Best to Watch on Netflix
1. Breaking Bad (5 of 5 seasons)
Not just the best series on Netflix, Breaking Bad is the best series of all time. There’s no debate about that.
2. Freaks and Geeks (1 of 1 season)
It’s been 17 years now since NBC cancelled what is inarguably the best cancelled-too-soon series ever (sorry Firefly), and it’s inclusion on this list is mostly a reminder to watch it again. If you haven’t watched it already, it’s a mere 18 episodes and not only is it 18 of the best hours you’ll ever spend watching television, it also acts as a primer for the contemporary generation of comedy. Judd Apatow, Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jason Segal, and Paul Feig — among others — were born out of this series, which means that it’s responsible for more comedy in America at the box office these days than anything else, outside of Saturday Night Live. Mostly, however, it’s just the greatest coming-of-age series ever, and every second watching it feels almost heartbreaking because it means you’re one second closer to the end. Here’s 20 obscure facts about Freaks and Geeks you didn’t know.
3. Friday Night Lights (5 of 5 seasons)
One of the all-time greatest dramas, Friday Night Lights is a poignant, touching drama about families, both football families and organic ones. It’s one of the bravest series on television for not being afraid to mix high-quality drama with an intense amount of heart, and Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler give quite the clinic on parenting throughout. It’s one of the few Netflix tv shows you will ever watch that will make you want to be a better person.
4. Orange is the New Black (4 of 4 seasons)
The best original show on Netflix, this prison dramedy is a deeply human, funny, moving, realistic, progressive show about life and the bad decisions we’re all destined to make. OITNB humanizes the dehumanized, transforms labels — felons, thieves, murderers, embezzlers — into real human beings and reminds us that, even in prison, life isn’t put on hold. Life is being led. It’s a remarkably excellent series, and addictive as hell.
5. Louie (5 of 5 seasons)
Placing this above Arrested Development among the best comedies wasn’t a mistake: Arrested Development may be the most offbeat, but Louie is the most human. It can be wildly funny, it can be irreverent (like Arrested Development), heartfelt (like Parks), and uncomfortable (like The Office), but unlike any other “comedy” on television, it can also be tragic and devastating.
6. Arrested Development (4 of 4 seasons)
The series lost some of the mystique it had gained after its cancellation because Netflix’s season four wasn’t to everyone’s satisfaction — though it flowers with repeat viewings. It’s not just the funniest sitcom of the generation, it’s probably the most influential.
7. Friends (10 of 10 seasons)
There’s nothing to say Friends that you don’t already know, and unless you’re under the age of 15, you’ve probably already seen every episode, but — along with Seinfeld (not on Netflix) — Friends remains the most durable, re-watchable sitcom ever.
8. Mad Men (7 of 7 seasons)
Mad Men is one of the best-written, best acted, and engrossing dramas on television. Period. The first season is a little slow, but keep with it: Matthew Weiner eventually layers in a lot of fun elements, and takes it home for a great ending.
9. Better Call Saul (2 of 3 seasons)
In its first season, Better Call Saul quickly put to rest any fears anyone might have had about a spin-off from arguably the greatest drama of all time, Breaking Bad (which sits atop this list). Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould return as showrunners, and they continue to bring the same level of complexity, intensity, and character development to Saul as they did for Breaking Bad. What’s most remarkable about the series, however, is that they managed to transform the Saul character into someone humane and sympathetic while staying true to the same character in the original series. Indeed, Saul is the most detail oriented and perhaps the smartest show on television, and one hell of an intense, suspenseful drama, which is all the more impressive because we know roughly where it will end up.
10. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (11 of 12 seasons)
Take the misanthropy of Seinfeld and triple it, then triple it again, and you’ve basically set the tone for It’s Always Sunny, the wildly brilliant FX sitcom. When the series is on — and it often is — nothing on television is funnier, raunchier, and more awesomely offensive.
11. 30 Rock (7 of 7 seasons)
Funny, feminist, and wickedly intelligent, 30 Rock is a biting comedy that is so hilarious you’ll never feel the teeth marks. 30 Rock elevated Tina Fey from Saturday Night Live comedian to a cultural force.
12. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (3 of 3 seasons)
This Tina Fey-produced sitcom — which was originally supposed to air on NBC before the network agreed to give it to Netflix — is as dense and irreverent as 30 Rock, but it’s also immensely life affirming. It’s funny, fast-paced, chock-full of pop-culture references and maybe the easiest Netflix original series to binge-watch. And, like 30 Rock, it also includes a lot of fun — and unexpected — celebrity cameos.
13. Parks and Recreation (7 of 7 seasons)
Witty, heartfelt, and funny, you’re not likely to find a more likable sitcom than Parks and Recreation. The first six episodes aren’t very good, but once they figured out what to do with Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope, the sitcom began to thrive, thanks in huge part to its endearing supporting cast. Parks and Rec is blissful television, and a must watch for any fan of great sitcoms.
14. Archer (7 of 8 seasons)
Take away The Simpsons, and Archer may be the best animated sitcom of all time. The spy spoof is acerbic, funny, fast, and smart. The humor is black and brilliantly sophomoric, and it’s also very in love with itself, but in a way that completely works for the series. It may take an episode or two to adjust to the brand of comedy, but once you do, Archer is immensely addictive and incredibly quotable.
