By Pajiba Staff | Streaming | September 4, 2016 |
By Pajiba Staff | Streaming | September 4, 2016 |
It’s the last week of the summer, if you’re on the TV calendar, which means that there’s also very little about which to write. But in light of learning about those shows our readers are most passionate about, I thought it would behoove us to rundown the best current shows available on the streaming services, starting with Netflix and covering Amazon and Hulu later this week.
These are the 15 best series that are both still ongoing (and officially have more seasons to come) and on Netflix. I suspect that this is a list — like our list of the best recent movies on Netflix — that we’ll continue to update.
1. Daredevil (Watch Here) — Daredevil is as close to perfect as it could probably be, and I say that as a vociferous fan of the comic book. The characters are all solid reflections of their comic book counterparts, and it captures the mood of writers like Bendis, Miller, and Brubaker. But it also has its own rhythm and flow, a kind of moody intensity that’s broken up by moments of genuine warmth between its characters — both the good ones and the bad. Every element — the criminals, the cops, the lawyers, the media, even Murdock’s struggle with his Catholic guilt — is explored with at least some degree of detail, while mostly avoiding lazy exposition. It’s smart, dark, grim, fun, and it’s just damn good television.
2. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Watch Here) — It’s a really fun show to watch, and Ellie Kemper is delightful enough that the 13 episodes move by quickly. If it can keep up its “Most Improved” designation through season 2, it’ll be the best comedy not on television. It’s fast, funny, charming, and maybe the best reason to watch is for the incredibly catchy theme song, which will remain in your head perpetually while you’re watching the show.
3. Sherlock (Watch Here) — “A magical romp through contemporary London! A show that even the most die-hard Sherlock Holmes’ fan would appreciate! Martin Freeman is pitch perfect! “Sherlock is a high-energy thrill ride! It’s the most exciting show on television this summer! A must see! A television classic! An explosive thriller that keeps you guessing every step of the way! Steven Moffat is at the top of his game. I give Sherlock all the stars in the sky!” …. That’s the blurb-whore version of “Sherlock,” and as hyperbolic as it may seem, it’s also not far off the mark
4. Arrow (Watch Here) — “Arrow” isn’t just a sort of Batman-meets-Hawkeye. It’s actually more like Batman-meets-Hawkeye-meets-The Punisher. It’s a pretty intense show at times, and it works for a number of reasons. It’s fun, it’s exciting, the storyline is solid and enjoyable, the cast is refreshingly diverse, and it’s got nods-a-plenty to comic book nerds as well as a host of other genre fans.
5. Rectify (Watch Here) — There’s a lot going on in Recttfy — which comes from the producers of Breaking Bad — but it moves like melting butter. It is a quiet, elegiac and hypnotic show. The beats creep along, but it’s so transfixing that time, somehow, flies by, as Daniel struggles with the haunting memories of prison life and a new world before him that he doesn’t recognize. It is profoundly unsettling, sexually charged, and completely captivating. It’s not quite like anything I’ve seen on television, but it has a mood and tone that will seep into you and cling to your soul like a warm blanket with viper teeth.
6. Bloodline (Watch Here) — Bloodline is slow-burning greatness, and while doling the revelations out incrementally and reiterating old ones can be frustrating at times at the outset, the addictive quality of those slowly-building revelations all but ensures that you won’t be able to stop watching until you’ve completed the series. Bloodline is engrossing, so much so that somewhere along the way, you may find yourself wondering if you skipped an episode. You’ll start in on episode 7, fall into a trance, and wake up somewhere around episode 10, wondering what happened to the last four hours of your life. Mendelson will hook you immediately, but after four or five episodes — once the pieces begin to fall into place — the story will sweep you along toward the dark and sickly satisfying end, capping the series off with four of the best episodes in the short but stellar history of Netflix’s original programming.
7. Orange is the New Black — (Watch Here) — Jenji Kohan’s knack for social commentary mixed with humor is perfect for a prison story. Orange Is the New Black is as funny as Weeds in its early years, but this time around, Kohan has found a way to infuse an added level of poignancy — and dare we say sweetness? — to the overall vibe of her stories. It traffics in stereotypes, but it also challenges and complicates them. Most importantly: It humanizes the in-humanized. In other words, the prison transforms labels — felons, thieves, murders, embezzlers — into real human beings and reminds us that, even in prison, life isn’t put on hold. Life is being led. Orange Is the New Black will both make you laugh and make you think — it is both entertaining and good — and shows like this should be treasured.
8. Scrotal Recall (Watch Here) — The small British comedy Scrotal Recall slipped by most of us. Or maybe it didn’t slip by. Maybe you were one of many people who got an email telling you Netflix recommended something called Scrotal Recall and you spent the rest of your day wondering how your life choices had led to this. While that title may not inspire you to give it a shot (or does it? I don’t know your brain), the show itself is surprisingly good. It’s a Netflix original but also debuted last year on Channel 4 in England, and while I don’t fully understand how that works, I’m just happy the show is here now.
