The 100 Best TV Shows on Netflix, Ranked (August 2020)

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The 100 Best TV Shows on Netflix, Ranked (August 2020)

Some of you will remember walking into a Blockbuster (or, for the hip, your local mom and pop video store) on a Friday or Saturday night and being overwhelmed with all of the choices. Drama? Comedy? Documentary? Where to begin? You could get lost forever wandering down those aisles and wondering, “but is this the best choice?”

The same can happen now when you scroll around Netflix; the options seem endless (and they nearly are, so much so that Netflix’s own newly released series often get lost!) What you need is to be able to log on and know exactly what you want to start bingeing without wasting time scrolling around.

Enter Paste — our TV writers are ready to assist in helping you find what you need. Below we’ve ranked 100 of the best TV shows on Netflix, but it’s just a start. Bookmark this page and come back as more series are added to Netflix (and some may be taken away) each month. And an important note: The list now starts with our #1 pick!

Looking for streaming series on other networks? You can also check out our lists of the Best TV Shows on Hulu, the Best TV Shows on Amazon, as well as our weekly Power Ranking for even more recommendations.

1. Breaking Bad

Created by: Vince Gilligan
Stars: Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, RJ Mitte, Giancarlo Esposito
Original Network: AMC

Watch on Netflix

Some argue that The Wire is TV’s best drama of all time; others stand up for Mad Men or The Sopranos, the latter of which has the benefit of being so important historically that it begins many textbooks’ modern TV eras. But Breaking Bad made its bones quickly, publicly, and with plenty of pizzazz. It entered the TV landscape with just a few episodes of tonally questionable wobbling—the balance-finding of an ambitious acrobat searching for the tightrope’s center—and stuck the landing on the remaining five seasons. Who cares if the first season’s DVD case called it a dramedy? America knew what it was immediately, even if we didn’t know exactly where it was going. How has the tragic ballad of science teacher-turned-meth kingpin Walter White (Bryan Cranston) weathered its title over the years? If the current TV landscape is anything to judge by, it’s a proud grandfather, looking over its progeny with the same glee and gentle judgment of any overachieving patriarch. Breaking Bad may not have set the paradigm of unlikable anti-heroism in pop drama, but it certainly put the “pop” in the designation. (And don’t forget to watch the show’s probably unnecessary but nevertheless wonderful follow-up film El Camino). —Jacob Oller


2. Parks and Recreation

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Created by: Greg Daniels, Michael Schur
Stars: Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman, Aziz Ansari, Adam Scott, Rob Lowe, Chris Pratt, Aubrey Plaza, Rashida Jones
Original Network: NBC

Watch on Netflix

Parks and Recreation started its run as a fairly typical mirror of The Office, but in its third season, the student became the master. As it’s fleshed out with oddballs and unusual city quirks, Pawnee has become the greatest television town since Springfield. The show flourished this year with some of the most unique and interesting characters in comedy today. With one of the greatest writing staffs of any show, Parks and Recreation is only got better with time. —Ross Bonaime


3. The Great British Baking Show

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Created by: Love Productions
Stars:Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith, Mel Giedroyc, Sue Perkins, Sandi Toksvig, Noel Fielding
Original Network: BBC

Watch on Netflix

Known across the pond as The Great British Bake-Off, the appeal of the wildly popular reality TV series—most seasons of which are now available on Netflix—is its refusal to go in for dramatic contrivances. Against Fox’s Gordon Ramsay-hosted properties, Chopped, even Top Chef, with their constant backbiting and broken dreams, the contestants on GBBS are sunny, mutually supportive amateurs (albeit extraordinarily skilled ones); in any given episode, the worst crisis is judge Paul Hollywood pressing a finger into a scone and pronouncing it “underbaked” (or literally pronouncing it “overwerked and oonderbaked”). Even with new hosts and new judge as the series moved to ITV from the BBC, GBBS remains a wonderful, inspiring, refreshing, whimsical and altogether happy series.—Matt Brennan and Allison Keene


4. The Good Place

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Created by: Michael Schur
Stars: Kristen Bell, Ted Danson, D’Arcy Carden, William Jackson Harper
Original Network: NBC

Watch on Netflix

Some of the best sitcoms in history are about bad people. M.A.S.H., Seinfeld, Arrested Development: It’d be hard to argue that the majority of their characters aren’t self-involved, intolerant or downright assholes. It’s far, far too early to enter The Good Place into any such pantheon, but it’s relevant in pinning down why the latest comedy from Michael Schur (The Office, Parks & Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) feels simultaneously so cozy and so adventurous. Fitting into a middle ground of sensibilities between occupational comedies like NewsRadio and the sly navel-gazing of Dead Like Me, The Good Place is the rare show that’s completely upfront about its main character’s flaws, creating a moral playground that tests Eleanor’s worst impulses at every turn. Played by Kristen Bell at her most unbridled, she’s a vain, impish character—the type of person who’ll swipe someone’s coffee without a second thought, then wonder why the universe is plotting against her. She’s a perfect straight woman in an afterlife surrounded by only the purest of heart, but the show doesn’t hold it against her. If anything, following in the grand tradition of sitcoms, the show knows that we’re all bad people at one time or another. —Michael Snydel


5. Cheers

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Created by: James Burrows, Glen Charles, Les Charles
Stars: Ted Danson, Shelley Long, Kirstie Alley, Rhea Perlman, Nicholas Colasanto, John Ratzenberger, Woody Harrelson, Kelsey Grammer, George Wendt
Original Network: NBC

Watch on Netflix

It was more than a bar where everybody knows your name. It was a lifestyle. Cheers rarely left the confines of the bar, but was able to weave slapstick comedy, romance and drama into the 11 seasons it was on the air. It started as the worst-rated series (74 out of 74) but climbed its way to the top 10 during the third season. Two casting changes couldn’t even slow it down. The ensemble all won awards in acting, and the show itself won four Outstanding Comedy Series awards. Unlike many sitcoms that touch on serious social issues, the show never felt like an after-school special. Everything was done with sophisticated humor. —Adam Vitcavage


6. Rectify

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Created by: Ray McKinnon
Stars: Aden Young, Abigail Spencer, J. Smith-Cameron, Adelaide Clemens, Clayne Crawford, Luke Kirby
Original Network: SundanceTV

Watch on Netflix

Rectify has a simple enough premise: A man sent to rot on Death Row is released from prison after 19 years on a DNA technicality. Sure, the big and small screens have seen their fair share of crime dramas, but Rectify’s plot isn’t what sets it apart: It’s the rest of it that really matters. Daniel Holden, presumably wrongly arrested for the rape and murder of his girlfriend, finds himself back in his hometown and greeted by constant life-threatening hostility. The show explores the bonds between Daniel (played to perfection by Aden Young), his family and his enemies as they struggle to deal with Daniel’s homecoming. Superbly acted, the program successfully meshes the best bits of a TV show together, managing to be at times heartbreaking and suspenseful, while also beautifully incorporating moments of effortless humor. Rectify is thought-provoking and will make you care about the future of its characters—like all the best shows do. —Rachel Haas


7. The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance

Developed by: Jeffrey Addis, Will Matthews
Stars: Taron Egerton, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nathalie Emmanuel, Simon Pegg, Mark Hamill, Jason Isaacs 
Original Network: Netflix

There is a moment in Netflix’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance—a prequel to Jim Henson’s beloved Dark Crystal movie (which is great but you do not need to have seen it before this)—where two ancient characters are recounting an important tale to our heroes. It’s about the beautiful land of Thra, and an event many years past that caused an imbalance and blight within the crystal that stands at the center of their world. All of the answers they seek will be “brought to life by that most ancient and sacred of arts…” they’re told, with a dramatic pause as the character looks right at the camera and breathes out: “Puppetry!”

“Oh nooo!” our heroes groan, and one immediately falls asleep.

That is the bias that Age of Resistance acknowledges it’s up against—but folks, get over it. Allow this incredible production to sweep you away in an epic fantasy journey, one that is able to so much more deeply and fully explore the world Henson and Frank Oz imagined with the original film. You can liken it to Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones or any high fantasy series you like, but after ten magical hours it truly stands on its own as a gorgeous, innovative, emotional, joyous, and exceptional wonder. If that sounds hyperbolic, it’s only because that’s exactly the kind of sincere enthusiasm the show engenders. Get past any hesitance over the puppets (which are actually outstanding, as CG is used only to smooth out backgrounds and action), turn subtitles on to help you remember all of the character names, and immerse yourself in this incredible world that we are so, so lucky to have.—Allison Keene


8. Better Call Saul

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Created by: Vince Gilligan
Stars: Bob Odenkirk, Michael McKean, Rhea Seehorn, and Jonathan Banks
Original Network: AMC

Watch on Netflix

When Bob Odenkirk showed up towards the end of the second season of Breaking Bad, playing sleazy lawyer Saul Goodman, it was a small shock to the system for anyone who has long appreciated his work as a writer and a comic actor on series like SNL and Mr. Show. Little did we know that this was only the beginning of a tragic and hilarious tale that would start to take on the scope of an epic Russian novel. This prequel to Vince Gilligan’s meth drama has accomplished the nearly impossible, by expanding upon the source material of Breaking Bad with dynamic and sometimes heartbreaking results. And give full credit to Odenkirk (and his co-stars Michael McKean, Rhea Seehorn, and Jonathan Banks) for further bringing to life how shaky a person’s morality can be, especially when there’s great gobs of money involved. —Robert Ham


9. Schitt’s Creek

Created by: Eugene Levy, Daniel Levy
Stars: Eugene Levy, Daniel Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Annie Murphy, Emily Hampshire, Noah Reid, Jenn Robertson, Chris Elliott
Original Network: Pop TV

Watch on Netflix

The narcissistic matriarch of her spoiled clan, stripped of their fortune and plopped down in the rural burg of Schitt’s Creek, former soap star Moira Rose—as played by Catherine O’Hara, dressed by costume designer Debra Hanson, and written by Schitt’s Creek co-created by Dan Levy and his team—was, for the series’ first two seasons, the main reason to tune in: She’s high camp catnip (“What is your favorite season?” “Awards.”) with a wig collection that qualifies as the best drama on television. And then something happened. Her husband, Johnny (Eugene Levy), once the owner of a successful chain of video stores, rediscovered his purpose running a motel. Moira won a seat on the town council. Their son, David (Dan Levy), opened a store and met the love of his life. Their daughter, Alexis (Annie Murphy), finally finished high school (it’s a long story) and decided to enroll in community college. In Seasons Three, Four, and Five, the Roses put down roots, and as they have, the people of Schitt’s Creek—once treated primarily as rubes, innocently getting in the way of the family’s plans to flee back to their former lives—have learned to wrangle them, in some cases by developing sharper edges of their own. Though it hasn’t lost its absurdist inflection, what began as a fish-out-of-water comedy about a bunch of snobs reduced to eating mozzarella sticks at the Café Tropical has become a gentler, warmer, more complicated tale of what happens when the fish sprout legs, and one of the best comedies on television: Call it the sweetening of Schitt’s Creek. —Matt Brennan


10. Unbelievable

Created by: Susannah Grant, Ayelet Waldman, Michael Chabon
Stars: Toni Collette, Merritt Wever, Kaitlyn Dever
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

There’s something quietly revolutionary about Unbelievable. It is difficult to watch at times, the kind of series likely to live with you long after its final moments come to a close; for a story centered on rape, that is hardly unusual. The work of its three remarkable lead actors is wonderful but also not unique; other television shows and movies have hired exceptional performers to tell these stories. Instead, Unbelievable distinguishes itself by the simple act of making one very big assumption: that everyone watching already knows that rape is a horrific violation. It assumes you’ve got that handled. It assumes that you’ve seen The Handmaid’s Tale or Boys Don’t Cry, or most recently, The Nightingale, and have plenty of experience seeing rape depicted in media in visceral, nightmarish fashion. It is fully aware that of the people on the other side of the screen one in six women and one in 33 men will have personally experienced a rape or an attempted rape in their lives. It has absolutely no interest in immersing its audience in trauma and violation. Unbelievable knows that you know rape is bad. It does not act as a voyeur. Under the guidance of showrunner Susannah Grant, it is far more interested in the survivor’s perspective—on what happened to her, yes, and how it lingers, but also on the violations that came after.

Based on a Pulitzer-winning piece of journalism by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong (of ProPublica and The Marshall Project, respectively), Unbelievable is a series of such quiet power that its full impact may not come crashing down until after its conclusion.—Allison Shoemaker


11. Babylon Berlin

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Created by: Tom Tykwer, Achim von Borries, Henk Handloegten
Stars: Volker Bruch, Liv Lisa Fries

Watch on Netflix

The excellent ‘20s-set series Babylon Berlin is a labyrinthine but deeply human exploration of a key era of German history. Focusing primarily on a mysterious detective from Cologne (Volker Brunch’s Gereon Rath), as well as a poor, ambitious flapper with a desire to work in Berlin’s homicide division (Liv Lisa Fries’ Charlotte Ritter), this neo-noir builds a case around the many forces at work in German society and politics during the Weimar Republic. With the rise of Stalin impacting Europe, and the Treaty of Versailles not sitting well with dangerous nationalist groups, Berlin is a hotbed of covert activities. And the payoff, after the show’s marvelous first two seasons, culminates in one of television’s best episodes of all time (including an outrageous twist you will never see coming).

