With nearly 150 million subscribers around the world, streaming goliath Netflix now accounts for 10% of total TV screen time in the United States. However, with both Disney and Apple trying to take a bite out of Netflix’s streaming service market share, that domination may not last forever.
That said, Netflix continues to win big in one specific department: original TV series. They’re easy to binge, compulsively watchable and, in some cases, permanently etching themselves into the pop culture lexicon. From comedies to thrillers and everything in between, there’s literally something on their platform (and on this list) for everyone.
Let’s break it down and dive into the 10 Netflix shows that you should be binge-watching right now. And if this particular list doesn’t satisfy your binge-watching needs for the weekend, take a look at this one here.
One of Netflix’s big triumphs to start 2019, Russian Doll is an interesting take on the “time loop” subgenre. It’s Groundhog Day meets long-form mystery, but the execution is anything but tired. The show is funny, relatable and boasts a star-making performance from Natasha Lyonne, one of the series’ co-creators alongside Amy Poehler and comedic writer-producer Leslye Headland.
Created in 2017, Big Mouth centers on best friends Nick and Andrew, two middle-schoolers who are hitting puberty and coping with all the angst, embarrassment and natural hilarity that ensues. Nick Kroll and John Mulaney lead a talented voice cast that includes Jessi Klein, Jordan Peele, Maya Rudolph and more through a ton of sexually explicit (but hilarious) jokes and, sometimes, even some musical numbers. Oh, and furry dongs. Lots of them.
Dear White People
It’s hard to separate Dear White People from the public outcry it’s been met with since its 2017 debut. However, the show’s creator, Justin Simien, is more intent on starting an insightful (at times uncomfortable) conversation about identity: “Any chance you get as a storyteller to make people see something that they never saw before, or to think in a new way — that’s the job,” he said in a 2018 New York Times interview.
It’s been called Netflix’s most binge-worthy show yet and, in the same way that Criminal Minds built a loyal following on CBS, that’s not a bad assertion. Creator Joe Penhall uses a stable of talented writers and directors – including Hollywood heavyweight David Fincher – to wade into the murky, horrifying minds of serial killers and, in the process, deliver undeniably compelling TV. In an age where true crime content is all the rage, Mindhunter is top-quality entertainment.
So I’ll admit, this is sort of a cheat; Peaky Blinders didn’t start out as a Netflix Original but was bought by the streaming giant just before its second season aired across the pond on the BBC. Now, it stands up as one of the most admired TV dramas of the decade. Featuring gritty action and some standout performances, including Batman Begins alum Cillian Murphy, Blinders is a series that your binge-watching alter-ego will thank you for discovering (or revisiting).
With the third season set to hit Netflix on July 4th, the anticipation couldn’t be higher for the continuation and ongoing exploration of the Stranger Things universe. Set in 1980s-era Indiana, the show features a uber-talented collection of young actors and screenwriting that knows how to ratchet up the tension and, at times, get under your skin in the best possible way. Here’s hoping creators Matt and Ross Duffer keep the momentum going with the upcoming batch of episodes.
On paper, a dramatized examination of the eponymous Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling doesn’t necessarily scream “hit Netflix series.” I’ll admit, I was one of the non-believers too – until I started watching. This nostalgia-soaked dramedy has a lot going for it: an energetic cast, some expertly choreographed sports stunt work and some seriously wretched 80’s hair. Gearing up for its third season, GLOW is a blast of a title worthy of adding to your queue.
This series technically came to an end after Season 3, with Netflix choosing to “reset” the story as a new show titled Narcos: Mexico. For me, the first two seasons are the reason why this original production is so high on my list, basing its spellbinding story off Pablo Escobar’s rise to prominence as a producer and distributor of cocaine. Things can get wild and bloody at times, but there’s no denying the pure craft that Narcos brings to the table.
Speaking of wild, there’s Black Mirror. While the lack of episode volume may mean you blitz through the entire series in a day or two, the former Channel 4 standout in the UK is arguably the most talked-about show in Netflix’s catalogue. It also helps that the streaming service plans to double down on the interactive show formula that Mirror brought to the table in its fourth season.
Season 5 can’t come soon enough for fans of the series (including me) but, as of this writing, no release date has been made official. Creator Charlie Brooker called the arrival of new episodes “imminent-ish,” whatever the f*ck that means. I guess we’ll all just have to sit, wait and let the fact that Miley Cyrus will make an appearance in the upcoming season stew for a while.
And now, we come to the crown jewel in Netflix’s excellent slate of original content: the funny, irreverent and completely original BoJack Horseman. Starring Will Arnett as the titular character, a washed-up 90’s sitcom star who now lives a sad, complaint-filled existence in Hollywood, the series is becoming known as much for its devastating moments of drama as it is for its reliably hilarious comedic writing.
Consider the premise for a through line in the show’s fifth season, where BoJack takes on a new acting role in a TV show that seems modeled after his life and, when it becomes a hit, has to come to terms with the fact that his narcissistic, sometimes ugly behavior is being romanticized by those watching him on screen. It’s a level of pathos and observation that few shows can lay claim to, animated or not, which is why it takes the top spot on my must-see list of Netflix originals.