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Looking for a Short Show to Watch? Try These Miniseries

Not too long back, television shows usually had twenty or more episodes and ran for multiple seasons. While that kind of format has its own rewards as it allows long-term plots and character arcs, not all of us have the energy to invest our time in a long-running show always. Thankfully, there’s a great alternative – TV miniseries. 

These shows typically last no longer than 10 episodes and tell a self-contained story in that time frame. A well-made short-run TV series can present an engaging and powerful story in a tight package and leave us completely satisfied by the end. So if you are looking for a good show to watch but don’t want to devote too much time to it, we have compiled a list of some of the best miniseries that you should definitely try once.

Related: 10 Classic Family TV Shows Everyone at Home Will Enjoy

1. Jesus of Nazareth (1977)

As you might have guessed from the name, this show provides a visual account of Jesus' life. Directed by the legendary Franco Zeffirelli, Jesus of Nazareth begins with the wedding of Mary and Joseph and extends through the Crucifixion and Resurrection. It’s a powerful and ambitious adaptation of the Gospels and is brilliantly presented and acted. You might be well aware of the story, but this six-hour drama touches beautifully on the subject of life beyond death and refuge from pain.

2. Roots (1977)

Roots isn’t just one of the best miniseries of all time, it's an important one too. Based on Alex Haley’s 1976 novel “Roots: The Saga of an American Family”, it is about the life and experiences of Kunta Kinte - an 18th-century African man sold into slavery. Throughout the series, we get to witness prominent events in U.S. history, like the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, slave uprisings, and emancipation, through the eyes of Kinte and his family.

Starring LeVar Burton, and featuring an array of great actors such as Ben Vereen, Lou Gossett Jr., and Ed Asner, Roots went on to clinch nine Emmy Awards.

3. Lonesome Dove (1989)

Love Western-themed dramas? Then you shouldn’t miss Lonesome Dove. It’s easily one of the best in this genre and it doesn’t get talked about as often as it should these days. This epic series tells the story of two mismatched former Texas rangers, Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call, who have settled down in the Texas border town of Lonesome Dove and decide to carry out a dangerous cattle drive. They reclaim stolen ponies from Mexican thieves and sell them to cowboys. 

The show offers a realistic portrait of life in the American West during the latter half of the 19th century rather than glamorizing it as most movies have done. Starring Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones, Lonesome Dove won seven Emmys.

4. Pride and Prejudice (1995)

There have been several adaptations of Jane Austen’s classic novel on the screen, but the BBC's Pride and Prejudice miniseries is considered to be the best one. You are all probably familiar with the story already – it follows the tumultuous relationship between Elizabeth Bennet, the strong-willed daughter of a country gentleman, and Fitzwilliam Darcy, an arrogant aristocratic landowner. The two must overcome their pride and prejudice to realize their love for each other and get married.

This version of 'Pride and Prejudice' is the most faithful to the original novel. Colin Firth is absolutely perfect as Darcy and has captured the character's aristocratic sensibilities perfectly. Moreover, the energy and constant tension in the story are beautifully done and the soundtrack only adds to the charm. For fans of the book, it's a must-watch.

Related: You Can’t Afford to Miss These Classic Summer Movies

5. Band Of Brothers (2001)

Based on the Stephen E. Ambrose book of the same name, Band Of Brothers is about the "Easy Company",  the 2nd Battalion of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, as they train and participate in many crucial events during World War II. The miniseries was produced by Stephen Spielberg and Tom Hanks and featured an ensemble cast that delivered a knockout performance on every level. 

Band Of Brothers was one of the most prominent televised depictions of war back when it was released and remains one of the best war dramas of all time. It won seven Emmy Awards and the Golden Globe for Best Miniseries or Television Film.

6. John Adams (2008)

This HBO miniseries chronicles the life of political career of John Adams - the second-ever President of the United States. Starring Paul Giamatti in the titular role, the show won an incredible 13 Emmy Awards, including a Best Actor nod for Giamatti. Political dramas can often be dry, but John Adams is surprisingly compelling. Giamatti successfully humanizes Adams and the intriguing events in his life are captured superbly.

7. 11.22.63 (2011)

Adapted from the Stephen King novel of the same name, 11.22.63 is a terrific time-travel tale. The plot revolves around a teacher who, after discovering a portal, learns how to travel through time. He’s then given the responsibility of preventing the assassination of former US President John F. Kennedy and goes back in time to 1963 to complete his mission. However, the more he tries to change the course of history, the more complicated things become…

11.22.63 has an amazing production design and the ’60s have been brought to life gorgeously. It’s a fast-paced thriller that will keep you hooked throughout.

8. The Night Of (2016)

Based on the British crime drama Criminal Justice, HBO’s The Night Of is a gripping tale of a man falsely accused of the murder of a woman he had partied with the night before. The trials and tribulations of the lead character, Naz, are brilliantly portrayed by Riz Ahmed, who won an Emmy for his starring role. The series is truly riveting and keeps you guessing from beginning to end, all the way to its shocking conclusion.

9. Chernobyl (2019)

The Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster from 1986, where the release of large amounts of radiation into the atmosphere affected millions of people, was among history’s most calamitous incidents. HBO's dramatization of the episode is a must-watch as it takes a closer look at the events that led to the disaster. It’s quite detailed and tells some of the untold stories of some of the volunteers who were involved during and after the horrifying tragedy. Yes, it can be difficult to watch at times, given the brutality of what happened, but Chernobyl presents some undeniable realities that we ought to know. What also helps is that the ensemble cast’s acting is so powerful.

The miniseries earned 19 Emmy nominations, and won for Outstanding Limited Series, among several others.

Related: 30 Years After Man Left, Chernobyl is Green Again

10. The Queen's Gambit (2020)

The most recent miniseries on this list has taken the entertainment world by storm ever since its release in 2020 by Netflix. The Queen's Gambit follows Beth Harmon, an orphan chess prodigy, as she discovers and masters the game of chess in 1960s USA.

You may wonder if this show is only for those who love the game of chess. It definitely isn't. The Queen's Gambit is a human drama that can be enjoyed by even those who know nothing about the game. We see how Beth excels at chess while also struggling with the pressure of being the best chess player at the height of the Cold War. The miniseries has become a sensation and has been greatly appreciated for its fantastic script, great acting, dramatic direction, and cinematic brilliance.

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