Despite the time period (in a surprise perhaps to American viewers), the first time we are shown a swastika is not until the Season 2 finale. But the slow turning of that tide—the fall of democracy, the rising blame against the Jewish community—is felt throughout, as violence spills out onto the streets, among a population still splintered from the horrors of the first World War. And yet, Babylon Berlin is never a dark series. It can be sad or heartbreaking, but it can also be luminous and joyous. It’s cerebral and emotional. It takes time to spend an entire episode casually lounging by a lake, but also builds such an intricate interplay of narrative threads that, when they start to pay off, you will come away astonished. The show’s distinct German Expressionist style, gorgeous costuming, and keen sense of character make it unmissable TV. Don’t be scared of the subtitles—though it is dubbed, it is best experienced in its native language. —Allison Keene


12. Russian Doll

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Created by: Natasha Lyonne, Leslye Headland, Amy Poehler
Stars: Natasha Lyonne, Charlie Barnett, Greta Lee, Yul Vazquez, Elizabeth Ashley
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

Netflix’s Russian Doll was almost too good to be renewed. By all means, renew Natasha Lyonne. Renew Amy Poehler. Renew Leslye Headland. Renew Charlie Barnett. Renew Rebecca Henderson and Greta Lee as hot mess hipster art friends ready to make parties across the Netflix spectrum that much spikier and sparklier. Renew Elizabeth Ashley as every Netflix heroine’s no-bullshit therapist (but make it fashion) mom-figure. Renew sharp, funny women directing sharp, funny women written by sharp, funny women. Renew that hair. Renew every damn thing about Russian Doll that helped make it such a brambly triumph of black comedy, macabre ennui and existential optimism. (Everything, that is, except Dave Becky in a producer’s chair—if Broad City can change precedent after four seasons, new series can avoid setting one altogether.) Renewing Russian Doll as a whole is trickier. It is, in the eight shaggy, smartly-constructed puzzlebox episodes of its debut season, nearly perfect. —Alexis Gunderson


13. When They See Us

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Created by: Ava DuVernay
Stars: Asante Blackk, Caleel Harris, Ethan Herisse, Jharrel Jerome, Marquis Rodriguez, Felicity Huffman, John Leguizamo, Michael K. Williams, Vera Farmiga
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

You cannot look away from When They See Us or shelter yourself from the blinding truth. On April 19, 1989, 28-year-old Trisha Meli was jogging in Central Park when she was brutally raped and left for dead. In a coma for 12 days, Meli had no memory of what happened to her and was unable to identify her attacker or attackers. The series doesn’t shy away from the horrors of what happened to Meli. A successful white woman left for dead in America’s most famous public space did not sit well with New York City. Everyone—the mayor, the district attorney, the police department—wanted her attackers caught. But somewhere along the line, Manhattan District Attorney Linda Fairstein (Felicity Huffman, in her first post-scandal role) and NYPD detectives lost sight of wanting to find the actual criminal and decided to solve the crime by any means necessary. The story itself is overwhelmingly powerful. But there are several key decisions Ava DuVernay makes that turns When They See Us into one of the year’s, if not the decade’s best, programs. One is the casting of five relatively unknown actors to play the boys.

The “Central Park Five” were 14-16 years old in 1989 and Rodriguez, Herisse, Jerome, Blackk and Harris not only look young but portray the absolutely vulnerability and fear that their real-life counterparts must have felt. We also get to see their families, who fought so hard for their children. Niecy Nash as Korey’s mom Delores. John Leguizamo as Raymond’s father, who remarries while Raymond is away and struggles to balance his old family with his new one. Aunjanue Ellis as Sharon Salaam, the only parent who understood the system enough to make sure her son didn’t sign a false confession. DuVernay doesn’t make any of them saints. They all make horrible mistakes and painful decisions. But their love for their children is never in doubt. When They See Us is exceedingly difficult to watch. It cut me to my very core. When you see it, I’m sure it will do the same to you. —Amy Amatangelo


14. Community

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Created by: Dan Harmon
Stars: Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, Yvette Nicole Brown, Alison Brie, Donald Glover, Chevy Chase, Ken Jeong, Jim Rash
Original Network: NBC, Yahoo

Watch on Netflix

As a half-hour sitcom, Community didn’t merely break the fourth wall; it broke it, openly commented on the fact that it broke it, only to then build a fifth wall for the express purpose of further demolition. Yet, if deconstructing the sitcom formula was all creator Dan Harmon’s magnum opus had to offer, it would have been a fun, if superficial lark. Instead, in telling the story of a ragtag group of community college students, the show used its vast pop culture vernacular as a vessel for telling surprisingly resonant stories about outcasts attempting to find acceptance, a sense of belonging and, yes, community. Whether the Greendale study group was participating in an epic game of paintball or being confined to their study room in search of a pen, Harmon and Co. perfected the art of taking gimmicky concepts and transforming them into strong, character-driven gems. The strange, winding saga of Community will forever stand as the stuff of TV sitcom legends. —Mark Rozeman


15. Stranger Things

Created by: The Duffer Brothers
Stars: Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Cara Buono, Matthew Modine
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

Say what you will about the finer points of its storytelling, Stranger Things continues to be an unabashed celebration of the 1980s, from its own filmic references regarding style and story to a cavalcade of literal references from the era. Its plucky set of kid and teen characters battle monsters (real or within themselves) and go to the mall. It’s a nostalgic dream and a creepfest nightmare. But whether it’s set during Halloween or in the throes of a mid-80s summer, the show’s carefully crafted aesthetics always serve to augment the joyful nature of the series’ non-monster moments. And that, really, is where Stranger Things shines. The creep factor is important (and occasionally actually scary or super gory), but it acts as an almost funny juxtaposition to the otherwise happy-go-lucky look at suburban life. Mainly, though, it’s the friendships and coming-of-age stories, the relationships and family bonding, that really make Stranger Things great. For better or worse, the Netflix horror series is as tasty, messy, and fleeting as an ice cream cone on a hot summer’s day. Ahoy!—Allison Keene


16. Legends of Tomorrow

Created by: Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg, Phil Klemmer
Stars: Brandon Routh, Caity Lotz, Dominic Purcell, Maisie Richardson-Sellers, Nick Zano, Tala Ashe
Original Network: The CW

Watch on Netflix

“Joyful” is an underused and underrated term when it comes to TV dramas. Too many series conflate “prestige” with sorrow, violence, and horror when it can (and should) also mean happiness and splendor. Legends of Tomorrow, though, is a drama that truly understands the meaning of joy. The series—which follows a rag-tag bunch of misfits through space and time trying to “fix” historical anomalies caused by villains and supernatural beings—can be flippant and glib, but it can also be devastatingly emotional. The bottom line is that it’s just good. For those who were turned off by its first episodes or even first season, dive in to Season Two (or even Season Three, if you’re really strapped for time) and go from there. It gets much, much better. Legends is the rare series that learns from its mistakes, always ready to grow and innovate to bring us the most bonkers but wonderful television. And unlike most other series (especially those dealing with superheroes), it isn’t afraid to change out its cast members when things aren’t working, which keeps each season feeling fresh while the stakes remain high.

Legends of Tomorrow is funny, strange, bizarre, beautiful, and silly. It incorporates puppets and unicorns and sentient lopped-off nipples, but also explores the the devastation of losing loved ones, of advocating for those who need a voice, and an ever-developing journey of self-discovery. Join us for the ride.—Allison Keene


17. The Crown

Created by: Peter Morgan
Stars: Claire Foy, Matt Smith, Vanessa Kirby, Jeremy Northam, Victoria Hamilton, Anton Lesser, Matthew Goode
Original Network: Netflix, 2016-present

Watch on Netflix

In its first two seasons, creator Peter Morgan’s lavish treatment of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II hinges on Claire Foy’s utterly captivating performance as the flinty monarch; the impeccable period detail; a sense of historical scope that outstrips its forebears, Morgan’s 2006 film The Queen and 2013 play The Audience. But to call The Crown simply “lavish” seems unfair. Rather, as time marches on from the early days of Elizabeth’s reign, we move in to the Suez Crisis of in 1956, and the Profumo affair of 1963. Through the series, its elaborates, thoughtful style and episodic structure fleshes out the supporting characters, including Elizabeth’s husband, Philip (Matt Smith), and sister, Margaret (the standout Vanessa Kirby), by turning the focus away from the queen herself. It’s a surprisingly full-throated examination of Britain’s public life, and its public figures’ private ones.

The new chapter of Netflix’s opulent celebration of the monarchy opens in 1964 and concludes with her Silver Jubilee in 1977. In an era of binge, Peter Morgan’s historical drama continues to distinguish itself as a series devoted to episodic storytelling, almost acting like an anthology within itself. To that end, Season 3 introduces us to a new cast to reflect the new timeframe: Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth II, Tobias Menzies is now Prince Philip, Margaret transforms into Helena Bonham Carter, and we are introduced to Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor), Princess Anne (Erin Doherty).

The weight of the crown itself is felt throughout, mainly in how unhappy it makes all of these very privileged people who constantly consider “the life unlived.” Each of these serve as a brief glimpse of possibilities that are never allowed to materialize because of the realities of position and duty, but that sacrifice in the face of something greater becomes increasingly harder to defend as the years go on. But in this moment, Elizabeth is at a point where all she knows is that she must simply carry on. And so, indeed—as the series takes great pains to argue—must the crown. —Matt Brennan and Allison Keene


18. The West Wing

Created by: Aaron Sorkin
Stars: Allison Janney, John Spencer, Bradley Whitford, Martin Sheen, Janel Moloney, Richard Schiff, Dulé Hill, NiCole Robinson, Melissa Fitzgerald, Rob Lowe, Joshua Malina, Stockard Channing, Kim Webster, Kris Murphy, Timothy Davis-Reed
Original Network: NBC

Watch on Netflix

Television’s quintessential political drama began in the Clinton era, soldiered on through Bush and 9/11, and ended in the earliest days of the Age of Obama. Weirdly, the show’s political climate was more stable than reality itself. And maybe that was its appeal. The West Wing showed us government not as it was, but as it could be—a White House run by quippy, tireless, big-hearted public servants who believed in governing with decency. President Josiah Bartlett would give any of his real-life counterparts a run for their money. —Nick Marino


19. BoJack Horseman

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Created by: Raphael Bob-Waksberg
Stars: Will Arnett, Aaron Paul, Amy Sedaris, Paul F. Tompkins
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

BoJack Horseman is one of the most underrated comedies ever made, and it almost pains me that it doesn’t earn more praise. Right from the title sequence, which documents BoJack’s sad decline from network sitcom star to drunken has-been—set to the beautiful theme song written by the Black Keys’ Patrick Carney—this is one of the most thoughtful comedies ever made. Which doesn’t mean it’s not hilarious, of course. Will Arnett is the perfect voice for BoJack, and Paul F. Tompkins, who is in my mind the funniest man on planet Earth, could not be better suited to the child-like Mr. Peanut Butter. This is a show that isn’t above a visual gag or vicious banter or a wonderfully cheap laugh, but it also looks some very hard realities of life straight in the eye. There are times when you will hate BoJack—this is not a straight redemption story, and the minute you think he’s on the upswing, he will do something absolutely horrible to let you down. (There’s a special irony in the fact that a horse is one of the most human characters on TV, and the unblinking examination of his character makes “Escape from L.A.” one of the best episodes of TV this year.) So why isn’t it loved beyond a strong cult following? Maybe it’s the anthropomorphism that keeps people away, or maybe it’s the animation, but I implore you: Look beyond those elements, settle into the story, and let yourself be amazed by a comedy that straddles the line between hilarious and sad like no other. —Shane Ryan


20. Gilmore Girls

Created by: Amy Sherman-Palladino
Stars: Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel, Melissa McCarthy
Original Networks: The WB, The CW, Netflix

Watch on Netflix

Our fearless TV editor at the time, Matt Brennan, recently embarked on a journey. Having never seen Gilmore Girls before, he watched all 154 episodes of the original plus the four new installments of A Year in the Life. (You can read his hilarious stream-of-consciousness here). And I have to admit I was jealous. For me, the original show is now a distant and beloved memory. Oh, the joy of discovering it for the first time! I envy all of you who will watch as Lorelai (Lauren Graham), her daughter Rory (Alexis Bledel) and family matriarch Emily (the incomparable Kelly Bishop) honestly portray three generations of strong women. It’s the only show you can watch with your teenage daughter and your mother and be assured you will all be equally entertained. In addition to the deft storytelling, there’s the never before or since matched rat-a-tat banter and pop-culture references that infuse all the dialogue. And the love stories! Lorelai and Luke (Scott Patterson) are one of TV’s greatest love stories. And will you be #TeamJess, #TeamDean or #TeamLogan? Even if I didn’t love the (very) flawed A Year in the Life and kind of despised the final four words, I still was so happy to see my friends in Stars Hollow again. The show became a part of my life. And it will become a part of yours, too. —Amy Amatangelo


21. Master of None

Created by: Aziz Ansari, Alan Yang
Stars: Aziz Ansari, Noél Wells, Eric Wareheim, Lena Waithe, Kelvin Yu, Alessandra Mastronardi, Bobby Cannavale
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

The second season of Aziz Ansari’s masterful Master of None begins with an homage to Bicycle Thieves and ends with a nod to The Graduate. In between are beautifully nuanced episodes as Ansari’s Dev Shah tries to navigate his love life and his career. Even when the show goes the traditional sitcom route—the will-they-or-won’t-they romance of Dev and the engaged Francesca (Alessandra Mastronardi)—the dialogue and interactions are decidedly not traditional. They talk like real people not ones created in a writer’s room. “New York, I Love You,” which stepped away from the main characters to showcase the vibrant diversity of the city and “Thanksgiving,” which chronicled Dev’s childhood friend Denise (Lena Waithe) coming out to her family, are easily the season’s highlights. The show is fun to watch, emotionally satisfying and thought provoking. —Eric Walters and Amy Amatangelo


22. Star Trek: The Next Generation

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Created by: Gene Roddenberry
Stars: Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Gates McFadden, Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, Wil Wheaton
Original Network: CBS

Watch on Netflix

The original series was pioneering. Deep Space Nine and Voyager had their moments. But TNG was head-and-shoulders the greatest Star Trek franchise (And one of the best sci-fi series of all time). Jean Luc Picard. Data. Worf. The holodeck. The Borg. Gene Roddenbury must not have had a cynical bone in his body, and watching his characters explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations, and boldly go where no one has gone before, I didn’t either. —Josh Jackson


23. GLOW

Created by: Liz Flahive, Jenji Kohan and Carly Mensch
Stars: Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin, Sydelle Noel, Britney Young, Sunita Mani and Marc Maron
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

Netflix’s bubbly celebration of a long-forgotten corner of the wrestling world takes a little time to come together, but once it does, it’s pure joy. That’s not to say that there isn’t still a ton of drama among the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (GLOW)—the story does start out with an infidelity that affects two best friends—but once the bright colors and bold energy of this 80s-set series ignite there’s no slowing it down. Boasting a wonderfully sprawling and diverse cast (who do their own stunts), the series never shies away from deeper issues of race, gender, and the realities of a career on the stage. But what binds the show together are its friendships, especially among its core cast. (Plus, it brought Betty Gilpin to our national attention, for which we shall be eternally grateful).