9. Archer (Watch Here) — Archer might be the greatest television show ever made. Yeah, there are all those top shelf shows that will live for the ages, like Breaking Bad and The Wire, but it’s spy games on crack that seems to go on repeat on Netflix after about every eighty minutes of other television. And as a historian, I adore the complete pastiche it makes of time, dragging together the Internet, glowing green computer consoles, the Soviet Union, and a hodgepodge of other temporally exclusive details of the last sixty years or so. In our popular entertainment, we slur together hundreds of years of history into one broad conception of a particular time. And the longer ago that time was, the broader of a brush it gets filled in with over more and more centuries. And that’s what Archer is: it’s how popular entertainment is going to remember our time period five hundred years from now. Including Burt Reynolds role in all of it? Especially that part.
10. Bob’s Burgers (Watch Here) — I watched the first two seasons in four days. That’s about the best recommendation I can give for a show. I could ramble on, but the bottom line is that there isn’t much to talk about, which might explain why the show gets so little long form press, even as it tends to make lists of what you should watch. It’s frequently laugh out loud funny. And I think that sweetness is the wrong thing to attribute to the show. Not to say that it isn’t sweet, but that word projects such cloying dishonesty in the context of fiction, at least to me, that I find it offputting. It’s more that the characters have a fundamental humanity to them that of all things reminds me most of Calvin and Hobbes. That sense of veering madcap smart ass brilliance that is nonetheless grounded not in cynicism but in simple good-hearts.
11. Sense8 (Watch Here) — You should watch this show. Because while there are parts of the plot that are derivative, the story is wholly gorgeous and beautiful, especially once you get to the end and can reflect on all the rest of it. It is saying different things about identity, about what really makes you who you are. Each of the eight has their own story, and what makes them seem boring in the first few episodes is that for the most part they are not action-oriented or science fictional in the least. But each of them is like a short story in its own right, of the evolution of an individual’s identity and how being part of this completely empathetic group both changes and reinforces those identities. There are deeper themes that riff along those same lines too: the antagonist is both entirely evil and yet the ways in which he is deeply resonate with these themes of identity and empathy. Despite the first trappings of cliche, this is no mere “hunt the people who are different and therefore a threat.” Every aspect of the different interwoven stories serve these central themes. That’s the key to getting the show, I think, to really enjoying it from the start. It’s the realization that this is not a science fiction story at all. This is a genre-breaking story that could be told in fantasy, sci-fi, urban horror, or just about anything else. That’s the mark of a transcendent story.
12. Peaky Blinders — Peaky Blinders is one of the most enjoyably fun to watch series on Netflix, even if it is bleak at times. If you don’t know anything about it, Peaky Blinders is basically the British version of Boardwalk Empire, in that it’s set in the same time period and deals with some of the same matters, only over in Britain. Peaky Blinders are British gangsters, and while bootlegging and gambling is involved, so is the IRA. Cillian Murphy in the lead is absolutely fantastic, something akin to a Prohibition era Boyd Crowder, and there’s also some fun guest arcs from the likes of Noah Taylor and Tom Hardy. There are two seasons, and trust me, once you start, you’ll be hooked.
13. The League (Watch Here) — If you’re the sort of person that might understand that transcendent emotional exuberance of winning a fantasy football league, then FX’s The League is for you. The show explores deftly, and hilariously in my mind, the way that the bullshit, macho-bravura that permeates fantasy football is often at odds with real life. But what makes The League exceptionally good is that you don’t have to know or care about fantasy football to appreciate it. If you like It’s Always Sunny or Curb Your Enthusiasm, you’ll like The League. It’s the same kind of story, just different characters and a different delivery device.
14. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (Watch Here) — Fact: It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia is the funniest show on tv. Now before you start arguing, let me explain. I’ve chosen my words carefully. I didn’t say “Best Sitcom”, and I didn’t say “Most Important Funny Show.” I said funniest. And it is. Untethered from any sort of cohesive plot requirements, character development, or legal and ethical standards, Always Sunny is consistently the most laugh-inducing show on television, and has been for the past 10 seasons. (Sorry, Archer).
15. Louie (Watch Here) — Shot in an artless, documentary style and set to a jazzy Bebop-inflected score, Louie has a loose, improvisational feel. Springing out of the stand-up that serves as the spine of the program are little vignettes that serve as illustrations of the material that informs the act. A big part of the charm is the show’s unwillingness to rest on a joke or gimmick. CK’s standup is always penetrating and intelligent, and the narrative sketches that cluster around it are like variations on a theme. Elliptical, almost spontaneous, they scramble the old-fashioned plotting of sitcoms, stressing mood rather than direction, if that makes any sense.