JoJo Whilden/Netflix

The 20 Best Netflix Original Shows
The 20 Best Netflix Original Shows

5

Dear White People

Dear White People is a funny and heartbreaking look at the thorniness of trying to develop one’s identity on the cusp of adulthood. The series announces its completely sincere, unique personality right away, with characters looking right to the camera to further play with the “college as bubble” idea. It’s one of a few devices proudly credited to filmmaker Spike Lee, for whom characters routinely announce their affection. Yes, this is only a television show, and real political action will really begin when these kids graduate (or when the viewer turns off the TV), but there’s undeniable power in these characters’ gestures, words, and confidence. The victories the series rightly celebrates are when these kids, angry and pessimistic, learn to embrace their buried selves, to refuse problems that cull them from their peers. Scout Tafoya

The 20 Best Netflix Original Shows

4

Master of None

Master of None employs the vocabulary of unreserved tables and unreturned texts to tell classic stories of existential ennui and unrequited love. But references to Uber and WiFi provide more than window-dressing. While the first season kept its gaze primarily on the relationship between Dev (Aziz Ansari) and Rachel (Noel Wells), the second featured a number of self-contained episodes that are essentially extended vignettes, investigating Dev’s universe but only tangentially related to the season’s overall narrative. These diversions are among the most imaginative and insightful episodes of the season, and provide a balance to the series that was previously missing. Cultural commentary is no longer incidental to romance comedy. Michael Haigis

The 20 Best Netflix Original Shows

3

Orange Is the New Black

Orange Is the New Black has always been invested in the dual concepts of freedom and power. Can one exist without the other? How can we retain a sense of power when it’s been stripped from us? The series forces us to examine what happens when freedom and power collide in ways we haven’t yet seen. Even as the show’s writers explore new story structures, as they did in the latest season, Orange Is the New Black continues to excel at deftly combining character study, dark humor, and heart-wrenching poignancy. Selinger

The 20 Best Netflix Original Shows

2

Black Mirror

Voltaire once suggested that if God didn’t exist, we’d have to invent him. Black Mirror warns us of the cost of doing so, using technology as its omnipotent stand-in. Each episode introduces a new, seemingly innocuous gadget that’s wormed its way into the masses and then demonstrates its repercussions. We may not yet rate social interactions and people as we do products and services (“Nosedive”), and our augmented reality games may not yet be wholly immersive (“Playtest”), but the emphasis is, terrifyingly, on “yet.” By employing a different genre for each episode, from the procedural (“Hated in the Nation”) to the war drama (“Men Against Fire”), Black Mirror avoids repetition while still hammering home an overarching theme: It only takes a slight shift in context to change a tool’s use from good to bad. Aaron Riccio

The 20 Best Netflix Original Shows

1

BoJack Horseman

Removing envy and titillation from the equation of a Hollywood story, BoJack Horseman homes in on the dwindling of long-term concentration and corresponding expansion of faux self-awareness that’s come to define social media-enabled life in the 21st century. The series isn’t exactly a parody of celebrity culture, but rather of the distractions that feed on our narcissism, encouraging everyone to fancy themselves celebrities at the escalating expense of morality and even common courtesy. It exudes a tough-love sense of humanity that recalls the later comedy of George Carlin. Like Carlin, the series doesn’t take accepted wisdom for granted. All platitudes are fair game for lambasting, including the liberal clichés that are used as a mode of practicing an insidiously fashionable elitism that begets yet another form of social distance. BoJack Horseman is simultaneously melancholic, angry, goofy, playful, and often uproariously funny in a distinctively ineffable what-the-fuck fashion. Bowen

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