GLOW will always be a show that understands femininity in a way few others do, and is often a pop-filled good time. Sometimes it’s messy, but that’s what GLOW is all about. The women try, and fail, and try again. They weather the sadness and the chaos. Choices are made, mistakes happen. And they try again. And again.—Allison Keene


24. Outlander

Created by: Ronald D. Moore
Stars: Caitriona Balfe, Sam Heughan
Original Network: Starz

Watch on Netflix

Based on Diana Gabaldon’s immensely popular book series, Outlander follows the story of Claire Randall, a nurse in 1940s England who, while on a holiday to Scotland, gets transported back through mystical stones to the 1740s. There, as she fights for survival and a way home, she meets a tall, dark and handsome Highlander name James Fraser, and the rest is history. Except that Outlander actually does a really wonderful job of tracking the couple’s place throughout history, providing tense, riveting and yes romantic storytelling along the way. The series’ truly wonderful cast is augmented to the stratosphere by its leads, whose chemistry will make you believe in love at first sight. Full of battles, political intrigue and gorgeous on every level, the show is a wonderfully cozy (and sexy) adventure. From its hauntingly beautiful theme song by Bear McCreary onwards, Outlander will transport you to its dangerous, surprising world as quickly as those magical stones. —Allison Keene


25. Orange Is the New Black

Created by: Jenji Kohan
Stars: Taylor Schilling, Laura Prepon, Michael J. Harney, Michelle Hurst, Kate Mulgrew, Jason Biggs
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

Orange Is the New Black is perfectly suited for the Netflix delivery system, if only because it would be agonizing to wait a week for each new episode. But there’s more; the construct feels cinematic and compared to your average show, and I couldn’t help but feel that the all-at-once release plane freed the creators to make something less episodic and more free-flowing—which has since become Netflix’s signature. Taylor Schilling stars as Piper Chapman, a woman living a content modern life when her past rears up suddenly to tackle her from behind; a decade earlier, she was briefly a drug mule for her lover Alex Vause (the excellent Laura Prepon), and when Vause needed to plea her sentence down, she gave up Piper. The story is based on the real-life events of Piper Kerman, whose book of the same title was the inspiration, but the truth is that the screen version is miles better. Schilling is the engine that drives the plot, and her odd combination of natural serenity mixed with the increasing anger and desperation at the late turn her life has taken strikes the perfect tone for life inside the women’s prison.

Over the first few episodes, prison is treated like an almost-quirky novelty she’ll have to experience for 15 months, and the wisest choice director Jenji Kohan made (and there are many) was to heighten the stakes so that what begins as an off-kilter adventure soon takes on the serious proportions prison life demands. And as great as Schilling and Prepon are together, the supporting cast is so universally excellent that it almost beggars belief. There are too many characters who make gold with their limited screen time to mention individually, but suffice it to say that there’s enough comedy, pathos and tragedy here for a dozen shows. The fact that they fit so successfully into one makes OITNB a defining triumph for Netflix. —Shane Ryan


26. Twin Peaks

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Created by: David Lynch, Mark Frost
Stars: Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Ontkean, Mädchen Amick, Dana Ashbrook, Richard Beymer, Lara Flynn Boyle, Joan Chen, Eric Da Re, Sherilyn Fenn
Original Network: ABC

Watch on Netflix

At its heart, Twin Peaks is a detective story, with Dale Cooper (Kyle Maclachan), a stalwart, by-the-book FBI agent, descending upon the small logging town of Twin Peaks to investigate the murder of a young woman. But since this was a TV series conceived using the weird and wonderful visions of David Lynch, it wound up being so much more. Like its nearest antecedent, Blue Velvet, it explores the weirdness that lies beneath the surface of Anytown, U.S.A., including a lot of soap opera-like psychosexual drama and assorted oddball characters like The Log Lady (Catherine Coulson) and agoraphobic Harold Smith (Lenny Von Dohlen). The horror of the show came in with the supernatural underpinnings of this storyline, with the killer of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) potentially being an otherworldly force that goes by the name of Bob. Through Lynch’s lens and through the guise of actor Frank Silva, that spirit haunted every last scene in the show, no matter how outlandish and far-reaching it got. With the help of Angelo Badalamenti’s haunting score and the atmosphere created by the set designers, you spent the entirety of the two seasons waiting for something terrible to happen to everyone on screen. And it only made those moments—when things did go sour—feel that much worse. Though Twin Peaks: The Return, which debuted on Showtime in 2017, is not yet available on Netflix, its wild surrealism and resistance to narrative confirm the visionary nature of Lynch’s original. —Robert Ham


27. Hannibal

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Created by: Bryan Fuller 
Stars: Mads Mikkelsen, Caroline Dhavernas, Hugh Dancy
Original Network: NBC

Watch on Netflix

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; Hannibal airing on a broadcast network was nothing short of a minor miracle. After a stellar inaugural year, Bryan Fuller and company dared to up the stakes for their second go-around, taking major creative risks in the process. These risks came in the form of (among other things) sealing the protagonist in jail for a third of the run, killing off a major character, and ending the season with what I can only describe as the visual equivalent of a mic drop. Even in its weaker moments, the show always offered something memorable, whether it be an impressive visual, or an intense dialogue exchange. And while some viewers no doubt came to Hannibal purely for its inventive, if highly gruesome imagery (there’s certainly that in spades), chances are they ended up staying for the compelling writing, hypnotic performances, and luscious, evocative cinematography. —Mark Rozeman


28. Jane the Virgin

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Created by: Jennie Snyder Urman
Stars: Gina Rodriguez, Justin Baldoni, Yeal Grobglas, Jaime Camil, Andrea Navedo, Ivonne Coll, Anthony Mendez
Original Network: The CW

Watch on Netflix

A virgin perfectionist with a heart of gold shouldn’t be this watchable. However, add a pinch of the ol’ impregnated-by-artificial-insemination storyline, mixed in with the possible threat of a grandmother’s deportation, all while the protagonist is trying to rock both a writing career and motherhood, and you’ve got one of TV’s most fascinating characters. What’s great about Jane is that she handles everything with an impressive sensibility, and you can’t help but fall for her optimistic outlook on life. If there’s a will, there’s a way, and Jane takes the cards she’s dealt in life while never forgetting or forsaking the deep goodness Abuela instilled within her. We watched as this character celebrated life’s big moments with everything from dance-offs to earnest weeping, without any embarrassment for her vulnerability—but don’t get on her bad side. —Iris A. Barreto


29. One Day at a Time

Created by: Gloria Calderon Kellett, Mike Royce
Stars: Justina Machado, Rita Moreno, Stephen Tobolowsky, Todd Grinnell, Isabella Gomez, Marcel Ruiz
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

With an assist from legendary producer Norman Lear, Mike Royce and Gloria Calderon Kellett’s warm-hearted, full-throated update of One Day at a Time, which follows a Cuban American family in Los Angeles, only grew more confident in its second and third seasons. In fact, with its combination of the topical and the timeless, the silly and the sincere, the Netflix’s multi-cam sitcom has become the leading engine of the form’s revival. Covering everything from LGBTQ rights and immigration to dating and depression, the series is anchored by the two extraordinary women at its center: Rita Moreno and Justina Machado, whose chemistry as mother and daughter find fullest expression in two wrenching late-season entries. If the inseparable pair aren’t treasured in the TV canon forever, there should be a steward’s inquiry. Thank goodness PopTV picked up the series for a fourth season after Netflix unceremoniously let it go. —Matt Brennan


30. Halt and Catch Fire

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Created by: Christopher Cantwell, Christopher C. Rogers
Stars: Lee Pace, Scoot McNairy, Mackenzie Davis, Kerry Bishé, Toby Huss, Aleksa Palladino
Original Network: AMC

Watch on Netflix

By the time Christopher Cantwell and Christopher C. Rogers’ group portrait of the dawn of the digital age concludes its final act, cable’s most under-appreciated drama emerged as one of its most poignant, a treatment of connections broken and (re-) made over the course of a distant decade. Halt and Catch Fire was always, as Joe (Lee Pace) proclaims in the pilot episode, about “the thing that gets us to the thing,” but it’s the series’ final season, set amid the scramble to build the Internet’s dominant search engine, that draws the point most elegantly. Through videogames, coding assignments, nascent ideas tied to the web’s wide reach, Halt and Catch Fire suggests, Joe and Gordon (Scoot McNairy) and Donna (Kerry Bishé) and Cameron (Mackenzie Davis) complete the circuits of affection at the heart of all human endeavor, and so discover life’s “one constant”: “It’s you. It’s us,” as Donna says in the series’ sublime finale. “The project gets us to the people.” And so it did. —Matt Brennan


31. Narcos / Narcos: Mexico

Created by: Carlo Bernard, Chris Brancato, Doug Miro
Stars: Wagner Moura, Boyd Holbrook, Pedro Pascal / Michael Peña, Diego Luna, José María Yazpik
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

One popular line of criticism has it that Narcos romanticizes the violence and degradation associated with the Colombian drug wars—and drug culture in general—and I would agree that the excellent Wagner Moura plays kingpin Pablo Escobar so engagingly that he becomes a sort of Walter White-esque antihero. And the rhythms of the documentary-style narration are fast-paced in a way that’s reminiscent of Guy Ritchie, whipping us along at an almost breakneck speed. Nevertheless, this valid criticism misses the important point that we are watching a work of fiction based on historical figures—not a realdocumentary. And when viewed that way, Narcos was one of the most successful shows on TV in how it managed to flesh out some very dark characters and tell a complicated story with such urgency and clarity. This is not the hyper-realist drug fiction of Traffic or even 2015’s Sicario, but as conflict entertainment goes, it succeeds wonderfully

Similarly, the spinoff/companion series of sorts, Narcos: Mexico, investigates the rise of the powerful Guadalajara Cartel that began by selling cannabis and quickly escalated into cocaine and heroin. The cartel, and the story itself, is led by the conflicted figure of Félix Gallardo (Luna), who wants to make drug selling a business (shades of The Wire’s Stringer Bell are evident everywhere in this portrayal), but must ultimately embrace a ruthless nature to make it work. Gallardo is being hunted by DEA agent Kiki Camarena (Peña), whose fledgling organization doesn’t understand how dangerous these cartels and their growing network are becoming. Anchored by outstanding performances, like the original series, Narcos: Mexico is a deeply compelling dramatization of the drug gangs that continue to plague Mexico (and to some extent, the United States) today, and concludes with a major reveal that sets up a whole new game for Season 2. Filled with emotional twists and turns, Narcos: Mexico perhaps even eclipses its predecessor with outstanding characterizations and a tense story told at a rapid, tantalizing pace. —Shane Ryan and Allison Keene


32. The Office (U.S.)

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Created by: Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant, Greg Daniels
Stars: Steve Carell, Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, B. J. Novak
Original Network: NBC

Watch on Netflix

Ricky Gervais’ immortal Britcom deserves full marks for establishing this comedy franchise that killed the laugh track and introduced us to a hilarious bunch of paper-pushing mopes. Defying expectations that it would pale in comparison, NBC’s The Office became an institution unto itself.  Before there was Steve Carell’s Michael Scott and endless “that’s what she said” jokes, there was Ricky Gervais’ equally clueless David Brent and his fantastical dancing. Before there were John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer’s adorable Jim Halpert and Pam Beesly, there were Martin Freeman and Lucy Davis’ star-crossed Tim Canterbury and Dawn Tinsley. And, of course, before there was Rainn Wilson’s assistant [to the] regional manager, Dwight Schrute, there was Gareth Keenan—Mackenzie Crook’s retired Territorial Army member, who is both obsessed with his slightly senior workplace status and his one-sided friendship with his boss. Still, long-running, Emmy-winning American spinoff remains a streaming mainstay as comfort TV, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. —Nick Marino and Whitney Friedlander


33. The Umbrella Academy

Created by: Steve Blackman, Jeremy Slater
Stars: Ellen Page, Tom Hopper, David Castañeda, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Robert Sheehan, Aidan Gallagher, Mary J. Blige, Cameron Britton
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

As a fan of Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá’s comic book, I was a little skeptical of Netflix’s adaptation of The Umbrella Academy. I assumed it’d flatten out the comic’s esoteric edges in an attempt to make it more like other superhero shows. The first episode almost immediately calms those fears, though, revealing a series as weird and idiosyncratic as the comic. Imagine if Wes Anderson directed a Grant Morrison adaptation, complete with a mansion-spanning sad-superhero dance break to Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now.”. —Garrett Martin


34. American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson

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Created by: Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski
Stars: Sterling K. Brown, Cuba Gooding Jr., Bruce Greenwood, Nathan Lane, Sarah Paulson, David Schwimmer, John Travolta, Courtney B. Vance
Original Network: FX

Watch on Netflix

In a year defined by a certain queasy nostalgia for the 1990s, from Fuller House to the presidential election, FX’s dramatization of the decade’s signal spectacle came closest to capturing both zeitgeists at once: the one that made “the trial of the century” and the one that revived our obsession with it. Anchored by Courtney B. Vance and Sarah Paulson as Johnnie Cochran and Marcia Clark, American Crime Story transforms the salaciousness of a tabloid-ready saga into a potent, surprisingly restrained treatment of “identity politics” in action, in which the seeds of our own fault lines—of race, of gender, of class—were sown in the aftermath of Reagan, the Cold War, and the L.A. riots. Most impressive of all, perhaps, the series manages to wring suspense from a twenty-year-old case that already unfurled on live television, becoming that now-rare artifact of an earlier cultural moment: appointment viewing. —Matt Brennan


35. Bodyguard

Created by: Jed Mercurio
Stars: Richard Madden, Keeley Hawes, Gina McKee, Sophie Rundle
Original Network: ITV

Watch on Netflix

In Jed Mercurio’s exquisite actioner, there are no rooftop chases, no ticking clocks, no fisticuffs with the villain’s henchmen. Instead, the six-part series finds suspense in watchful camerawork and careful pacing, and it’s this thorough control that makes Bodyguard worthy of your next TV obsession: It refuses shortcuts, rejects ellipses, until it approaches the effect of real time. Rather than treat this as a gimmick though, star Richard Madden and directors Thomas Vincent and John Strickland use the technique to create potent echoes of protagonist David Budd’s torturous vigilance, and indeed the nation’s. A veteran of the war in Afghanistan, David receives an assignment to protect Home Secretary Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes), a rising political star with her eye on 10 Downing Street—and a reputation as a national security hardliner. The result is an ingenious layering of form atop function, all within the context of a taut political thriller: The series is less 24 or House of Cards than Homeland at its most momentous, stripped of all but its hero’s ability to see what others miss. —Matt Brennan


36. Derry Girls

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Created by: Adam Lee
Stars: Saoirse-Monica Jackson, Louisa Harland, Nicola Coughlan, Jamie-Lee O’Donnell, Dylan Llewellyn
Original Network: Channel 4

Watch on Netflix

The lovely, silly, funny and emotional Derry Girls has returned to Netflix for Season Two. The brief series (each season only runs six episodes) focuses on a group of schoolgirls in Northern Ireland in the ‘90s, during the last days of the Troubles. But in Lisa McGee’s series, that darkness is relegated to the background. Instead, the more traditional teen conflicts of school life and being boy crazy take center stage, along with lots of incredibly specific language and jokes about both that region and that time (you will definitely want to watch with subtitles on). Derry Girls is a warm and funny time hop carried by a dreamy 90s playlist and the gigantic charisma of its wee leads. —Allison Keene


37. I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson

Created by: Zach Kanin, Tim Robinson
Stars: Tim Robinson
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

The co-starring and co-created by Comedy Central’s dearly missed Detroiters, Saturday Night Live alum Tim Robinson is equally comfortable on either side of the camera—he’s a fantastic sketch comedy writer who’s just as good of a performer, and who has carved out a unique and immediately recognizable niche in both. And he puts both skills to brilliant use in his new Netflix show, I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson.

