I keep seeing people asking for Netflix inspiration (Netflixpiration if you will), and I have to share my votes for the best series worth committing ten hours or more of your life to – there have been so many fantastic series that it feels like the minute you finish one season of something the second season of something else starts. During winter I hibernate as much as possible, so these series have kept me from doing things like housework, ugh, or general exercise, whoops?
I definitely am going to get moving and gymming again as soon as I finish these series, but for those who haven’t watched these yet – this is my gift to you – an excuse not gym, venture into the cold or even move of a weekend for the next few weeks.
Also for any other Stranger Things fans reading this, I hope the title of this blog post won’t go unnoticed…
This took me two episodes to really get hooked, but after that you couldn’t prise my laptop away from me (yes I watch Netflix on my laptop in bed like a millennial, sorry I won’t apologise).
For me, this series was a hybrid of Gossip Girl-esque style and relationships with a dark and crime-y twist. I liked that despite it being set around a cast of High School kids, it doesn’t feel too cliché – rather it plays on this – but not in a Glee way. The characters may be archetypes in an American High School; cue the American football player, cheerleader queen bees, indie nerds and jocks; but these are superficial façades hiding deep and complex personas dealing with dysfunctional families, prejudice, sexuality and mental health issues to name a few. Throw into the mix a murder mystery, forbidden love, plenty of love triangles, a serial killer and a Scooby gang equivalent and that’s pretty much Riverdale.
I didn’t realise, but learned recently, that the series is based on the Archie Comics characters – which explains a lot. I was really starting to question the writers’ imaginations when character names such as ‘Jughead Jones’, ‘Archie Andrews’ and ‘Mr. Sourberry’ were popping up before that. Also the bizarre division of families by hair colour: red, black and blonde.
In a way it was quite refreshing to have typecast characters who slowly evolved and revealed their complexities, rather than have characters written in such a way to be so annoyingly mysterious for the sake of it.
The town of Riverdale and its characters seem to present a macrocosm and microcosm of a nuclear neighbourhood with nuclear families – or at least if not nuclear, painfully stereotypical small-town with similar issues – but the series gets darker and deeper as you go.
It would be really interesting to read the comics now and see the Netflix characters side-by-side with their comic origins. If I do, I’ll let you know my thoughts.
It’ definitely worth a binge. Oh and for those who watch, I am so Team Jughead.
Grace & Frankie
This will not be everyone’s cup of tea – because the two main stars are over the age of 70. And that exactly the point! This series challenges the idea that older woman aren’t worth attention and should quietly move into retirement homes to live out their days in a sad mist of knitting and daytime TV.
Co-stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin (if you don’t know who they are and what they’ve starred in then you should), not only fight this challenge head-on in the story if the series: two women faced with the fact that their husbands have fallen in love with each other and they are now left alone in their ‘Golden Years’; but the series itself challenges the idea that only young women can grace the screen and are worth watching. Go girls!
To make all that even better – Grace & Frankie is a comedy, and I really do find it funny. It works on some really stigmatic themes, like sex and relationships for older women, to name one.
Try and watch one episode.
Once Upon a Time
Where to start with this. There are now what feels like a bazillion series of this now, unfortunately for me after series 3 or 4, but it’s easy watching.
As the title suggests, this series is a medley of all the classic fairytales – the twist is that it is contrasted and set in the real world. I think in the later series it fell short because it started pulling in newer characters (cheers, Frozen and Brave) just due to their popularity rather than substance and contribution to the plot.
I am not going to lie, sometimes the special effects felt pretty cringey, but I enjoyed it anyway – it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and again it plays with stereotypes of heroes and villains, but breaks down the black-and-white binaries of these characters.
The protagonist is Emma Swan, played by Jennifer Morrison who I love and think was fantastic in House – which would have been a series on the list had Netflix not removed it (boo Netflix).
Also, watch out for Captain Hook, he is a dream.
If you loved Gossip Girl then you’ll love this. It has been years since we said goodbye to S and B, and Dynasty definitely feels like the natural successor. It’s like Blair Waldorf got a business degree and upped her sass by 3,000%. This series is based on a soap that was on prime time TV in the 80’s that starred Joan Collins, from what I’ve been told it was quite cheesy. The new series of Dynasty however must be blowing a huge budget, because it is so glamorous – from the wardrobe, makeup and hair to the fancy cars and sets.
