Like so many streamers, Netflix has been instrumental in helping to keep us all sane during this latest lockdown – and if you know where to look, there are still new picks and hidden treasures left for viewers to stream.
Reality fans will also be pleased to hear RuPaul’s Drag Race is back for its 13th season, with new episodes released every Saturday on Netflix, while sunny shows such as Too Hot to Handle and Selling Sunset are always worth re-watching around this time.
Meanwhile true crime fans can watch the likes of Undercover and the streamer’s latest documentary, Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer.
With so much choice on offer, we’ve narrowed things down for you – here’s our list of the best series available to watch on Netflix right now.
Updated 19th January 2021
Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer
Directed by Tiller Russell, this latest true crime documentary series focuses not on Richard Ramirez, the serial killer who attained a cult following after his capture, but instead on his many victims.
The four-part series charts this “iconic L.A real-life horror story,” following the convicted Ramirez’s killing spree in Lose Angeles and San Francisco until he was apprehended in 1985. Prior to his capture and identification, he was dubbed the “Night Stalker”.
Starring Irene Azuela, this Mexican crime drama series follows a family vying for control of their tequila company, Monarca, worth billions. Adult daughter Ana María (Azuela) has been abroad for the past two decades (due to a mysterious, bloody reason), but she returns to Mexico at her father’s request.
The series also stars David Rencoret as ailing family patriarch Fausto Carranza, who picks Ana María as his successor over both her brothers (who understandably resent their father’s left-field pick). An easy binge-watch for those still waiting for Succession season three.
History of Swear Words
Nicolas Cage takes on the role of history teacher in this brand new series which does exactly what it says on the tin: each of the six episodes takes a common English language swear word and looks at its history, touching on the word’s origins, usage and cultural impact.
Cage is aided in his lesson plan by a series of experts in various fields including etymology, popular culture, history and entertainment – with appearances from famous faces including Nick Offerman and Sarah Silverman.
This brand new French crime drama stars Omar Sy (Jurassic World, X-Men: Days of Future Past) as Assane Diop, a teenager whose life is upended when his father died after being accused of a crime he did not commit. Twenty-five years later, now-janitor Diop attempts to pull off the ultimate heist: stealing Marie Antoinette’s necklace from The Louvre.
Featuring an all-star cast of French talent, Lupin is a five-part series inspired by the adventures of fictional thief Arsène Lupin that makes for a gripping, entertaining and ultimately binge-worthy watch.
Back to Life
This dark comedy, which first aired on BBC One back in 2019, stars creator Daisy Haggard (Episodes, Breeders) as Miri Matteson, an optimistic 30-something who returns to her Kent family home after serving 18 years in prison.
With a stellar cast including the likes of Adeel Akhtar (Killing Eve), Geraldine James (Sherlock Holmes), Jo Martin (Doctor Who) and Liam Williams (Ladhood), Back to Life is a captivating tragicomedy featuring a phenomenal performance from the incredibly underrated Haggard.
If you haven’t yet binge-watched Shonda Rhimes’ latest period drama Bridgerton, what on earth are you waiting for? The sumptuous (and bodice-ripping) Regency-era drama is on track to becoming one of the most-watched original Netflix television shows ever.
Narrated by none other than Julie Andrews (who voices an anonymous gossip writer, Lady Whistledown), the series follows the beautiful and exclusive clan, and has received praise for its gorgeous costumes and innovative Bridgerton soundtrack.
This powerful, occasionally upsetting teen drama is set at Brooklyn’s largest public high school, and sees a suicide bomb detonate close to the school in episode one, resulting in a tense day for students stuck inside.
Odessa A’zion plays our heroine Joey Del Marco, a popular, cool queen bee who’s known for her body positivity and who hopes to become the school’s dance captain – but instead endures a deeply harrowing storyline.
German historical drama Barbarians was renewed for a second season in November 2020, so now is the perfect time to catch up on the series so far.
Set in 9AD, we follow the fictional Armenius (Laurence Rupp), an ‘eques’ and relatively high-ranking soldier in the Roman Imperial army, who was gifted to Rome as a child and who eventually returns to his homeland, Germania, to help maintain Roman order.
However, when he witnesses the atrocities carried out against her former people, his loyalties are severely tested.
Some of the greatest songwriters on the planet join host Hrishikesh Hirway and Oscar-winning filmmaker Morgan Neville to deconstruct one of their finest songs. Based on the acclaimed podcast of the same name, each episode of Song Exploder features one star revealing how they brought one of their songs to life.
Included in the first season is 15-time Grammy Award-winning artist, songwriter and producer Alicia Keys, Pulitzer Prize, Grammy, Emmy, and Tony Award-winning composer, lyricist, and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda, Rock & Roll Hall of Famers R.E.M., and Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter and producer Ty Dolla $ign who discusses the inspiration behind LA.
Tiny Pretty Things
Based on the book by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton, Tiny Pretty Things is set in the world of an elite ballet academy and charts the rise and fall of young adults who live far from their homes, each standing on the verge of greatness or ruin.
The Archer School of Ballet in Chicago is a haven for an array of dancers: rich and poor, from north and south, and a range of backgrounds.
The show runner is Canadian Queer as Folk director Michael MacLennan and 10-part Tiny Pretty Things is destined to be another hit for Netflix, especially for a younger audience.
Room 2806: The Accusation
Netflix has long established itself as an expert when it comes to true crime limited series, and the latest in that regard is this four-episode documentary about a scandal involving the French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn in 2011, a former IMF managing director who was accused of multiple serious sexual assaults starting in 2011.
The first accusation against Strauss-Kahn was made by Nafissatou Diallo, a housemaid at a New York hotel, and that accusation forms the basis of the series, although the prosecution’s case collapsed before trial. As you’d expect from a Netflix true crime documentary, numerous subjects are interviewed as the case is examined in great detail, with viewers largely left to come to their own conclusions based on the evidence included in the programme.