Robinson is a master of embarrassment. His sketches tend to focus on two types of characters: People who tell small lies that grow larger and more obvious as they refuse to come clean, and people who are too irrational, confused, or stubborn to understand what’s happening—or refuse to understand because that would require admitting their own ignorance. This might sound like typical cringe comedy turf, but Robinson keeps it fresh by extending ideas behind all bounds of logic, resulting in characters or situations so utterly absurd that you won’t even think of comparing them to such cringe comedy forefathers as Larry David or Ricky Gervais. —Garrett Martin


38. Call the Midwife

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Created by: Heidi Thomas
Stars: Vanessa Redgrave, Bryony Hannah, Helen George, Jenny Agutter, Pam Ferris, Laura Main, Judy Parfiti
Original Network: BBC

Watch on Netflix

“Midwifery is the very stuff of life,” proves this incredibly moving, often provocative series, based on the memoirs of British nurse Jennifer Worth. Set in 1950s London—read: pre-choice, not pro-choice—Call the Midwife focuses on the nurses and nuns who work at a convent in the East End. Vanessa Redgrave narrates the experiences of Jenny Lee (Jessica Raine), a privileged young woman who must quickly adapt to life in an impoverished district, where medical resources are precious and newborns are plentiful. Wonderfully meticulous in period detail, the ensemble drama brims with joy and compassion while maintaining a bracingly unromantic grip on pregnancy and parenthood. Disease, labor complications and tragedies like miscarriage, stillbirth and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome are common—along with domestic violence, rape and unwanted pregnancy—yet the show warms as many hearts as it breaks. Call it feminist, call it what you will, Call the Midwife is brave television. —Amanda Schurr


39. Monty Python’s Flying Circus

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Created by and Stars: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam
Original Network: BBC

Watch on Netflix

And now for something completely different! The British sketch comedy, which ran from 1969 to 1973, is so beloved that it’s since become the subject of questions on the British citizenship exam. Provocative, irreverent, and profoundly weird, its send-up of the isle’s culture and institutions—particularly the elite, educated class from which the troupe’s own members hailed—take merciless aim at authority in every conceivable form, all with a dash of surrealism and Terry Gilliam’s sublime animations. Its arrival on Netflix is nothing less than a godsend. —Matt Brennan


40. The Magicians

Created by: Sera Gamble, John McNamara
Stars: Jason Ralph, Stella Maeve, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Hale Appleman, Arjun Gupta, Summer Bishil, Rick Worthy
Original Network: Syfy

Watch on Netflix

Based on Lev Grossman’s fantasy trilogy, The Magicians tells the story of Quentin (Jason Ralph) getting into to Brakebills, a school for learning magic. While they learn intricate spells, Quentin and his friends and frenemies Eliot, Margo, Alice, Penny, Josh, Kady, and Julia discover other magical worlds and complicated magical problems that they never knew existed—like baby-stealing fairies. Within zany storylines and a fast-moving plot, The Magicians is also grounded in the mental health issues experienced differently by each of the main characters. Quentin has been depressive his whole life and has been hospitalized for depression in the past. In Season One, he’s trapped in a hospital in his head, as if he were stuck in a dream. Quentin begins to question his reality and wonder if he made up Brakebills as part of his mental illness. A big theme on the show is that you can’t magic depression away. (They tried it. In Season One, several characters literally bottle their emotions. When the emotions come back, it’s an almost unbearable flood.) By including mental illness in these characters’ stories, it not only adds emotional truth to the show, it provides drama and conflict. And hopefully it lets people know that mental illness is a regular part of life—even in other worlds, and even when there’s magic. —Rae Nudson


41. Sherlock

Created by: Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss
Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Mark Gatiss, Rupert Graves
Original Network: BBC

Watch on Netflix

The guiding hand behind such English hits as Press Gang and Coupling, Steven Moffat has gained the most attention for resuscitating Dr. Who into the Anglo-Saxon ambassador of science fiction. But Moffat and frequent collaborator Mark Gatiss transcended their best work with Sherlock, the BBC drama that hijacks Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic sleuth into the present with awe-inspiring intelligence and style. Calling Sherlock a television show is a tad deceptive, though; the series typically produces only a few movie-length stories each season. As it has continued, it has dug deeper into the psychological fault lines of Holmes, played with sterile arrogance by Benedict Cumberbatch (or as Seth Meyers noted on SNL, the only man with a name more ridiculous than Sherlock Holmes). When viewers aren’t trying to piece together the mystery of the week, we’re finding fleeting clues to the guarded humanity of London’s finest “Consulting Detective,” usually to the chagrin of long-suffering accomplice John Watson (Martin Freeman) and volatile love interest Irene Adler (Lara Pulver). —Sean Edgar


42. The Witcher

Created by: Lauren Schmidt Hissrich
Stars: Henry Cavill, Freya Allan, Eamon Farren, Anya Chalotra, Joey Batey
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

Henry Cavill’s Geralt of Rivia, a Witcher, roams far and wide killing monsters for bounties. It’s all he’s good for; it’s all he was made to do. The mutant Aragorn is all gruff speech, dadly stubble, and exciting swordplay. It’s a tough job playing a character known for his emotionlessness, made tougher when he’s also appointed the shepherd to a storied fantasy universe. But Cavill and showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich’s adaptation of Andrzej Sapkowski’s Witcher novels (which themselves were turned into a beloved series of videogames) is up to snuff due to its willingness to play by its source’s rules, bringing high fantasy fun to Netflix for anyone willing to vault a few hurdles.

Shows get exponentially easier to watch when the lead is having this much fun. Cavill delights in every grimace as his grimy, sour Geralt traverses locales familiar to any Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Candle-strewn taverns, pornographic wizard illusions, and foolish nobles—no matter the job, Geralt perseveres in true Lawful Neutral form (to keep things in D&D terms). A bemused yet not unkind cynicism comes across in Cavill’s slow baritone and rare, slight smile. It’s the best he’s been aside from The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and everyone either hates him or is horny for him. Often, it’s both. And yes, those looking for Outlander levels of long-haired, musclebound shirtlessness will find what they seek.

If you have a background with fantasy, a knack for rolling with crazy shit, or a general love for Witchery things—and buy into the tone—The Witcher has lots to love. It can be campy, with life-or-death conversations taking place at a magically-induced Eyes Wide Shut orgy. It can be badass, with a powerful mage blending gender politics, fantasy lore, and deep characterization when telling Geralt to “fuck off” in the middle of a magical battle. These two can mix like werewolves and silver, but when they work together, The Witcher is a wildly entertaining treat for newcomers and long-time fans alike.—Jacob Oller


43. Alias Grace

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Created by: Sarah Polley, Mary Harron
Stars: Sarah Gadon, Edward Holcroft, Rebecca Liddiard, Zachary Levi, Kerr Logan, David Cronenberg, Paul Gross, Anna Paquin
Networks: CBC/Netflix

Watch on Netflix

Adapted by Sarah Polley from Margaret Atwood’s historical novel, and directed by Mary Harron with forthright shudders of psychological horror, this sterling Canadian limited series is a tightly constructed marvel. In Canada in 1859, “celebrated murderess” Grace Marks (the brilliant Sarah Gadon) submits to an interview with Dr. Simon Jordan (Edward Holcroft), and their ongoing conversation unearths a pattern of violence and trauma, which Alias Grace spins into a scintillating mystery, an intricate biographical portrait, a lushly appointed period drama, and a ferocious treatment of the distance between what “the world at large” deigns to call harm and the countless ways men cause it. —Matt Brennan


44. American Crime

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Created by: John Ridley
Stars: Timothy Hutton, Felicity Huffman, Regina King, Richard Cabral, Lily Taylor, Elvis Nolasco
Original Network: ABC

Watch on Netflix

I love seeing shows by a theater company and watching the same actors take on new roles with each production: You witness their range and their ability to assume new identities. American Crime is a repertory theater company brought to the small screen. And unlike American Horror Story, which is all flash and gore, American Crime is rooted in harsh realities. The first season tackled an Army veteran killed during a home invasion. Felicity Huffman and Timothy Hutton play his grieving parents. In the second season, they’re a headmistress and a basketball coach dealing with a sexual assault at a high school party. The third season was set against the backdrop of a North Carolina crop farm. From these starting points the series fans out to tackle a wide array of social, racial and socio-economic issues and to show how our lives, no matter what our circumstances, are interconnected. There are never easy answers or pat resolutions. The series will haunt you and leave you thinking about it months after you’ve watched it. —Amy Amatangelo


45. Black Lightning

Created by: Salim Akil
Stars: Cress Williams, China Anne McClain, Nafessa Williams, Christine Adams, Marvin “Krondon” Jones III, Damon Gupton, James Remar
Original Network: The CW

Watch on Netflix

Greg Berlanti’s Arrowverse (just recently valorized by a $400 million cash contract made to keep the universe-runner around until 2024) has been an undeniable success for The CW—and for the DC universe on screen. But it has not, historically, had a great deal to say about the deeply rooted prejudices of the real world that have conspired to create the violence and terror that shape places like the Glades in Green Arrow’s Star City, or that are mirrored in the bigotry metahumans face by “normal” society. Salim Akil and Mara Brock Akil’s addition to the fold, Black Lightning, takes that challenge head on, positioning endemic racism and systemic inequity as the central evils a real superhero would find himself (or, in the case of Nafessa Williams’ Thunder, herself) up against. It then uses those injustices, and the tensions they cause within not just communities but individual families (Black Lightning, as played by Cress Williams, is father to two superpowered daughters), to tell a compelling, heady story about what it means to do what is right in a world that resembles our own more than any superhero story to date. (Although Freeform’s Cloak & Dagger may give the show a run for its money). Plus, its soundtrack? Double platinum. —Alexis Gunderson


46. Sex Education

Created by: Laurie Nunn
Stars: Asa Butterfield, Gillian Anderson, Ncuti Gatwa, Emma Mackey, Connor Swindells
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

You’re an insecure, bright, sensitive teenage boy (Asa Butterfield) with a wildly uninhibited sex-guru mother (Gillian Anderson), an absentee dad (the epically hilarious James Purefoy), a chronically foot-in-mouth bully-magnet best friend, a limited social life and a clinically interesting fear of your own penis. You have a stealth crush on your school’s official Way Too Precocious girl, who’s hard up for money. So, naturally, you open a sex clinic for high-school students in an out-of-service school lavatory, right?

Of course you do.

Netflix’s Sex Education is a decidedly raunchy and thoroughly adorable coming-of-age dramedy. While it’s not exactly afraid of well-worn tropes, it also doesn’t rely on them to a detrimental degree… and it has Gillian Anderson as a sex therapist, which would be enough for a lot of us even if nothing else about the show worked. Luckily, that isn’t the case: A testament to the power of character development, the series is riveting. None of its superbly crafted characters waste a single frame. —Amy Glynn


47. Anne with an E

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Created by: Moira Walley-Beckett
Stars: Amybeth McNulty, Geraldine James, R. H. Thomson, Lucas Jade Zumann, Dalila Bela, Corrine Koslo
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

Anne with an E follows the well-trod story of Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery, but is at its best once it leaves its potent source material. With a darker tone and a more “woke” aesthetic, Anne with an E grows up immensely with its second season. But the late 19th-century tale is beautifully cinematic throughout as it captures the daily dramas of its young cast, led by McNulty as an orphan adopted by a middle-aged brother and sister who originally wanted a boy to help them work their farm. Despite her foibles, Anne’s charms won them over enough to allow her to stay, and the same charm ultimately works on viewers as well. Her wild imagination, always positive spirit, and desire to make life better for everyone around her in the wake of her own heartache makes the series a worthy and upbeat watch. —Allison Keene


48. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

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Created by: Rachel Bloom, Aline Brosh McKenna
Stars: Rachel Bloom, Vincent Rodriguez III, Santino Fontana, Donna Lynne Champlin, Pete Gardner, Vella Lovell, Gabrielle Ruiz
Original Network: The CW

Watch on Netflix

Don’t let the name keep you from tuning into this one—creator / star Rachel Bloom (who was nominated for a Golden Globe for her work on the show) addresses it before the theme song’s even over, responding to choruses of “she’s the crazy ex-girlfriend” with lines like “that’s a sexist term” and “the situation’s more nuanced than that.” And it is: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a clever musical-comedy (think Flight of the Conchords, if they leaned more heavily on musical theater) about Rebecca Bunch, a lawyer who turns down a partnership at her New York firm to follow her ex-boyfriend Josh to West Covina, California and try to win him back. But it’s more complicated than that: along the way Rebecca learns to address some of the neuroses she’s been carrying around since childhood and gets sidetracked (depending on how you look at it) by a sort of Sam and Diane “will they/won’t they” thing with Josh’s friend Greg. Her “crazy” is sometimes funny, sometimes sad, but always presented smartly and sensitively—never what you might expect from a show called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. —Bonnie Stiernberg


49. Portlandia

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Created by: Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein
Stars: Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein
Original Network: IFC

Watch on Netflix

The greatest thing about Portlandia, IFC’s ode to the modern hipster, is the cavalcade of bizarro-world characters dreamed up by Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein and unleashed in an endless stream of free-associating sketches: Toni and Candace, the fervently feminist clerks of Women and Women First Bookstore. Daniel and Meg, the ecology-minded dumpster-divers preparing a meal for their friends from the leftovers of the neighborhood garbage. The Harajuku Girls—Japanese tourists snapping photos of “Coffee Land” in an otherwise nondescript cafe to the utter bafflement of the locals who hang there. Peter and Nance, the cooing lovebirds asking about the precise provenance of their local chicken dish (right down to the diet and plot of land) over a dinner date. And of course Bryce and Lisa, the essence of Etsy, putting “birds on things” in a local boutique while all hell breaks loose around them. It’s creatively-superior, but self-effacing. Critically acclaimed, but with the tags left on. Up-and-coming, but with a wink and a nod. This is all very Portland. —Corey duBrowa


50. Mindhunter

Created by: Joe Penhall
Stars: Jonathan Groff, Holt McCallany, Hannah Gross, Anna Torv, Cotter Smith and Cameron Britton
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

The name and the description may have you assuming that this is a typical network procedural: FBI agents interview psychopaths in order to catch murderers. But Mindhunter is as much Mad Men as it is Law & Order. Produced by David Fincher and Charlize Theron, the story follows two real-life agents, Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff, the original King George III in Hamilton on Broadway) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), along with consulting psychologist Dr. Wendy Carr (Anna Torv) in the FBI’s nascent Behavioral Science Unit. Joe Penhall’s series is based on a similarly titled true crime book. Interviewing and cataloguing convicted serial killers (a phrase the trio invents) leads to them helping on active cases, but it also affects each of their personal lives in different ways. Cameron Britton is particularly unforgettable as notorious murderer and necrophiliac Edmund Kemper. The second season focuses on the Atlanta child murders, and doesn’t let viewers off easy. —Josh Jackson


51. Dear White People

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Created by: Justin Simien
Stars: Logan Browning, Brandon P. Bell, DeRon Horton, Antoinette Robertson, John Patrick Amedori, Ashley Blaine Featherson, Giancarlo Esposito
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

Based on creator Justin Simien’s 2014 indie, Netflix’s original series—narrated by Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul’s Giancarlo Esposito—replicates the pungent humor of the film without ever seeming stale or static: Its knives are sharp, and they’re pointed in every direction. Though its primary target is white privilege, in forms both egregious (blackface parties) and mundane (calls to end “divisive” politics), Dear White People, set on the campus of a fictional Ivy League university, is even funnier when it turns to the details of the black students’ personal and ideological choices, transforming the notion of the “problematic fave,” from the McRib to The Cosby Show into the engine of its entertaining, incisive comedy. —Matt Brennan


52. The English Game

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Created by: Julian Fellowes, Tony Charles, Oliver Cotton
Stars: Edward Holcroft, Kevin Guthrie, Charlotte Hope, Niamh Walsh, Craig Parkinson, James Harkness
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

The English Game arrives at a good time for two reasons. One, the 21st century has really been lacking in great sports movies that so dominated the 1980s and ‘90s. Two, sports are cancelled right now because of the spread of coronavirus. So why not settle in and watch some pale but fit English lads run around the pitch in what is essentially Chariots of Fire: The Series?

