In the old days, would-be television aficionados were limited to what was playing over the airwaves, complete with shoddy editing, commercial breaks, and troublesome time slots. Some series were released on videocasette, and later DVD, but it was hard to watch many shows, especially lost classics which didn’t necessarily have a large mainstream audience.
Today, we look back on the era of being at the mercy of syndicated networks like it was the dark ages. Between Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, audiences have an endless supply of television, unedited, commercial-free, and in the highest video quality possible, all at their fingertips (at least as long as the WiFi holds out).
In this golden age of television, where we take High Definition widescreen programming for granted, modern programs like Fargo, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, Mad Men, and so many more are constantly pushing the potential of the medium further than many ever thought possible. All the while, revered classics like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Seinfeld, The Twilight Zone, Star Trek, and countless others are readily available to be binge-watched by lifelong fans and curious newcomers alike.
However, there are some shows which are curiously unavailable on any mainstream streaming network, particularly Netflix, which is easily the most popular of the bunch. Some of these programs were formerly on one service or another but were sadly pulled, never to return, while others have not yet had their chance to shine in the streaming spotlight. Here are 15 Great Shows Netflix Needs To Add To Their Library.
15. Batman: The Animated Series
Who is the best Batman? Some people say Christian Bale, others say Michael Keaton. There’s probably one misguided fool out there who says George Clooney. But a big percentage of fans out there agree, the powerful timbre of the inimitable Kevin Conroy is the greatest take on the Caped Crusader.
Batman: The Animated Series is widely regarded as one of the greatest animated programs of all time, and the definitive version of Gotham’s Dark Knight. The influence of the series cannot be overstated. When shows like Arrow and Gotham are at their best, they’re essentially live-action versions of the animated world created by Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, and co. all the way back in 1992.
It’s shocking, then, that this seminal superhero saga is currently unavailable on any subscription-based streaming service. Sure, episodes can be purchased for two bucks a pop on Amazon Video, but Warner Brothers is keeping way too tight of a leash on its most famous cartoon. For that matter, what about Superman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond? DC is in the midst of preparing a new digital streaming service (which will air original programming, including the eagerly-anticipated third season of Young Justice), but there’s no word yet as to whether any of these legendary shows might be added to the platform when it launches. Hint: they really should!
14. Full House
Few would call Full House a “great show,” or a “timeless classic,” or even “funny,” but those Olsen sisters were adorable, Bob Sagat was a charming lead, and John Stamos’s hair sure was beautiful.
Full House needs to be on Netflix because Fuller House exists. Fuller House, a “20 years later” sequel series to the 1990s sitcom, reunited much of the original cast (sans the Olsens) for new adventures in the 21st century, and the third season is due out in September 2017.
It’s downright bizarre that the original series is inaccessible to new fans on Netflix, the same network which hosts the successful spin-off. Netflix needs to make the entire Full House canon available on one platform, so fans can enjoy the numerous inside jokes of Fuller House without consulting the Full House Wiki.
13. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Speaking of silly 1990s sitcoms, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is a similarly disposable, but nevertheless endearing, family comedy. The series made a star of its young lead, Will Smith, who would eventually become one of Hollywood’s most bankable leading men, starring in movies like Men in Black, The Pursuit of Happiness, and Suicide Squad.
This show, about a hip, streetwise teenager who is sent from the streets of Philly to the upper-crust neighborhood of Bel-Air to live with his aunt and uncle (and Carlton), was a big hit for the NBC network; it lasted for six seasons and nearly 150 episodes. While rumors of a possible reboot have been floating around for a few years now, nothing has been confirmed, and Will Smith seems uninterested in returning to the streets of Bel-Air. Regardless, it would be enough for most fans if they could just get the show on Netflix. Make it happen, people!
12. The Adventures of Superman
Before Batman: The Animated Series in the ’90s, before The Incredible Hulk and Wonder Woman in the ’70s, and even before Adam West‘s Batman in the ’60s, there was The Adventures of Superman.
