The 60 Best Shows on Netflix Right Now [January 2020]
Though Netflix began its life as a rental-by-mail DVD service, it was the on-demand service that truly took Netflix from a successful company to the media giant it stands as today. What started as a simple alternative to the DVD service known as Netflix Instant became the main focus of the company. No longer was Netflix just a simple Blockbuster alternative; they were the future of television. Now, nearly ten years after Netflix truly started to take over the industry as a streaming service, they remain at the top of the pile of on-demand watching. While Hulu and Amazon Prime both offer their own competing services (in addition to the seemingly-endless stream of other options on the market today), Netflix has remained in power as the service to have. After all, the slang phrase is “Netflix and chill,” not “Crackle and chill.”
Netflix has become increasingly interested in being the “next HBO,” releasing new content weekly in an effort to bolster their legacy library. Unfortunately, all of their new content has made it tough to find shows that are actually worth streaming. Thankfully, Netflix happens to be the best place to watch some of TV’s greatest shows, whether you’re looking to binge through the entire series or catch up before next season. We’ve already covered the best Netflix originals, so consider this list of the best shows on Netflix to be more focused on content picked up from other outside sources. We’ve also listed some of Netflix’s best international shows, some of which are billed as Netflix originals.
With all that said, these are the top 60 shows on Netflix for January 2020 in no particular order. Get ready for a night of binge-watching, as these shows represent the best non-originals Netflix has to offer. Take a look!
One of the hottest new series to begin airing over the last few years, NBC’s The Good Place tells the story of Eleanor Shellstrop, a woman who’s woken up to find she’s dead and in heaven—or rather, “The Good Place,” as it’s called. Kristen Bell plays Eleanor, a woman who finds herself in a place she doesn’t deserve to be. Also starring is Cheers’ alumni Ted Danson as Michael, the creator of “The Good Place,” a man trying to make his residents as happy as possible in the afterlife. This series comes from creator Michael Schur, fresh off co-creating both Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn-99. Any fans of his previous work—he also wrote and acted on The Office, where he played Dwight’s cousin Mose Schrute—will find plenty to love here. Just don’t read too much into the plot online—serious spoilers abound. Seasons one through three are streaming on Netflix, and season four is currently airing on NBC.
In this spin-off/prequel to Breaking Bad, we see the early-2000s origin story to Saul Goodman, the skeezy lawyer Walter White used in the original show, played by Bob Odenkirk. Though a follow-up series to Breaking Bad about Odenkirk’s comic-relief character seemed like an odd decision when the show was first announced, three seasons in, some critics have argued the show surpasses its predecessor. We wouldn’t go that far: the two shows, despite sharing a creative team and the same DNA behind the camera, are incredibly different. While the first show chronicled the downfall of family man Walter White, this show is far more comical, with a focus on Goodman’s—here still known as Jimmy McGill—law practice, and his relationship with his brother. Mike Ehrmantraut, played by Jonathan Banks, also returns from the original show. While the tone of Better Call Saul varies wildly from its Bad origins, Saul is a must-watch for fans of the first show. The first three seasons of Better Call Saul are currently streaming.
One of quite a few shows picked up by Netflix for international distribution, only to be billed as a Netflix original, Crashing is a comedy-drama from Britain that follows the lives of four twenty-somethings in England, living together as property guardians in an unused hospital, affording cheaper rent by promising to keep the building safe and following certain guidelines brought on by their agreement. The show was originally conceived as two plays by creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who also stars in the show as Lulu, and ran for six episodes in 2016 before being brought to Netflix later that year in the United States. Waller-Bridge has since moved onto creating and starring in Fleabag for Amazon.
Cheers is not just a great sitcom—it’s considered one of the best shows of all time, consistently topping best-of lists by dozens of publications (TV: The Book by Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz, for instance, lists the show as number four, considering it in an “inner circle” show along the likes of Breaking Bad, The Simpsons, and The Sopranos). Starring Ted Danson as Sam Malone and Shelly Long as Diane Chambers, the show perfected the original will-they-won’t-they long before the likes of Friends and The Office. Cheers also managed to be one of the earliest examples of a sitcom with a serialized storyline, beginning in the third season with the introduction of Kelsey Grammer as Frasier Crane, Diane’s love interest at the time. In addition to Danson and Long, the show also starred Rhea Perlman, George Wendt, John Ratzenberger (known to Pixar fans for his cameos in each film), and Nicholas Colasanto; later seasons added Woody Harrelson, Bebe Neuwirth, and Kirstie Alley as Rebecca Howe.
A few minutes watching the pilot of this musical-dramedy and you’ll be hooked. This incredibly original series was written by screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna (The Devil Wears Prada) and sketch-comedy and YouTube star Rachel Bloom, who stars as Rebecca Bunch in a role that has garnered Bloom a Golden Globe for Best Actress in 2016. Rebecca leaves an amazing career in New York after she runs into an ex-boyfriend, Josh Chan (Vincent Rodriguez III), who she went to summer camp with when she was 16. Convinced her happiness lies with Josh in West Covina, California, she leaves behind a promotion at her New York law firm to follow Chan back to his hometown. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has won over millions of fans online, with a killer soundtrack and the ability to make you laugh and cry all at the same time. All four seasons are now streaming on Netflix.
At its best, Dexter was unlike any show on television at the time. Presented prior to television becoming oversaturated with male antiheroes, Dexter was a Showtime series that ran for eight seasons from 2006 to 2013. Starring Michael C. Hall (Six Feet Under) as the titular character, the show follows Dexter Morgan while he works as a forensic technician specializing in bloodstain pattern analysis for the Miami Metro Police Dept., while simultaneously moonlighting as a vigilante serial killer, murdering criminals that have escaped from the justice system in America. Each season had an overarching plot and villain, and some of those seasons—namely, season four (featuring John Lithgow as a sadistic killer), seasons one and seven, and the groundbreaking and critically-acclaimed season two—are great. Unfortunately, the show didn’t always perform at its peak, and some of the later episodes throughout seasons six and eight are considered weak by fans and critics alike.
