Almost a year has past since we made our first Netflix originals top 10 list, and we thought that, with the unprecedented speed of Netflix’s releases, it was a good time to check back in. To qualify for our list, the series has to be original to Netflix, so continuations of shows like The Killing, the upcoming Black Mirror, and Arrested Development don’t count, nor do shows in which Netflix merely owns the US rights, like Between and Lillehammer. We are also aware that several other great looking originals will be heading to Netflix over the years, this list is representative of shows currently on the service. Just as is this case with this list, we will update to newer lists as more new shows come out. Our original Top 10 List of Netflix originals from last year can be found here. So without further ado, this week’s Top 10 Tuesday explores Netflix Original Series.
10. Bojack Horseman
Netflix’s entry into the adult oriented animated comedy game, borrows the comic tragedy styling of comedies like Louie, in order to tell a sad, yet funny, story about a washed up Actor. Bojack himself seems largely modeled on Full House Father Bob Saget, who struggled to break away from his family sitcom roots.
09. Wet Hot American Summer
14 years after the release of the cult classic film Wet Hot American Summer, Netflix debuted a prequel that somehow managed to bring back nearly the entire original cast (including current big hitters like Bradley Cooper and Paul Rudd) and even expand upon it with significant guest roles (including Mad Men star, and recent Emmy winner Jon Hamm). As for the series itself, it can best be described as profoundly absurd and hilarious. It is highly recommended that you check out the original movie first, which is also available on Netflix. This entry refers to Wet hot American Summer: First day at Camp. A sequel series, Wet Hot American Summer: 10 Years Later, is coming in 2017.
08. Grace and Frankie
Legendary actresses Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin play the wives of 2 long time friends and law partners who leave their wives for each other. Grace and Frankie has a lot in common with Amazon’s Transparent, in that they are both about families (with adult children) who must come to terms with significant lifestyle changes for their fathers. Though in Grace and Frankie, the focus is primarily on the wives, who struggle with accepting their former husbands’ choice to leave them for a member of the same sex, while also dealing with the utter chaos it has spun their lives into at such late ages. Season 2 continued the story with a stronger focus on Grace and Frankie moving forward with their lives as well as the first major hiccup in the marriage of their ex husbands to each other.
07. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Tina Fey’s follow up to her beloved NBC series 30 Rock is loaded with charm and fun. Despite a rather dark backstory, the series is never heavy, providing a fast paced, fun, and quirky adventure. In Kimmy, the titular character is rescued (along with her 3 sister wives) from a doomsday cult. Having been told the world had ended, the 4 woman spent 15 years in an underground bunker. Brought into the cult at the age of 14, everything in the modern world is fresh and new to our protagonist. Kimmy must now secure a job, a place to live, and a purpose in life. Season 2 continued the hilarity with Titus’ protested one man show, and Kimmy’s stress burps.
06. Orange is the New Black
Netflix’s first monster hit, Orange is the New Black comes to us from Weeds Showrunner Jenji Kohan, who uses a story of an upper middle class white woman going to prison for a sin from her past, as an introduction to a true ensemble story about women in prison. The events are mostly light hearted, though with provocative lessons. Many of the characters begin as absurd, larger than life, and cartoonish characters, before flashbacks and current story events flesh them out into real, and sympathetic, humans. While the tone is mostly light and fun, their is a weight of institutionalism that is palpable, and the characters often face messy obstructions to their own well being and peace. Season 4 of the series was its darkest yet with the prison overcrowded and privatized, which leads to heart breakingly tragic results.
This Netflix series about the hunt for Pablo Escobar initially caught my attention when they cast Pedro Pascal in the series, directly following his stunning work in Game of Thrones. Narcos, which was beautifully shot on location in Columbia, and is largely presented in Spanish with English subtitles, is a surprisingly fun telling of a time of great violence and corruption. Using narration to educate us on the finer details, Narcos moves at an impressively brisk pace, while embracing the excess of its 1980s setting. Narcos often feels like the more fun criminal elements of Breaking Bad. While the series can often become quite dark in its own right, the characters pop with so much charisma that you can’t help but smile as you watch. Season 2 is just over a week away, and promises a conclusion to the Pablo Escobar story.
