In the fall of 1997, one of the world’s largest Internet companies was founded: Netflix. Despite their humble beginning as a DVD rental service through mail, the company found greater success in 2007 as an online streaming service. With thousands subscribing to the platform, Netflix decided just a few years later to expand operations and produce their own films and TV series.
Although a subject of controversy these days, Netflix’s first TV series, House of Cards, captured the dark side of American politics, and its success cemented Netflix’s ambition to create programming – instead of simply supplying it.
However, in the four plus years since House of Cards' release, Netflix has unleashed a flurry of content, from original films and TV shows to comedy specials, but not all of them have been well received by critics or audiences. Some shows simply suffer from poor writing or abundant ambition, but even some of the best on Netflix suffer from crippling cases of bad acting.
After years of binge-watching Netflix original programming, such as Stranger Things, Orange is the New Black, Daredevil, and Glow, we have compiled 16 Terrible Performances That Ruined Netflix Shows.
16 Andy Dick – Love
In February of 2016, Netflix released Love, a TV series from the minds of Lesley Arfin and Paul Rust. The romantic comedy follows Mickey (Gillian Jacobs) and Gus (Rust), who provide the male and female perspective on relationships throughout its 22 episodes. Overall, the show was met with great reviews from both critics and audiences. Rotten Tomatoes critical consensus confirms as much, stating, "Love is an honest look at building a relationship, helped along by its two appealing leads."
Despite the chemistry of its two leads, Andy Dick’s appearance in the sixth episode weighed the show down – all the way down. Dick is undoubtedly an eccentric and controversial figure, and his character on the show somewhat matches his real life persona. He was an unnecessary addition to the first season, ultimately taking away from the overall narrative.
15 Finn Jones – Iron Fist
Following in the wake of the other highly successful and critically acclaimed Marvel shows – Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage – Iron Fist was an utter disappointment. Every aspect of the show was lacking, from the fight choreography to the writing, but nothing felt more out of place than Finn Jones in the lead role as Iron Fist/Danny Rand.
Throughout the first season, viewers can hardly tell whether or not they should take Jones seriously. Even he seems to ask the same question. In a matter of moments, he can go from overly serious to emotionally distraught to joking, which becomes nauseating to watch. Even a line as simple as “I’m Danny Rand” seems unsure when spoken by Jones.
To make matters worse, the show appears to overuse slow motion to assist Jones’ tiresome, formulaic fight sequences - unlike the quick, concise movements Marvel viewers became accustomed to with Charlie Cox’s outstanding performance as Daredevil.
14 Will Arnett – Flaked
Despite being unforgettable in almost every performance, from his antics on Arrested Development to his narcissistic heroics as Lego Batman, Will Arnett could not repeat his success on Netflix’s wannabe comedy show, Flaked.
Oddly enough, the show might work without Arnett - not as an Emmy-winning drama or anything close to that but at least as something watchable. In Flaked, Arnett plays Chip, a local in California’s Venice Beach area who is accustomed to leading support groups for recovering alcoholics – something he is still suffering with himself.
Talented as he may be though, Arnett simply falls flat throughout the series’ two seasons, providing no laughs and no serious drama. He just jumps from scenario to scenario around the beach town, screwing others over for himself. Without charisma and a drive for power like Frank Underwood or the humor Arnett’s much more developed Netflix character, BoJack Horseman, provides, Arnett’s performance in Flaked just exists, and you should definitely flake on watching it.
13 Britt Robertson – Girlboss
Netflix’s Girlboss was not received well upon release. Critics pointed to a number of reasons why this adaptation of Sophia Amoruso’s book, #Girlboss, was such a failure, including a lack of self-awareness and a mishandling of the relationships featured within the book. Critics even argued over whether or not the show presented a feminist message.
Despite this mess, one of the most noticeable flaws for both critics and viewers was the main character, Sophia Marlowe, who was played by actress Britt Robertson. Throughout its first and only season, Robertson seems to want to capture a character who is cute and eccentric; however, her performance ends up being more obnoxious and rude.
In fact, that’s what almost every episode of Girlboss looks like: Sophia is impolite to someone, and the audience is supposed to somehow love her for it because that’s just who she is.
12 Rob Schneider – Real Rob
Rob Schneider is not a man known for his acting chops, and he probably never will be. His most memorable moments typically come from small roles in Adam Sandler movies – unless you're one of those people who liked The Hot Chick.
On Netflix’s Real Rob, a show supposedly based on his real life, Schneider pulls quadruple duty as lead actor, writer, director, and even one of two executive producers. With the show resting heavily on his shoulders, one might think he’d do what he does best: act strange. However, Schneider insists on taking the series seriously, resulting in one of Netflix’s most unwatchable shows.
