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The 20 Best Netflix Original Shows

The 20 Best Netflix Original Shows


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Like Google, Netflix has evolved over two decades from a Silicon Valley venture to a legitimate verb in the cultural lexicon. Ten years after expanding from DVD-by-mail to streaming service, and four since debuting its first original series with House of Cards, Netflix all but dominates the online TV landscape. While competitors like Amazon Prime and Hulu certainly vie for our time with their own in-house programs, the sheer inundation of Netflix originals requires its very own examination. The animated seriocomic genius of BoJack Horseman, the tech horrors that Black Mirror situates on the near horizon, and the earnestness and dramatic sprawl of Sense8 are merely a few of the storytelling pleasures available to anyone with a WiFi connection and a (potentially borrowed) Netflix login. These 20 Netflix original shows prove the marathon-watching juggernaut’s equal concern for both quantity and quality. Nathan Frontiero

The 20 Best Netflix Original Shows


Santa Clarita Diet

Zomedies thrive on a delicate alchemy between violence and humor. When the balance is off, the results are smug and self-congratulatory, as in Zomebieland. But in Santa Clarita Diet, creator Victor Fresco and his collaborators exhibit a flair for slapstick violence that’s staged with a surprisingly light and deft touch. The best bits are nearly impossible to rationalize (its punchlines are tossed off with confident casualness), but the series thrives on its refusal to take even its theme of yuppie conformity seriously, recognizing that it’s so obvious as to be inherently self-critical. Chuck Bowen

The 20 Best Netflix Original Shows


Chef’s Table

Think of every episode of Chef’s Table as a bite-sized version of Jiro Dreams of Sushi, David Gelb’s remarkably empathetic portrait of a man who’s regarded as the greatest sushi chef in the world and how his drive for perfection forever shaped his relationship to his two sons. Each of the show’s 18 episodes to date profiles a world-famous chef, and though they may lack for the pathos that underlines the documentary film, that’s only because Gelb has dialed back the human-interest angle. Glimpses are caught throughout of the difficulties that many of the profiled chefs have encountered throughout their lives on their way to opening their establishments. Front and center throughout the series, however, is a universalizing advancement of the power of creation, conveyed through the same gracefully articulate style that brought renown to the film and placed Gelb in the hilarious crosshairs of IFC’s Documentary Now. Ed Gonzalez

The 20 Best Netflix Original Shows


Lady Dynamite

Her endearing eagerness to please, extreme social awkwardness, and hopeless inability to camouflage her feelings makes the semi-fictionalized version of her bipolar self that actor-writer-comedian Maria Bamford plays in Lady Dynamite a kind of human emoji factory, her unguarded face expressing a kaleidoscope of comically intense emotions. Her bafflement and improvised solutions to uncomfortable situations make things we have all struggled with, like dating, feel as freshly and insightfully witnessed as her wide-eyed adventures in Hollywood. Though she’s anything but a stone face, Bamford has more than a little Buster Keaton in her, her cosmic befuddlement and heroic efforts to navigate even the simplest situation highlighting the absurdity in just about everything. Elise Nakhnikian

The 20 Best Netflix Original Shows


The Crown

Once again, The Queen’s Peter Morgan combines extensive research with a highly empathetic understanding of human nature to create a fascinating exploration of the capabilities and limitations of Britain’s monarchy in the 20th century, the enormous personal sacrifices that monarchy required of Elizabeth II, and the strains it exerted on her family. The Crown opens with Elizabeth’s (Claire Foy) beloved father, king George (Jared Harris), another reluctant monarch who inherited the role only after his older brother renounced it. It then follows the young queen as, forced to give up her cherished private life after her father’s demise, she grows into the role of queen—and into a form of greatness distinguished by genuine humility and common-sense values. A feminist tale of a patronized, undereducated, and perpetually underestimated young woman who learns to rely on her native intelligence and good sense to help lead a besieged country through perilous times, The Crown makes the case that the best rulers may be those who never wanted the role. Nakhnikian

The 20 Best Netflix Original Shows


Marvel’s Daredevil

More important than even its patient sense of characterization, Netflix’s striking adaptation of Daredevil offered the first fully cohesive style in a Marvel Comics adaptation. The show’s shadowy aesthetic potently reflects the perspective of the hero himself, Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), the blind lawyer turned righteous street-level vigilante. Considering that most superheroes begin as local crime fighters, it’s astonishing that Netflix produced the first Marvel adaptation that has the unmistakable, authenticate feeling of small-scale community and neighborhood geography, one that helps cultivate an outraged civilian into an emblematic hero. Chris Cabin