This half-hour 1950s series starred George Reeves as the Man of Steel, and it remains a favorite among old-school comics fans for its admirable fidelity to the printed stories of the era. In the first season, written during the Golden Age of Comics, Superman went up against pinstriped-suited mobsters and their film noir molls. George Reeves shined as Clark Kent, hard-edged intrepid reporter, and when he eventually suited up as Superman, he brought an admirable physicality to the low-budget production, filling out his costume with barrel-chested gravitas and leaping out of windows with whimsical bravado.
11. Night Court
One of the great 1980s sitcoms was NBC’s Night Court, a jolly look at the lighter side of the New York City municipal system. The ensemble cast remains one of the greatest of all time: Harry Anderson starred as Judge Harry Stone, a young judge with unorthodox methods to his madness; John Larroquette as Dan Fielding, public prosecutor and slimy personification of the material excess of the era, and Richard Moll as Nostradamus “Bull” Shannon, the gigantic baliff with a heart of gold. Markie Post played Christine Sullivan, the Public Defender, for most of the series’ run, but some fans prefer actor/singer Ellen Foley, who starred in season 2 before being replaced by Post.
Night Court lasted for a whopping nine seasons and nearly 200 episodes before ending its run with a staggering 31 Emmy nominations (and seven wins). It received a posthumous boost in popularity after the show was featured as a plot point in a 2008 episode of the Tiny Fey NBC sitcom 30 Rock, but “The One with the Cast of Night Court” is, sadly, the only Night Court story readily available to view on Netflix. This is a crime, and the penalty is – say it with us – “Fifty dollar fine and time served.”
10. The Closer
Before The Closer, TNT was just another syndication network, airing reruns of old cop shows like NYPD Blue… But more on that in a bit.
Starring Kyra Sedgwick as Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson of the LAPD’s Major Crimes division, The Closer was an adult-oriented crime procedural. More concerned with character development and thought-provoking stories than endless buckets of blood, gore, and fancy production values, The Closer, with its focus on tight scripting and strong acting, became a breakout hit for TNT, and set ratings records.
The show is widely credited with kick-starting the basic cable revolution which led to networks like AMC and FX expanding their own output of original content. Although The Closer ended its run in 2012, it was followed by a spin-off, Major Crimes, which premiered immediately following its parent show’s series finale. Surprisingly, the Mary McDonnell-led Major Crimes proved to be every bit as good as the original, and is currently in production on its sixth season.
9. One Day at a Time
One Day at a Time is a classic Norman Lear sitcom which ran from 1975 to 1984. Its depiction of a divorced mother of two was unprecedented at the time, but Norman Lear was famous for making television shows about breaking the preconceived rules of the patriarchy and so-called “traditional values.” Starring Bonnie Franklin as a divorcee trying to support her teenage daughters (Valerie Bertinelli and Mackenzie Phillips) on her own, the show was a ratings hit and relatable comedy which remains relevant to this day.
In 2017, the show was rebooted (with Norman Lear as Executive Producer) to star Justina Machado as a divorced Army Veteran struggling to raise her family with help from her mother, played by the great Rita Moreno. While there are no continuity connections between the 1970s series and the remake, it would be nice for fans, eagerly awaiting Season 2 of the new show, to be able to watch the original classic.
8. Northern Exposure
Northern Exposure followed a young New York doctor who is forced to move from the big city to a small town in Alaska, and it was one of the biggest critical hits of the early 1990s. The Rob Morrow comedic drama lasted for six seasons and 110 episodes, and developed a strong cult following which persists to this day. The adventures of Dr. Fleischman, a fish out of water among the kooky residents of Cicely, Alaska, quickly became destination television for its sincere and humorous portrayal of an often overlooked corner of America.