Taking place in the 1870s, the six-part miniseries (from Downton Abbey’s Julian Fellowes) introduces us to the true story of two players from opposing sides who will change the game in critical ways. The first, brashly handsome Arthur Kinnaird (Edward Holcroft ), has dominated the field for years playing for the Old Etonians—whose team has not only won four FA (Football Association) cups at this point, but who also double as FA board members and chairman. (You see the problems already). The second, Fergus Suter (Kevin Guthrie ), is a wee Scottish powerhouse who has been brought to play for Darwen FC, a northern mill-town club, before being wooed by Blackburn.

The larger question that The English Game tackles (pun partially intended) is one of inclusion. Who is this game for? It was crafted by wealthy Englishmen, but are they the future of it? We know they answer is “no,” but it’s something in the 1870s that was only just beginning to become clear. Fergus and Love—two of the best players in the game—are Scottish and working class. This is already revolutionary. But their play style is also evolving from the one the Old Etonians employ. Fergus encourages his teammates to move out farther and pass more, something we’ve seen Spanish players in just the last decade take to an exceptional art form.

The short run and miniseries format (one that is a true miniseries, with a very clear end) make The English Game an easy investment, and one that everyone can enjoy while under quarantine orders or beyond. But it’s also a story whose questions are still very relevant today (regarding hooliganism, playing for money versus pride, the role of amateur clubs). Its answers are, too. Who is the game for? That is clear enough: Anyone who loves it. When speaking of the growing numbers of supporters in the stands or those anxiously sitting at pubs waiting for scores, characters note again and again that it “gives them hope and pride and so much more.” And that’s what makes it not just The English Game, but the beautiful one.—Allison Keene


53. Versailles

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Created by: Simon Mirren, David Wolstencroft
Stars: George Blagden, Alexander Vlahos, Tygh Runyan, Evan Williams, Noémie Schmidt, Anna Brewster
Original Network: BBC Two / Canal+ / Ovation

Watch on Netflix

The wonderfully opulent and soapy drama Versailles focuses on the reign of France’s King Louis XIV, also known as the Sun King. The expansion of France, and the increased taxation that lead towards revolution, plays out against the building of the magnificent Versailles, as the series leans into the courtly drama and scandals that defined the era. Blagden is fantastic as a monarch who truly believes he was chosen by God (which leaves him both bold and conflicted), and is matched in confidence by Vlahos as Louis’ brother Philippe, the Duke of Orleans, who often wore women’s clothing and had a long-running affair with the Chevalier of Lorraine. There are mistresses and sexual romps to spare in the series, but also mysteries, double-crossings, and witchcraft. This is not a stuffy historical drama, but a modern-feeling escapade with a minimal glance towards accuracy. We wouldn’t want it any other way. —Allison Keene


54. Arrested Development

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Created by: Mitch Hurwitz
Stars: Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, Portia de Rossi, Tony Hale, David Cross, Michael Cera, Jeffrey Tambor, Jessica Walter, Alia Shawkat, Ron Howard
Original Networks: Fox, Netflix

Watch on Netflix

Mitch Hurwitz’ sitcom about a “wealthy family who lost everything and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together” packed a whole lot of awesome into three short seasons. How much awesome? Well, there was the chicken dance, for starters. And Franklin’s “It’s Not Easy Being White.” There was Ron Howard’s spot-on narration, and Tobias Funke’s Blue Man ambitions. There was Mrs. Featherbottom and Charlize Theron as Rita, Michael Bluth’s mentally challenged love interest. Not since Seinfeld has a comic storyline been so perfectly constructed, with every loose thread tying so perfectly into the next act. Arrested Development took self-referencing postmodernism to an absurdist extreme, jumping shark after shark, but that was the point. They even brought on the original shark-jumper—Henry Winkler—as the family lawyer. And when he was replaced, naturally, it was by Scott Baio. Each of the Bluth family members was among the best characters on television, and Jason Bateman played a brilliant straight man to them all. The series’ return to Netflix for fourth and fifth seasons has not been nearly as auspicious, but it’s still a gift to fans who had to say goodbye to the Bluths all too soon. —Josh Jackson


55. Never Have I Ever

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Created by: Mindy Kaling, Lang Fisher
Stars: Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Poorna Jagannathan, Richa Moorjani, Jaren Lewison, John McEnroe
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

Being 15 sucks. You’re not sure who you are or what you’re doing or who you should be doing it with, but you’re 100% certain that everyone around you is always laser-focused on every embarrassing mistake that you make. Mindy Kaling’s new coming-of-age sitcom taps into the painful awkwardness of figuring it all out with the same mix of earnestness, realism and humor as Freaks and Geeks and The Wonder Years, but filtered through a cultural lens not often seen on American TV. Devi Vishwakumar isn’t just grappling with typical teenage drama, but is stuck between two cultures that she never quite feels like a full member of: the American life she was born and raised in, and the Indian heritage of her family. Maitreyi Ramakrishnan captures this anxiety and charm beautifully, that weird mix of constant shame and unearned confidence, in what is shockingly her first professional acting role. If you’re looking for a teen comedy that reflects the ups and downs of real life and is actually funny, here’s your chance. —Garrett Martin


56. Our Planet

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Created by: Alastair Fothergill, Keith Scholey, Colin Butfield
Narrated by: David Attenborough
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

Coming from those who have helmed previous installments of the Planet Earth series, the engrossing Our Planet is specifically a call for conservation. The fantastic globe-trotting nature documentary keeps to a general pattern in each episode: introduce something wonderful, educate us about it, and then explain why it’s dying or being put in peril because of climate change. Our Planet holds back a little in terms of showing the demise of charismatic megafauna, a long-time staple of nature docs, because its desire is to make us feel connected enough to this planet to do something about the problems facing it (and ultimately us). But there is certainly plenty to make us feel queasy about the stakes. Though it is a little more overt in terms of an agenda than its Planet Earth (and Blue Planet) predecessors, Our Planet is similar in that it utilizes the most cutting-edge camera technology to capture this world in all of its splendor. It is absolutely breathtaking—and incredibly urgent. —Allison Keene


57. The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story

Created by: Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski
Stars: Darren Criss, Edgar Ramirez, Penelope Cruz, Ricky Martin
Original Network: FX

Watch on Netflix

Underappreciated by critics, under-watched by audiences, and misunderstood by those expecting the focus to remain squarely on House Versace (ably handled by Edgar Ramirez as the late fashion designer and Penelope Cruz as his sister, Donatella), the second installment of Ryan Murphy’s anthology series is an even pricklier treatment of “true crime” than the first. Anchored by Darren Criss’ mesmerizing performance as spree killer Andrew Cunanan, the nine-episode season, penned by Tom Rob Smith, unspools backwards in time from the morning of the murder; its twinned narratives (Versace’s rise, Cunanan’s long unraveling) split open the scars left by a homophobic culture, from the AIDS crisis to Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and reveal both how much, and how little, has changed. Along the way, Murphy, Smith, and directors Gwyneth Horder-Payton and Daniel Minahan flesh out the biographies of Cunanan’s lesser-known victims, turning the lives of Jeff Trail (Finn Wittrock) and David Madson (Cody Fern) into profiles in courage, and thereby challenging their erasure in the popular imagination. What emerges, as I wrote at the start of the season, is an ambitious, unorthodox, potent, frankly astonishing reconsideration of what it means to be and be called a faggot, animated by one indelicate imperative: Queer lives matter, and not just their ends. —Matt Brennan


58. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

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Created by: Tina Fey, Robert Carlock
Stars: Ellie Kemper, Tituss Burgess, Jane Karkowski, Carol Kane, Lauren Adams, Sara Chase
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

NBC has made any number of mistakes over the years, but few bigger than shelving Tina Fey and Robert Carlock’s 30 Rock follow-up, before punting it over to Netflix. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt wound up becoming one of the highlights of TV comedy. The fast-paced and flip sitcom featured breakout performances by Office vet Ellie Kemper as the titular former “mole woman” trying to make it on her own in New York, and Tituss Burgess as her flamboyant and put-upon roommate, Titus Andromedon. Throughout the first season’s run, some writers and critics seemed dead-set on finding some kind of flaw to pounce on with the show, zeroing in on how the minority characters are represented. This may be a wild generalization, but I think this was a natural reaction to one of the most overtly feminist sitcoms ever produced. Kimmy Schmidt is most certainly upsetting the natural order of your typical network sitcom. The show’s titular character is defining her life on her own terms and by her own standards. For some reason that still freaks some people out so they dismiss it or find some way to poke holes in the vehicle for that idea. That is what makes the prospect of a second season so exciting. Just as the show can go in a myriad of different directions, so too can Kimmy Schmidt. Now that she has put the awful time in the bunker to bed, she can face a new day with that infectious smile, bubbly attitude, and enthusiastic embrace of life experience. Sorry nitpickers and network executives; Kimmy Schmidt is going to make it after all. —Robert Ham


59. Broadchurch

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Created by: Chris Chibnall
Stars: David Tennant, Olivia Colman, Jodie Whittaker, Andrew Buchan
Original Network: ITV

Watch on Netflix

Broadchurch is a riveting UK crime drama that focuses on the murder of a young boy. Former Doctor Who star David Tennant leads as detective Alec Hardy, who with his partner Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) must infiltrate a close-knit community on Britain’s Jurassic Coast. Of course, everybody in town has a secret, and no one takes kindly to the mounting media attention. In its first season, Hardy and Miller continue their investigation, the mystery unfolds in a slow, deceptively languid fashion, lingering on the effects of the child’s death upon the town’s residents. From there things become more sprawling (and arguably less compelling), but still binge-worthy. Created by writer Chris Chibnall (another Doctor Who vet) is a master of atmosphere (a haunting, piano-driven score, the glistening seaside vistas) by taking his time with the details, he keeps the whodunit at a slow boil that rewards patient viewers. —Amanda Schurr


60. Daredevil

Created by: Drew Goddard
Stars: Charlie Cox, Deborah Ann Woll, Elden Henson, Rosario Dawson, Vincent D’Onofrio
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

Marvel and DC have both tried to leverage their movie dominance onto the small screen many times over, but for awhile, the only beloved recent TV show based on a comic book came from indie publisher Image with The Walking Dead. That started to change with the first season of Daredevil. The Hell’s Kitchen of Matt Murdoch’s world is much grittier than that of his Marvel cohorts on ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.—no surprise since the show was created by Drew Goddard, director of Cabin in the Woods. Goddard, who’s written episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alias and Lost is also no stranger to the comics world, having written a few issues of the Buffy comics. The fight scenes are riveting (and often bloody), and the hero and his companions are well-developed, but was Vincent D’Onofrio complicated turn as the crime boss Wilson Fisk that elevated the show into something special. Both Fisk and Murdoch want to clean up the city, and will go to great lengths to do it. The difference between hero and villain is just a matter of ends-justify-the-means degrees. Not since Rick Grimes tangled with the Governor or Walter White went up against Gus Fring has there been a protracted battle this gripping on television. —Josh Jackson


61. Bates Motel

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Created by: Carlton Cuse, Kerry Ehrin, Anthony Cipriano
Stars: Vera Farmiga, Freddie Highmore, Max Thieriot, Olivia Cooke, Nicola Peltz, Nestor Carbonell, Kenny Johnson
Original Network: A&E

Watch on Netflix

When telling the origins of a horror icon, a fine line must be walked. For one, you run the risk of losing the mystery that made the original characters so terrifying to begin with. Bates Motel, however, has created a backstory for Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) that makes the psycho of Psycho sympathetic. But Norman is always just a second away from behaving horrifically. Highmore has gone from confused teenager to schizophrenic maniac, and in doing so, given a performance that rivals Anthony Perkins’ take on the character. Playing off this evolution is the equally great Vera Farmiga as his mother Norma. Of course Norma’s story has to end tragically. But when watching mother and son together, there’s hope that the story will diverge from the way we know it must go, and there’s the constant fear that what we know must happen can occur at any point. By expanding on the Norman Bates story, Bates Motel has taken an iconic character and enriched him with a haunted history that makes him even more fascinating as we watch his descent into madness. —Ross Bonaime


62. Skins

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Created by: Bryan Elsley, Jamie Brittain
Stars: Nicholas Hoult, Hannah Murray, April Pearson, Mike Bailey, Joe Dempsie, Larissa Wilson, Mitch Hewer, Dev Patel
Original Network: E4

Watch on Netflix

Until recent years, almost all depictions of how teenagers really live their lives has been used as a scare tactic for grown-ups to keep their young charges in line, and away from sex and drugs. But the world at large has finally warmed up to giving kids (you know, the people actually watching these shows) an unblinking reflection of their day-to-day existence. That’s where a show like Skins succeeded mightily. For seven seasons, creators Bryan Elsley and Jamie Brittain gave their characters the goods: casual sex, casual (and not-so-casual) drug and alcohol use, depression, pregnancies, eating disorders, sexual identity crises, and bullying. As the show was produced in the UK, it allowed for a number of characters and storylines that you’d rarely see with such clarity here in the States, like the struggles of Congolese immigrant Tommy (Merveille Lukeba), the life of an unapologetic metalhead (Alexander Arnold) and a character with high-functioning autism (Ollie Barbieri). Like most high school shows, the music and costumes in Skins will likely not age well in the years to come, nor will some of the more trumped-up dramatic elements wended through many seasons. But the show keeps finding an audience thanks to its often fearless approach to depicting modern teens as they are, and how they will surely continue to be: reckless, fearless, and sure that they’re going to live forever. —Robert Ham


