As part of my job for Uproxx, I watch at least the first season of almost all of Netflix’s original series (I do not watch the kid shows), so that I can keep a running list of the Best Netflix Original Series, a list that needs frequent updating (I’m about a month behind now). The period between the last week of April and now has been maybe the busiest Netflix period ever with both new series and their most popular returning series being released at an insane pace. I haven’t gone a weekend in nearly two months now without bingeing a Netflix series (plus I squeezed in one Amazon series), and that streak will not stop this weekend (Gypsy comes out on Friday, and then I get a merciful one-week break before Friends from College debuts).
All things considered, it’s a great gig, really, except for the lost sleep. While I wouldn’t necessarily gorge on Netflix to the extent I have without a job-related reason to do so, I have seen some fantastic television in the last two months.
If you’re in the midst of a glut of Netflix series yourself and would like to prioritize what to watch first, here’s a quick ranking of what I have watched, from worst to first.
10. Girlboss — Girlboss was crap, but weirdly watchable, mostly because I like Britt Robertson despite the fact that she’s supremely miscast here and despite little evidence that she’s a decent actress. My two biggest problems with the series were 1) the fact that Sophia Amoruso is a problematic inspiration for the character, especially since the company she founded (which is at the center of the show) has since gone bankrupt because of her reckless management decisions, and the 2) wildly uneven tone. It’s like DeGrassi meets a raunchy Judd Apatow comedy. The show had no idea what it wanted to be, but it won’t have to worry about it anymore because it’s been mercifully cancelled.
9. Bloodline — The first season of Bloodline is legitimately one of my favorite seasons of Netflix television, a really intense, incredibly acted slow burn. There never should’ve been another season. A mediocre second season dovetails here into a pretty bad third and final season that coughs and sputters until the ninth episode, which is actually very good. Unfortunately, the series finale is a cheap, unsatisfying cop-out that left me wondering why I even bothered.
8. House of Cards — The placement of House of Cards on this is list is less an indictment of this season and more a testament to how good everything else has been. The fifth season is something of a mess, but a wildly addictive one that eventually spirals out of control. It wants to one-up our new Trump reality, but in doing so, it becomes even more unbelievable than our new Trump reality. It jumps the track, but Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright will continue to keep me coming back for more.
7. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt — I liked this season, and I feel bad about ranking it this low, but honestly, I barely remember anything about it, and it’s only been a few weeks since I saw it. Kimmy tried to get her shit together and go to college; Jacqueline spent another season trying to rename the Washington Redsk*ns; Lillian ran for city council; and Titus had a lot of boyfriend problems. There was also a whole episode about Titus trying to use a convenience store bathroom to take care of his business (I also feel like it was one of the better episodes). The best I can say for Kimmy this season was that it was painlessly amusing, but completely forgettable. I am pretty sure that the infectious theme song also doubles as a mind eraser.
6. Orange is the New Black — I didn’t like this season very much in the beginning, and I hated the idea that the entire season was going to take place during a three-day prison riot. Crazy Eyes had a terrible storyline. I didn’t much care for Dayanara and Aleida’s storylines either, and I straight-up hated what they did with Flaca and Maritza until the finale. However, I love these characters. They figured out exactly how much to use Piper (read: not that much), and Taystee (Danielle Brooks) was fucking blow-me-away fantastic. Her and Gloria (Selenis Leyva), actually. Both deserve Emmy noms. Indeed, as annoyed as I might have been with much of the season, I still welled up three or four times in the season finale. It’s not the best season of OITNB, but it’s totally worth the investment.
5. Sense8 — Look: It was a good season. It wouldn’t be this low on almost any other list! It took a while to get going, though, but once it did, it was magical. Cheesy, nonsensical, bonkers, but magical. It really is a remarkably positive, life-affirming sci-fi series, and I am bummed as hell that it was cancelled, because nothing on television wears its heart on its sleeve as much as Sense8, and nothing on television embraces love in all its variations quite like Sense8. It’s a supremely uncool show, but that is part of its charm.
4. The Keepers — All the attention that Making a Murderer got should have been given to the true-crime docu-series The Keepers. Of course, The Keepers didn’t have an abusive white-trash OBVIOUS KILLER as its hero; it had two older women who have made it their life’s mission to discover the murderer behind their Catholic School teacher, a cold case that warmed up after sexual abuse allegations against the Catholic Church in Baltimore surfaced. This is a really great documentary series that does happen to be hard to watch at times, but it is important. And riveting. And completely fucking harrowing.
3. Master of None — Master of None came out on the same weekend as The Keepers, and I watched the doc first and circled back around to Master of None a couple of weeks ago. The reviews — or at least the headlines in those reviews — weirdly put me off, because there were lots of words like “more experimental” to go along with the effusive praise. But, there was no reason to shy away from the second season. It is every bit as good as the first, except that it’s more sure footed. It’s phenomenal, and heart-warming, and adorable and smart and insightful and completely winning. I do not think that Aziz Ansari is a great actor, but he is a fantastic writer and observationalist and performance-wise, he does play to his strengths. Also, the last couple of episodes were heart-wrenching in the best possible way.
2. GLOW — I echo everything that Ryan said about the series, and of all ten of the Netflix series I’ve seen in the last two months, this was the only one I watched straight-through in one sitting. I couldn’t stop. It’s not as smart or insightful as Master of None, not as important as The Keepers, and not as moving as OITNB or Sense8, but it is the most entertaining, addictive series of the bunch.
1. Dear White People — We haven’t written an official review of this series yet, because so far as I know, Lord Castleton and I are the only ones on staff who have seen it and we are white as fuck and this is not a series that I’d feel comfortable with a white dude reviewing. It is frequently funny, it is well acted, it is insightful, and it is entertaining. It’s also incredibly illuminating for the way it explores the social dynamics between Black People and White People, Woke People And People That Aren’t, Light-Skinned Black people and Dark Skinned Black people, and Black people who want to confront institutional racism from the outside and Black people who want to work within the system as best they can. It’s complicated as hell, and it challenges our prejudices at every turn and illustrates maybe better than any show I have ever seen the complexities of race. That’s exactly why all white dudes should be watching this show but none of them should be reviewing it. In series form, it is a textbook example of “Don’t talk, just listen.”
Did not watch: Flaked season two (because it’s the worst series on Netflix, and that includes Fuller House), F is for Family season two (the first season was fine, but not my thing), and The Ranch season two (the first season was better than I thought it would be thanks to Sam Elliot and Debra Winger, but still not very good). I also didn’t watch Anne, because it got terrible reviews, and I wasn’t in the demographic to begin with. I put it in the category of “kid” series.
I should also note that, while I don’t watch all the stand-up specials on Netflix, I have seen quite a few, and Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King has easily been my favorite — the man completely masters a mix of humor and poignancy and delivers the sweetest, funniest stand-up special I’ve seen in years. It is so incredibly good. If all you have is an hour to spare, I suggest putting this at the top of your queue.