Aaron Sorkin’s second primetime television show after Sports Night, The West Wing is a political serial drama originally aired for seven seasons on NBC, following the presidency of Josiah “Jed” Bartlet, a fictitious Democratic President of the United States. The series takes its name from the West Wing of the White House, where much of the action in the show takes place. Martin Sheen portrays Bartlet, an economist and former Congressman and Governor who won the Democratic nomination in an upset victory before winning the election. Bartlet is often considered the most popular Democratic president in recent history, despite his fictitious nature, and the show has been praised for its writing and look into the daily comings and goings of a presidency and administration. In addition to Sheen, who starred in all seven seasons, the cast includes Rob Lowe, Allison Janney, Alan Alda, Jimmy Smits, and Kristin Chenoweth.
At this point, Grey’s Anatomy has almost become the ultimate binge experience. With 293 episodes streaming over thirteen full seasons, Grey’s is something of a legend at this point. The show takes place at fictional Seattle Grace Hospital, following the life and career of Meredith Grey from her time at the hospital as an intern, who eventually becomes a resident and rises through the ranks through the hospital. The show is filled with with drama, crushing life choices, and dozens of characters who come and go. Grey’s isn’t a perfect show, occasionally diving a bit too-much into saccharine plotlines and a lot of character deaths. But the show is well made, with great performances from nearly every actor. Plenty of the cast has gone onto bigger and better things after leaving Seattle Grace, and Shonda Rhimes, the creator and showrunner, has found massive success following the creation of Grey’s Anatomy. Overall, it may not be a show for everyone, but it’s probably the binge-iest show on the platform today. Fifteen seasons are streaming on Netflix.
Some will argue American Horror Story doesn’t deserve a spot on a list of the “best” shows, considering the occasional weak season and its overindulgences into campy tones. We’re not trying to say AHS is a work of art, but it is a cultural phenomenon, one that’s struck a chord with millions of viewers around the country. The show is an anthology-based horror show, with a different story told each season (albeit with some interconnected pieces flowing through). The show has aired eight seasons: Murder House (originally just called American Horror Story), Asylum, Coven, Freak Show, Hotel, Roanoke, and Cult. The show has has both one-off and recurring cast members playing different roles, including Evan Peters and Sarah Paulson (both of whom have appeared in each season), Denis O’Hare, Jessica Lange, Lady Gaga, Emma Roberts, and Kathy Bates. Asylum is often considered one of the better seasons of the show, as is Murder House, Roanoke, and the newest season, Cult (not yet on Netflix). Freak Show and Hotel are known to be weaker seasons, though not without their moments, and each season has its fair share of defenders. If you like your horror campy as all hell, definitely check this one out.
Would you be surprised if we told you that the best DC show airing on The CW right now wasn’t Arrow, or The Flash, or even Supergirl? Legends of Tomorrow premiered to mixed-but-positive reviews, with the series taking some B-level and C-level superheroes from the world of DC, including Firestorm, Atom, Hawkgirl and Hawkman, and Rip Turner. The series begins when Rip Turner, a time master, goes rogue following the murder of his family by Vandal Savage, a criminal and supervillain. Determined to stop the murder of his loved ones, he assembles a team from throughout time in order to save the world. The series is a bit more lighthearted than its contemporaries, and following positive remarks for the first two seasons, season three received critical acclaim for its sense of adventure, fun, and heroism. All four seasons are currently streaming.
DC Comics has had better luck with its TV shows than its big-screen adaptations lately (at least until Wonder Woman came out), and Arrow is one of their strongest offerings. Wealthy scion Oliver Queen returns home with incredible archery skills and a desire to fight crime, in many ways representing a small-screen Batman. Arrow has all the makings of great binge-watching, from a brooding protagonist to colorful, melodramatic plotting, and fun secondary characters who absolutely steal the show. Seven seasons, including the most recent season, are currently streaming on Netflix right now; season eight will premiere on The CW this fall.
You might remember the long-running Archie series of comics from your childhood, featuring the titular character and his friends Betty, Veronica, and Jughead shopping, studying, dating, and playing in their band. Riverdale invites you back to the world of Archie as you’ve never seen it before. Falling somewhere between Degrassi and Twin Peaks, Riverdale begins when one of Archie’s classmates is found murdered over summer break, causing the town of Riverdale to change in ways never presented in the comics. It turns out everyone—especially the adults—has something to hide. The show takes a bit to start up, devoting a bit too much time in its early episodes to a misguided plot involving one of Archie’s teachers, but once the show refocuses itself around episode four, you’ll be hooked from beginning to end. Don’t sleep on this one: all three seasons are currently streaming.
Sherlock has its fair share of detractors, and we would never lie and say the show is without flaw. The first two seasons were, mostly, critically-acclaimed for their modernization of Sherlock Holmes and his assistant, Dr. John Watson, portrayed here by Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game, Doctor Strange) and Martin Freeman (The Office, The Hobbit, Black Panther), respectively. Created by Steven Moffat (Doctor Who) and Mark Gatiss (also a writer on Doctor Who), the show is controversial among some fans for its spinning-plot antics that appear later in the show. Season three and four are a bit messy (especially the fourth season), which has resulted in even the first two seasons aging faster than anticipated. Still, the art design is fantastic, the cinematography is gorgeous, and the performances from both Cumberbatch and Freeman are great, as usual.