The fourth season of this raunchy animated comedy arrived on Netflix earlier this month with its stellar voice cast including Nick Kroll, John Mulaney, Jason Mantzoukas, Jordan Peele and Maya Rudolph reprising their roles for another outrageous outing.
Big Mouth follows teens Nick (Kroll), Andrew (Mulaney) and Jessi (Jessi Klein) as they struggle through puberty, battling with various hormone monsters, shame wizards and most recently, anxiety mosquitos as they try to make it through high school. With guest stars such as Paul Giamatti, John Oliver, Thandie Newton, Seth Rogan, Kristen Bell and David Thewlis popping up throughout, this crude comedy is definitely worth binging.
We are the Champions
This fun documentary series takes a look at some of the stranger sports to be played competitively – which range from the slightly quirky to the downright bizarre – while giving an interesting insight into the often very passionate communities that play them.
Each episode is roughly 30-minutes long and focuses on a different sport, with some of those featured including competitive cheese rolling, frog jumping, and even fantasy hairstyling. The series is narrated by former The Office star Rainn Wilson, who is also an executive producer.
The highly bingeable romantic drama series set in the fictional remote Californian town of the same name recently returned for a second series, which has instantly proved just as popular as the first with fans. The series tells the story of Mel (Alexandra Breckenridge) a nurse practitioner who arrives in Virgin River looking for a fresh start after leaving her life in Los Angeles behind.
Call My Agent
This French comedy series recently came to an end after running for four seasons, the first three of which are currently available on Netflix. The show revolves around the fictional Samuel Kerr talent agency and its four agents Andrea, Mathias, Gabriel, and Arlette, who each attempt to defend their vision of the business. The private and professional lives of the agents often cause conflict, while their job is made all the more difficult by the sudden death of the agency’s founder.
The series has also included guest appearances from some titans of French cinema, including Juliet Binnoche, Isabelle Huppert and Jean Dujardin.
Dutch-language crime thriller Undercover follows (no prizes here) two undercover agents who infiltrate a drug lord’s operation.
In a twist reminiscent of The Americans, the pair of undercover agents, Bob Lemmens (Tom Waes) and Kim de Rooij (Anna Drijver), pose as a couple, and begin living at the camping ground where their target spends his weekends.
The series is also inspired by a true crime story: the arrest of Janus van W, a real-life drug lord from the Netherlands, who lived in a chalet in Belgium before he was arrested by undercover agents.
The first original Brazilian series on Netflix, 3% is set in a dystopian world that has been sharply divided into progress, and devastation.
Worlds apart, the two sides named Offshore (where civilisation and advanced medicine awaits) and Inland are linked only ‘The Process’, a system where Inlanders have a chance of earning a place Offshore – but the pass rate is only 3 per cent.
The eight-part thriller follows a group of 20-year-old Inlanders take their first and only opportunity to complete the Process, including Fernando Carvalho (Michel Gomes), a wheelchair user who is derided by many of the others, but who has been raised by his father with a singular purpose: to compete the Process.
One of Netflix’s flagship shows across the globe, The Crown is reported to also be one of the most expensive television shows ever made.
The glossy and sumptuous drama from the pen of Peter Morgan (The Queen and Frost/Nixon), the drama aims to chart the life and times of Queen Elizabeth II over several seasons, with some deliberately planned resets and cast changes to “age” the cast where time moves forward.
The first two seasons starred Claire Foy and Matt Smith as Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, with Olivia Colman and Tobias Menzies taking over the same key roles for the third and (brand new) fourth seasons.
A really compelling watch, it gives some insight (and plenty of artistic licence) into the lives of one of the most famous families ever to have lived, with the latest episodes delving into the relationship between Prince Charles and Lady Diana
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Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House of Fun
No, Aunty Donna is not a single person but rather a comedy troupe hailing from Melbourne, Australia who have amassed a large online fanbase for their absurd comedy skits.
Big Ol’ House of Fun is a new sketch comedy series that marks their first foray into streaming television and critics have heaped praise on the venture, which includes satire, parody, and even comedic musical numbers.
Don’t just take our word for it either: the calibre of the guest stars is a shining reflection of Aunty Donna’s strong reputation, with the likes of Ed Helms (The Hangover), Antony Starr (The Boys), Jack Quaid (The Boys) and Paul F Tompkins (Bojack Horseman) appearing across the six-part series.
The Thick of It
In an age where real-life political headlines often seem like they could be taken out of a TV show, Armando Iannucci’s incredibly sharp satire of party politics and cabinet ministers remains an absolute must-watch. One of the best British sitcoms of the last twenty years, the series led to a follow-up movie, In the Loop, and a US version also created by Iannucci – the multiple Emmy Award-winning Veep.
The series also gave us the gift of foul mouth spin doctor Malcolm Tucker, played with relish by the excellent Peter Capaldi, a character who probably did more for the art of inventive swearing than any in the history of television. Other stars include Chris Addison, Rebecca Front and Chris Langham.
Dash & Lily
Fans of a good old Christmas romcom will love Dash & Lily – Netflix’s new eight-part series in which two strangers with completely different outlooks on life exchange message in a notebook they pass back and forth across New York City.
Based on David Levithan and Rachel Cohn’s novel Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares and starring Austin Abrams (The Walking Dead) as the cynical, Christmas-hating Dash and Midori Francis (Divorce) as the ever-optimistic Lily, this charming romcom bears the hallmarks of many YA adaptations before its time but is bound to get all those who watch it firmly in the festive mood.
My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman
Legendary talk show host David Letterman is back to chat to some of the biggest names in showbiz in the third season of his Netflix series My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.