63.The End of the F—ing World

Created by: Charlie Covell, Jonathan Entwistle, Lucy Tcherniak
Stars: Alex Lawther, Jessica Barden, Gemma Whelan, Wunmi Mosaku, Steve Oram, Christine Bottomley, Navin Chowdhry, Barry Ward
Original Network: Channel 4/Netflix

Watch on Netflix

James (Alex Lawther) is 17 and kills enough small animals that he truly believes he’s a psychopath. Alyssa (Jessica Barden) is 17 and kills nothin—not that her words lack for trying. Both are unbelievably good at being at the wrong intensity levels for normal human interaction: Barden goes loud and acerbic, while Lawther shuts down so completely it’s hard to tell if he was born or simply emerged from the Britain’s collective post-punk sigh, like a Promethean clay figure stirring from Athena’s breath. But The End of the F—ing World doesn’t want your morbid fascination. Or, unlike almost every other show with similar subject matter, it doesn’t want it to stay morbid. A show about a boy bent on killing his road trip partner as the two high schoolers run away from home sounds more like the grisly true-crime TV we’ve been groomed to enjoy since news channels realized fear, violence and tragedy attracted eyeballs. Yet the The End of the F—ing World gives the middle finger to this Nightcrawler-esque worldview, finding hope in a world of psychopaths, within the context of a TV landscape that loves them. —Jacob Oller


64. Documentary Now!

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Created by: Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Seth Meyers, Rhys Thomas
Stars: Fred Armisen, Bill Hader
Original Network: IFC

Watch on Netflix

Documentary Now! has grown to be even more consistently brilliant than in its fine first season, in part because the creative team—including stars Bill Hader and Fred Armisen, writers Seth Meyers and John Mulaney and directors Rhys Thomas and Alex Buono—regularly found legitimate pathos beneath the comedy. Instead of merely parodying famous documentaries, they used each half-hour episode to quickly sketch recognizable and believable characters, focusing on their pain and humanity as much as their humor. The Spalding Gray satire “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything,” the bleak Salesman parody “Globesman,” and the two-part Robert Evans riff “Mr. Runner-Up: My Life as an Oscar Bridesmaid” are among the best episodes of any show; all three work on multiple levels, as satire, as layered character studies, and as well-crafted faux-documentaries that could easily pass as the real thing if you didn’t know any better. —Garrett Martin


65. Giri/Haji

Created by: Joe Barton
Stars: Takehiro Hira, Kelly Macdonald, Y?suke Kubozuka, Will Sharpe
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

BBC Two’s Giri / Haji, available in the U.S. via Netflix, is already one of the year’s best surprises. The international thriller starts when a Tokyo detective, Kenzo Mori (Takehiro Hira), is tasked by a prominent Yakuza crime family—in conjunction with the police force—to secretly go to London in search of his brother Yuto (Yosuke Kubozuka ), who he thought died a year ago. The hope is that bringing Yuto back will stop a sprawling war that he helped kickstart among the Yakuza factions. But like Kenzo’s investigation into Yuto’s disappearance and faked death, Giri /Haji is full of unexpected twists, not just in its narrative but in its form. It’s dark and violent at times, but also funny and full of heart. At the center of the story is the tale of two brothers, yet it’s also about forged family and discovering the truth about one’s self. The gang war is the framework for the story, which plays out in many ways like Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (as far as a variety of different crime bosses all marching toward one another); and yet, one of its most moving scenes takes place during a quiet, makeshift Yom Kippur dinner regarding atonement.

The series is just frankly stunning. And crucially, funny. Though it would be wonderful to spend more time in this world with a second season, there is a palpable and beautiful sense of healing that has ended this one. —Allison Keene


66. Hap and Leonard

Created by: Jim Mickle, Nick Damici
Stars: James Purefoy, Michael K. Williams
Original Network: SundanceTV

Watch on Netflix

There are so many things that Hap and Leonard does that are wonderfully unique in this TV landscape. Based on Joe R. Lansdale’s books, the series is an authentic story about the south, capturing the tone and cadence of its location with aplomb. It’s also a blue collar story that isn’t just about being poor in East Texas, but that desperation informs everything that happens in this wacky yet soulful series. The two men at the heart of the show are best friends and total opposites—one is a straight white hippy, the other is black, gay, conservative—and they support each other, joke and fight like brothers. These things are all taken as being typical in Hap and Leonard, which thoughtfully followed-up a wild first season with an incredibly emotional second, and a heartbreaking third. With laconic East Texas style, the 80s-set series deals with a new villain each season (as Hap and Leonard accidentally stumble into their path) with humor and heart, never ignoring the racial politics of the region. It’s a show that illustrates how people with even the most disparate viewpoints can find common or at least cordial ground, and the consequences of what happens when they don’t. The woefully overlooked series is stocked with an amazing cast, and two actors who know how to convincingly (and never cartoonishly) pull off a Texas drawl. —Allison Keene


67. Legacies

Created by: Julie Plec
Stars: Danielle Rose Russell, Aria Shahghasemi, Kaylee Bryant, Jenny Boyd, Quincy Fouse, Peyton Alex Smith, Matt Davis, Chris Lee
Original Network: The CW

Watch on Netflix

Yes, TECHNICALLY Legacies is a hybrid spin-off of two different long-running Julie Plec series, The Vampire Diaries (eight seasons) and The Originals (five), and sure, technically it was in those series that the mythology driving the character arcs/motivations of Legacies’ most central leads, Hope Mikaelson (Danielle Rose Russell) and Alaric Saltzman (Matthew Davis), was developed. After spending a cumulative 13 seasons not just telling stories on television, but telling stories on television from this specific world, Plec’s ability to set efficient narrative groundwork under fast-moving vampire feet is nothing if not masterful. Genuinely, aside from a few single-episode cameos of side characters from Hope and Alaric’s TVD/Originals past, the only thing you need to watch to make sense of Legacies is this official promo for the first season.

I really shouldn’t have to elaborate on this, but Legacies is set at the Salvatore Boarding School for the Young and Gifted, which is the school for young witches, werewolves, vampires, and Hope that was funded by Hope’s (dead) dad and is located at/on the Salvatore family’s Virginia estate, just outside Mystic Falls. All the moody opulence of Damon and Stefan’s TVD homebase, all the zingy, angsty tropes of great Teen TV.

More than just being a fun setting, though, the Salvatore School gives Legacies a chance to sprawl out and complicate the consequences of being a teenager consigned to eternity as part of the supernatural world. These consequences are still very real and very serious in Legacies, but while The Vampire Diaries mined dramatic tension from supernatural teens (or at least vampires who looked superficially like teens) living in dangerous proximity to human teens, its kid sibling series looks inside for its tension. The teens at the story’s core need, first and foremost, to find a way to come to terms with their own inhumanity, and what it means to be good as they define it. And honestly, after so many years of TVD stories focused on the former, spending time with a bunch of super compelling, super different supernatural kids working through the latter is just a treat.

In other words: Julie Plec, still running wild supernatural stories turned up way past 11. —Alexis Gunderson


68. Waco

Watch on Netflix

I’m old enough to remember when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms’ (ATF) raid of David Koresh’s compound resulted in a 51-day standoff that left 76 people dead. But I was also full of youthful naïveté and a strong belief about who was right and who was wrong. What I recall most from that time is thinking, “Why would anyone live in a cult and follow a man who thinks he’s God? Why would they give their life for him?”

Waco humanizes the story, making not only Koresh (Taylor Kitsch) but also his followers fully developed characters. The six-episode series focuses on the nine months leading up to the 1993 raid and its horrifying aftermath. By the time we meet Koresh, he’s already the leader of Branch Davidians, “married” to multiple women and the father of 13 children born by these various wives. He has a gift for recognizing the vulnerable and the wounded—the lost souls. In fact, what Waco does best is make Koresh not a monster. It almost poses the question, “Could he be a compassionate leader even though he was sexually abusing a young follower and perhaps others?” Which prompts another: Can I like the miniseries while also being concerned by its perspective? With the thought-provoking, risky, and engaging Waco, the answer is largely, “Yes.” —Amy Amatangelo


69. Manhunt: Unabomber

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Created by: Greg Yaitanes, Andrew Sodroski
Stars: Sam Worthington, Paul Bettany, Chris Noth, Jane Lynch, Mark Duplass, and Keisha Castle-Hughes
Original Network: Discovery Channel

Watch on Netflix

Following the success of true crime dramas like American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson, Unabomber takes a look at Ted Kaczynski (a nearly unrecognizable Paul Bettany) who, over an 18 year period, killed three people and injured 23 others in a mail bombing campaign that terrorized the nation until he was captured in 1996. The eight-episode series follows criminal profiler Jim “Fitz” Fitzgerald (Sam Worthington) as he uncovers the identity of the Unabomber while working within a system that doesn’t necessarily appreciate his maverick ways. With an all-star cast and a fascinating look into the early days of profiling through language (not to mention how Kaczynski himself was radicalized—by a U.S. government program, no less), the riveting series is a worthy deep-dive into the ideology of both a man who terrorized a nation, and one who created a system to stop him. —Amy Amatangelo and Allison Keene


70. Dead to Me

Created by: Liz Feldman
Stars: Christina Applegate, Linda Cardellini, James Marsden, Max Jenkins, Sam McCarthy, Luke Roessler, Ed Asner
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

Jen (Christina Applegate) and Judy (Linda Cardellini) meet not so cute at a grief support group. Jen’s husband died three months ago in a hit and run accident. Judy’s fiancé died eight weeks ago of a heart attack. They develop a friendship over their mutual anguish and their love of Facts of Life (Jen is a Jo, Judy a Tootie). Before long Judy is moving into Jen’s guest house and a beautiful friendship is formed. Or is it? Netflix is keen on keeping the pilot’s big reveal a secret. I watched it with my husband and didn’t even let him know there was a secret and he still guessed it within minutes of the show’s opening. But no matter. The series, rooted in terrific performances from Applegate and Cardellini, is a fascinating mix of humor and pathos. The show deftly balances both extremes and pull both off. I never know what the twisty Dead to Me is really up to and that’s just the way I like it. —Amy Amatangelo


71. A Series of Unfortunate Events

Created by: Mark Hudis, Barry Sonnenfeld
Stars: Neil Patrick Harris, Patrick Warburton, Malina Weissman, Louis Hynes, K. Todd Freeman, Presley Smith
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

You probably don’t have to be a bookworm, or a kid, to appreciate this adaptation of a series of ironic, lachrymose, self-parodying children’s stories, because the series is just so damn funny—not to mention seamlessly styled, well-cast and well-acted. It does also happen to be an adaptation that should delight fans of the books because it generally knows exactly how much or how little to deviate from its source material to adapt to the constraints (and liberations) of episodic television. It retains the slightly steampunk, highly absurdist, semi-Gothic and delightfully wordsmithy sensibility of its source material and adheres remarkably well to character and plot. My suggestion? Don’t binge watch this show! Let it breathe. Like a fine wine. Because it’s kind of a masterpiece. —Amy Glynn


72. Carmen Sandiego: To Steal or Not to Steal

Directed by: Jos Humphrey, Kenny Park, Mike West?
Voices: Gina Rodriguez, Finn Wolfhard, Abby Trott, Michael Hawley
Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

Kids these days live on screens, and while the adults in their lives know that there are plenty of downsides to that fact, it at least has the side-effect of giving them a chance to develop a more sophisticated relationship with the mechanics of storytelling than any generation to come before them. For another, Carmen Sandiego, which in its newest Netflix iteration takes the red-coated thief of Millennial viewers’ youths and transforms her into a kind of modern-day, glob-trotting Robin Hood, isn’t just any artistically daring animated family series—it’s one that boasts the exact kind of high-stakes, adrenaline-drenched narrative structure that all good “choose your own adventure” stories need. Carmen Sandiego: To Steal or Not to Steal is the plucky wunderkind who takes that hypothesis’ potential and turns it into something real. Something deep? No, not really. But something fun, for sure. And at a time when there’s so much good TV that it can easily feel like work just to think about catching up on a sliver of it, fun is all it needs to be.—Alexis Gunderson


73. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Created by: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa?Stars: Kiernan Shipka, Ross Lynch, Lucy Davis, Chance Perdomo, Michelle Gomez
Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

The Archie-adjacent teenage witch has had a bumpy two seasons (two-part first season?) so far, but they are still enough to scratch a very specific horror itch for fans of demonic magical metaphor. The show’s attempts at feminism veer from the brutally satisfying to the lip-service-only frustrating, but weaving that driving principle throughout the show’s coming-of-age plots and the underground magical societies within which they take place only binds the show closer into a more cohesive, if imperfect, entity. Shipka, taking all that she earned from Mad Men, dominates the screen while snipping and snapping with each potent line delivery. A plethora of romantic angles supplement the show with its more Riverdale-like elements, but at its heart, Sabrina is a horror show that only looks to get darker as its reign continues. —Jacob Oller


74. Dirty John

Created by: Alexandra Cunningham
Stars: Connie Britton, Eric Bana, Juno Temple, Julia Garner
Original Network: Bravo

Watch on Netflix

One of the best things about this deliciously pulpy true crime series, based on the popular podcast, is how quickly things move. In only the second episode, the cracks in the seemingly perfect world shared by John (a terrific Eric Bana) and Debra (Connie Britton) are starting to show. By the time John says to Debra’s beloved nephew, “You should be glad your dad killed your mom,” the series has moved into straight-up horror thriller territory. Britton (and her fabulous hair) make every project better, but Dirty John’s grifter story benefits from a strong cast all around. It’s also easy to be fascinated by Debra’s mother, Arlane (Jean Smart), who seems so willing to accept the new man in her daughter’s life despite the warning signs. “I love him because he loves you,” she tells her. She might be the key to why Debra, a successful and smart business woman, is so gullible when it comes to love—with devastating consequences. Dirty John equals extra TV calories you might not need, but should devour anyway. — Amy Amatangelo


75. Élite (E L I T E)

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Created by: Carlos Monte and Darío Madrona
Stars: María Pedraza, Itzan Escamilla, Miguel Bernardeau, Ester Expósito, Danna Paola, Miguel Herrán, Jaime Lorente, Álvaro Rico, Arón Piper, Mina El Hammani, Omar Ayuso, Jorge López, Claudia Salas, Georgina Amorós
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

