Imagine your life without Netflix. It's a scary thought, right? As the King of binge-watching, Netflix transformed the way we view content. Without commercials or week-long waits, we can watch Netflix shows whenever and however we want. It all started in 2013 with House of Cards, and in the last three or so years, the content provider has created over twenty-six additional programs (not including international acquisitions like Peaky Blinders). From Daredevil to Grace and Frankie, and Bloodline to Orange is the New Black, all manner of stories and settings are at our disposal 24/7.
Of course, every great album has its share of B-sides. Netflix is no different, and for all of its world class programming, a handful of its original shows pale in comparison. To help you steer clear of the dregs, we'll walk you through the best of the best by starting at the bottom of the barrel.
Here are All the Netflix Original Series, Ranked From Worst to Best:
If you haven’t heard of this show, you’re not alone. Thirty seconds of Real Rob will explain exactly why the Netflix original series has seldom seen the light of day. Starring Rob Schneider as the eponymous hero, the eight-episode program follows the actor/writer around his Hollywood-set life. From agent meetings to vasectomy consultations, Real Rob presents such compelling episodes titles as "The Penis Episode, Part 1,” “The Penis Episode, Part 2,” and “Gaying in Shape.” While these antics are nothing new for Schneider, the execution in Real Rob can hardly hold a candle to his former glory days.
Imagine if Curb Your Enthusiasm became a pity party for a tragically humorless Larry David. That’s Real Rob, which somehow doesn’t have an ounce of reality in it. The show isn’t just cringe worthy because its humor is stale, low-grade tripe, but because the entire premise rests on audiences sympathizing with Rob Schneider’s first-world, celebrity problems. One particularly painful scene centers on Rob suffering a barista’s wrath after giving "only" a five dollar tip for a four-dollar latte. Schneider defends his actions saying he’s tipped 125% of the original cost, but the scene screams: “Look at what I have to put up with every day!” Surely there are more subtle ways to earn an audience’s compassion.
Sitcoms of the Two and a Half Men breed are both adored and despised. With The Ranch, Netflix’s second foray into multi-cam comedy, that oceanic gap won’t likely be closed. Starring Ashton Kutcher, Danny Masterson, Debra Winger and Sam Elliot, The Ranch proudly unites two That '70s Show alums while adding some Hollywood legends into the mix. As for the plot, there's not much to say.
Colt Bennett (Kutcher), returns home from a brief career as a semi-pro football player and helps his brother Bennett (Masterson) run the family company. Though replete with a laugh track and a made-for-TV Land sensibility, The Ranch does a respectable job of flouting the genre by letting the f-bombs fly. Thanks to Netflix’s freedom from the FCC, The Ranch doesn’t have to play nice or censor their language. Unfortunately, though the new version of Sam Elliot has no problem swearing, stronger language doesn't always guarantee bigger laughs.
Comedy can be divisive, and it’s no coincidence this list opened with three of Netflix’s attempts at lighter fare. In addition to a Curb Your Enthusiasm imitation and a quasi spin-off of That '70s Show, the media moguls at Netflix also revived Full House in all its glory. Say what you will about the reunion. Longtime fans of the early 90's classic stuck with Fuller House even when their best judgment suggested otherwise. As a result, their commitment and overbearing nostalgia fueled a second upcoming season due on your flat-screen this fall.
Almost all of the catchphrases and characters are back and underscored by a ravenous laugh-track of Full House devotees. Of course, both Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are palpably absent. As fixtures of the sitcom’s stardom, the twins are sorely missed on the show. Still, Fuller House attempts to revive its signature style of family-friendly writing without adapting to the times. Returning home evokes the child in all of us, yet with Fuller House, some of the performances are so eager they almost appear sociopathic. The cast may now be twenty years older, but they remain relatively devoid of any life experience that might make them real. Call it Full House meets The Stepford Wives.
2013 will be remembered as a watershed year in the history of television. After Netflix effectively killed companies like Blockbuster Video and expanded from a DVD-shipping juggernaut to a producer of original content, the game was forever changed. In a span of six months, Netflix dropped three original series, two of which won awards, and one which was forgotten.