From music sensation Lizzo and ground-breaking comic Dave Chappelle, to Marvel star Robert Downey Jr and TV personality extraordinaire Kim Kardashian West, the series features interviews with some of the most relevant names in pop culture, conducted by the seasoned Letterman who isn’t afraid to ask the hard-hitting questions whilst maintaining the show’s humorous atmosphere.
The End of the F***ing World
Season two of the BAFTA Award-winning dark comedy hits Netflix, with Alyssa (Jessica Barden, The Lobster) still dealing with the fallout of the events of the first series. The second series sees the introduction of the new character of Bonnie, played by BIFA-winning Naomi Ackie (Lady Macbeth, Star Wars: Episode IX), an outsider with a troubled past and a mysterious connection to Alyssa.
But where is James (Alex Lawther) and who owns the mysterious red car that seems to be following Alyssa? And wait… what! She’s getting married? There are so many questions about the twisted developments at the end of season one but don’t be expecting any easy answers.
A Rotten Tomatoes critique says of season two: “What it lacks in urgency it makes up for in character development, diving deep into the darkest creases of the leading pair’s memories to emerge a darkly funny meditation on love and trauma.”
Season two of The End of the F***ing World won the BAFTA TV Award for best drama in 2020, while Ackie picked up the BAFTA for best supporting actress.
Love & Anarchy
The eight-part Swedish series is the story of a career-driven consultant and married mother of two, Sofie, who takes on a new challenge: to update an old publishing house, which is where she meets a young IT wiz Max. They begin flirting, an unexpected relationship which quickly develops as they begin to secretly challenge each other to do things that question modern-day life.
It starts innocently enough, but as the game escalates the consequences grow beyond anything they had imagined. Be warned: Sofie is a no-holds-barred type of woman and the odd comedy-drama is raunchy, to say the least.
Carmel: Who Killed Maria Marta?
One of Argentina’s most famous and controversial true crime cases, the documentary-series follows the case of María Marta García Belsunce, a 50-year-old woman who is found dead in her bathtub, with a puddle of blood nearby.
The four-part series investigates how her husband and medical professionals believed that she had hit her head by accident and drowned. In fact, the autopsy listed the cause as “non-traumatic cardiac arrest”. But Maria’s family weren’t convinced and sought a new investigation, which revealed a very different cause of death…
This four-part series originally aired on Channel 4 back in 2002, but was recently added to Netflix. Adapted from the award-winning novel of the same name by Zadie Smith, the series tells the story of three different families whose lives are interwoven across more than 20 years.
The impressive cast included early roles for Naomie Harris and James McAvoy while the series attracted significant praise from critics at the time of its broadcast, hailed as a must-watch piece of television. Almost 20 years later it remains a powerful and engaging piece of work.
In Netflix’s Arthurian fantasy series Cursed, Katherine Langford (Knives Out, 13 Reasons Why) plays Nimue, a young woman “cursed” with magical abilities and who is destined to become the legendary Lady of the Lake.
Determined to protect her people the Fey and save them from the persecution of the Red Paladins, Nimue teams up with a young mercenary, the sellsword Arthur (played by Devon Terrell), and together they seek out enchanter Merlin and deliver a mysterious sword.
If you’re looking for a light comedy with multiple series to keep you going through lockdown, New Girl is an inspired choice.
This fun sitcom stars Zooey Deschanel as quirky teacher Jess who moves into a Los Angeles loft with three men she’s never met – unmotivated bartender Nick (Jake Johnson), confident marketing associate Schmidt (Max Greenfield) and former basketball player Winston (Lamorne Morris).
Together with Jess’ best friend Cece (Hannah Simone), the group find themselves stumbling into a variety of tricky situations and hilarious hi-jinx, and with seven series to get through, New Girl is the perfect easy evening watch.
The Queen’s Gambit
Starring Anya Taylor-Joy (Split, The Witch) as orphan chess prodigy Beth Harmon, The Queen’s Gambit follows the young girl as she struggles with addiction on her journey to becoming a Grandmaster in chess.
Based on Walter Tevis’ 1983 novel of the same name, the seven-part series stars Bill Camp, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Marielle Heller and Harry Melling.
Emily in Paris
This comedy-drama stars Lily Collins as Emily, a Chicago-based marketing executive who lands her dream job in Paris – but soon realises that it won’t be smooth sailing when her new colleagues take an immediate dislike of her and she’s caught up in a messy love triangle with her downstairs neighbour.
From Sex and the City creator Darren Star, Emily in Paris may be full of French clichés, but it’s a fun watch nonetheless, full of enthralling romantic drama and picturesque shots of the French city. Read our review for Emily in Paris.
Ahead of The Alienist season two arriving on Netflix for UK viewers, why not catch up with the original first season, starring Daniel Brühl, Dakota Fanning and Luke Evans?
The psychological thriller is based on the bestselling novels by Caleb Carr – The Alienist, and The Angel of Darkness in season two – and focuses on progressive criminal psychologist, or “alienist”, Laszlo Kreisler (Brühl).
Set in 1890s New York, the first season of the period drama sees Laszlo attempt to solve a series of brutal ritualistic child murders.
The Haunting of Bly Manor
The makers of The Haunting of Hill House have created a brand new series, this time based on Henry James’ classic novella The Turn of the Screw.
The nine-part series (released just in time for Halloween) blends horror with a dark romantic storyline, and ghostly love triangle. Hill House alumnus Victoria Pedretti plays American au pair Dani, who is hired to look after the Wingrave children of creepy English country estate Bly Manor.
RadioTimes.com has called the series “terrifying” and “chilling” in our The Haunting of Bly Manor review, adding that the series is “packed with almost as many scares as Flanagan’s earlier project” The Haunting of Hill House: “A chilling tension… pervades much of the series – with several genuinely horrifying figures seen inhabiting the manor and occasional moments that will undoubtedly cause viewers to audibly shriek.”
