‘Tis the season to Netflix and chill. You’ve got some time off work or off school or off college or whatever you do, and you’ve found yourself with a lot of spare time on your hands. Maybe you could go out and get some fresh air? No, it’s far too cold for that. So, what are you going to do instead? Time to fire up Netflix and binge-watch some of their terrific original programming. Time to catch up on some of those shows you’ve been hearing about at the water cooler that you haven’t managed to get around to watching yet. When you start back in January, you’ll be all caught up and have a lot of observations and opinions to share at the water cooler. But there’s nowhere near enough time to watch all of them – even if you didn’t have a job or school to go to. So, how do you pick which one you’re going to watch? There’s so many to choose from! Well, we’ve decided to help you out a little bit by narrowing it down to the best ones. So, here are the 15 best Netflix original series for you to binge over the Christmas break!
15. The Crown
Season 2 of The Crown has just been released, which makes this winter the perfect time to catch up. At last year’s Emmy Awards, this fact-based historical drama was nominated for Outstanding Drama Series, and it’ll likely be nominated for it again this year. Shot in stunning 4K, the show tells the story of Queen Elizabeth II’s journey to the throne. She’s played by Claire Foy, who gives a phenomenal performance alongside her co-stars Matt Smith, who plays Prince Philip, and John Lithgow, who stands out in particular as Winston Churchill. In its first season, it was the most expensive TV series ever made with a budget of £100 million, but as soon as it was released, a Guardian critic wrote that Netflix could “rest assured” that the investment had “paid off.” Go binge it.
14. F is for Family
If you like the comedy of Bill Burr, you should definitely watch this show. If you’re not quite sure who he is or you’ve never seen his comedy, then you should still definitely watch it. In this 1970s set animated laugh-a-thon, Burr stars as Frank Murphy, the providing father for a working class family that includes his supportive domestic goddess wife, his lazy, slacker, wannabe rock star son, his straight-laced, nerdy other son, and his sweet, unassuming daughter. Burr’s masterful style of rage comedy combines perfectly with the universal frustrations of Frank to make for a show that’s hilarious, enjoyable, relatable, and at times even heartwarming. There’s two seasons so far – 16 episodes total – so you could easily binge-watch your way through them in a day or two, and then you’ll be all geared up for season 3 when it’s released next year.
13. Santa Clarita Diet
No one was really that bothered about Santa Clarita Diet when it was first announced as a suburban comedy about a mother whose life is changed when she adopts a new diet. However, right before the first season was released, Netflix revealed the USP that suddenly make this show an exciting prospect – that new diet? It’s people! She’s a cannibal! There’s 10 episodes to catch up on before next year’s season 2 is released, and it’s definitely worth a watch. It’s a funny, gory, bloody good comeback for Drew Barrymore, who stars alongside Justified’s great Timothy Olyphant. The critics agree: they said that “Santa Clarita Diet serves up an excellent cast, frequent laughs, and an engaging premise.” So, be sure to spend one of your days over the Christmas break binging season 1.
12. Grace and Frankie
Season 4 is coming in January, so you’d better catch up on the first three over the winter season. Grace and Frankie is a great show for giving representation to older people, with a central focus on two women of a certain age, who move in together after their husbands reveal they’ve been enjoying a homosexual relationship with each other for decades. It also stars some of the biggest A-list names from yesteryear – Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Martin Sheen, and Sam Waterston – so if you’re the nostalgic type, you’ll be right in your element. It’s a really funny show (you wouldn’t expect any less from comedy legend Lily Tomlin) and if you find the time to binge the 39 episodes that are currently in the Netflix circulation, you most certainly won’t regret it.
11. House of Cards
House of Cards has been tarnished recently, but if you’re able to overlook the recent allegations made against its star Kevin Spacey that have gotten him booted from the show for its final season, then you’ll really enjoy it. Spacey’s character Frank Underwood stands alongside the likes of Walter White, Tony Soprano, and Don Draper as the flawed and conflicted protagonist of the show. He’ll do anything to get ahead in the great game of politics – even kill. He also talks directly to the camera, to let us into his dark world. Again, the show is kind of ruined now, thanks to the allegations against Spacey, but again, if you’re able to leave your conscience at the door and overlook them, you’re in for a hell of a binge.
10. Orange is the New Black
Female-centric prison comedy drama Orange is the New Black was one of Netflix’s very first original series, and it’s also one of their best. Since the original programming is what’s gotten Netflix a lot of its new subscribers over the last couple of years, some of you may have missed Orange is the New Black. Well, it’s winter now and you’ve got some time off, so it might be time to finally get around to catching up. There are five seasons up on Netflix so far, with a sixth and seventh both on their way, so you’d better get a wiggle on with the 65 episodes already out. The great thing about Orange is the New Black is that the pretty white girl in the lead role, Piper Chapman, is used as what series creator Jenji Kohan describes as a “Trojan horse” to take a mainstream audience into a show that represents certain minority groups and demographics (trans people, people of color etc.) that you wouldn’t normally get to see on television. So, if you consider yourself to be pretty woke, you’ll want to binge-watch OITNB ASAP.
Love, a Judd Apatow production, starts off like any romcom. The end of the first episode sees a meet-cute between the two leads, Paul Rust and Gillian Jacobs, and the rest of the show gives us a look at their relationship. However, since this is a long-running, ongoing, serialized TV series and not a 90-minute movie, the writers – Rust, Apatow, and Lesley Arfin – didn’t have to follow the trite clichés and conventions of the genre, and they could actually take a deep and realistic look at dating. Rotten Tomatoes called its first season “an honest look at building a relationship, helped along by its two appealing leads,” and says that its second season “treads the balance between comedy and drama with greater confidence, going deeper into the endearing, frustrating, delightfully realistic relationship of Mickey and Gus.” Season 3 is on its way. Happy binging!