Hemlock Grove bit the dust last year, but not after putting up a good fight. The Eli-Roth executive produced show had horror fans salivating for schlock content, and though 13 episodes were made available for viewing, many viewers bowed out before reaching the finish line. Reviewers savaged the show and found it repulsive, poorly produced, and a complete misfire of the genre. When the second season surprised many and even converted some nonbelievers, Hemlock Grove was renewed for a third and final season that aired last fall. Overshadowed by competing franchises like True Blood and Penny Dreadful, Netflix’s main horror venture left much to be desired, though it paved the way for more interesting developments.
The world can’t get enough of Bill Burr. Whether he’s on stage or in animated form, the unique voice of the grizzled Irishman hits you with unrelenting force. In an age of careful comedy and political correctness, Bill Burr really doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. He speaks his mind, and in his particularly uncensored cartoon, F is For Family, Burr unleashes the hounds.
As the cantankerous Korean War vet Frank Murphy, Burr leads a voice-over cast starring Laura Dern, Justin Long, Debi Derryberry and Sam Rockwell. Though he may be emotionally abusive to his children, Murphy suffers the fatigue of suburban America while working as a baggage handler at Mohican Airlines. Franks’ wife sells Plast-a-Ware (Tupperware) while his children cause trouble, trapping him in a revolving door of expenses and domestic turmoil. In a matter of seconds, the opening credits summarize Bill Burr’s overarching commentary with the show: after excitedly launching into the world, we quickly encounter an asteroid field of distractions and complications that turn life upside down. If you like Burr's sense of humor, then definitely give this a watch.
Though packaged as a comedy, Maria Bamford’s pet project Lady Dynamite isn’t quite that simple. In the middle of the melancholia maelstrom of modern television, this Netflix original series follows actual events from Maria’s life as she seeks stability in her inherently unstable acting career. When we meet Maria in the pilot, she has just been discharged from an extended stay at a Minnesota psych ward. The show doesn't feel particularly heavy, but it's clear we're only seeing the tip of the iceberg.
Back in the tragic sunniness of Los Angeles, Maria battles her bipolar tendencies as she attempts to get back on her feet. Though it has the offbeat trappings and breakneck speed of Arrested Development, along with the seemingly upbeat nature of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, the subject matter and dramatic undertones align more closely with the FX Comedy Baskets, or Louis CK’s master-series, Louie. Ultimately, Lady Dynamite is a powder keg of its own making.
To diversify the Netflix oeuvre, the content provider gave eight up-and-coming comics the keys to the kingdom. Lovingly dubbed “outlaw comedy,” The Characters plays more like a web series than an original show. With Jurassic World star Lauren Lapkus, Natasha Rothwell, Henry Zebrowski and five others, Netflix gave each performer carte blanche to make a thirty-minute episode containing their wackiest characters and concepts. The performers followed through.
From Bachelor spin-offs like The Single Celeb to bizarre Frank Sinatra “Lady Luck” public meltdowns, The Characters hits it mark more often than not (especially when Natasha Rothwell threatens to spoil Game of Thrones for subway riders unless they give her money). Given the rise of improvisational comedy, this eight-part series capitalizes on the zeitgeist and delivers a product that confidently diverges from the usual tropes of network television. Though not all of Netflix’s comedic ventures have hit the gold standard, The Characters fills a solid niche for adventurous audiences while giving emerging talents a chance to cut loose.
While Narcos may be the gold standard for Spanish/English cultural crossovers, Club de Cuervos presents a surprisingly entertaining take on the hotly contested world of soccer. Recently renewed for a second season, Cuervos furthers the Netflix presence in Mexico and Spain, perhaps setting a precedent for additional content with an increasingly international eye. As for the soccer-centered show, the events herein start with the death of the president of the Cuervos Football Club.
In the wake of the patriarch's passing, the heirs of his franchise (actors Luis Gerardo Mendez and Mariana Trevino) come to blows and duke it out for ownership. More like HBO’s Ballers than a mid-day telenovela, Cuervos confidently stands its ground with raucous, cocaine-fueled parties and fistfights a plenty. What follows is a reasonably entertaining show that prizes pacing over prestige to create an engaging and often funny story. Created by both American and Mexican writers, Club de Cuervos strikes the balance between capturing the idiosyncrasies of a culture without drifting into stereotype.