Buy Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw on Amazon.
Ash vs Evil Dead
The legendary Bruce Campbell returns to the role of Ash Williams for this successor to Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy. As you would expect, this is a firmly tongue-in-cheek affair that sees Ash team up with two fellow department store employees, Pablo and Kelly, to take on all manner of terrifying ghouls.
Those looking for a Halloween-themed binge watch that doesn’t take itself too seriously will be well-served here, while die-hard followers of Raimi’s original saga will simply be thrilled to see Campbell back on top form. While it doesn’t look like we’ll be getting an Evil Dead 4 anytime soon, this 15-hour love letter is a worthy substitute.
Another nostalgic hit, Cobra Kai first found life over at YouTube Premium, where it lived for two seasons and proved to be a breakout hit for the video sharing platform. Recently, Netflix has snapped up the rights, giving it a new home and renewing Cobra Kai for a fourth season (before the third has even debuted).
The fan favourite show is a successor to the original Karate Kid film series, set 34 years later and reintroducing Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) as he opens his own dojo. It’s an act that rekindles his rivalry with Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and sets the wheels in motion for another martial arts epic.
Fans of wrestling comedy drama GLOW were recently dealt a crushing body blow – the series has been cancelled by Netflix.
But props to the streaming giant for giving us this breath of fresh air in the first place. Sometimes it can feel like TV only has three plots – love triangles, murky crimes, and aliens. But GLOW offers something brand-new alongside the nostalgia of a great 1980s soundtrack.
The series tells the story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (aka GLOW), a real-life group formed to promote women’s wrestling on telly. The characters in this series are fictional though. Alison Brie stars as Ruth, a struggling actress who ends up auditioning for the wrestling group to make ends meet. Little does she know that her former best friend Debbie has already been hired – the two got along famously until Ruth stole Debbie’s husband. It seems certain that their bitter feud will either destroy the show or raise it to a whole new level.
If you can see past the leotards, there are three seasons of this excellent drama and there’s great fun to be had.
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The Haunting of Hill House
New series The Haunting of Bly Manor has just arrived on Netflix, so why not familiarise yourself with the original if you’re not already a fan?
Shirley Jackson’s novel is one of the scariest novels of all time, so adapting it was always likely to result in some major frights – and Mike Flanagan’s 10-part TV placement delivered on that front. This is a loose adaptation of the source material, adding in an element of family drama, but clearly playing homage to the book frequently throughout.
The show alternates between two different timelines: one in 1992, the night that something went horribly wrong for the five now-adult siblings who were living at Hill House and were forced to flee, and one in the present day where four of the siblings continue to be haunted by the brutal events.
Netflix’s revamp of iconic American documentary series Unsolved Mysteries – which takes a look at paranormal phenomena and cold cases – was a smash hit earlier this year, and new, second series is fast approaching.
Over 20 years since the show wrapped up NBC and CBS, Netflix brought us 12 new episodes have been made featuring unexplained events from all over the world. The attraction of this series lies in the fact that as the facts of the cases are presented, it is left up to the audience at home to play amateur detective and theorise whodunnit, why and how. So not only is it a thrilling watch, but it might just perform a public service, too.
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All three seasons of the nail-biting BBC crime drama recently arrived on Netflix, and are wowing audiences all over again.
The psychological thriller, which is set in Northern Ireland, stars Gillian Anderson as Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson, who has been drafted from the Metropolitan Police to catch a serial killer, played by Jamie Dornan.
The show originally aired between 2013 and 2016 on BBC Two (and RTE in Ireland) and won significant acclaim, being long-listed for best drama at the National Television Awards for all three of its series.
If you missed it the first time round, grab this chance with both hands.
This utterly brilliant Canadian sitcom recently took home a suitcase full of Emmy awards, smashing the record for most wins in a single season for a comedy. Shouldn’t that be recommendation enough?
The show – whose sixth and final season landed on Netflix back in May – follows the privileged, once-wealthy Rose family, who attempt to rebuild their lives in the amusingly named titular town. Dad Johnny bought Schitt’s Creek as a joke in 1991, when money was no object. It’s the only place they can think of to go, and they are hoping the red carpet will be rolled out, but their influence isn’t as great as they would like.
Forced to live in adjoining motel rooms, the family of four – including grown-up spoilt children David and Alexis – have to make the best of a bad situation. A nightmare for them to live through, a delight for us to watch.
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The Umbrella Academy
Superheroes tend to be loners, so it’s fun to see them in a family setting. But living with people who wear capes and save lives every two minutes is never going to be plain sailing.
Elliot Page and Mary J Blige star in this fantasy series set in alternate universe, adapted from comics written by My Chemical Romance singer Gerard Way. Elliot plays Vanya, one of seven children adopted by a billionaire. Unlike her brothers and sisters – all of whom were born on the same day to mothers who didn’t know they were pregnant (a terrifying concept for all women to get their heads around!) – Vanya doesn’t have superpowers. She can only watch on as her estranged siblings get back together to try to solve the mystery of their foster father’s death. Oh, and they also plan to save the world while they’re at it.
The Umbrella Academy has proved a huge hit – it was the third most popular show on Netflix in 2019. And now there’s a second season to enjoy as well.
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Eleven whole years. That’s how long it’s been since superhero comedy caper Misfits first took E4 quite literally by storm – and over a decade since the series picked up a BAFTA for best drama. Fortunately, however, Netflix has gifted viewers the power of time travel, with all five seasons now available to binge on the service.
Packed with laughs, surprising twists and poignant moments of drama, Misfits’ success can be largely explained by its central premise: it followed a group of young offenders serving community service as a strange electrical storm gifts them all special abilities. Cue the carnage as the rabble of law-breakers wrestle with powers from telepathy to time-jumping.