Like Dexter, Glee is a show that often fluctuated in quality, often from episode to episode. When Glee was working at the peak of its series run, it was a fun, overdramatized, oft-hilarious look at musicals, high school, and the careers of dreamers. The first half of season one, in particular, took a dark comedic tone that managed to balance the deep core of sadness running through its characters—namely Will Schuester as a washed-up teacher-turned-Glee-instructor—that, unfortunately, didn”t carry onto the back half of season one. Later seasons would continue to be all over the place, with one episode being panned by critics while the next was lauded as a return to form. And still some critics say the show barely made it through the pilot without hitting a point where it become terrible. Regardless, Glee stands today as a guilty pleasure for fans around the world, and if you’ve ever wondered what the hype was about, you can catch up on the series on Netflix.
A cult-classic, Shameless offers some of the best entertainment to be had on television today. It’s about the Gallaghers, a family of six kids raised by the oldest, Fiona (Emmy Rossum). Dad Frank (William H. Macy) is a hopeless alcoholic, Mom Monica (Chloe Webb) split, and the kids have to use their heads to survive as they straddle the law and their own morality. The extremely gifted ensemble includes Cameron Monaghan as Ian, the gay son who comes out in the pilot. The entire family are super-industrious and the show never ceases to surprise. All eight seasons are currently streaming on Netflix today, with the ninth coming to the streaming service this fall.
Starring Jon Hamm as ad-man Don Draper, Mad Men is Matthew Weiner’s tale of corruption and sex throughout the 50s, 60s, and 70s at an advertising firm. The series is filled with drama, intrigue, and romance, and tells the story of a man who has it all, and still finds himself unhappy and self-destructive. Actors Elisabeth Moss and January Jones made names for themselves through this show, as did original network AMC. Often called one of the best television shows ever made, any lover of drama or period pieces will find plenty to love here. The entire series is streaming on Netflix.
Lovers of documentaries everywhere, rejoice: one of the best, most-acclaimed docuseries of our time is streaming on Netflix right now. The Civil War is a 1990 documentary miniseries produced by Ken Burns for PBS, running nine episodes that cover the entire war from 1861 to 1865. Unfortunately, this isn’t the HD remaster completed in 2015, but the original standard-definition series that originally aired in 1990. Nevertheless, even television fans unfamiliar with Ken Burns’ name will be familiar with his style, having been parodied in countless works, including Community. The Civil War was watched by an average of 14 million people per episode, and at least 39 million people tuned into one episode. It’s a landmark work of television, and must be experienced for any history buffs reading this article.
One of the most popular shows on Fox during its run, That 70s Show became a phenomenon both during its eight-season run and in syndication on ABC Family and on Netflix. The show is set during the latter half of the 1970s, when the decade truly came to fruition (as they often do), and follows the life of Eric Forman, his family, and his circle of friends through high school and beyond. The show ran for eight seasons from 1998 to 2006 and has gained a massive following of fans, and features an all-star cast including Topher Grace as Eric, Mila Kunis as Jackie, Ashton Kutcher as Kelso, Danny Masterson as Hyde, Laura Prepon as Donna, and Wilmer Valderrama as Fez. The entire cast has gone onto varying projects, from long-running series on broadcast, cable, and streaming services to major blockbuster films. All eight seasons are streaming.
Tina Fey and Robert Carlock may have found great success with both 30 Rock and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, but Great News (which they executive-produced, and was created by 30 Rock veteran Tracey Wigfield) failed to find an audience at NBC after two seasons. That doesn’t mean you should watch the show, of course. In fact, Great News is absolutely worth watching despite the low episode count, as it’s one of the most underrated network sitcoms of the last decade. Great News follows Katie Wendelson, a segment producer at news show The Breakdown, who finds her work life turned upside down when her mother Carol becomes an intern on the show.
Executive-produced by Brad Falchuk (American Horror Story) and Ryan Murphy (AHS, Glee) and developed by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, American Crime Story is another anthology series airing on FX, telling stories based on true events throughout recent history. Subtitled The People v. OJ Simpson, the first season of ACS tells the story of the murder of Simpson’s wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and the subsequent murder trial against Simpson himself. With an all-star cast retelling the story, including Cuba Gooding Jr. as Simpson, This is Us‘ Sterling K. Brown as Christopher Darden, American Horror Story‘s Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark, Friends‘ David Schwimmer as Robert Kardashian, Courtney B. Vance as Johnnie Cochran, and John Travolta as Robert Shapiro, you won’t want to miss out on this epic retelling. The second season, The Assassination of Gianni Versace, is also streaming.
Supernatural is a mainstay in American television. Having premiered in 2005 on the WB, it is the longest-running fantasy-based television show in American history and the final remaining show that first aired on the WB, the predecessor to the CW (other shows, like Gilmore Girls and Reba, only lasted a year; Smallville lasted until 2011 and America’s Next Top Model lasted through 2015). Originally designed with a story to be told over three seasons (later extended to five), the show has run for thirteen seasons and shows no sign of stopping anytime soon. The show follows the Winchester brothers, Sam (Jared Padalecki, Gilmore Girls) and Dean (Jensen Ackles), as they hunt ghosts, demons, and other evil beings from the paranormal world. The show has always been fairly well-received, and the fanbase is rabid for the show. It starts slow, but give it some time, and you’ll find a fantastic serialized-procedural hybrid show to enjoy. And hey, if you decide the show isn’t for you, the finale of season five is a great place to end.