If you want to chill out and feel like you’re on the west coast, Flaked is your show. Created by Will Arnett and Mark Chappell (The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret), this Venice-beach set dramedy follows Chip (Arnett), the recovering alcoholic and self-appointed quasi “mayor” of his beach-side domain. On the surface, Chip is an egomaniac tornado that chases his best friends’ love interests and shirks commitment while building three-legged stools.
Beneath his California cool is a suppressed storms of secrets that involve his ex-wife (Heather Graham). Alongside David Sullivan, Ruth Kearney, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Mark Boone Jr., Arnett and his team create a slyly bewitching world where each progressing episode endears you more and more to the cast. Where Flaked may fall short in dramatic plotting, it succeeds in the simpler moments. You’d never guess Wally Pfister (DP of Inception, The Dark Knight, and other Chris Nolan blockbusters) directed half the episodes.
For all of its imagination and technical prowess, Sense8 gets crushed under the weight of its own ambition. Season 1 filmed on location around the world, following the interconnected emotional and physical events of eight “sensates,” or people who share telepathic connections. Some of the stunning visuals, action sequences and dramatic moments may pack a visceral punch, but getting from one to another requires a great deal of patience and tolerance of countless banal moments.
The diverse cast may represent many creeds, yet the Wachowski sisters’ television debut seldom explores the human subtleties so integral to their highfalutin concept. While the second season of Sense8 is being prepared for an expected late summer or fall release, the window of opportunity for the ambitious show seems to have closed. Should the follow up to the inaugural season make marked improvements, however, Sense8 may fulfill its potential and broaden its fan base.
Beating even their vintage revivalist efforts with Fuller House, Netflix went further back in time to return the 1984 classic Voltron. Without adding any earth-shattering updates or even lightly altering the tone, the new and improved Voltron: Legendary Defender pays homage to the original in the best of ways. Given the highly enthusiastic response of both critics and fans, Voltron should be considered a towering achievement for the content provider.
Produced by DreamWorks Animation and World Events Productions, the new and improved animated show owes a debt of gratitude to Studio Mir for the artistic blend of anime and CGI. With a voice cast led by The Walking Dead alum Steven Yuen, along with Jeremy Shada, Bex Taylor-Klaus and more, Voltron: Legendary Defender has become the guilty pleasure of adults and the new Saturday morning cartoons for kids. Hopefully the first season of 13 episodes will last long enough until season two finally rolls around.
Before W/Bob and David, there was Mr. Show. The mid to late ‘90s HBO special starred David Cross and Bob Odenkirk, who blended live sketches and pre-taped sequences to highly comedic effect. One section was peripherally linked to the next through either a line, a character, or a theme. The Mr. Show formula, along with guest starring comedians like Jack Black, Sarah Silverman, Paul F. Tompkins and more, helped set the standard for American sketch comedy.
Fast forward to 2015 and welcome the revival of the leading duo now on Netflix in thirteen half-hour long episodes. Though the writing style, structure, and lead cast remain the same, W/Bob and David did its due diligence and blended in with the times. With a quicker pace and a slightly less jarring approach to comedy (that newcomers may appreciate), W/Bob and David delighted longtime fans of Mr. Show, proving Netflix can be a terrific medium for comics looking to expand their reach. We can only hope Odenkirk and Cross will return for more in season 2.
When the first season of Marco Polo began filming in 2014, it had the highest budget of any TV show, second only to HBO’s Game of Thrones. The massive budget failed to equal the critical success of George R. R. Martin’s fantasy epics, however, proving that historical or literary adaptations of this size are a tremendous risk to any daring studio. Thanks to a loyal fan base, however, and growing support for the series in Asia, Marco Polo received a second season green-light in January of 2015.
Given the long wait for its return, it remains clear that the series following the Venetian globetrotter will not be cutting any corners. Indeed, while Marco Polo has many impressive action set pieces and costume designs, the show has suffered primarily from a plodding pace, hackneyed storytelling, and a general lack of thrills in the overall narrative. Perhaps these defects will be corrected in the upcoming season.