However, another huge part of the show’s acclaim was also down to its acting talent. The show was a playground for young actors, performers who would soon score roles in major big-budget shows and film – from The Umbrella Academy’s Robert Sheenan to Love Sick’s Antonia Thomas. See how many famous faces you can recognise.
Tuca & Bertie
Executive produced by Raphael Bob-Waksberg, Tuca & Bertie struggled to escape the long shadow cast by Bojack Horseman upon release, making it an underrated gem in Netflix’s animated line-up. Sharing the same talking animal aesthetic and adult humour as its more prolific counterpart, the series explores the chaotic friendship between two 30-year-old women at very different stages in their life.
Ali Wong’s Bertie is settling down with her longterm boyfriend (voiced by The Walking Dead’s Steven Yeun), while Tiffany Haddish’s Tuca is refusing to tone down her anarchic lifestyle. It’s a classic odd couple pairing that really pops thanks to some great voice work and creative animation, which delivers sight gags in abundance. The series was cancelled by Netflix after its first season, but was recently revived for a second run by Adult Swim (the home of Rick and Morty).
Even if you enjoyed Staged during its recent airing on BBC One, this Netflix offering features unseen moments, so there are even more reasons for you to revisit.
Good Omens pals David Tennant and Michael Sheen play exaggerated versions of themselves in this series of quick-hit 15-minute episodes, filmed in lockdown.
Staged owes something to The Trip, though no-one goes anywhere, but it’s deliciously funny in its own right. A needy, anxious director wants the two actors to rehearse, for three hours a day on Zoom, Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author.
Tennant, at home with wife Georgia and their children, is unsure, but promises to broach the subject with a slightly deranged Sheen, who thinks birds are about to take over the world.
It’s a discursive and hilarious potter around the insecurities of the acting profession and the leads are utterly, utterly terrific.
The trend towards suffocating and intense police interview scenes that twist and turn and keep the audience guessing is one that we have seen develop more and more in television over the last decade – from Scandi-noirs to our very own Line of Duty – it’s undeniably a recipe for a truly gripping detective drama.
Enter Criminal, Netflix’s international anthology series set within the walls of a police interrogation suite, and you immediately have another hit from the same stable.
Perhaps more ambitious and high-concept than many of the shows that have gone before it, the drama takes place across four countries – the UK, Germany, France and Spain – and is made up of 12 individual stories (three episodes per location). Each country’s episodes are shot in its local language, written and directed by native stars – and with David Tennant and Hayley Atwell featuring in the cast of the UK version, this is a show with an impressive cast as well as an intriguing and very on-trend concept – and one you won’t want to miss if you’re a lover of this genre. A new second season arrived on Netflix recently, with one episode featuring Game of Thrones favourite Kit Harington, so there’s plenty to keep you going.
Ahead of a new, much-anticipated fourth season, new to Netflix in September is this silky, political thriller from the same production company that gave us The Killing. When Borgen (“Government”) originally aired in 2012, it became our TV editor’s obsession.
Birgitte Nyborg is a wildcard in Denmark’s general election, a married mother-of-two with unwavering beliefs and old-school honesty. But the leaking of a financial indiscretion involving the incumbent PM catapults her career.
The whirling-dervish spin doctoring grips from the start, while the second-string characters (aspiring TV journalist Katrine, pushy adviser Kaspar) are deftly depicted. But Sidse Babett Knudsen is superb as Birgitte – unshowy but commanding – and the scenes of her home life (the kind of thing British drama often conveys in advert-style shorthand) have the ring of truth about them. It’s Denmark’s answer to The West Wing.
A BBC/Netflix co-production that aired earlier this year in the UK, Giri/Haji (translated as Duty/Shame) is a masterful and sprawling thriller set between London and Tokyo, which went down a treat with critics and viewers. Thus the recent news that the series has been scrapped is a real blow.
Giri/Haji primarily concerns a Japanese detective by the name of Kenzo Mori (Takehiro Hira) who travels to London in an attempt to track down his missing brother Yuto, a member of Japanese crime syndicate the Yakuza.
With its ambition, suspenseful plot and stylistic flourishes, Giri/Haji was described as “a breath of fresh air” and “one of the best shows of 2019”. And now destined only ever to live as one season, so make the most of it.
This one might be an acquired taste, but those who like dark fantasy with a distinctly B-movie spin might well find themselves engrossed by the weird world of Hemlock Grove. Loosely based on the horror novel of the same name, the series takes place in a Pennsylvania town full of supernatural secrets that prove deadly for some unlucky inhabitants.
At the centre of it all are two families who couldn’t be any more different. Descended from vampires, the wealthy Godfreys gather a huge amount of sway in their sleepy town by funding its ominous medical facility, while the travelling Rumancek’s have little to their name but are fiercely loyal to each other – perhaps owing to their history of werewolf-ism. The youngest sons from each family form a doomed friendship, as they are gradually manipulated by forces beyond their understanding.
Bill Skarsgård gives a memorable turn in the early days of his career, before bagging his iconic Pennywise role in Stephen King’s IT movies. X-Men star Famke Janssen chews the scenery in a delightfully villainous capacity as his scheming mother, while Landon Liboiron provides a compelling underdog hero (or should that be underwolf?).
There’s certainly some awkwardness to the script and performances, but there’s a fascinating charm to Hemlock Grove that should satisfy die-hard genre fans.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
While many sitcoms opt for warm and cuddly humour, sometimes a bit of cynicism acts as the perfect palate cleanser and It’s Always Sunny has plenty to go around.
The first series of this offbeat comedy introduces narcissistic bar owners Dennis, Mac, Charlie and Dee, their woefully skewed moral compasses and extremely unhealthy friendship. However, the series really kicks into high gear with season two, where Danny DeVito joins the cast as the hilarious Frank Reynolds, Dennis and Dee’s irresponsible father.