From Shonda Rhimes, creator of Grey’s Anatomy and its spin-off Private Practice, comes Scandal a political thriller that will make West Wing fans either silly with joy or cry out for less of the impassioned Shondaland-style drama the series is infused with. Scandal follows Olivia Pope, played by Kerry Washington, who runs a crisis management firm in Washington DC. While trying to manage both her own firm and the crises happening in the world of US politics, Olivia must also deal with the secrets of her own world, including a relationship with the President of the United States. The show and main character are partially based on Judy Smith, an executive-producer on the show and a former White House press aide under George H.W. Bush.
What started off as an unassuming, if not charming, sitcom following the life of Jess Day has evolved into one of the best comedies on television. While no one would ever call New Girl an innovative television show, it is one of the best hangout shows on the air today, featuring a fantastic cast and some hilarious writing. Zooey Deschanel stars as Jess Day, an outgoing, energetic, offbeat teacher who catches her boyfriend cheating on her in the pilot of the show. She moves into an empty room inside the apartment of Nick (Jake Johnson), Schmidt (Max Greenfield), and Coach (Damon Wayans, Jr., who moves out in the second episode of the show only to return in the third season as a main character), and later Winston (Lamorne Morris), and together, they try to navigate both their professional lives, personal lives, and love lives. It’s a fantastic, comfortable show—don’t miss out. All seven seasons are streaming.
Perhaps best known for its main actress, Nurse Jackie is a tour de force for Edie Falco, who stars as the titular character, Jackie Peyton. The series aired on Showtime for seven seasons from 2009 to 2015, following Jackie throughout her time as a nurse at Manhattan’s All-Saints Hospital. As an emergency room veteran, Jackie faces difficult situations on a regular basis, and often makes unethical or even illegal choices to try to save her patients. Jackie also suffers from a prescription drug addiction throughout the show, complicating her life and forcing her to have a romantic relationship with Eddie, a pharmacologist, to keep her drug supply coming. The series follows Jackie’s addiction and recovery, along with her decisions throughout her life and job.
A sequel to Sam Raimi’s original low-budget horror films, Ash vs. Evil Dead is a horror-comedy in the style of Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness. Bruce Campbell returns from those films as the titular Ash Williams, now working as a middle-aged stock boy at Value Stop. Though he’s spent nearly thirty years drifting from town to town trying to escape his past, the evil of the Necronomicon—the book that releases all hell in the original trilogy—continues to haunt him. Unable to destroy the book, he’s become the caretaker, trying his best to ensure that it never falls into the wrong hands. Unfortunately, it seems the evil dead has yet to rest. Sam Raimi co-created the series with his brother Ivan and producer Tom Spezialy, and the Starz series still retains the same dark combination of humor and horror the films had. Any fans of Evil Dead will need to check out the show on Netflix.
Though the UK version of The Office broke new ground and comedy and helped cement a new genre of television—the mockumentary—it was the US version of the show, adapted by Greg Daniels, that has found a lasting impact in the United States. Following a rough first season that essentially retells the stories from the first season of the UK show, The Office managed to find its feat in season two by lightening up on the cringe humor from boss Michael Scott (Steve Carell, in his breakout role) and focusing more attention on the love story between Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) and Pam Beesly (Jenna Fischer). The show has found a lasting legacy with fans looking to fall in love all over again with the characters, and despite having run a full nine seasons on NBC, the popularity of the show online seems to be at an all-time high. Make sure to get your binging in now—the show leaves Netflix in 2021.
If you like your humor traditional, safe, and family-friendly, Comedy Bang! Bang! is not the show for you. The show, based on the long-running comedy live show and podcast of the same name, stars Scott Aukerman as himself, hosting a talk-show style panel complete with celebrity guests in each episode. Despite the free-wheeling, unscripted format of talk-shows, Comedy Bang! Bang! uses spoofs of the genre, as well as dark and farcical humor, to create its signature style of comedy. In addition to Aukerman, Reggie Watts acts as the bandleader and sidekick to Scott throughout the show’s first four seasons. Watts left during the 40-episode fourth season to work on The Late Late Show with James Corden; he was replaced by rapper Kid Cudi for the remaining portion of season four and “Weird” Al Yankovic for the fifth and final season.
A British import sold as a Netflix Original, The End of the F***ing World follows two seventeen year old students who begin to fall in love with each other as they find themselves in deeper and deeper trouble. James is a self-proclaimed psychopath who kills animals in his spare time. Growing bored with the ease in which his hobby is completed, he wishes to murder a human for the first time, and often fantasizes about it. Alyssa, meanwhile, is a troubled youth with an abusive stepfather, inattentive mother, and a knack for insulting every person around her. Together, the decide to run away from home in James’ father’s car, only for everything that can go wrong to go wrong. Based on the graphic novel of the same (albeit uncensored) name, The End of the F***ing World is a dark, twisted comedy-drama about two troubled youths who might just be able to save each other—assuming the police don’t stop them first.
Based on the popular manga of the same name, Death Note is routinely hailed as one of the best anime series of the 2000s, and is well-known as a great starter series for someone looking to dive into the artform. Death Note follows high school student Light Yagami, a seemingly-typical high school student, who finds a notebook outside his school grounds. Finding a note that claims the book can kill anyone whose name is written on the pages, he tests the book out only to discover the powers are indeed real. Joined by a shinigami named Ryuk, the original owner of the book, Light decides to rid the world of evil and to become the god of a new, more peaceful world. All thirty-seven episodes are streaming on Netflix, as is a Netflix original live-action film; fans of the anime, however, will tell you to stay far away from the 2017 adaptation.