Imagination is better than reality, especially in this instance. It is so much more satisfying to think of Schneider as any one of his wacky characters living in the woods somewhere, only coming out for a call from Sandler, than it is to see his boring, uninspired day-to-day existence.
11 Erik LaRay Harvey – Luke Cage
The third of Netflix’s Marvel shows, Luke Cage was no disappointment -- at least for most of the first season, which focuses more on Cage, his adversary Cottonmouth, and Harlem. However, as Erik LaRay Harvey’s character, revealed to be Diamondback, takes on a larger role in antagonizing Cage, he takes on a larger role in antagonizing audiences as well.
Despite Mike Colter’s strong performance as Cage, encompassing both humor and high-stakes drama, Harvey’s adversarial role was not received nearly as well.
In trying to destroy or defame Cage, Diamondback finds joy; naturally, Harvey tried to embody that emotion during his performance by smiling. Yet his mixture of sinister happiness ended up making him laughable as a villain, rather than a fearsome Joker-like villain. His odd smile ends up holding the character back and ruining the dramatic stakes set up by Diamondback and Cage’s crossed pasts.
10 Naomi Watts – Gypsy
Earlier this year, Netflix released its drama series intended to feel like a psychological thriller, Gypsy. The Naomi Watts vehicle is about a therapist who becomes inappropriately fascinated by people connected to her patients and ends up pursuing relationships with them, like a patient's ex-girlfriend. With Watts, a winner of numerous acting awards over the years, attached as the series lead, one would think that the series would be a surefire hit, but it was more of a flop.
Critics pointed out a number of reasons the show failed and was consequently canceled, yet a common thread between them was disappointment at Watts' performance. A TV reviewer for the UK’s Daily Telegraph called her performance flat-out “unconvincing.” While Watts appears to try her best in the series, this time she just fell flat. Hey, not every performance is a hit and neither is every Netflix series.
9 Jake Brennan – Richie Rich
Child acting can be hard to judge. Sometimes a performance just feels a little off, but it's difficult to tell why. Did the director give adequate instruction? Is this the child actor or actress’ first role? By being so young, most kids have plenty of room and time to improve and many eventually do.
However, in Netflix’s adaptation of Richie Rich, the portrayal by Jake Brennan is subpar, to say the least. After seeing the character in the pages of comics and in several TV and film adaptations, audiences have become accustomed to seeing the character a certain light, and Brennan did not capture or reasonably reinvent the role during his time on Netflix.
Instead of acting generally kind and charitable, as the original character did, Brennan’s version is much more smug and overall obnoxious by comparison.
Fortunately though, Brennan is young and will more than likely be able to outgrow this embarrassing role.
8 Kate Mara – House of Cards
Luckily for Netflix, they struck gold with their dramatic debut series House of Cards. Critics praised it and viewers binge-watched it, begging for more of what former President Bill Clinton hailed as a “99 percent real” dark, political drama. Yet Zoey Barnes (Kate Mara), while important to the overall plot, ended up dragging the show down during her time on the series.
In Mara’s scenes by herself or at the paper she works for, she does generally well - not great but good enough. Yet, in her more important scenes with the older and more accomplished Kevin Spacey and/or Robin Wright, Mara stands out essentially by doing nothing. Whether she is acting threatening or seductive, her voice and demeanor remain monotone. She never really reacts to anything; she just maintains the same, emotionless face in every scene up until her... incident.
7 Lorenzo Richelmy – Marco Polo
In 2014, Netflix released their first historical drama, Marco Polo. The series focused on the early years of Mongolian leader Kublai Khan, who ushered in the Yuan Dynasty, and his relationship with the actual explorer Marco Polo. While the visuals and history surrounding the series garnered some intrigue, the acting by Lorenzo Richelmy, who starred as the show’s titular character, did not.
Despite his extremely good looks, critics described Richelmy’s Marco Polo as lifeless. In watching the series, it becomes clear just what they mean. Richelmy goes from scene to scene in the show, providing nothing more than a physical presence. The only way to enjoy the series is to yell "Polo" anytime a character mentions "Marco."
Perhaps with a more talented lead, Netflix might not have canceled the series after just two seasons, resulting in a $200 million loss.
6 Dylan Minnette – 13 Reasons Why
Earlier this year, Netflix released an adaptation of Jay Asher's best-selling novel, Thirteen Reasons Why -- a novel about the reasons high school student Hannah Baker commit suicide. Though it was met with some considerable controversy for its portrayal of rape and suicide, the series by the same name received generally positive reviews from critics and audiences.