Now in its 14th season, the show is perhaps not quite as sharp as it used to be, but it packs some truly iconic comedy moments in its golden age. From rum ham to the Night Man Cometh, there are scenes in Always Sunny that will have your sides splitting in no time.
Ever since The Office exploded onto the scene at the turn of the millennium, completely changing the expectations of viewers in modern comedy, every project that Ricky Gervais has been involved with on the small screen (whether with his Office writing partner Stephen Merchant, or alone) has garnered a huge amount of excitement in the TV comedy world.
Regarded by many as some of Ricky’s finest TV work since Extras, After Life is – as you would expect from Gervais – a very awkward and at times quite troubling comedy that explores the theme of grief. Following the story of a man called Tony whose life is turned upside down after his wife dies of cancer, we see a man who, after contemplating suicide, decides instead to take his misery out on the rest of the world by saying and doing whatever he likes.
It’s a lot funnier than it sounds, and there are two seasons to enjoy – so fill your boots (and be prepared for a bit of bad language).
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Even if you’ve been living under a rock for the last decade, it’s unlikely you haven’t at least heard of Breaking Bad. In a poll we conducted a few years back, Vince Gilligan’s masterpiece was voted the show most people lied about having seen, such is its recognition as one of the best box sets of the modern era – so if you’re one of those people, perhaps it’s about time you did yourself a favour and watch the story unfold.
Following the fortunes of a chemistry teacher, Walter White (played by Bryan Cranston) – who is diagnosed with terminal cancer and decides to “break bad” and embark on a life of crime as a crystal meth drug kingpin alongside one of his former students, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) to provide for his family after his death – this is one of the most fantastically written, directed and executed television dramas you will ever have the fortune to view.
Set against a backdrop of a dusty Albuquerque universe of good, bad and ugly players whose stories twist, turn and evolve over five gripping series, this is a story that makes the viewer question everything until the very end.
Co-starring Anna Gunn, Bob Odenkirk, Dean Norris and Giancarlo Esposito to name but a few, Breaking Bad is as much about the way its incredible cast of characters react to the world around them changing, as it is about Walt and Jesse’s incredible central journey.
Try it. It’s brilliant. Trust us…
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It’s been compared by many to Breaking Bad, and although Ozark is very different in many ways, it’s hard to disagree that the moody atmosphere and theme of a family under siege in unusual circumstances certainly shares some similarities. The most obvious reason the comparison is made, however, is that like Breaking Bad, Ozark is a very, very good drama that will be talked about for many years to come.
The story centres around Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) and his wife Wendy (Laura Linney), daughter Charlotte (Sophia Hublitz) and son Jonah (Skylar Gaertner) as they are forced to go on the run from Chicago to the Ozark lakes in Missouri after Marty’s money-laundering operation for a drug gang goes wrong and their lives are in imminent danger.
But things just get more complicated once they start afresh in the Ozarks, because not only are they instantly embroiled in a strange and brutal world they don’t understand – but they quickly learn that your problems have a habit of catching up with you and that secrets are harder than you think to keep.
Three seasons of this excellent show are available on Netflix now. You’ll soon get used to seeing the world with a blueish-grey tint…
- When is Ozark season 4 released on Netflix?
- Jason Bateman shares hints about Ozark season 4: “I know how it ends and it’s great”
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It wasn’t so many years ago that Charlie Brooker was reviewing telly for The Guardian with a style that every young entertainment journalist desperately tried to imitate with varying degrees of success – but now he is a TV writer and showrunner who is just as influential in the creation of television content as he was when he was reviewing it.
Black Mirror is without a doubt his most compelling and celebrated work to date – a dystopian and often chilling vision of how technology may change our lives, let’s face it, largely for the worse.
It began as a Channel 4 shot in the dark, but Charlie Brooker’s drama quickly became one of the most bleakly gripping series on TV. Then Netflix jumped in and it went from a cult show in the UK to a global phenomenon that attracts huge-name guest stars from Jon Hamm and Bryce Dallas Howard to Andrew Scott and Miley Cyrus.
The fifth season features some of its most ambitious and gripping tales to date, and of course Bandersnatch, the choose-your-own-adventure special, was a one-off mega-hit from the Black Mirror brand.
Paying homage to a 1980s Spielberg inspired world of walkie-talkies and Chopper bikes, the Duffer brothers’ Stranger Things is one of the biggest hits ever to be created by Netflix. A supernatural adventure filled with intrigue and horror, it tells the story of a group of four friends in Hawkins, Indiana that befriend a telekinetic super-girl and try to unpick a complicated and strange series of phenomena.
Starring Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Millie Bobby Brown and many more, this is unmissable telly.
As the seasons pass, the tension ramps up and more characters and mysteries are intertwined in this fantastically watchable tale. Oh, and and it has a completely unmissable soundtrack too. The “exhilarating and devastating” third season was the latest to drop – and season four is expected next year…
- Stranger Things season 4 has a tentative new date for production restart
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The Sinner is a crime mystery series that caught fans’ attention in season one by flipping the “whodunnit” format into a “why-dunnit”. Jessica Biel plays a woman who, in one of the most shocking and gripping starts to a series we’ve ever seen, stabs a man to death on a beach. But has absolutely no idea why she did it. The series then unpicks the crime over eight episodes.
Season two tells a completely different story, but maintains the same sense of intrigue – this time we’re focusing on a child criminal, a 13-year old boy. Meanwhile, in the third and latest series, Detective Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) investigates a tragic car crash in upstate New York that turned out to be much more sinister than initially thought…
Lots here to keep you occupied.
At first there were a few raised eyebrows: how would the classic Coen brothers film work as a TV show? Would they ruin it? Then we watched it and felt an instant wave of relief – this series is nothing short of exceptional.