A spiritual (though sexier and more diverse) successor to both The O.C. and Gossip Girl, with just a touch of SKAM thrown in for good measure, Netflix’s Spanish-language Original Series Élite (most often styled as E L I T ?, because of course it is!) is a teenage-class-warfare-lover’s dream. Featuring a sprawling ensemble cast of attractive Spanish twentysomethings, Élite follows a trio of working class public school kids—one of them, a hijabi from an immigrant Palestinian family—as they transfer to Las Encinas, an academically elite (and extremely expensive) private school on a kind of “whoops, my bad” scholarship sponsored by some of the rich parents whose cost-cutting construction business was found to have been at fault for their public school literally collapsing. The class tensions and psychosexual dramas this move provokes would be more than enough to fill any sexy,  A+ teen series with (Riverdale truly wishes). Élite, however, is nothing if not expert in raising the stakes, each season framing these more quotidian (if highly stylized) teen dramas with a more explosive mystery—a brutal murder of a central member of the ensemble in Season 1, the bloody disappearance of another in Season 2, and the even bloodier death of a third in Season 3. By the end of the most recent season, alliances have fully swapped, ‘ships have been thoroughly mixed up, and allegiances have been pinned in every possible configuration. With two more seasons officially on the way—and who knows how many more possibly beyond those—the only thing we can really be certain of is that nothing at Las Encinas will ever be boring. —Alexis Gunderson


76. Jessica Jones

Created by: Melissa Rosenberg
Stars: Krysten Ritter, David Tennant, Rachael Taylor, Mike Colter, Carrie-Anne Moss, Eka Darville, Erin Moriarty, Wil Traval, Susie Abromeit
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

Marvel’s first team-up with Netflix, 2015’s excellent Daredevil, took the shiny Marvel Cinematic Universe and rubbed much needed dirt on it. Jessica Jones furthers the trend with a psychological thriller that is, somehow, more brutal and dark than its Hell’s Kitchen contemporary. Unlike Daredevil, Jones not only redraws the lines for a Marvel production, but redefines what a comic book show can be. The emphasis is not on physical but mental destruction—in Season One, that caused by Kilgrave (David Tennant), a sociopath with mind-control powers, and in Season Two, that of Jones’ (the terrific Krysten Ritter) search for her origins. Netflix’s binge model is used to its full-effect, each episode’s conclusion begging the viewer to let the train roll on. And, like a victim of Kilgrave, it’s impossible not to abide. Jessica Jones keeps the viewer guessing, leaving them suspended in a state of fear and anxiety for perilous, wonderful hours. —Eric Walters


77. New Girl

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Created by: Elizabeth Meriwether
Stars: Zooey Deschanel, Jake Johnson, Max Greenfield, Lamorne Morris, Hannah Simone
Original Network: Fox

Watch on Netflix

New Girl quickly became one of TV’s sharpest ensemble comedies. Creator/showrunner Elizabeth Meriwether and her writing staff kept stepping up their game. While even the best network programs are susceptible to lulls in quality due to the demanding 20-plus-episode order, almost every New Girl episode plays like a spirited, comedic gem, with Meriwether and Co. expertly navigating the line between absurd silliness and heartfelt sentimentality. Not since Jim and Pam in the early seasons of The Office has there been a sitcom relationship as endearing and emotionally engaging as Deschanel’s Jess and Nick, her lovable, hard-drinking grump of a roommate (played with great gusto by the fantastic Jake Johnson). Add in memorable turns from supporting players Lamorne Morris and Hannah Simone as well as the hilarious antics of Max Greenfield as breakout character Schmidt and the return of Damon Wayans as Coach, and New Girl has officially become a new standard for excellence in the sitcom community —Mark Rozeman


78. The Society

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Created by: Christopher Keyser
Stars: Kathryn Newton, Gideon Adlon, Sean Berdy, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Jacques Colimon, Olivia DeJonge
Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

I’ve watched a lot of television series where nuanced self-possession has sharpened my understanding of what it means to be human, but I genuinely can’t remember the last time I came out on the other side of a binge seeing the base tenuousness of the society we’ve made for ourselves with such terrifying new clarity. The Society, Netflix’s high-tech, aged-up take on Lord of the Flies, manages the trick with a simple bus ride. Although teen television has been peddling in intensely dark moral allegories for decades now, it is difficult to articulate just how existentially devastating The Society gets, or how quickly. The Society gives its modern, engaged audience a co-ed spread of hormonal high schoolers, left behind by a fleet of school buses that (returning from an aborted end-of-year camping trip) drop them off in the middle of the night in an empty, uncanny double of their idyllic New England hometown.  They discover the next day that not only are all satellite and internet connections to the outer world gone, but that all roads out of town end abruptly in impenetrable forest. The Societyisn’t remotely interested in spending a lot of time on the whys or wheres of the teens’ new reality. The only thing it cares about is sinking into the psychological nightmare of a bunch of underprepared kids realizing not only that they’re all alone in the universe, but that it’s on them to make up and enforce all the boring, hard rules required to sustain a civilized society.—Alexis Gunderson


79. On My Block

Created by: Lauren Iungerich, Eddie Gonzalez, and Jeremy Haft
Stars: Diego Tinoco, Jason Genao, Jessica Marie Garcia, Ronni Hawk, Sierra Capri, Brett Gray
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

Netflix’s South Central L.A.-set dramedy On My Block is one big, irreverently cocksure nod to all the (whitest) parts of the modern cultural canon one would least expect to find in a coming-of-age story about brown 14- and 15-year olds just trying to survive daily life on their gang-ruled streets. For the first couple of episodes, the series’ slangy allusiveness makes for a story that feels shaggy at best, and structurally unsound at worst, but when the final credits hit, it’s clear that not one second of the season’s 10 short episodes was wasted: Every line was measured out, every background track meticulously calibrated, every initially jarring tonal shift set up precisely for a singular cumulative effect that lands in the season’s final moments like a punch to the chest you realize too late you should have seen coming from a mile away. —Alexis Gunderson


80. Last Tango in Halifax

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Created by: Sally Wainwright
Stars: Derek Jacobi, Anne Reid, Sarah Lancashire, Nicola Walker
Original Network: BBC One / PBS

Watch on Netflix

On the surface, Last Tango in Halifax looks like a sweet but slight story of two British widowers who knew each other in childhood and who find each other again to rekindle a lost love. But the series is truly an engrossing ensemble drama with a witty and charming sense of humor, as it tells the sprawling story of a now-blended Yorkshire family and their many personal conflicts (and reconciliations). Sally Wainwright’s series can take soapy twists and turns, but it’s always anchored by outstanding performances from the four leads and a cozy sense of home (home meaning either the posh side of the family or the farmer side, depending). Last Tango in Halifax is an easy and comforting binge-watch. —Allison Keene


81. Peaky Blinders

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Created by: Steven Knight
Stars: Cillian Murphy, Sam Neill, Helen McCrory, Paul Anderson, Iddo Goldberg
Original Network: BBC

Watch on Netflix

Cillian Murphy and Sam Neill star in this rock ’n‘ roll gangster drama set in 1919 in the West Midlands industrial city of Birmingham (music from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, PJ Harvey and the White Stripes adds a modern touch to the period proceedings). Murphy is a soldier-turned-ambitious kingpin of the Shelby crime family. Neill is the equally ruthless inspector out to dismantle his organization, who enlists a lovely mole (Annabelle Wallis, also of Fleming) to aid his campaign. (Tom Hardy joins the cast in the second season.) As the steely, azure-eyed Tommy Shelby, Murphy brings his trademark quiet intensity to a multidimensional antihero, one of several thoughtful characterizations in the Shelby clan. As for the gang’s/ show’s namesake, picture razor blades sewn into the brim of its wearers’ caps and you’ll get the head-butting, eye-gouging extent of Peaky Blinders’ viciousness. —Amanda Schurr


82. Sense8

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Created by: The Wachowskis, J. Michael Straczynski
Stars: Tuppence Middleton, Brian J. Smith, Doona Bae, Aml Ameen, Max Riemelt, Tina Desai, Miguel Ángel Silvestre, Jamie Clayton, Freema Agyeman, Terrence Mann, Anupam Kher, Naveen Andrews, Daryl Hannah
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

There may not be a bigger WTF TV show in the world than Sense8. This globe-trotting and glitzy sci-fi series, created by Lana and Lilly Wachowski (co-directors of The Matrix trilogy) and former Babylon 5 showrunner J. Michael Straczynski, drops us into a world where eight strangers in different parts of the planet are somehow psychically and emotionally linked. Through the first season’s 12 episodes—and the recent Christmas special follow this assortment of confused and beautiful people as they try to understand this connection, use their newfound abilities to help one another, and engage in not one but two blissfully queer orgies. As wacky and over-the-top as Sense8 can often get, the series remains important as it deals with issues of sexuality and gender identity through the work of trans actress Jamie Clayton and performers Miguel Silvestre and Alfonso Herrera’s portrayal of a gay couple in Mexico City. —Robert Ham


83. The Haunting of Hill House

Created by: Mike Flanagan
Stars: Michiel Huisman, Carla Gugino, Timothy Hutton, Elizabeth Reaser, Annabeth Gish, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Kate Siegel, Victoria Redretti
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

The aesthetic of The Haunting of Hill House makes it work not only as horror TV, but also as a deft adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s classic novel. The monsters, ghosts, and things that go bump on the wall are off-screen, barely shown, or obscured by shadow. The series even goes back to some of the first film adaptation’s decisions, in terms of camera movement and shot design, in order to develop uneasiness and inconsistency. Well, maybe “inconsistency” is the wrong word. The only thing that feels truly inconsistent while watching it is your mind: You’re constantly wary of being tricked, but the construction of its scenes often gets you anyway. By embracing the squirm—and the time necessary to get us to squirm rather than jump—The Haunting of Hill House is great at creating troubling scenarios, and even better about letting us marinate in them. —Jacob Oller


84. You

Created by: Greg Berlanti, Sera Gamble
Stars: Penn Badgley, Elizabeth Lail, Luca Padovan, Zach Cherry, Shay Mitchell
Original Network: Lifetime / Netflix

Watch on Netflix

Every sophomore season of a TV show carries with it the weight of expectations based upon the first season, and You could very easily have fallen short of those expectations. However, the first new season made officially for Netflix (Season 1, let us never forget, originated on Lifetime) made a bold swing by relocating from the very specific pretensions of the New York literary world to the very specific pretensions of the Los Angeles wellness scene, and also in the process giving our dark lead Joe (Penn Badgley) a new, surprisingly hospitable new community to engage with—presuming, of course, he doesn’t find a reason to kill them all. The complicated way in which You plays with how we approach stories about men, women, and romance made this season as mesmerizing as the first, and the way in which the season finale teases a prospective Season 3 is finger-licking good.—Liz Shannon Miller


85. Big Mouth

Created by: Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin
Stars: Nick Kroll, John Mulaney, Jessi Klein, Jason Mantzoukas, Maya Rudolph
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

Netflix’s animated series, from creators Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin, follows four friends through the earliest stages of puberty: Andrew (John Mulaney) sports inconvenient erections; Nick (Kroll) awaits his first pubic hairs; Jessi (Jessi Klein) begins menstruating at the Statue of Liberty; Jay (Jason Mantzoukas) conceives rococo ways to get off with his pillow. It’s wickedly bawdy—one episode’s end credits roll over an extended description of Andrew’s dad’s testicles—and devilishly funny—another uses a note-perfect Seinfeld send-up to explain the blowjob “head push” and the term “mons pubis”—but as implied by its theme song, Charles Bradley’s “Changes,” the series is sweeter than it appears. Its goal is to cut through the humiliations of sex, to break through the shame shellacked atop our “gross little dirtbag” selves to reveal the perfectly normal yearning underneath: for pleasure, for touch, for emotional connection; for approval, confidence, intimacy, love. By admitting, as Andrew does in the series premiere, that “everything is so embarrassing”—and not only for teens—Big Mouth squares a space in which there’s no question that can’t be asked, and no answer that applies the same way to everyone. It’s the streaming version of your sex-ed teacher’s anonymous slips of paper, except the laughs aren’t sniggers—they’re hard-won, empathic guffaws. —Matt Brennan


86. Castlevania

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Created by: Kevin Kolde, Warren Ellis
Stars: Richard Armitage, James Callis, Graham McTavish, Alejandra Reynoso, Tony Amendola, Matt Frewer, Emily Swallow
Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

Comic legend Warren Ellis, despite apparently having no familiarity with the Castlevania videogame series, somehow managed to take one look at its imagery and turn it into gold for Netflix. Impeccably cast, and reuniting multiple dwarves of The Hobbit series (Richard Armitage as Trevor Belmont, Graham McTavish as Dracula), the series is a sumptuous, gothic feast of bloodletting and dizzying anime action sequences. Gory and unrelenting, it also perfectly captures the dark, princely gravitas that has always been infused into Castlevania, and characters such as Dracula and his son Alucard. The first episode, in which a semi-benevolent Dracula loses the love of his life to a mob of luddite priests and prejudiced townfolk who burn her at the stake as a witch, is mouth-dropping in its scenes of grandiose, righteous vengeance. He descends on those poor, helpless fools as a pillar of flame, godlike, obliterating everything in his path and establishing himself as a insurmountable force of nature. Even after seeing the team of heroes assembled to take him down, it’s hard to imagine how they’ll possibly be up for the challenge. —Jim Vorel


87. Grey’s Anatomy

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Created by: Shonda Rhimes
Stars: Ellen Pompeo, Patrick Dempsey, Sandra Oh, Kevin McKidd, Jessica Capshaw, Jesse Williams, Sarah Drew, Katherine Heigl, Isiah Washington, Justin Chambers, Chandra Wilson, James Pickens Jr.
Original Network: ABC

Watch on Netflix

Now that Shonda Rhimes and her Shondaland are such a force in the TV world, it’s hard to imagine there was a time before her landmark dramas were a staple in our viewing schedules. Premiering as a mid-season replacement way back in March 2005, Grey’s, now about to begin its sixteenth season, first appeared to be nothing more than an ER wannabe. But Rhimes perfected the art of a well-told soap opera, seamlessly weaving personal strife, romantic hookups (never have supply closets seen so much action) and complex medical cases. She broke ground with a multiracial cast, same sex couples, and one of TV’s first bi-sexual characters. The series has survived multiple cast changes, behind-the-scenes drama that often eclipsed the on-screen shenanigans, and fickle fans who threatened to quit the show after a favorite character died. We take shows like Grey’s for granted, but when you are still successful after 15 seasons, you are doing something magical. So, relive the show from its nascent early days or discover it for the first time. Grey’s is my ultimate comfort-food TV, and I bet it will become yours too. —Amy Amatangelo


88. The Flash

Created by: Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, Geoff Johns
Stars: Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Danielle Panabaker, Rick Cosnett, Carlos Valdes, Tom Cavanagh
Original Network: The CW