Starring two of the most famous French actors alive -- Gerard Depardieu and Benoit Magimel -- Marseilles continues Netflix’s international diaspora. While more technically impressive than it is dramatically compelling, the French drama pits Robert Taro (Depardieu), longtime mayor of the eponymous city, against his successor, Lucas Barres (Magimel). Though Taro himself tapped the younger man as his replacement, it quickly becomes clear Barres isn’t the man he purports to be.
Taro, predictably, refuses to go gently into that good night of retirement and stays in the game to ensure his people and his city are safe. Though the show is clearly set in France and uses its urban and gorgeous aerial vistas to the show’s advantage, Marseilles feels more like a generic thriller with an “accent aigu.” It has the beautiful women, the stylish gunplay and the themes of subterfuge, but one wonders how much better the product could have been if Netflix had prioritized stronger writing and domestic authenticity over global appeal.
In many ways, Will Arnett is the unsung hero of Netflix. He brought Gob Bluth back in the Arrested Development revival, he and Wally Pfister made a peculiarly likable series out of Flaked, and with Bojack Horseman, he turns the animated world upside down. The similarities between Chip in Flaked and Bojack the talking horse are clear: both have a tormented relationship with alcohol while struggling to find their identities in the barren wasteland of southern California.
As for Bojack, the has-been hero of the 1990s sitcom Horsin’ Around, the vertical trajectory to happiness appears even steeper for the equine actor. Stuck in a malaise of reflection and self-sabotage, Bojack watches reruns of his hit show and prepares his “second coming” through his upcoming autobiography. Though we watch Mr. Horseman through the prism of relatively simple animation, his trials and tribulations are surprisingly tough to swallow. Season 2 in particular blends Will Arnett’s penchant for comedy with increasingly personal drama. Bojack Horseman, forgive the pun, is a Trojan horse of tragedy.
This critical darling may have a somewhat split fan reaction, but The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is equally adamantine with viewers, pundits and awards. The good news is, as Game of Thrones ends its sixth season reign of darkness, Kimmy Schmidt will always be on Netflix to cheer you up.
Played by the endlessly endearing Ellie Kemper (former drama student under Jon Hamm), Kimmy survives years of hibernating in a subterranean nuclear bunker run by an apocalyptic death cult. Sound funny? It is, because as soon as Kimmy breaks free, she winds up in New York City like a homeschooled teenager set free in college. Like Will Ferrell in Elf or the workers in The Lego Movie, everything is awesome to Kimmy Schmidt. Produced by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock (30 Rock, Friends), The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt may be exactly the dose of whacky you needed in your binge-watching cache.
Though premium cable channels have long united the best actors with equally visionary directors, Netflix remains the king. Grace and Frankie puts Academy Award-nominee Lily Tomlin and two-time Academy Award winning Jane Fonda in the same room for twenty-seven episodes. If you haven’t seen much about the show, watch one of the trailers and try to convince yourself you’re not watching TV. Each scene plays out like a Nancy Meyers movie with a full-on blockbuster budget. You’ll expect Jack Nicholson to burst into the room at any moment.
Indeed, nothing about Grace and Frankie says silver screen except for the Netflix title, and even then, it’s one of the company’s most successful shows to date. Sure, its predominantly septuagenarian cast may limit the series’ overall audience appeal, but for those in the mood looking to hang out with Tomlin and Fonda (not to mention their costars, Sam Waterston, Martin Sheen, Sam Elliott and Ethan Embry, among others), Grace and Frankie can’t be beat.
If you loved the David Wain-directed Wet Hot American Summer, then this Netflix series was made for you. If you’re new to Camp Firewood, however, the learning curve of the humor might take a bit of dedication. Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp unites the all-star cast of Bradley Cooper, Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Amy Poehler and countless others from the 2001 cult-classic.
Revisiting the premise in prequel form, the series begins on the first day of camp, leading up to the events in the film that take place on the last. Though the film was plenty ridiculous in its own right, the eight-episode arc on Netflix takes everything to the next level. With its considerably older cast doing increasingly juvenile things, First Day of Camp is probably the most fun forty year-olds are allowed to have. Given the news that a sequel series has been ordered, Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later, it might be smart to at least tour the campgrounds.