15. The Office (U.S. and UK, Complete Series of Both)
The original UK The Office mainstreamed Ricky Gervais’ awkward, uncomfortable humor, while The Office diluted it (some), layered in one of sitcom’s greatest romances (for four seasons, anyway), and surrounded Steve Carell with a remarkable, quirky supporting cast. The first four seasons still stand as the best workplace comedy in American sitcom history, even if the final four seasons were increasingly mediocre — though the series did redeem itself in the end.
16. BoJack Horseman (3 of 3 seasons)
Not enough people on the Internet have explained that BoJack Horseman is not what it might seem like. Not enough people raved that it was an often very funny, often very heartbreaking meditation on depression. It’s an animated sitcom about a washed-up horse, and somehow, it’s also an incredibly profound look at deeper themes. It’s amazing, but it may also leave you in a depressive funk for days afterwards.
17. House of Cards (5 of 5 seasons)
Netflix’s first major foray into original programming is worth every cent of its $100 million production budget, featuring searing performances, a droll sense of humor, slick writing, engrossing plot-lines, and Kevin Spacey chewing the face off the scenery. The first season is phenomenal, though the second is fat around the middle and begins to wane near the end, the third is straight-up bleak, but the fourth recaptures some of the early season magic when election season rolls around again.
18. Lost (6 of 6 seasons)
If you like mysteries and lots and lots of questions, but don’t care about satisfying answers to those questions, Lost is basically the best drama of all time. For much of its run, it was the best thing going on network television: suspenseful and completely engrossing. Unfortunately, there’s that ending, that kind of undid much of the series’ greatness. Bygones. It’s still an outstanding journey, even if the destination is not up to the standards of the rest of the series.
19. The Walking Dead (6 of 7 seasons)
Currently, the highest-rated scripted series on cable television, The Walking Dead is an up-and-down show. When it’s good, it’s phenomenal; when it’s not, it can be a slog (especially in the earlier half of the series, when Frank Darabont was showrunner). Greg Nicotero does fantastic FX work, and the series is particularly compelling because no one — no matter how high they are listed in the credits — is safe from the zombie apocalypse, and the showrunners seem to relish in killing off cast members. Some of the binge-watching value, however, is lost because it’s so difficult to avoid being spoiled to plot points of one of the most talked about series on TV. Nevertheless, unlike almost any television drama, up until the sixth season, The Walking Dead improved with age, Beware of the cliffhangers, however, in season six, and a precipitous fall off in quality thereafter.
20. American Crime Story: People vs. O.J. Simpson (1 of 1 season)
Although the original trial took place 20 years ago, and despite the fact that anyone watching the series already knows the outcome, The People vs. O.J. Simpson somehow remains a tense, suspenseful watch. Buoyed by incredible performances (the season was nominated for over 20 Emmy Awards, winning 8), The People vs. O.J. Simpson recreates the events following the murder of Ronald Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson and recasts them in the light of what we know now. With 20 years of reflection, viewers will see the trial from a completely different perspective. It’s riveting, enraging, superbly acted, and despite the numerous accounts of the trial over the last two decades, it still manages to provide a few surprises along the way.
21. Sherlock (4 of 4 seasons)
Sherlock is the best iteration of the Sherlock Holmes ever to air on television. The British series from Steven Moffat stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, and despite the fact that it has been updated, it brilliantly captures the same spirit of Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic stories. It’s fast-paced, engrossing, brilliantly acted, often very funny, and frequently tragic.
22. Stranger Things (1 of 1 season)
A throwback and love letter to the early 1980s movies of Steven Spielberg and John Carpenter, the Duffer Brothers’ Stranger Things feels both familiar and new. It’s about a boy named Will (think E.T.‘s Elliot) who is captured by a The Thing-like creature and trapped in a Poltergeist-like world. His mother (Winona Ryder) recruits the local sheriff to investigate Will’s disappearance. Meanwhile, Will’s dorky, Goonies-like best friends take to their bikes to do some sleuthing of their own and eventually befriend an alien-like girl with telepathic powers (the E.T. of the series). The investigation into Will’s disappearance and the arrival of the telepathic girl all seem to lead back to a power plant operated by a character played by Matthew Modine. It’s great PG horror/sci-fi, like the blockbusters of the early ’80s, but for those who didn’t grow up in the era or aren’t intimately familiar with Amblin Entertainment’s catalogue, the series may not hold as much appeal.
23. Master of None (2 of 2 seasons)
Intimate, funny, warm and kind, Master of None confidently tackles issues of sex and race from a perspective original to mainstream television. Creator, writer, and star Aziz Ansari loads the sitcom with smart observations and wry humor, and when it comes to dating as a thirty-something, Ansari just gets it. Sweet, sentimental, but never sappy, the mold-breaking Master of None may be the most thoughtful and well-considered dating sitcom on television.
24. Black Mirror (3 of 3 seasons)
It cannot be stressed enough how amazing Britain’s Black Mirror is, and the only reason it’s not higher on this list is that there are only 6 episodes available (at least until Netflix airs its next season). But what an incredible six episodes they are. It’s severely biting social commentary about the current and future technological age in the form of twisted, dark Twilight Zone episodes. It’s an incredible six episodes of television, and episode for episode, perhaps the best series on this list. Watch one episode, and you’ll be hooked.
25. Terriers (1 of 1 season)
Not that it doesn’t already get mentioned enough around here, it always bears repeating: Terriers is terrific, a funny, engrossing, and entertaining private eye drama starring Donal Logue that never should’ve been cancelled. In a just world, Terriers is now entering its seventh season. But even in this unjust world, season one should not be missed.
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