Before Jonathan Nolan (brother of Christopher Nolan and screenwriter of The Prestige, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises) developed Westworld into one of 2016’s biggest shows, he worked for five seasons on a little-watched CBS show he created called Person of Interest. Don’t let the CBS label and the bland title fool you into thinking this is another NCIS-style procedural, however. While the show uses elements of procedural, case-of-the-week shows of the past, like Fringe, it builds on its own mythology and slowly introduces greater threats, using those procedural elements to build up to a serialized form of storytelling in season three and beyond. The show is quintessential post-9/11 science-fiction, focusing on the ethics of the “Machine” and tracking citizens around the world. Plus, the show features an A-list cast, including Jim Caviezel (The Passion of the Christ), Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), and Michael Emerson (Lost).
No matter how many game shows you’ve watched in your life, you’ve never laughed harder than you will at Billy on the Street. The brainchild of Billy Eichner, Billy on the Street uses the streets of New York City to create one of the most frantic, ingenious game shows yet. With major celebrity guest stars, Billy runs through the streets of New York getting the opinions of real people, with games like “For a Dollar,” “Quizzed in the Face,” and “Amateur Speed Sketching.” Seasons two through five of this acclaimed game show are streaming on Netflix, and while the show has gone back to web-exclusive short form content, you can still find new episodes of Billy on the Street through Lyft Entertainment.
In this landmark British teen drama, Skins follows several groups of teenagers throughout their high school years and beyond, telling three different stories over each two series broadcast by E4. The show became known for its edgy and provocative storytelling, which spawned from its creators realizing that being a teenager often comes with poor behavior, casual hookups, and experimenting with drugs and alcohol while trying to deal with adolescence and the looming presence of adulthood, but that the major shows airing at the time about teenagers almost always ignored these facts. Skins has features plotlines about dysfunctional families, mental illness, sexuality, gender, substance abuse, death, and more. The first two series revolve around Tony Stonem and his group of friends, while series three and four revolve around Tony’s sister Effy, now entering her own high school experiences. Series five and six tell the story of Franky Fitzgerald, while series seven revisits Cassie (from the first two series), Effy, and Cook (also from series three and four) to tell the stories about their adulthood. All seven series are streaming.
Alias Grace is yet another import sold as a Netflix original, though this time from our neighbors up north. At only six episodes and standing as a miniseries, Alias Grace is the type of content that might only take you a day or two to watch (it’s exactly six hours long, or 360 minutes). Based on the novel by Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid’s Tale, a series that garnered a lot of attention, both publicly and critically, for Hulu), Alias Grace follows Dr. Simon Jordan as he is asked to evaluate suspected murderer Grace Marks, who has been imprisoned for fifteen years for the crime. Though Grace has no memory of the crime, she tells Jordan the events of her life that led her from Ireland to Canada and how she ended up in prison. Unlike Handmaid’s Tale, which is a dystopian novel set in the future, Alias Grace is historical fiction based on real events, fictionalizing the 1843 murders of Thomas Kinnear and Nancy Montgomery. The series was acclaimed upon release, both for its production values and social commentary and for Sarah Gadon’s performance as Grace.
This hit show, based on Robert Kirkman’s comic series by the same name, follows a group of survivors through a bleak and violent zombie apocalypse. Deputy Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) is our protagonist, swinging between hero and antihero as he tries to protect himself, his son, and the group that forms around him. The show is at its best when the characters manage to find moments humanity in spite of all the carnage—although some of the carnage makes for great TV, too. Eight seasons are currently streaming, and we expect the ninth season to show up sooner rather than later.
Perhaps appropriate for a series with the word “Fire” in the title, Halt and Catch Fire is a slow-burn series, one that starts slow but ramps up as the series continues down its four full seasons. A period drama set in the 1980s and 1990s, Halt and Catch Fire follows a fictionalized account of the computer revolution at the end o the 20th century. The first two seasons are set in the Silicon Prairie in Dallas-Fort Worth, while the third and final season move to Silicon Valley. Lee Pace (The Fall, Pushing Daisies) stars as Joe MacMillan, a technology entrepreneur and former IBM employee who joins Cardiff Electric at the start of the show. Scoot McNairy (Gone Girl, 12 Years a Slave) and Mackenzie Davis (The Martian, Blade Runner 2049) also star as Gordon Clark and Cameron Howe, respectively, and Davis in particular has been critically-acclaimed for her performance.
The quintessential Obama-era sketch comedy series, IFC’s Portlandia comes to us from Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein, and director Jonathan Krisel. Armisen and Brownstein star over the show’s eight seasons, which focus primarily on following the lives of citizens of Portland, Oregon, a city known for being progressive and featuring hipsters and other modern trends. Armisen and Brownstein met in 2003 and worked on a web series title ThunderAnt before transitioning to Portlandia, and their friendship and developed teamwork are evident throughout the show. Most sketches revolve around the two playing a set of characters, whether that be Peter and Nance, a middle-aged couple, Spyke and Iris, two hipsters looking for “authentic” trends, or just Fred and Carrie, heightened versions of themselves. The show just wrapped up this year, and you can catch the first seven of the show’s eight seasons on Netflix.
From creators Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Seth Meyers, and Rhys Thomas comes one of the most inventive shows of the past five years. Truth be told, Documentary Now! is a fairly-niche program to truly find humor in. While the show can be watched by any fan of parody, to truly notice the love and care that goes into the show, you need to be a film buff familiar with the tropes and plots of all sorts of documentaries. The series is presented in mockumentary format, with each episode (aside from a couple two-part episodes) following a brand new format and brand new story. Some of the documentaries parodied here include The Thin Blue Line, History of the Eagles, The War Room, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, and Stop Making Sense. The amount of care that goes into each episode have brought critical acclaim to the series; it’s truly a work of art for those film buffs who love documentaries. Every episode features Armisen and Hader (at least, in the first two seasons; Hader was mostly uninvolved with the third season due to Barry, with Armisen mostly working behind the scenes), with a recurring crew of actors, and an introduction by Helen Mirren. All three seasons are streaming.