The “true” story of crime in Minnesota has three largely stand-alone series on Netflix, all of which are 100% worth your precious viewing time. Series one stars Sherlock’s Martin Freeman as a mild-mannered insurance salesman in a provincial Minnesota town. His life unravels after meeting a mysterious stranger played superbly by Billy Bob Thornton. The twists and turns keep you guessing right up to the end of this moody and intelligent drama.
Series two had a new cast including Kirsten Dunst, Patrick Wilson and Ted Danson. Set in March 1979 the story acts as a prequel to the first series and follows the complex story of the town during investigations of three murders. Meanwhile series three of Fargo stars Ewan McGregor in a dual-role as brothers Emmit and Ray.
Apart from the weirdness of hearing Martin Freeman do an American accent, this is near-perfect TV.
Reality series don’t get much more glamorous – or dramatic – than Selling Sunset, which follows a group of estate agents working for the The Oppenheim Group as they sell some of the most opulent houses in Los Angeles. A third series of the show has recently been added to the streaming platform – and each new season only seems to ramp up the drama even further, as the agents experience weddings, divorces and everything in between.
So sit back and enjoy the pure escapism as you watch the cast continue to share the ups and downs of their personal and professional lives.
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Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
If you need cheering up at the moment – and let’s face it, who doesn’t? – look no further than the endlessly optimistic Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
For its first original sitcom, Netflix went to legendary actress and writer Tina Fey, who dreamt up this delightfully odd story with her 30 Rock collaborator Robert Carlock.
After being abducted by a cult leader, Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper) spent 15 years in an underground bunker with three fellow abductees, believing the Earth had been reduced to a nuclear wasteland. But the Indiana Mole Women (as the media quickly labels them) are rescued by a SWAT team and discover that the world remains full of life…
While the premise may initially sound a little dark, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a comedy through and through, with the same zany sense of humour that made Fey’s previous series such a hit.
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When They See Us
Ava DuVernay’s harrowing series is a hard watch, but an important one. It tells the true story of the Central Park Five, five black and Hispanic teens who were wrongfully convicted of a rape that took place in New York City in 1989. They were accused and charged on flimsy evidence, and a racist system saw them incarcerated for a heinous crime they had no involvement with. Beautifully acted, the drama will leave you spitting with outrage as you witness an incredible miscarriage of justice.
Across four episodes, we follow these confused and terrified young men and their families, as they attempt to navigate police interviews and courtroom trials with the odds stacked against them. It’s then worth finding “Oprah Winfrey Presents: When They See Us Now” to see Oprah interviewing the men behind the drama, about their experience and the terrible impact their convictions had on their lives.
- What do the real Central Park Five think of Netflix drama When They See Us?
- Meet the cast of Central Park Five Netflix drama When They See Us
Such is the love for this show that when Fox announced they were going to stop making the show a huge campaign was launched online by the fans which took the hashtag #SaveLucifer to the world, and was eventually received loud and clear by Netflix who decided to bring the show back on the streaming platform.
Based on the character created by Neil Gaiman for The Sandman comic-book series, Tom Ellis plays Lucifer, the handsome and seductive Lord of Hell who has made a home for himself in the sleazy glamour of Los Angeles…
What could possibly go wrong? You’ll have to watch to find out…
- When is Lucifer season 5 on Netflix? What’s going to happen?
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Widely regarded as one of the best animated series of all time, this fantastic offering – the brainchild of Raphael Bob-Waksberg – has been the talk of the comedy world since it exploded onto the scene in 2014.
One might say that any show that features anthropomorphic horses attempting to get beyond existential crises would be funny without a class-act cast and script – but luckily BoJack takes the comedy to 11 with both of those in abundance.
Enter the wonderful Will Arnett (Gob Bluth in Arrested Development, among many others) as the lead role and a star-studded cast including Amy Sedaris, Alison Brie, Paul F Tompkins and Aaron Paul and you have an international hit on your hands.
Comedy fans beware – you may end up spending a lot of time on this!
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Money Heist (La Casa del Papel)
Money Heist – better known as La Casa de Papel in its native Spain – is not only the most-watched non-English show on Netflix, but one of the most-watched series overall on the streaming service.
The crime drama, which follows a crack team of thieves assembled by “The Professor”, sees the gang attempt to walk away with billions of euros after a daring heist on the Royal Mint in Spain.
There are four seasons on Money Heist to watch, so why not see what all the fuss is about?
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
Fans will have been dismayed at the news that the fourth series of this hit drama will be the last.
Sabrina the Teenage Witch was a huge hit in the 1990s when the Archie comic of the same name was brought to life by Melissa Joan Hart in the lead role. Several decades later, Netflix has rebooted the show with a darker and more mysterious edge, this time starring Kiernan Shipka, best known to drama fans as Sally Draper (daughter of Don) in the smash-hit AMC show Mad Men.
Originally conceived as a companion series to Riverdale, the show eventually got a life of its own when it moved to Netflix and began telling the story of a half-witch, half-mortal and her sometimes challenging existence.
Also starring Ross Lynch, Lucy Davis, Chance Perdomo and Michelle Gomez, there are three seasons available to watch on Netflix, so you have plenty to keep you busy…
- Did you spot this Sabrina the Teenage Witch reference in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina?
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Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich
This four-part documentary brings to life the sobering stories that made newspaper headlines across the world last year when financier Jeffrey Epstein died in prison while facing charges of sex trafficking.
Using footage of Epstein being interviewed for an earlier charge alongside comments from prosecutors, associates and investigators, plus film of Epstein’s homes, director Lisa Bryant’s documentary is a fascinating and horrifying look at how one man escaped justice for decades, possibly with the help of wealthy connections – and one that rightfully prioritises the survivors over the perpetrator.