The series is about the rivalry of two wealthy American families both embroiled in a mess of sex, drugs, privilege and backstabbing. One of the main characters – and my favourite – is Fallon Carrington who is the daughter of business tycoon, Godfather-ish patriarch Blake Carrington. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be hooked after one episode.
House of Cards
There’s been a lot of heat around this series due to recent events regarding Kevin Spacey, but I want to talk about this series in isolation of that. Sometimes I find it hard to keep up with everything in political dramas, especially in the US where I am not as familiar with the system, and there are definitely parts in this that go over my head, but it is so gripping. It’s not just the political drama and the social climbing, it’s the narrative style of the protagonist, and the cinematography – easy episode is film-quality.
I am not one for scary movies, but there are some parts in House of Cards where I genuinely got shivers and jumped – but it was never overdone or horrific. I’d call this a ‘political thriller’ and definitely a good series to watch covering topical issues such as: privacy concerns, sexuality, political accountability and the abuse of power.
You must have heard great reviews about this series already. Claire Foy and Matt Smith are brilliant. As a Doctor Who fan I was already enamoured with Smith (‘bow ties are cool’), and Foy I had watched in the BBC series Wolf Hall when she played Anne Boleyn, so it already has a brilliant cast to tease you in (although rumour has it there is a different cast for the next series, but by the time you finish the Foy-Smith ride you won’t care).
I learned so much about the Royal family that i had never known or realised, a lot of which my parents remember happening at the tine. Even though there is obviously fictional embellishment, it really gives you a newfound respect for the Queen and an insight into the pressures of royal life.
Two words. Winona Ryder. In my books she is one of the most beautiful and talented actresses, and I was so happy to see her in this series. Stranger Things is a bizarre mix of ’80s pop style and nostalgia and sci-fi thriller. That and an entire underworld dimension. Make sure you watch this with someone.
The story is led by a group of kids, and you will end up loving all of them and having a favourite before long. Mine? Dustin.
An American lawyer drama led by sharp-suited, self-righteous and all round bad boy Harvey Specter played by Gabriel Macht – a.k.a the pervy but hot artist from Sex and the City who was into filming models (and Samantha) while he has sex with them, ring a bell? If not, you’re welcome, there’s another excuse to rewatch the series.
Aside from Macht, the other reason to watch Suits is if you enjoy legal mysteries, corporate espionage, imposter lawyers and a heavy spread of sarcastic quips.
Did you ever watch the Hitchcock movie Psycho? Well this series is based around that – except from the perspective of the Bates. Starring Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga, this is series is so unique. It really delves into Freudian-Oedipus complexes as well as redefining the limits of adaptation.
I was on edge the whole series, and found a lot of it scary which even though that really isn’t my thing, I couldn’t stop watching, Highmore and Farmiga are outstanding – you will understand when you watch.
A Series of Unfortunate Events
I read all of the books when I was a kid, and to this day they they are still some of the best stories I’ve ever read. When the film came out starring Jim Carrey as Count Olaf I was so excited, but they crammed the first three books into one film, in the wrong order, messing up key details and plot points. I’d like to point out that it was still a good film in isolation of the books and Meryl Streep was, as always, brilliant.
The new Netflix series – is out of this world, and right into Lemony Snicket’s (the namesake of my dog Lemon). Count Olaf is played by Neil Patrick Harris and at first I wasn’t sure about him for the role, but he is by far the only person who could have ever done the role justice. He is exactly how I pictured him in the book…of course, there were actual pictures in the book….
This time the narration, characters and plot are exactly as they should be – and it is done so well. There is a strange exaggerated, storybook style to it, as though they were trying to pull the book into the series. So much thought and effort – and money – has gone into the series and I cannot wait for the next season to be released in March.
Medici: Masters of Florence
I don’t know about you, but I think this series didn’t even make a splash among the people I spoke to about it. No one had heard of it, let alone watched it.
As a huge lover of Italy and Tuscany in particular, it was really nice to see a series all about the history of Florence. It’s all about the Medici family that ruled the city in the 15th Century.
Richard Madden, (you may already love him from Game of Thrones), plays Cosimo de’Medici, the leader of the family – and he will not disappoint you. It’s like all the Shakespeare plays on steroids.
If it weren’t for me trying to keep the number to 11 for the sake of my Stranger Things joke I would also have recommended these series too, but they’ve been around a while anyway: Poldark, Peaky Blinders, Gossip Girl and Orange is the New Black.
There are so many great new series on Netflix, let me know if you are hooked on any you think I should check out!
All image credits to Netflix.