Making a serious romantic comedy-drama out of a genre as impenetrable as telenovelas seemed impossible, but Jane the Virgin manages to not only adapt a Venezuelan telenovela, it also manages to satirize and praise the entire genre and create a fantastic show in the process. Gina Rodriguez stars as the titular Jane, a 23-year old student who has been taught from the time she was young to save herself for marriage. In a mix-up, she accidentally becomes artificially inseminated during a routine medical checkup. Split between her boyfriend who has no interest in raising a child, and the child’s donor, her boss and former teen crush, Jane must adjust to pregnancy and motherhood throughout the show. As with most telenovelas, Jane uses twists and turns to its advantage to create an incredible comedy-drama. The show has been praised by critics, and you can find out why by streaming the first four seasons on Netflix. The fifth and final season, picking up following the show’s explosive season four finale, is currently airing.
Originally aired on CBS before moving to the CW for its second season and beyond, Supergirl is one of several superhero shows developed by Greg Berlanti (see also: Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow) and is set in the Arrowverse, sharing a universe with nearly every other DC superhero show on the air today (Gotham not included). The show follows Kara Zor-El, also known as Kara Danvers and played by Glee‘s Melissa Benoist, a Kryptonian living in National City who becomes Supergirl in order to protect the city and those she cares about the most. The show has aired four seasons, complete with crossovers with The Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow. All four seasons are streaming.
It’s actually fairly surprising that Broadchurch isn’t billed as a Netflix Original, as it has all the telltale signs of something distributed by the streaming service. It’s British, for one, and was critically-acclaimed when first released in 2013. Instead, the show aired on BBC America in the United States, and later added seasons to Netflix. The show follows detectives Alec Hardy and Ellie Miller as they investigate the death of a young boy in the fictional small-town of Dorset. Broadchurch has been praised for displaying the impact that grief, media attention, and suspicion can have on a small town. The show ran for three series of eight episodes from 2013 to 2017, and all three are streaming on the service. Fun fact for Doctor Who fans: Alec Hardy is played by David Tennant, the tenth Doctor, and the show was created by Chris Chibnall, the upcoming showrunner for the thirteenth Doctor.
Chances are high that you’re familiar with Twin Peaks, the infamous ABC drama that ran from 1990 to 1991 and had the entire country asking “Who Killed Laura Palmer?” The show was created and written by Mark Frost and David Lynch, director of films like Blue Velvet and The Elephant Man. The show, like many of his productions, uses surrealism and dream motifs to establish a haunting, mystic mood and atmosphere, which has led millions of fans of the series to become obsessed with the short-lived show. Despite only airing for thirty episodes in its original run, the show proved popular enough for a prequel film entitled Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me to be produced, and a limited series Twin Peaks: The Return to air in 2017 on Showtime (to critical acclaim; some have called the 18-episode sequel the best film of 2017). You’ll only find the original series on Netflix, but if you’re just getting into the Kyle MacLachlan-led series, you’ll have to start here anyway.
The Inbetweeners is considered a classic coming-of-age British comedy, filled with raunchy humor and a fantastic soundtrack. The series follows four suburban teenagers throughout their time at Rudge Park Comprehensive, the equivalent of high school in the United States: Will MacKenzie (Simon Bird), alongside his friends Simon Cooper (Joe Thomas), Neil Sutherland (Blake Harrison) and Jay Cartwright (James Buckley). As a coming-of-age story, the series focused largely on the foursome’s school life, friendship, and their failed sexual encounters. After running for three series, two theatrical films were released.
It’s not often you see horror done well on television, thanks to the commercial breaks required by networks interrupting the mood and tone of an episode of any given show. Bates Motel manages to make it work, though, serving up psychological horror over five seasons that will shake you to your core. The show serves as a prequel to and a reimagining of Psycho, the 1960 Hitchcock classic that remains a horror staple nearly sixty years after its release. Developed by Carlton Cuse (Lost), Kerry Ehrin (The Wonder Years), and Anthony Cipriano, the show stars Freddie Highmore as a young Norman Bates, and Vera Farmiga as his mother Norma, who purchase a motel following the death of Norman’s father. After an assault leads to Norman murdering a man in defense of his mother, the cover-up leads suspicion and conspiracy to the town of White Pine Bay. As the show continued, it gained critical acclaim for the acting from both leads and for its twists and turns through storytelling. All five seasons are currently streaming on Netflix.
No one will ever call Agents of SHIELD high art, but the series does a pretty great job in translating smaller stories set in the Marvel Universe to your television. Agents of SHIELD started out with fairly-low critical-acclaim, but a high amount of viewers, and as the series has carried on, has seen a complete reversal of this situation. Created by Joss and Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen, the show follows Agent Phil Coulson (last seen murdered in The Avengers) who must deal with cases involving small-time criminals, heroes, HYDRA, and the Inhumans. The series has seen all sorts of crossovers with the MCU, including appearances from characters from the films like Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), and the Asgardian warrior Sif (Maximiliano Hernandez). Four seasons are streaming; the fifth just wrapped up its run on ABC, and the show has been renewed for a sixth.
Starring a cast of heavyweights, the show takes place in London of the 1890s. It’s a shameless mashup of 19th-century monster stories: Dracula, Dorian Gray, werewolves, and Frankenstein and his monster all play major roles. The core cast consists of Timothy Dalton as an aging adventurer, the brilliant Eva Green as a woman locked in a battle for her own soul, and Josh Hartnett as her tough American bodyguard (another Victorian-era cliche Penny Dreadful plays to the absolute hilt). The show came to an unexpected close after the season three finale, and you can find the entire series available for streaming on Netflix.