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If you enjoyed Michaela Coel’s recent BBC comedy drama I May Destroy You, you’re bound to love her first – but very different – sitcom Chewing Gum. The series, which began in 2015, stars Coel as Tracey Gordon, a 24-year-old religious virgin who is desperate to have sex in order to avoid becoming like her uptight oldest sister Cynthia (Susan Wokoma).
A hilarious and raunchy comedy full of fourth wall-breaks and cringe-worthy moments, Chewing Gum is an under-appreciated Channel 4 gem that you can now binge on Netflix.
Black Earth Rising
Michaela Coel shot to fame and became the toast of the TV world off the back of her brilliant sitcom Chewing Gum. She gave a very different, dramatic performance in this political thriller though, playing Kate Ashby, a woman who was rescued as a young child during the Rwandan genocide and adopted by Eve Ashby (Harriet Walter), a world-class British prosecutor in international criminal law.
With acclaimed talent behind the camera too, in the form of BAFTA-winning writer Hugo Blick (who also gave us The Honourable Woman starring Maggie Gyllenhaal), this is a classy eight-part drama tackling the prosecution of international war crimes and the thorny issue of the West’s relationship with Africa. It’s not the lightest watch, and for that reason it didn’t get the ratings it deserved, but this is incredibly well made, beautifully acted and well worth your time. You just need to be in the right mood as you sit down to watch.
- Where is Netflix’s Black Earth Rising filmed?
- Black Earth Rising writer Hugo Blick: “The darker things go, the funnier it is”
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Orange Is the New Black
Back when Netflix was desperately trying to prove to the world that its original dramas were worth watching, they needed a series to follow the success of House of Cards and to keep the momentum going. That series was Orange Is the New Black, an addictive ensemble drama set in a women’s prison, following naïve, middle-class Piper Kerman (Taylor Schilling) as she embarks on a 15-month sentence for moving drug money. It was a crime she committed years ago, for her girlfriend, before she settled into a quiet life. As her world falls apart she must adapt to prison life and get to know her fellow inmates…
Of course it’s not the first drama about women behind bars (bring back Bad Girls!) but it’s unique in its production values, the quality of its strong, funny, racially diverse cast and the way in which it gripped its audience. If you missed it first time round, we’re jealous you’ve got it all still to enjoy.
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David Fincher’s gloomy serial killer drama didn’t quite make it to the watercooler when it first arrived, but as with many on-demand shows, its slow-building intrigue gripped enough people for Netflix to renew it for a second season.
The show follows soft-spoken FBI agent Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and his gruff partner Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) as they tour the USA interviewing the nation’s most heinous serial killers.
While it takes a bit of time to truly get going, the series soon develops into an intriguing character study, as Ford becomes more and more emotionally entangled in his work.
As well as the fantastic scripts and performances, this show stands out for its incredible visuals and mood, as you might expect from Mr Fincher.
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One of the biggest questions around this sharp-witted comedy is where and when is it set? Although the characters are British, they all have different accents – and the school they attend looks more like a high school from 1980s USA than the sort of comprehensive most Brits would have attended. Everyone seems to drive old Volvos, but people have smartphones…
The reality is, the ambiguity of time and location is a deliberate move by Laurie Nunn and the show’s producers to pay homage to a John Hughes-style teen world that a generation grew up watching on TV.
The show follows the fortunes of Otis (Asa Butterfield), Maeve (Emma Mackey), Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) as they navigate their school days, their parents and the challenges that come with both. Also starring Gillian Anderson as Otis’s sex therapist mother, this is a critically acclaimed show not just for its comedy – but for the bold way it challenges important issues head on.
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There’s no getting round the fact that this show is rather strange, and at times incredibly surreal – but that’s what makes this acclaimed comedy drama from creative powerhouses Leslye Headland, Natasha Lyonne and Amy Poehler so compelling and such a runaway hit.
The eight-part series follows chain-smoking New Yorker Nadia, as she weaves her way through a mysterious time loop that sees her celebrating her 36th birthday – and then dying. Over and over and over again. Starring Lyonne, Greta Lee ,Yul Vazquez, Charlie Barnett and Elizabeth Ashley – this is no simple Groundhog Day rehash, it’s a lot more sophisticated than that. With a New York sass all of its own and a high concept pay-off, it’s oh-so surreally satisfying.
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Rick and Morty
If you were to cross Back to the Future, Doctor Who and maybe BoJack Horseman – that’s the closest you can get to describing the nihilistic animated comedy that is Rick and Morty.
Following the misadventures of drunken mad scientist Rick Sanchez and his neurotic grandson Morty Smith (both voiced by creator Justin Roiland), this Adult Swim series takes place in multiple realities and various planets as Rick drags his grandson across the universe.
With an impressive voice cast including Scrubs’ Sarah Chalke, 30 Rock’s Chris Parnell and Greek’s Spencer Grammar, as well as a star-studded list of guest stars (Christina Hendricks, Jordan Peele, Nathan Fillon, Jermaine Clement, Susan Sarandon), Rick and Morty is a complex, sometimes dark but always witty intergalactic adventure.
Making a Murderer
A poster child for Netflix and one of the true-crime documentaries that spurred hundreds of similar shows in the following years, Making a Murderer has become one of the streaming giant’s most talked-about shows since the ten-part documentary premiered in December 2015.
Following the story of Steven Avery, a Wisconsin man who served 18 years in prison after being wrongly accused of attempted murder and sexual assault, and was subsequently convicted of a different murder, this series gripped the world and become the focus of much debate. Made by film-makers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, the extraordinary piece of television was filmed over a decade. A must-watch for any true crime fans – with the second season blowing the story wide open all over again, it’s unlikely the public’s fascination with this case is going to wain anytime soon.
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