The first of Netflix’s 5 series deal with Marvel, Daredevil explores a darker, grittier, street level aspect of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Blind Lawyer Matt Murdock has a secret, he fights crime by night. In a city recovering from the vast destruction of the first Avengers movie, Murdock is protecting the people with the law, and also around it. Perhaps the biggest strength of the series, though, is Vincent D’Onofrio’s portrayal of legendary Marvel villain Wilson Fisk, AKA Kingpin. D’Onofrio is an intimidating presence, and perhaps the best villain in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. So why is our previous top pick now in 4th place? 2 reasons, apply. First we were impressed with the personal story of Jessica Jones, and felt that it deserved a higher spot, which, in turn, makes Jessica Jones our leader in all things Marvel/Netflix hype. Also, the second season of Daredevil, while rich with many strengths, was lesser than it’s first season overall. We still love Daredevil, and the Marvel/Netflix universe, but Daredevil has slipped a bit.
Perhaps the most divisive on this list, Sense8, which comes to us from the Wachowski siblings, is a wildly ambitious series with an ensemble cast. Sense8’s first season filmed in 8 countries, including South Korea, India, and Germany. The story of Sense8 focuses on groups of people called clusters that are psychically linked to each other. As the series starts, the cluster of our protagonists is activated. An evil organization is out to find and capture them, and a man from another cluster is out to save them. People within a cluster can visit each other psychically, and even share abilities and skills. But this larger plot is secondary to the real draw of the show, which is the interesting characters and how they connect with each other, and themselves, emotionally. Season 2 has been confirmed, but has yet to claim a time frame for its return. We look forward to the return of Netflix’s most ambitious series.
02. Jessica Jones
Of course a Marvel series had to be high on our list. We love Marvel, and we love Daredevil, so it is no surprise that we also love Jessica Jones. Many are probably angry that we picked Jones over Daredevil for this list (not to mention bumping Daredevil to 4th place), but for us it is all about the personal story of Jessica Jones. Marvel told a beautiful story about a damaged woman confronting her tormentor, and in doing so, finding the agency to move on. Jessica Jones is a story about the fallout of rape. Though there is literal rape at the backbone of the story, the more interesting aspect is the way in which the use of Killgrave’s power in general acts as a rape allegory. This is made especially apparent when we begin to see Killgrave’s own perspective. He isn’t an evil mastermind, he is a damaged, angry, and selfish child in a man’s body, with a poor understanding of the damage he inflicts on others. Jones was able to adress this side without ever giving Killgrave an out. Regardless of the way he saw things, regardless of his own past, Killgrave routinely robbed others of their free will to often tragic ends. Jessica Jones doesn’t just stand as a great personal comic book TV show, but as a great exploration of the morals that must attach themselves to great power.
01. Stranger Things
So what can best Marvel’s 1-2 punch of Daredevil and Jessica Jones? How about the best paced series Netflix has ever made? An effortlessly binge-able helping of nostalgia that never relies on its most notable trick (the nostalgia play) to hold itself up as a truly great series. After binging through the first 8 episode season of Stranger Things, the first thing that came to my mind was how easy it would be to jump right in for a second viewing, something I have not done for any Netflix series. In many ways, Stranger Things is the perfect example of Netflix’s all-at-once format. The entirety of Stranger things is like a super dense movie that continues to unfold in your head after you complete it. It has always been Netflix’s intention, with their original series, that fans binge it, and the model has always been compared to the release of a book, or described as a long movie. That being said, Stranger Things feels like the first Netflix Original to really nail the format. Besides the format, the series has a fantastic cast portraying iconic and memorable characters. Stranger Things strikes a near perfect balance of its component parts, humor, adventure, horror, and drama. All of which makes it our top pick on this top 10 list of Netflix Originals.
What is your favorite Netflix original series? Tell us in our comments, and stay tuned to TVEnthusiast for more coverage of Netflix, its originals, and all of your other favorite shows.