One of the few shows on Netflix to have been revived from a different network, Arrested Development premiered on Netflix on May 26th, 2013, just a few months after Netflix debuted their first original show, House of Cards. Arrested Development‘s original run from 2003 to 2006 on Fox was critically acclaimed, but a low viewing audience (for the time) meant it squeaked by quietly unnoticed by much of its potential fanbase. Years of strong DVD sales and, yes, streaming on Netflix, meant that the show was able to be picked up for a fourth season distributed by Netflix, exciting the fanbase and continuing the adventures of the Bluth family. Though the fourth season is occasionally seen as a disappointment (the cast, which includes Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, Jessica Walter, Jeffrey Tambor, Michael Cera, Tony Hale, David Cross, Portia de Rossi, and Alia Shawkat, have all gone on to do major film and television roles, which made scheduling the fourth season difficult), the show is absolutely worth watching in its entirety. On May 4th, a “remixed” version of season four premiered, recut into 22 episodes following a linear timeline. The fifth (and final?) season, consisting of two parts, is now streaming.
Though the show’s been off the air for more than a decade now, Gilmore Girls still stands strong as an incredible series for anyone in love with sharp writing and a spot-on mix of comedy and drama. The show follows the titular girls, Lorelai Gilmore and her daughter Rory, whose lives are changed forever when Rory is accepted to a prestigious private high school. When Lorelai can’t afford to cover the payment and enrollment fee to the school, she returns to her parents, from whom she’s been estranged since becoming pregnant with Rory at sixteen. Her parents, Emily and Richard, agree to help on one condition: they must be allowed back into the lives of their daughter and granddaughter. Gilmore Girls‘ first three seasons make up some incredible drama, and while the back of the show doesn’t quite hit the highs of Rory’s life at high school, it’s still a show worth watching. Bonus: Netflix brought the show back for a four episode reunion in 2016, titled Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.
One of CBS’s longest-running procedural dramas, Criminal Minds has aired for 13 full seasons on CBS, telling the story of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) based out of Quantico, Virginia. Unlike most crime shows, Criminal Minds focuses almost exclusively on the criminal rather than the crime, telling the story behind what they’re doing and focusing on psychoanalyzing the criminal at hand. The series has a long history of rotating actors and characters, making it difficult to pin down the exact lead of the series. Actors featured in the show have included Mandy Patinkin, Thomas Gibson, A.J. Cook, Paget Brewster, Joe Mantegna, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Aisha Tyler, and many more. With more than 300 episodes under its belt, the show has plenty for new and old viewers alike, with the first twelve seasons currently streaming on Netflix. The fifteenth and final season will premiere on CBS in late 2019.
Are you a fan of Black Mirror? Found yourself interested in the anthology series where science-fiction is mixed with social commentary? If you’re tired of waiting between seasons for new episodes of Charlie Brooker’s nightmare dystopia, you should check out the series that directly inspired Black Mirror: The Twilight Zone. Ran on CBS from 1959 to 1964 in its original run, Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone served as a launchpad for dozens of aspiring actors and writers to cut their teeth working on nightmarish scenarios. Over 156 episodes, Rod Serling used science-fiction, fantasy, and psychological horror to tell stories about the human condition. It can be tough to decide where to start with this series, which has all but season four streaming on Netflix. Check out Serling’s favorite episodes, “Time Enough at Last” and “The Invaders,” if you’re looking for an entryway into the show; “To Serve Man” and “It’s a Good Life” are also excellent starting points. A new series has been commissioned by CBS for 2019, run by Get Out‘s Jordan Peele.
For those who have finished all nine seasons of The Office but want more from the same brilliant minds of writers will have to check out Parks and Recreation if you haven’t already. Developed by Greg Daniels (The Office) and Michael Schur (a writer on The Office, creator of The Good Placeand Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Parks and Rec started life as a spin-off to The Office before being developed into its own thing. The series follows Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), the deputy director of the Parks and Rec department in Pawnee, Indiana, as she attempts to use her powers in the government to turn her town into a better place to live. Much like The Office, the first season of Parks and Rec is a rough start to what would eventually become an incredible series, with the writers refocusing Poehler’s character behind the scenes to make her more intelligent between the first and second seasons. Where The Office can occasionally seem cold or cruel, Parks and Rec has a massive, beating heart under the series, filled with compassion and humor. With an all-star cast including Aziz Ansari, Chris Pratt, Adam Scott, Aubrey Plaza, Rashida Jones, and Nick Offerman, this is absolutely a must-see series.
The Magicians takes an adult, intensely cynical look at the tropes of some famous children’s fantasy books. Quentin Coldwater (Jason Ralph) is a graduate student addicted to a Narnia-type book series, who discovers the world of the books is more than just escapism. He ends up at an elite school for young magicians (sound familiar?), makes a bunch of misfit friends, and ends up transported to the universe of his favorite fantasy novels. Meanwhile his childhood friend Julia (Stella Maeve) breaks into the world of magic by less traditional means. Three seasons are currently streaming on the service, with season four now airing on SyFy.
Often considered the best of The CW’s Arrowverse shows, The Flash was the second DC show created by Greg Berlanti and his team of writers, following the success of Arrow. The show has a lighter tone than its older sibling, using The Flash’s humor to its advantage to tell the story of how Barry Allen became The Flash. Glee‘s Grant Gustin stars as Allen, a forensics expert who is struck by lightning following an explosion in the S.T.A.R. Labs particle accelerator. When he awakens following a nine-month coma, he discovers he can move at a superhuman speed, and becomes the superhero known as The Flash. The first two seasons were critically-acclaimed upon release; the third season also received positive reviews, albeit slightly lesser thanks to a messy multiple-universe plot. The first five seasons are currently streaming on Netflix, and the show has been renewed for a sixth season to air in the fall.
