nordic Noir.

I just binge watched Midnight Sun, a standout eight-part drama about the death of a French diplomat in Sweden, made by the team behind The Bridge.

Watch out for one of the most spectacular deaths in a murder mystery ever and more murders than even the creators of Midsomer Murders could have dreamed up.

midnight sun
Midnight Sun is another outstanding Nordic Noir offering. Photo: SBS

I also watched the entire series of The Disappearance, a remarkable French series that mixes family dynamics and a murder mystery with the disappearance of a 17-year-old girl.

The commercial channels are so far yet to embrace on-demand content, so it’s pretty much all catch-up and some extras around shows like Neighbours, but worth a flick through if you’ve missed something they’ve broadcast.

Next best in the on-demand world is the ABC – although its fresh offerings are a long way behind SBS.

ABC’s iView promises its audience can “Binge on the Best” over summer, which largely means catch-up viewing.

If you missed the on-air comedy, for example, during 2016, then you can catch up on shows like Rosehaven, Please Like Me, Wham Bam Thank You Man and The Katering Show.

There’s fresh comedy as well.

Sammy J’s Playground Politics is back with a special “Tis the Season to be Pollie” episode and there’s a poignant comedy series from South Australia called Goober – the Uber driver with major social issues and girlfriend problems.

The online content posted throughout 2016 remains available – including a fun cooking series #Shelfie with Dan Hong and a new series of Black As.

Black As
Black As has attracted a small but dedicated following.

And, if you’re into the arts, the ABC’s Arts Online content is worth a look for great docos and review shows.

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