The subscription service that is revolutionising the way the west watches television, Netflix became a household name practically overnight. Having all your favourite shows and a boatload of movies available to view on demand makes life so much easier for anyone with a job or a hobby or a life, who can’t always be there when shows are broadcast live. It saves having to remember to record stuff and costs a hell of a lot less than buying or renting everything you want to watch individually. Already instrumental in forging the future of home viewing, Netflix moved into creating its own original content in 2013.
There are tons of things you can watch to get to grips with the kind of content Netflix is capable of creating, and it’s well worth doing. Though it’s as guilty of the occasional dud as any other network, there is enough great quality original stuff on there to keep you occupied for months on end.
If you’re new to Netflix and want somewhere to start, you could do a lot worse than checking out these cool shows.
House of Cards
House of Cards is the original Netflix Original. Admittedly, it is based on a BBC mini-series of the same name, which in turn is based on a novel by Michael Dobbs, but the show is definitely capable of holding its own separate from it predecessors. As the company’s content debut, it did an incredible job of putting Netflix on the map as a creator. It follows an American Democrat politician called Frank Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, in his ruthless pursuit of political power in Washington, DC. In the four seasons now released, it has won numerous awards and a fifth season is due for release in 2017. A complex and intriguing show, it takes a dark and brutal look at politics as well as the grim core of human nature. It begins with one hell of a bang and continues to tell the story of a man so twisted by his craving for power that he’ll do anything to get it, no matter how elaborate the plan or immoral the decisions.
It hardly seems necessary to mention Stranger Things, the hype around it is so powerful, but this wouldn’t really be comprehensive list of the best of the best of Netflix if it wasn’t on here. A gorgeous homage to the best sci fi of the ’70s and ’80s, it is based on a grim conspiracy theory about military experiments, time travel and the US government’s apparent communication with aliens. It certainly makes a better show than it does real life theory. It’s smart, funny and scary. The characters were wonderful – they were all interesting and complex from the start and their development throughout the one season broadcast so far is both gripping and believable, in terms of both their individual personalities and their relationships. Anyone who isn’t already familiar with it would be forgiven for dropping everything else now to go and watch it. You can come back to this later.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
If there was a right way to make a show about a victim of brainwashing, kidnap and abuse, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt absolutely found it. Original and quirky, the show forces you to see the world around you through fresh eyes. Ellie Kemper‘s Kimmy and her unwavering optimism is infectious and just makes you feel better about the world, no matter how immoral or sarcastic or self-centred the people around her – or you – are. She trusts people, she sees the good in them and no matter what mishaps they end up shoving her into, she still cares for them. Her childlike innocence is both hilarious and heartwarming. The comic mind-baby of Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, its sense of humour manages to marry the relatable and unexpected in a truly wonderful union.
In a culture where most superhero movies and television shows are primarily aimed at children and kept restrained by a palty PG-13 rating, Daredevil is the grim, gritty comic book show that adult fans craved. Dark and dangerous, the incredible fight scenes are complemented by a well thought out and intriguing plot and completed by a truly stunning soundtrack. It is a very well crafted piece of television, with every character fully fleshed out and complex, with such thorough backstories that you can’t help but develop an understanding of even the most evil of villains once you get to know them. If nothing else, you can’t help but love the way that Foggy, played by Elden Hensen, reacts to find out that his best friend (Charlie Cox‘s Matt Murdoch) is a secret vigilante – the conflict between admiration and outrage is rarely portrayed quite as finely.
The Little Prince
A relatively recent addition to Netflix’s repertoire, The Little Prince is a beautiful homage to and modernisation of the novella by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. It really captures the beauty of the story, jumping between the original story of the little prince and a newer tale of a young girl who needs to remember what makes childhood such a special time. Strugging with the demands of the contemporary world, compounded by the pressures of a mother who shows love by controlling her, the new protagonist meets the narrator of the original story, the aviator who found the little prince while stranded in the desert. It blends both modern CGI and stop motion style animation inspired by the illustrations from the book, creating a lovely contrast that weaves between the story. The combination of the original tale and the new makes your heart ache for the beautiful friendships within it and the inevitable pain that comes with the world’s most precious knd of joy. It is perhaps one of the most perfect ways of showing the most important things in life – joy and laughter and hope and anti-capitalism and love.
A gritty crime drama revolved around the drug lords of Colombia, Narcos was a joint venture between Netflix and Spanish language network Telemundo. The show follows the story of real world drug trafficker, Pablo Escobar, documenting his involvement in the Colombian cocaine trade and his struggle against the America DEA. For a show full of cruel, unlikeable characters, it has had a hugely successful run and has received a great critical response for its accuracy and incredible performances. By blending archival footage with the excellently crafted acting, the reality of the show really hits home in a way that makes it truly chilling.
Master of None
A collaborative project between Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang, Master of None is a heartwarming exploration of conteporary humanity. Smart and funny throughout, it tells the story of an aspiring young man attempting to make his way in the world and discover his place in a society as part of a generation that embraces the world in an entirely new way. While it does bear a bit of a similarity to Aziz Ansari’s stand-up, it has fully embraced the medium of television and does make for an excellent. The characters are well developed, the relationships are realistic and it manages to be funny and relatable in a way that a lot of shows just don’t quite manage. It explores a lot of the issues that impact the millenial generation – from worrying about parenthood and the pressures of adult life in a progressive world to racism and sexism in everyday life – without ever losing its sense of humour.
Orange is the New Black
A now iconic title, Orange is the New Black was an instant hit when it first launched on Netflix in 2013. There is so much about this series that makes people fall in love with it. There is the incredible cast of powerful female characters – all deep and complex and incredibly well portrayed by their respectivea actors. There is the intense relationship at its core. There is the knowledge that it is, at least losely, based on a true story. There are all the grim themes that weave throughout it – drugs, insitutional corruption, the impact of funding cuts on social sevices – and there is the way that all of that is set off with a dry sense of humour throughout. In the four seasons that have been broadcast so far, it has won multiple awards and is so popular that it has been renewed not just for one more season, but for three.
Another addition to the televised Marvel world, Jessica Jones expands on the world established in Daredevil in a trend leading up to a Defenders crossover mini-series. It has a lot of the same great qualities as Daredevil – a much darker reality than the Marvel cinematic universe of characters like Iron Man and Thor, and a protagonist whose eyes are opened to that darkness, but who still believes in fighting to make the world a better place. But it has the added benefit of having Krysten Ritter‘s powerful character at its core. It has been noted for its coverage of some of society’s most serious and traumatic ills, including rape and assault, as well as its sensitive depiction of PTSD. The one downside is the long wait ahead of us before the debut of the second season, which won’t be until 2018, after The Defenders launches in 2017.
Bill Nye Saves the World
Strictly speaking, it isn’t a show just yet, but the recent announcement that Bill Nye is going to get his own Netflix original series has left no doubt in anyone’s mind that this might be the best thing to hit the home screen since, well, the last time Bill Nye was on TV. Although the inimitable Science Guy hasn’t actually had his own show since 1998, he has never left the social consciousness, making multiple appearances and cameos as an expert on other shows or the past decade and a half. His charm and charisma make him an excellent host and he is a force for good in the form of logic and intelligence in a time where ignorance has become almost festishised in some parts of the world. Due to premiere in spring 2017, Nye’s new show promises to be a wonderfully indulgent burst of nostalgia for adults and a revival of the kind of show that engenders a true love of science for younger viewers.