NETFLIX has lately come into its own as a hub for great TV shows – but which ones are really worth your time?
BEST NETFLIX SERIES
Master of None
Fresh out of Pawnee, Indiana, Aziz Ansari is back with his own comedy series. Master of None is largely based on personal anecdotes. One episode traced his emigrating parents’ path from India to the States – and his parents played themselves.
Written by a number of the creative minds behind Parks and Recreation, the show is a refreshing and unsentimental look at 30-something life in New York City.
What the critics are saying: “Only a comedian who had thought deeply about, say, quite how difficult it can be to relate to parents who grew up in radically different circumstances could have produced an episode as impressively nuanced as ‘Parents’.” – Daniel D’Addario, Time Magazine
Orange Is The New Black
Based on the real life story of Piper Kerman, Orange Is The New Black keeps going from strength to strength. It’s been nominated for several Golden Globes and has won several Emmys too.
While season one mostly followed Piper as she adjusted to life in a prison, the story has since expanded on supporting characters, giving the show a large ensemble feel without seeming rushed or neglected.
What the critics are saying: “The performances are so convincing, and the dialogue so sharp, that none of this feels like prurience for its own sake. That’s also because the show doesn’t lack for pathos or moments of moral seriousness, especially as the back stories of the secondary characters are gradually revealed.” – Sohrab Ahmari, Wall Street Journal
Jessica Jones has only been around for a matter of days, but it’s already being talked about as one of Netflix’s very best.
The series follows retired superhero Jessica Jones, in the midst of dealing with PTSD and a terrifying arch nemesis, who runs a private investigation firm in New York.
What the critics are saying: “Krysten Ritter conveys Jessica’s vulnerability without ever making her seem helpless, or losing her sense of the show’s dark humour. This is a show about a survivor of rape and abuse and its engagement with it is sensitively done and powerfully affecting.” – David Sims, The Atlantic
Depicting the true story of the cocaine wars of the 1980s, it follows the tale of Pablo Escobar’s Medellin cartel. Known as the most violet, ruthless and wealthy criminal organisation in the history of modern crime, Escobar stood at the very centre of it, orchestrating an empire seemingly without limits.
What the critics are saying: “Given the Escobar-overload in pop culture, Narcos smartly concerns itself with telling the story from a number of perspectives, but with an overriding care to never depict Americans as the heroes – as the film makes clear, most of the deaths resulting from Escobar’s reign were Colombian, as were many of the key people tracking him.” – Tim Goodman, The Hollywood Reporter
Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp
Wet Hot American Summer, released in 2001, was a spoof of so many teen sex comedies set in US summer camp. Netflix’s own spin-off of that show invites the original cast to star as themselves over eight episodes.
There is something hilarious about seeing Elizabeth Banks, Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper, Paul Rudd and Chris Pine try to pass off as campers in their teens and early 20s, and the show gets a lot of comedy mileage out of this obvious mismatch.
What the critics are saying: “The first, and perhaps primary, source of fun is simply identifying all the returning actors and noting how the intervening 14 years have treated them.” – Mike Hale, The New York Times
WORST NETFLIX SERIES
The series begins with Italian explorer Marco Polo being left by his merchant father as a gift for the Kublai Khan of the Mongolian Empire, in the hopes of winning access to the Silk Road. Young Marco is then dispatched to be a surveyor/spy for the Khan, portrayed by the charismatic Benedict Wong. Everything else about the show – including he main character – is dull, and nothing seems to happen. The Khan himself is written as an overdramatic supervillain, and the whole production is a general mess.
What the critics are saying: “The series’ problem, too, is how badly it balances its contrasts. Making Marco Polo dumb fun would be just as legitimate as making it weighty historical realism. But the show tries to be both (sort of, though producers freely admit to playing with facts and the timeline), lurching between modes without warning.” – James Poniewozik, Time Magazine
House of Cards
This inclusion is borne more out of disappointment than anything else. The show stars Kevin Spacey as the Machiavellian Frank Underwood, a Democrat who initiates a masterplan to acquire power after being passed over for the position of Secretary of State. Season one scooped three Golden Globes, but every subsequent series repeated the formula: someone dies, there is some scheming, and at the end Frank gets a promotion. Wash, rinse, repeat.
What the critics are saying: “Without Zoe Barnes, prostitutes, corrupt lobbyists and dissipated members of Congress to perk up the landscape as in seasons past, the show feels monotonous. It certainly looks it.” – Alessandra Stanley, New York Times
Set in the small town of Pretty Lake, an unknown virus has killed everyone except those under the age of 21. The town is put into quarantine and all hell breaks loose.
For such a dramatic plot, it ends up being a boring show, and even as end-of-the-world television goes it all seems a bit far-fetched. The acting also veers from being somewhat wooden to plain terrible.
What the critics are saying: “Our heroine is Wiley (iCarly and Sam & Cat’s Jennette McCurdy), a surly teen mom and the daughter of a local preacher. You can tell how badass she is because she sasses a stained-window depiction of Jesus. Man, watch out, Juno, there’s a new pregnant teenager with ‘tude.” – Margaret Lyons, Vulture