Once again, Netflix proves to be an ideal format for storytellers like Judd Apatow. After vaulting Lena Dunham to superstardom with HBO’s Girls, Apatow teamed with actor-writer Paul Rust (remember him in Inglourious Basterds?) to dive deep into a young couple’s relationship. Firmly rooted in our modern online dating/texting/Snapchatting world, Love literally throws the old Pretty Woman rom-com tropes out the window and embrace a new, more grounded reality.
Alongside the attractive Mickey Dobbs (Gillian Jacobs), Gus Cruikshank (Rust) combats his “nice-guy” exterior with increasingly genuine moves. Gus is no 40 Year Old Virgin trapped in a lifetime of celibacy and awkwardness, but he knows guys like him can get friend zoned by girls like Mickey. He's no dummy, and he knows his limitations. These extra layers of complexity make the couple's back and forth relatable and worth the ten-episode commitment. Thanks to the crisp production and thirty-minute episodes, you can easily have a one-night stand with Love. With season 2 in the works, you might even go Facebook official.
With the growing trend of autobiographical comedies on Netflix (Lady Dynamite, F is For Family, Flaked and even Real Rob), Aziz Ansari’s series fits comfortably in the pantheon. Master of None is a humble title for an highly accomplished and daring show. Following the life of a struggling comedian and actor, Master of None introduces us to Dev Shah (Ansari), the single and searching thespian with old-world parents who exert a lot of cultural pressure onto their son.
Rather than wallowing in his personal frustrations, however, Dev’s journey actively explores a variety of subjects including race, family, dating, gourmet food and more. That’s what makes Master of None so unique. Fueled by Ansari’s unique (and frequently funny) worldview, the series addresses cultural issues with panache. In one particularly memorable episode, Dev realizes his “first-world problems” pale in comparison to the extreme sacrifices made by his parents so he could prosper in America. It’s this blend of humor and reflection that makes Master of None one of Netflix’s best investments.
With its Shakespearean approach to family feuds, Glenn and Todd Kessler’s Bloodline weaves a compelling narrative around the Rayburn clan. Down in the sweltering heat of the Florida Keys, the Rayburns hold court through their family business of running an idyllic beachfront inn. Despite the surrounding beauty, they holds some dark secrets and even more menacing grudges bound to rear their ugly head.
Detective John Rayburn (Kyler Chandler) presides over his siblings, Meg (Linda Cardellini) and Kevin (Norbert Leo Butz), but when their trouble making brother returns home, Danny (a terrific Ben Mendelsohn) sets in motion a series of events that spell trouble for the future of the family. As with Flaked, this drama creates an enveloping world on the southernmost tip of Florida. You can sense the humidity and taste the saltwater, just as you begin to feel the dread of being a Rayburn. While the recently-released second season has disappointed even the most loyal viewers, the maiden voyage of Bloodline must not be missed.
Drew Goddard (The Martian) sure knows how to write. At the helm of Netflix’s debut in Hell’s Kitchen, Goddard steered the first season of Daredevil to near perfection. Barring some tolerable moments of camp and BFF drama between Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) and Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson), Daredevil is a lean and mean machine, deftly depicting the duality of the blind lawyer and his alter ego crime fighter.
Season 2 may have lost some momentum and irked some fans, but it managed to create a world-class take on The Punisher thanks to a fierce performance by Jon Bernthal. In addition to the solid ensemble, Daredevil did the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe a huge favor by diving into darker themes while the movies keep things relatively light. If the Drew Goddard version of Daredevil saw the big screen, it would undoubtedly be rated R, a brave expansion on the comparatively tame ventures of The Avengers.
Enter Jessica Jones, Netflix’s double down that somehow made Daredevil look soft by comparison. Creator Melissa Rosenberg clearly saw the direction Drew Goddard was leading the blind fighter and then decided to beat him to the punch. Every moment of Jessica Jones drips with gravitas. Though the eponymous hero (Krysten Ritter at the peak of her game) may have a wicked sense of humor, the demons that haunt her are powerful enough to also cast a spell on us.