In recent years, rumors rumblings have suggested a revival might be in the cards for the timeless series, but nothing has come to fruition just yet. Unfortunately, the series is only out on DVD, and not streaming; worse yet, the DVD release is plagued with the infuriating problem of music rights licensing; much of the licensed music from the series is replaced on the home video release with generic tunes, undercutting the emotional impact of many scenes. Northern Exposure deserves a High Definition remaster, and a release on streaming – with all the original music intact. After that’s settled, then we can talk about putting together some new episodes.
7. Fawlty Towers
Outside of his legendary work with Monty Python, actor and comedian John Cleese is arguably best known for the British comedy, Fawlty Towers, a screwball sitcom about the titular hotel and the eccentric staff and guests who pass through its doors. Although only twelve episodes were made, the show is revered for producing some of the best, most absurd comedy ever created for television.
The first season premiered in 1975, while the second season (or series, as the Brits say) didn’t debut until 1979. Then, despite the show’s success, John Cleese decided not to pursue a third cycle, opting to go out on top, so to speak. Despite its short lifespan, Fawlty Towers remained popular with viewers who clamored for a new set of episodes, but Cleese, to this day, has not relented…
…However, he did reprise his Basil Fawlty role for a series of television commercials, and he also returned to co-write and creatively oversee the production of a theater adaptation, which toured Australia in 2016 and will hopefully make the leap to other territories in the near future. Hopefully, the original series will also make the leap to streaming services like Netflix.
6. The Flash (1990)
The CW is knocking it out of the park with their line-up of superhero shows. Arrow kicked things off in 2012, and was quickly followed by The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl, and – soon – Black Lightning.
The Flash is noteworthy because it features a number of elements and cast members from the short-lived CBS series based on the same source material. 1990’s The Flash lasted for one season on CBS and starred John Wesley Shipp as the Scarlet Speedster. Shipp would later play Barry’s father in the modern CW series. Mark Hamill appeared as Trickster in the 1990 show, and also played Trickster in the CW version, and Amanda Pays played Tina McGee in both iterations, making the new Flash series a veritable love letter to the old show. Additionally, at one point in the CW series, while traveling across dimensions, the Scarlet Speedster catches a fleeting glimpse of the 1990 version of himself, confirming that both shows inhabit the same multiverse.
These winking nods and references would be a lot more relevant if the 1990 Flash series was available on Netflix alongside its modern counterpart. Plus, an honest-to-goodness crossover between the two shows would be much more feasible if younger viewers had more immediate access to the 1990 version of the character. Sure, it’s on CW Seed, but who wants to deal with the commercials? The CW should get their act together and put it on Netflix!
One of the greatest television sagas of all time, ER is the essential hospital drama by which all others are judged. Across 15 seasons and 331 episodes, the doctors of Chicago’s County General Hospital fought to save lives, and their own souls, during some of the most intense drama ever put to the small screen. The show was created by Michael Crichton, who had originally planned to make a movie in the 1970s, based on his own time as an Emergency Room doctor. Two decades later, while working with Steven Spielberg on Jurassic Park (based on the Crichton novel), the two revived the ER project as a series, and television history was made.
Over the years, the show’s cast included talented performers like Noah Wyle, Eriq La Salle, Ming-Na, John Stamos, Julianna Margulies, and a little-known star by the name of George Clooney, who starred in the first five seasons and returned in the show’s final year to give his character a proper send-off.
ER would be perfect for binge-watching, with its fast-paced episodic storylines perfectly complemented by its deep, slow-burn approach to characterization. NBC recently put the entirety of Friends on Netflix. How about ER next?
The USA Network has had several high-profile hits, including Hamptons medical drama Royal Pains, tongue-in-cheek spy comedy Burn Notice, and the recent military thriller, Shooter. However, one of their most beloved tentpoles is Psych, a light-footed cop show about a keenly-observant private detective who pretends to have psychic powers. Despite its inherently off-kilter premise, the show became a ratings hit, a creative success, and a cult classic, lasting for eight seasons and helping secure a spot for USA as a home for eccentric, character-focused series. “Characters Welcome,” indeed.