Watch on Netflix

Over the past decade, the CW (born from a merger of The WB and UPN in 2006) has taken full advantage of its close ties with Warner Bros. to hand over much of its primetime slate to DC superhero shows, and it’s one of the most fun line-ups on television. That’s especially true with Barry Allen zipping around National City in The Flash, taking out bad guys with a quip and a smile. The Flash has tackled everything from the classic Flashpoint storyline about alternate realities to the giant, super-intelligent Gorilla Grodd. At their heart, comic books were designed as a fantastical distraction from everyday life. That doesn’t mean they can’t tell meaningful stories that push us to reexamine our world, but it’s taken time for the balance we see on the page to make the leap to the screen. With big-screen superhero stories becoming so bruising, both mentally and physically, small-screen comic stories are now a light-hearted oasis for fans just looking to have a good time, with a little angst thrown in for good measure. —Trent Moore


89. Lady Dynamite

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Created by: Pam Brady, Mitch Hurwitz
Stars: Maria Bamford, Fred Melamed, Mary Kay Place
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

Generally speaking, we like our comedies and our comedians to be funny. Maria Bamford—actress, voice actress, stand-up—is funny in the strictest sense possible, but her Netflix series, Lady Dynamite, blends her humor with melancholy and hurt. Don’t worry: You’ll laugh. You will laugh! Lady Dynamite is hilarious, and it is so on a wide array of axes, incorporating everything from slapstick to absurdism to cringe humor, all into one hyperactive rush of comic goodness. But it’s also deeply human and deeply sad, the kind of comedy series where the laughs tend to catch in one’s gullet, or squeeze through gritted teeth. Sometimes you laugh so as not to wince, or just to keep yourself from shedding tears in front of your friends (or in front of your own damn self). Sad comedies are a dime a dozen, especially for Netflix junkies, but the manic qualities of Lady Dynamite’s humor, its frank approach to its themes of mental illness, and its cavalcade of comedian guest stars—whether they’re mainstream comedians, alt comedians, or mainstream-alt comedians—give the show a brio and soul all its own. —Andy Crump


90. Queer Eye

Created by: David Collins
Stars: Tan France, Antoni Porowski, Jonathan Van Ness, Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

It’s easy for makeover shows to get mean. The powerful, well-manicured elite versus the slobbering masses makes for entertaining TV with huge transformations, but those shows lack the emotional oomph to justify their existence outside of vicarious “treat yourself”-ness. Thanks to a new Fab Five composed of Tan, Jonathan, Antoni, Karamo, and Bobby, Netflix’s Queer Eye reboot (note the dropped For the Straight Guy) is forging a new path towards togetherness with unapologetic empathy inside its confidence-building makeovers. Each episode approaches a “hero” you may not expect—be it a Trump-voting cop or a gay man struggling to come out of the closet—with open arms and willing ears. With plenty of specific, actionable tips made more general by the expertise of the five, the show still gives the big reveals and side-by-sides you need to scratch your self-improvement itch. But what makes this iteration of the series truly great is the camaraderie among the five and each subject they work with. A frank discussion about asking “Who’s the husband and who’s the wife?” in a gay relationship opens the door to the kind of two-way conversations that are necessary in developing social consciousness. Bobby and Karamo shine as the most cogent speakers and help establish the relationships needed for anyone’s heart to truly change. Content Warning: Every episode may necessitate tissues. —Jacob Oller


91. The Sinner

Created by: Derek Simonds
Stars: Jessica Biel, Christopher Abbott, Bill Pullman, Carrie Coon, Chris Messina, Matt Bomer
Original Network: USA

Watch on Netflix

Each season, USA’s The Sinner opens with a crime whose perpetrator is immediately revealed. The question is never a whodunnit, but instead asks why. And that, really, is at the core of why many of us enjoy crime dramas so much. The unraveling of the mystery is the thing, but The Sinner makes it all about the psychology of the crime; the mystery to unravel is embedded in the past of the person who committed this heinous act.

For drama fans (and crime drama fans in particular), The Sinner remains a very underrated anthology that always delivers a solid case with a great cast around it. It’s a good binge watch, and there’s no prior knowledge that’s really necessary to dive into any season of the new series. The first season was about a young mother who murders a stranger on the beach, the second about a cult and a missing girl, and the third about two men who made a pact in college that is coming due. In each, we dive into the personal stories behind the crimes in engrossing ways, all led by Bill Pullman’s ragged detective Harry Ambrose, as he wrestles with his own demons. —Allison Keene


92. She-Ra and the Princesses of Power

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Created by: Noelle Stevenson
Stars: Aimee Carrero, Karen Fukuhara, AJ Michalka, Marcus Scribner, Reshma Shetty, Lorraine Toussaint
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

If you, like me, are coming to She-Ra and the Princesses of Power for the first time—and you should; the magical mermaid princess water is lovely here—then whatever number of robots you’re expecting to see, be ready for double that. Possibly triple. Really, considering the nature of technology on/in Etheria, it’s probably best not to set any bar for how many robots might eventually cross your screen. Let the magic be in the discovery.

If you have even a passing familiarity with Netflix and Dreamworks’ thoroughly of-our-time reimagining of the legacy Masters of the Universe property, you might have been expecting me to lead with any number of other facts. Like say the fact that, led by the creative sensibilities of Noelle Stevenson, the graphic novelist behind Nimona and Lumberjanes, the series places both monster girls and the tender tenacity of friendship dead center. Or the fact that, also under Stevenson’s watch, the majority of the show’s creative staff and cast are female. Or the fact that—again, with Stevenson’s deliberate blessing—the new She-Ra is super, super queer.

For a kids’ show, this is a lot. But there is something so chillingly familiar in it, especially at this moment in history, that it’s impossible not to be impressed—and just as impossible not to hope that the tools Adora, Glimmer, Bow and the rest of their friends fight back with as the series continues will be ones we can use in our own lives, back here in the real world. —Alexis Gunderson


93. The Circle

Hosted by: Michelle Buteau
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

On paper, Netflix’s new reality series The Circle seems like a disaster waiting to happen. The show follows eight contestants sent to live in a fancy apartment building who are forbidden from interacting with each other except via an in-house, Alexa-like social media platform known as “The Circle.” Their goal? Become its most popular “influencer” to win a $100,000 prize. In short, it pretty much sounds like something that could only take place in a fairly deep level of hell.

In such an anonymous, competitive atmosphere, how long could it possibly take before the contestants start telling lies, backstabbing, and sabotaging one another? Or just straight up attacking their rivals for the most petty and superficial of reasons? Viewers can’t really be blamed for tuning in expecting a complete train wreck. The real surprise is that The Circle doesn’t give them one.

Instead, the series turns expected reality television tropes on their heads, ultimately shunning catty competition and calculated betrayal in favor of genuine emotion, real friendship, and a positive message about being and accepting who you are. No matter how they choose to play, many genuine moments of authenticity and connection take place, often times in what feels like a direct contrast to everything we expect from this genre.

Yes, The Circle is the sort of silly, addictive television that most will dismiss out of hand. It’s not exactly prestige television, and it won’t reinvent the way you understand the power of drama. But it might change the way you think about people, a little bit, and how we relate to one another in this increasingly scary modern world. No matter how much it wants to be a story about technology, The Circle is a warm, wholesome reminder that humanity and sincerity matters, even in the face of that which encourages our worst selves. And that’s a reality competition worth watching. Heart emoji. Praise hands emoji. Send message.—Lacy Baugher


94. Santa Clarita Diet

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Created by: Victor Fresco
Stars: Drew Barrymore, Timothy Olyphant, Liv Hewson, Skyler Gisondo
Original Network: Netflix

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Netflix’s horror-comedy follows normal couple Sheila (Drew Barrymore) and Joel (Timothy Olyphant), a real estate duo attempting to raise their daughter Abby (Liv Hewson) right. The neighborhood is good, problems are at a minimum, and the middle-class living is all the American Dream promised. Until Sheila hacks up a mysterious orb and starts hungering for human flesh, that is. Freckly neighbor kid Eric (Skyler Gisondo) has been roped into the scheme, too. Together, they put the “dead” in “deadpan.” Sheila’s fundead chipperness recalls Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s method of surrounding its dark, psychologically- or physically-upsetting narrative turns with hyper-sunny aesthetics, saturating each shot with catalogue color even when the gore flies. It’s as if the traffic-discussing members of the Saturday Night Live skit “The Californians” were in a Saw movie. —Jacob Oller


95. The Fall

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Created by: Allan Cubitt
Stars: Gillian Anderson, Jamie Dornan, Valene Kane, Séalinín Brennan, Colin Morgan, Bronagh Taggart, Niamh McGrady, Sarah Beattie, John Lynch
Original Network: BBC

Watch on Netflix

Let it be known that before he was Christian Grey, Jamie Dornan proved his acting chops and charisma as a disturbingly un-disturbable murderer in this superb psychological thriller. Dornan’s mild-mannered husband, father and grief counselor (!) is among the most terrifying onscreen serial killers in recent memory. Paul Spector is a stalker, as exacting and methodical as his eventual pursuer. Enter Gillian Anderson’s Stella Gibson, a British detective superintendent called to Belfast to look into a spate of gruesome murders. As the cat-and-mouse game intensifies, Anderson’s characterization is its own triumph: analytical, uncompromising, reserved, but brazenly sexual on her own terms, entirely unfazed by the politicking and dick-swinging of her male colleagues. That we know the identity of the killer from the show’s first frames, and yet can’t take our eyes off the screen is a testament to the stealth creep with which The Fall operates. —Amanda Schurr


96. The OA

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Created by: Zal Batmanglij, Brit Marling
Stars: Brit Marling, Jason Isaacs, Scott Wilson
Original Network: Netflix

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Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij’s flawed, transfixing science (or is it spiritual?) fiction asks its audience, as the title character (Marling) does hers, for trust—to the point that the suspension of disbelief emerges as the subject of The OA, and not merely its mechanism. As the OA, or Original Angel, also known as Prairie Johnson, unfurls a tale of unimaginable trauma for four high school students and their math teacher (the surprising Phyllis Smith), the decision to focus on images of their rapt faces might appear premature, given the first season’s meandering course. And yet, mirroring the OA’s inscrutable message, Marling and Batmanglij’s snarled stories ultimately straighten, as if diagramming an indecipherable sentence or lining a complex hymn: When its nesting narratives come taut, when its forked paths converge, The OA rewards the faith it requires, coming to a climax of such sublime conviction it continues to reduce me to sobs even now, after countless viewings. —Matt Brennan


97. Black Mirror

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Created by: Charlie Brooker
Original Network: Channel 4 (UK)

Watch on Netflix

There are probably times in most of our lives when we see our technological world as more of a dystopia than a utopia. The way it curbs our freedom, diminishes our privacy, and subjects us to anonymous attacks can feel like an unforgivable violation. But the worst part is, we’re complicit—we’ve accepted the intrusion, and in some cases, or even most cases, we’ve become addicted. The ubiquity of technology is a reality that we can’t fight against, and to maintain our sanity, we have to accept it. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth questioning, which is exactly what Black Mirror is all about. The title is nearly perfect, as explained by creator Charlie Brooker: “The black mirror of the title is the one you’ll find on every wall, on every desk, in the palm of every hand: the cold, shiny screen of a TV, a monitor, a smartphone.” The job of this show is to reflect our society in an unflattering light, and they do it with a new cast and a new story in each episode. This is not fun watching—it’s mostly horrifying—but even if our brave new world is inescapable, the show represents a kind of protest that feels more necessary than ever. —Shane Ryan


98. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

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Directed by: Seiji Mizushima
Written by: Sho Aikawa
Original Network: Adult Swim (US)

Watch on Netflix

For many, Brotherhood is the essential anime experience, and it’s easy to see why. A more faithful adaptation to Hiromu Arakawa’s mega-popular manga series, Brotherhood contends with loss, grief, war, racism and ethics in mature and unique ways, ahead of its time in nearly every aspect. What’s more, the show is paced perfectly, with neatly wrapped arcs that lead into each other and bolster a greater global narrative on selected themes. Brotherhood is just the right length, never overstaying its welcome and proving how versatile and malleable the conventions of shounen anime can be.

Brotherhood has a sizeable cast of characters all of different nationalities and ideologies, with motivations that often oppose one another—the show manages to use these moving forces to form factions, alliances and foils that flow in multiple directions, paralleling the often messy, always chaotic nature of human relationships during wartime. The show’s emotional core revolves around the plight of the Elric brothers, Ed and Alphonse, two alchemists sponsored by the authoritarian Amestris military. It’s not your classic military drama, though, as Ed and Alphonse quickly learn how far Amestris’ authoritarianism stretches.

Where Brotherhood excels lies in the sensitivity it expresses for every one of the characters’ fighting for their desires and contending with their mistakes, with particular highlights on the plights of minorities and women. Ed and Alphonse struggle with the fallout after attempting forbidden alchemy to revive their recently deceased mother. Later, their childhood friend Winry is portrayed heroically for acting as an emergency midwife. Scar, initially introduced as a brutal serial killer, is one of the last remaining indigenous Ishvalans, an ethnic group purged during a colonial war at the hands of Amestris—his odyssey continues to ring more and more resonant as we stray further into a post-terror world. It’s why the series continues to wow today: it eschews cliche to make cogent points on human consciousness. —Austin Jones


99. Flowers

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Created by: Will Sharpe
Stars: Olivia Colman, Julian Barratt, Daniel Rigby, Sophia Di Martino, Will Sharpe
Original Network: Channel 4 / Seeso

Watch on Netflix

The dark, bizarre, hilarious, and deeply emotional series Flowers is nothing like what you might expect. Styled initially as dark British comedy (which begins with a thwarted suicide that’s played with sighing resignation), Sharpe’s alternatively dreamy and nightmarish series follows the exploits of a family whose members are all on the brink of a breakdown (and more often than not cross over). Flowers is about the kind of darkness that follows you like a shadow, and the various ways it can manifest. It sounds like a slog, but it isn’t in even the slightest. With its stunning cast, Flowers is an extraordinary work, deeply touching and mysterious, working like a fever dream to explain what goes on in our minds and how we manage to carry on. It can be challenging—the Japanese-English Sharpe plays what feels like a racial caricature—and yet, it’s all part of his strange take on otherness and finding one’s place in a world that seems built for other people. —Allison Keene


100. Collateral

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Created by: David Hare
Stars: Carey Mulligan, Nathaniel Martello-White, Jeany Spark, Nicola Walker, John Simm, Billie Piper, Hayley Squires
Original Network: BBC Two

Watch on Netflix

The four-episode UK prestige crime series takes place in London over the course of four days, after the fatal shooting of a pizza delivery man. Academy Award-nominee Carey Mulligan plays Kip Glaspie, a detective inspector who refuses to accept this killing as a simple random murder and seeks out the darker truth hidden in the shadows. There are also a host of political, racial, and social implications to the murder that are all given full consideration by the whip-smart dialogue, elevating this series into a thoughtful, compelling work. —Mike Mudano and Allison Keene



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