Matt Murdock may bear the literal scars of his childhood and occasionally wrestle with his repressed hunger for violence, but Jessica perpetually fights with the mind-controlling miscreant Kilgrave (David Tennant as undoubtedly one of the strongest villains, comic book or otherwise, in recent memory). Because Kilgrave's tormented victim lives with her demons and struggles palpably with acute PTSD, each consecutive episode becomes an increasingly transfixing venture, no matter how difficult it is to watch. Jessica Jones may play the same instrument as Daredevil, but her song is far more menacing.
As with the best Michael Mann movies, you have to put your time into Narcos to reap the ultimate reward. Character development, plot progression and rising tension are key ingredients to that final explosion, like the city shootout at the end of Heat. For Netflix’s grand (and uncannily well-timed) undertaking of Pablo Escobar, the same rules apply. If you can withstand the pilot episode’s endless narration from DEA agent Steve Murphy (Boyd Holbrook), you’ll be off to the races.
The abrupt transitions from English to Spanish create a fascinating multicultural vibe, particularly when it showcases the raucous lifestyles of Escobar and his subservient kingpins. If nothing else, Narcos will blow you away with its depiction of drug smuggling. In many ways, the series might even alter your perspective on U.S. and South-American relations as you see how complex the issues truly are. Ultimately, Narcos made a bold entrance in season one, though we can hope its follow up episodes improve on the originals.
After HBO’s The Jinx, true crime episodic series became all the rage. Netflix answered the call with an equally warped and transfixing story in Making a Murderer. Following the alleged crimes and convictions of Steven Avery, a homegrown man from Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, this ten-part documentary plumbs the depths of humanity in ways you never imagined. The national response to Avery’s purportedly wrongful imprisonment garnered a White House petition to seek a Presidential Pardon. Despite a whopping 500,000 signatures, President Obama declined to get involved with a state case.
Still, Making a Murderer became the water-cooler conversation du jour, splitting audience opinion as with O.J. Simpson in 1994. With the deep-south flavor of True Detective and the shock factor of a Serial podcast, Making a Murderer spins an engrossing yarn that will leave you disgusted and in disbelief. Above all, the series will leave you terrified to end up on the wrong side of the American criminal justice system.
Let's go back to 2013 and the six month span that saw three Netflix original series go live with every episode made watchable. Hemlock Grove may not have stood the test of time, but shortly after its release, Jenji Kohan’s prison drama landed loud and proud. Now the most-watched program in Netflix’s original series history, Orange is the New Black continues to dominate the competition, winning 12 Emmy Awards for its first season and many more since.
Based on true-life events, OITNB follows Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) through a fifteen-month sentence at a low-security women’s prison in upstate New York. Booked for helping her ex-girlfriend Alex Vause (Laura Prepon) smuggle drugs, Piper is forced to adapt to life in the slammer. Call it Shawshank Redemption for the new generation, OITNB boasts one of the most entertaining ensembles on television, including Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren (Uzo Aduba) and Nicky Nichols (Natasha Lyonne). With its fourth-season already released and the promise of three additional seasons to come, it doesn't appear that the cast of OITNB will be walking out of the penitentiary anytime soon.
This show may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but there is no denying the revolutionary nature of House of Cards. While each of the previous twenty-six programs run the gamut from mediocrity to greatness, Beau Willimon’s adaptation of the BBC show ultimately changed the way content is consumed. It's off the Richter scale. Thanks to David Fincher’s oversight (and pitch-perfect direction of the first two episodes), Kevin Spacey’s incendiary leading performance, and the support of film-grade production quality, House of Cards stormed into living rooms across the globe.
Like the apotheosis of Frank Underwood himself, the kickoff series to Netflix’s growing library of original content didn’t just prove satisfactory. It succeeded in immeasurable ways, exposing our hunger for content that can be consumed without interruption. House of Cards essentially altered the ways TV shows are produced, watched and discussed. Though the follow-up seasons may have lost a bit of their edge, House of Cards will always remain the catalyst for the golden age of binge-watching content.
How do you rank all of the Netflix original series? Let us know in the comments section!