Until recently, Psych had been available on Netflix, but it was suddenly pulled from the service with little warning. The timing could not have been worse, since USA just announced Psych: The Movie, a two-hour television event which will continue the Psych story from where the original series left off. The movie is highly-anticipated among fans of the show, but would-be newcomers are unable to catch up without plunking down the cash to buy the DVD collections. Maybe when the movie makes its eventual streaming debut, the entire series will be brought along as well. Time will tell, but Psych: The Movie is currently scheduled to air in December 2017.
3. NYPD Blue
The grittiest cop show this side of The Wire, NYPD Blue was a raw, unadulterated look at the myriad faces that made up the New York City Police Department in the 1990s. While gritty cop shows were already en vogue thanks to edgy dramas like Hill Street Blues, Law & Order, and Homicide: Life on the Street (which debuted the same year), NYPD Blue blew audiences away with its unrelentingly nihilistic in its portrayal of working class detectives.
While the show was originally conceived as a vehicle for rising star David Caruso, it was Andy Sipowitz, played by Dennis Franz, who ultimately stole the show. Sipowitz was bitter, racist, and a raging alcoholic, and the show quickly found its footing by tracking his long road to redemption and proving himself worthy of the badge. The series did not shy away from pushing the envelope in terms of graphic content, and it was often chastised by the FCC for nudity, language, and bursts of brutal imagery.
These days, however, NYPD Blue is a weirdly forgotten piece of television history. It deserves to be remastered in HD and set loose on Netflix so a brand new audience can binge-watch the groundbreaking cop show in all its commercial-free glory.
2. All in the Family
Few can argue that All in the Family isn’t one of the most important television series of all time. The sitcom pit old-timey patriarch Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor) against his hippie son-in-law, Michael Stivic (Rob Reiner), while their bemused wives struggled in vain to get a word in edgewise. All in the Family debuted in 1971, ran for nine seasons, and was completely unafraid to tackle hot button issues like politics, race relations, sexism, and take a progressive stance on homosexuality… And that’s just in Season 1.
Archie personified the old-school “silent majority” who had elected Richard Nixon in 1968, and All in the Family was all-too eager to contrast his closed mind with the rapidly changing times, poking fun at his outmoded way of thinking while slowly humanizing and softening the sad old man. Archie was famously called a “lovable bigot,” because that’s how well he was written by creator Norman Lear, how intricately he was characterized by the show’s creative and uncompromising storylines, and how masterfully acted he was by the incomparable Caroll O’Connor.
It’s nothing short of a travesty that All in the Family and its assorted spin-offs are not collected on one streaming service or another, but there’s always hope that CBS television will bring these shows to Netflix, or at least CBS All Access.
1. Miami Vice
Before Miami Vice, every television show looked like Dragnet. Flat camera angles, sparse sets, old men in brown suits, and little personality. Michael Mann saw the dry state of television drama and decided to do something about it. He created Miami Vice, a cop show like no other, with film-style production values, unprecedented use of licensed music, and sexy, chic, charismatic leads in the form of Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas.
Miami Vice changed the rules of television, featuring long stretches with little dialogue, letting licensed music, grand imagery, and emotional context to push the story forward. These days, pretty much every show relies on dramatic “music video sequences” to convey their stories, but Miami Vice did it first, and did it best.
The series was on Netflix for a time, but is no longer available there. The first four seasons are still on Hulu, though the fantastic fifth and final season is curiously missing from the service. Recently, the series was released on Blu ray disc, remastered in High Definition, but with the original 4:3 aspect ration intact (no needless cropping here!). This HD version of the so-called “MTV Cops” series needs to be brought over to Netflix, so the whole world can enjoy the entire Miami Vice story with the best visuals possible.
What do you think? What shows would you like to see on Netflix? Share your favorite picks in the comments!
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