However, Dylan Minnette's performance as one of the two series leads lacked the emotional depth necessary for dealing with such heavy topics like suicide. While acting on the show was undoubtedly challenging because of this, Minnette does not always capture a genuine or sincere reaction, making some of his scenes seem either forced or even underacted. In doing this, the viewer becomes distracted and is taken out of the emotional drama of the series.
Fortunately, Minnette is still a young, successful actor who has another shot in the upcoming second season of 13 Reasons Why.
5 Candace Cameron Bure – Fuller House
Netflix has gained acclaim from TV lovers in recent years not just for the ability to binge-watch multiple episodes in one evening but for their commitment to continuing canceled or unfinished TV shows like Arrested Development, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Trailer Park Boys, Black Mirror, and even Full House.
In February of 2016, Netflix released a sequel series to the beloved late '80s series Full House, called Fuller House. However, with the kids all grown up, it was time for them to take on the role as parents raising their own children in the same house. Inevitably the cast is led by the eldest of the Tanner clan, D.J., who is still portrayed by Candace Cameron Bure.
While her performance in the original series was heartfelt, Bure’s return as the matriarch of the family is just hard to watch. Her overacting and overexcitement differ heavily from the adults of the original series and make the new one a painful experience.
4 Toby Onwumere – Sense8
Netflix's preeminent science-fiction series Sense8 came from the creative, genre-bending minds behind The Matrix - Lily and Lana Wachowski - and Amazing Spider-Man comic book writer J. Michael Straczynski. It featured an international cast of characters who are all psychically connected, and in the series, they must figure out why they have this unique connection and what to do with it.
However, one of the main characters, Capheus "Van Damn" Onyango, was changed quite drastically between the first and second season. In the first, he was played by Aml Ameen, but after some creative differences with the Wachowskis, Ameen left the series. He was then replaced by Toby Onwumere for the second season.
Unfortunately, this change was not a positive one. The difference between the two actors was instantly noticeable. Onwumere did not approach the character in the same way Ameen did and therefore lacked the presence fans had enjoyed the season before.
3 Jennette McCurdy – Between
After her breakout role on Nickelodeon’s fun and upbeat series iCarly, Jennette McCurdy has not been cast in many starring or supporting roles, except for the lead role on Netflix’s sci-fi teen drama Between. The idea of the show was interesting enough: a small town afflicted by a mysterious disease that has killed everyone over the age of 21. However, McCurdy’s performance on the series was nowhere near as intriguing as the ideas the show’s writers were trying to play with.
Throughout its two seasons, McCurdy appears to try her best with her character, Wiley Day, but nothing really sticks. Scenes consistently feel half-hearted and even awkward. With such high stakes, there is a need for high drama and a lead to match. Unfortunately, McCurdy was no match for stakes or the drama, and Netflix has not yet confirmed whether or not Between will be renewed for a third season.
2 Laura Prepon – Orange is the New Black
When a show takes place inside of a prison, there are sure to be plenty of diverse, interesting characters. In the case of Netflix's hit series Orange is the New Black, this is true. The cast ranges from impulsive former meth addicts to a relentless Russian chef. Yet, in this sea of show-stealing characters played by fantastic actresses, Laura Prepon's Alex Vause does not seem to fit.
Despite her relevance to the overall plot and Piper Chapman's incarceration, the series excels more in scenes without Prepon's presence. Whenever she appears, it's usually with a half-hearted sigh or weird attitude. In doing so, Prepon's performance as Vause does not invoke any sort of empathy for her character, which audiences should more than likely feel toward her. Instead, her character feels needlessly deviant and overwhelmingly annoying.
Consequently, the best reviewed season of Orange is the New Black, according to a score of 95% on Rotten Tomatoes, is the second season, which Prepon missed due to scheduling conflicts.
1 Charlie Heaton – Stranger Things
Although Stranger Things is one of Netflix’s most popular TV shows, filled with plenty of action, drama, fantasy, laughs, and '80s nostalgia, there is a weak link amongst its talented, charismatic cast of characters. It's not Millie Bobby Brown's Eleven or David Harbour's Chief Jim Hopper; it is Charlie Heaton’s Jonathan Byers.
During the series’ first season, viewers are forced to see Heaton’s Jonathan Byers in contrast to Joe Kerry’s Steve Harrington. Before becoming the Dad Steve we all now love, Kerry’s character was the epitome of a jerk, and this naturally lead viewers to see Heaton’s Jonathan in a better light. However, by taking Steve out of the equation and looking at Heaton’s performance by itself, it becomes genuinely creepy.
Without that built-in empathy from being bullied by Steve, Heaton stands out poorly amongst the rest of the cast – with his underwhelming performance in season 2 serving as a testament to that.
Are there other terrible performances on Netflix? Comment your thoughts!