Narcos has been a huge hit for Netflix. It tells the story of the search for Pablo Escobar, the notorious Colombian drug lord who made millions manufacturing cocaine and was beloved in his community for giving back to them and sharing his wealth with the townspeople. IGN wrote of the first season that Narcos is “a true-to-life account, sometimes to a fault, of the rise of Pablo Escobar and the hunt that brought him down laced with stellar performances and tension-filled stand-offs. Its blend of archival footage reminds us that the horrors depicted really happened, but also manage to present an Escobar that is indefensible but frighteningly sympathetic.” Season 4 is on its way, but until then, over the cold coming weeks, you can catch up on the first three.
While the premise of Ozark might sound like a familiar rehash of Breaking Bad (a family man accountant working with a Mexican drug cartel must repay his business partner’s debts), the show itself has a wholly original tone and protagonist. The lead character Marty, played by Jason Bateman in a refreshingly dramatic role, has a very specific anger problem and way of dealing with crises that makes him stand out in the sea of flawed TV antiheroes that Walter White and Tony Soprano left in their wake. The story itself takes weird and jaw-dropping turns – you can never see what’s coming next. There’s only one season so far (with a second on the way), so you can catch this one early with a nice, manageable number of episodes to get through.
GLOW is a female-centric comedy series about a marginalized female actor (played by Alison Brie) who can’t get a good role in Hollywood until she takes part in an all-female wrestling team led by Sam Sylvia (played by podcasting legend and veteran standup comic Marc Maron). From the teams behind Nurse Jackie and Orange is the New Black and with Community’s Brie and Britney Young from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Better Things in front of the camera, GLOW is backed by some serious female comic talent. And don’t forget Maron, whose particular brand of cynical rage comedy fits his role as Sam Sylvia perfectly. This winter season, you should definitely binge-watch what Entertainment Weekly described as “a silly-smart masterpiece, with an ensemble cast entirely made up of breakout characters.”
5. Big Mouth
Puberty was never so funny. Big Mouth is an animated comedy series with an adult sense of humor that brings back all those painful memories about hormones and periods and masturbation and porn in hilarious fashion. It’s a relatively new show with only one season under its belt, so now is the best time to jump in. The series’ comedy combines the sensibilities, stylings, and personal experiences of Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Jennifer Flackett, and Mark Levin. What’s great about Big Mouth is that it shows the teenage experience from both a male and female perspective, so no one’s left out and everyone can enjoy the show. Its crowning achievement is Maurice the Hormone Monster, the physical personification of teenage sexual urges who appears whenever anyone gets an unwanted boner or some strange feelings. He’s great.
4. Jessica Jones
Netflix finally announced the release date for the second season of Jessica Jones as March 8, 2018 the other day, and fans are getting excited. Jessica Jones is easily the greatest of all the Marvel series on Netflix, as it delves into darker territory than all the others. It tells the story of a private eye, played by Breaking Bad’s Krysten Ritter, who has superpowers and a tragic backstory and a drinking problem (so, part Superman, part McNulty). Every show tries to be about an antihero these days, but there’s no antihero quite as “anti” as Jessica Jones, and that’s what makes her so compelling. Plus, the show deals with difficult subjects like rape, sexuality, assault, addiction, and PTSD in a really engaging way, so with any hope, it’ll broaden your horizons as well as entertain you. So, get a-bingin’.
3. Master of None
The critics aren’t lying about Master of None. It’s not some big conspiracy. All the great things you have heard about Aziz Ansari’s romantic comedy series are a hundred percent true. The critics have called Master of None “refreshingly offbeat,” “very funny,” “unique,” “smart,” “engaging,” “ambitious,” “surprising,” and “exceptionally executed with charm, humor, and heart.” Not a single one of them is wrong. It’s an amazingly romantic and enthralling and hysterial show. If you loved Tom Haverford in Parks and Recreation (which, of course, you did), then you’ll love seeing him take center stage in a show that’s even funnier, even more emotional, and even more beautifully shot (seriously, whoever’s directing this thing has the visionary eyes of a Kubrick or a Fellini – it’s phenomenal).j
2. BoJack Horseman
When it comes to BoJack Horseman, Netflix’s first animated original series, you come for the comedy side and stay for the drama side. The comedy side is a silly showbiz satire with an absurdist sense of humor and some wacky antics, with a cast of comedy greats like Will Arnett, Alison Brie, and Paul F. Tompkins. But the drama side is what’s really important. It’s engaging and emotionally affecting and beautiful. BoJack is a talking horse, and yet he’s somehow the most human character on television. He’s a narcissist who hates himself and only thinks about himself but doesn’t believe he is a good person. No matter how confident or sure of yourself you feel, BoJack Horseman will find the fragile spot and get to you.
1. Stranger Things
Inspired by the movies of John Carpenter and Steven Spielberg and the novels of Stephen King, the Duffer brothers created pop culture phenomenon Stranger Things, about a group of boys in Indiana in the 1980s who have their lives turned upside down (no pun intended) when a supernatural element escapes a government lab and their friend disappears. It’s unlikely that you haven’t seen Stranger Things yet, since it rivals Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead as the most popular show on TV, but if you haven’t, now is your chance to catch up and see what everyone’s talking about. There’s two seasons so far, with a third on the way and a fourth being planned as the last, so there’s never been a better time to jump in on the craze.