Stuck with too much choice? Simply don’t know where to begin? Fear not. We understand that binge watching is a serious art form. It takes time, persistence, commitment. So here’s a list of some of the best Netflix shows to take you on that glorious journey to, well, the sofa.
1. Arrested Development
Arrested Development began TV life back in 2003 as a critically acclaimed sitcom with undeservedly low ratings. After its cancellation in 2006, the show attracted a cult following—the iconic Bluth stair car even appeared in the action sequence of Marvel’s Captain America: Civil war— and in 2011 was revived for a fourth season by Netflix, with a fifth season recently scheduled for next year. The show follows the everyday lives of the dysfunctional yet hilarious Bluth family, whose misadventures make for easy binge watching. If you’re in need of a new show—particularly a sitcom—then you’d do well to start here. If not, then you’ve made a huge mistake. (Right, Gob?)
2. Breaking Bad
Another show that gained a steady following over the seasons was Breaking Bad. By the time the final season aired, the show’s popularity was at ridiculous, new heights. The story focuses on high school chemistry teacher Walter White (Bryan Cranston, otherwise known as the dad in Malcolm in the Middle) who, after being diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer, begins manufacturing Crystal Meth in order to secure his family’s future. The drama goes from strength to strength, building on its story with a steady momentum that forces many of the characters through some serious development; you’ll find no black and white characters here. With all five seasons available on Netflix, Breaking Bad hits that delicious sweet spot of having enough episodes that leave you wanting more, but not too many that the show begins to decline. And if you do want more, then there’s Better Call Saul, a Netflix Originals spin-off prequel series that’s also pulling in great ratings all-round.
3. An Idiot Abroad
Sticking with—or, perhaps, to—the sofa, you’re not going to see much of the outside world. But why bother going to all that trouble anyway when you can travel with An Idiot Abroad? Karl Pilkington, the titular idiot, has a unique and warped view on the world—“The fact that this one is called the ‘Great’ Wall of China annoys me. I’ll decide if it’s great or not. It might end up being the ‘All Right Wall of China’ to me”—and when his friends/tormentors Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant send him off to explore far off lands, what you end up watching is a winning combination of comedy and travel documentary.
If Karl whinging his way from country to country across three seasons isn’t enough, then there’s also his Moaning of Life, which has a similar premise—the only difference is Karl this time chooses which countries to visit in order to experience their different cultures and customs and how they deal with some of life’s biggest issues. Some of Karl’s comments turn out to be surprisingly insightful—emphasis on the ‘some’.
4. 13 Reasons Why
One of Netflix’s newest Originals, 13 Reasons Why is a mystery drama which follows high school student Clay Jensen as he attempts to uncover the reasons leading to the suicide of his classmate and crush, Hannah Baker, by listening to her box of cassette tapes. The tapes reveal the thirteen reasons behind her decision to end her life, along with those she blamed as responsible for her decision. Unsurprisingly, the show has attracted controversy for its subject matter, especially due to its raw depiction of issues such as teen suicide and rape. Even so, 13 Reasons Why has also received wide acclaim from audiences and critics alike, particularly in response to the casting of the two leads and its emotional story. Released at the end of May, the show has quickly drawn a large audience—so you shouldn’t need thirteen reasons to watch this show! Incase you do need one more reason, though: a second season has been announced for 2018.
5. Hell on Wheels
You’re probably wondering what the title of this show even means. Well, it’s essentially to do with the saloons, brothels and gambling houses (this should give you an idea of the types of characters) that sprung up as the First Transcontinental Railroad was constructed across North America in the 1860s. You don’t have to like trains—or even care about them—to enjoy Hell on Wheels. The story follows Cullen Bohannon, a former soldier of the Civil War seeking revenge on the killers of his wife, which soon entangles him in the lives of the other characters—opening up many other stories. Over the five seasons, there was a change in showrunners, and while the first two seasons may have a slightly different tone than the rest, this change seems to work in the show’s favour. The stories become far more sophisticated and original, with no character in the ensemble cast—no matter their prominence—being guaranteed to reach the final episode.
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6. Marvel’s Daredevil
A Netflix Original, Daredevil manages to maintain the charm and wit of its fellow Marvel films, while delivering a darker narrative that benefits from the TV series format with stories and characters that are more deeply explored. Blind lawyer Matt Murdock has, unbeknownst to his friends and colleagues, superhumanly enhanced senses, which he uses to fight crime under the guise of the titular character. He’s a pretty all-round awesome guy. (Played by the all-round awesome Charlie Cox.) He’s so awesome, in fact, other Marvel shows soon followed: Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist, all of whom will meet later this August in The Defenders, Netflix’s version of The Avengers. Whether you’re a fan of the Marvel films or not, Daredevil deserves at least three of your five senses, even if they’re not superhumanly enhanced.
With an average run-time of 90 minutes and a quality cast, an episode of Sherlock feels more like a film than it does a TV show. But this doesn’t make it any harder to binge, trust me! Set in modern London, Sherlock follows the famous sleuth and his ex-army doctor partner (platonic, though the show has fun with it) as they work together—and, oftentimes, against each other—to solve unique and perplexing crimes. There’s plenty of inventiveness in the stories (many inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original source material) and creativeness in the ways they’re presented on camera, along with an abundance of humour that never lets the show stop being fun.
You could sum up the three seasons (plus one miniseries) of Spartacus as Gladiator meets Game of Thrones, but that would be doing the show a disservice by suggesting it doesn’t have its own merits to stand on. Sure, it has blood, battle and boobs. And, yes, there’s also a newly enslaved gladiator seeking revenge on his Roman superiors… but this is a show which is free from a sluggish plot, propelling you from episode to episode. While the primary focus is on the enjoyable and highly-imaginative retelling of the real-life gladiator, the story follows an ensemble of characters on both sides of the cell bars: the slaves, and the romans. This isn’t just a man’s world, either: there are a lot of strong female characters. There’s clever story and character development aplenty, along with some of the best dialogue on TV. As you can expect the show has more action than you could shake a sword at, with many of the later sequences becoming truly epic in scale. This is Spartacus.
9. Stranger Things
Described as a crossbreed of everyone’s favourite Steves (Stephen King meets Steven Spielberg), Stranger Things is a Netflix Original that has received instant critical acclaim and a loyal fanbase hungry for more. Set in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana in the 1980s, the first season focuses on the disappearance of a young boy. His mother, his friends and a police chief must confront supernatural events in order to get him back. If you binge watch the first season now, you’ll be in a good position for the October release of the second season.
10. The Walking Dead
Now if you want to take your binge watching to a professional level, you should consider watching the Walking Dead. With six seasons already available on Netflix (Season 7 is presumably on its way) and with the show’s producer teasing a possible twenty years of zombie guts then you’re going to be in good supply. After waking from a coma at the start of the first season, Sheriff Deputy Rick Grimes discovers the world is overrun with the undead and begins the search for his family. The show soon falls into bit of a repetitive formula: a group of people struggle to survive, said group meets new group, said group doesn’t get along with new group, said group has to overcome new group, rince and repeat. Saying that, The Walking Dead changes enough to keep the show fresh and is doing things that few other television shows are by continuously trying to direct the format into new territory, including killing off fan favourites at the blink of a bat—I mean eye! Even after seven seasons, this series remains enjoyable—even more so when it’s binged on.
Now, if only I had a Netflix pass…