One of The CW’s most popular shows of the last few years, The 100 is based on the 2013 book series of the same name, and follows a group of young post-apocalyptic survivors as they explore Earth for the first time. Set 97 years after a nuclear apocalypse wiped much of the life off of Earth, the remaining members of humanity survive on a space station orbiting Earth, known as “The Ark.” In order to test the habitability of the planet, one hundred juvenile delinquents are sent from the ship to the surface of the Earth, and discover that plenty can change in a century. The show’s early seasons received positive reviews, with some calling the show one of television’s best guilty pleasures. The third season received critical praise, and the first four seasons of the show are streaming on Netflix. Season five premiered in April on the CW and is now streaming on Netflix; a sixth season is on the way for next year.
Often considered one of the best television shows ever made, Breaking Bad follows a supposedly mild-mannered chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with terminal cancer and decides to make some quick money by putting his chemistry knowledge to good use: cooking meth. The show features incredible performances from the lead actors, amazing cinematography and direction, and some tough questions about human nature. Bryan Cranston, then fresh off his comic turn on both Seinfeld and Malcolm in the Middle, stars as Walter White in a star-making performance, with Aaron Paul as his assistant Jesse Pinkman and Anna Gunn as his wife, Skyler. The entire series is currently streaming.
Star Trek as a franchise has now seen six distinct live-action series aired on television and the web (Discovery recently ended its first season and has been renewed for a second) and thirteen feature films (with a planned fourteenth from director Quentin Tarantino sometime in the future), and somehow, The Next Generation is still considered the crown jewel in the entire franchise. Though the first season of TNG is a slow start, the series eventually became acclaimed by critics around the country for its take on human problems in a science-fiction setting. Starring Patrick Stewart (X-Men, the Royal Shakespeare Company) and an ensemble cast (including LeVar Burton and a young Wil Wheaton), the show uses the original ideas behind Star Trek and helps bring them into a new decade, complete with improved effects and sets and better acting. The show won 19 Emmy awards during its run, and remains the only syndicated show to be nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series.
Unlike other crime-based shows on network television, American Crime has much more in common with its anthology brethren on cable. The series focuses on a new crime each season, spinning out and displaying the effects on everyone involved. John Ridley, the series’ creator, previously penned the screenplay for 12 Years a Slave, and has received acclaim for his work on the show. Much like similar anthology series like American Horror Story, multiple actors appear throughout different seasons as different characters. The show both won and was nominated for several Emmys over the course of its three seasons on air, and all three seasons of the show are available to watch on Netflix.
Sometimes referred to as the “best show you haven’t seen,” Rectify might even be a show you haven’t heard of. It aired on the SundanceTV network over four seasons from 2013 to 2016, a premium cable channel that is only in about 50 percent of households in the United States, but all four seasons are currently streaming on Netflix. The show follows Daniel Holden (played by Aden Young), a man imprisoned as a teenager for the rape and murder of his girlfriend Hanna. After spending 19 years on death row, DNA evidence from his trial contradicts the prosecution’s case, and Holden is allowed to return home to Paulie, Georgia, where he grew up. The show also stars Abigail Spencer (Mad Men) as his sister Amantha and J. Cameron Smith as his mother Janet. The show is a southern gothic drama, slowly unfolding over four seasons, and made several best-of lists during its entire run.
During the State of the Union, a single individual is chosen to stay behind in a physically distant, secure, and undisclosed location when the entire government meets in one area. When Thomas Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) is chosen to the the designated survivor for this year’s State of the Union, he plans to spend the night watching the meeting on television and hanging out in a protected area. That all changes when an explosion destroys the Capitol Building, claiming the lives of everyone involved. When Kirkman is immediately sworn in as President of the United States, he quickly learns that the worst of the attack on the nation is yet to come, as he attempts to rebuild the government and take control of the country as quickly and safely as possible. The show was cancelled on ABC after two seasons, but recently jumped ship to Netflix, where it was saved for a third season. All three seasons are now streaming.
Spawning from the CollegeHumor series of the same name, Adam Ruins Everything is a hit show on TruTV that follows Adam Conover as he tries to deconstruct misconceptions, myths, and lies surrounding a specific concept or idea in each episode. A great mix of educational fun and humor, Adam Ruins Everything makes for a great binge in the background, as Adam and his friends on the show provide peer-reviewed articles and sources to back up their claims. Although not perfect, Adam Ruins Everything can be a lot of fun, and with a collection of 20 episodes from the series’ entire history now streaming on Netflix (albeit out of order), it’s easy to find some truths in the show.
A cult hit that gained popularity thanks in part to Netflix, Schitt’s Creek is a show you’ve probably only heard about in the last year or two, despite having aired five seasons since 2015. The show follows the Rose family, a wealthy clan that includes video store magnate Johnny (Eugene Levy), his wife and former soap opera actress Moira (Catherine O’Hara), and their adult children David and Alexis (Daniel Levy and Annie Murphy), who lose their fortune after being defrauded by their business manager. They are forced to rebuild their lives with their sole remaining asset: a small town named Schitt’s Creek, which they had bought their son as a joke birthday gift back in 1991. The Roses relocate to Schitt’s Creek, moving into two adjacent rooms in a run-down motel. As the family adjusts to their new lives, their well-to-do attitudes come into conflict with the more provincial residents of Schitt’s Creek, including mayor Roland Schitt (Chris Elliott), his wife Jocelyn (Jenn Robertson), and the motel’s manager, Stevie (Emily Hampshire).