Best Netflix Series To Watch
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No, it’s not just your imagination: Netflix is stockpiling prestige programming at a dizzying rate. In the past several months, the streaming service has surpassed HBOin Emmy nominations, lured Ryan Murphy away from 21st Century Fox and even signed a multiyear production deal with the Obamas. Meanwhile, Netflix has said it wants to create, acquire or distribute 1,000 original titles this year, according to a report in June by New York magazine.
This glut of programming is as overwhelming as it is exciting. So, to help you prioritize your virtually unlimited viewing options, we periodically survey the Netflix landscape in search of the best new shows and seasons the service has to offer. This second installment (read the first one here) features riveting true-crime documentaries, heartwarming reality series, an irreverent weekly talk show and a very angry cartoon panda.
‘Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist’
In 2003, a pizza delivery man named Brian Wells was caught robbing a bank in Erie, Penn. He told police that an assailant had locked a bomb to his neck and forced him to perform the heist. Then the device went off, killing Wells before he could reveal any more details. The case was bizarre enough to make the national news and to capture the imagination of Trey Borzillieri, who directed this four-part “pizza bomber” documentary with Barbara Schroeder. The story gets stranger as another body turns up and the authorities investigate a circle of small-time criminals for whom Wells might have been an accomplice, a mark or both. At its center is Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong, a brilliant, manipulative and apparently unhinged woman whose long correspondence with Borzillieri gives structure to this tangled but gripping true-crime tale.
Before “Serial,” “The Jinx” and “Making a Murderer,” there was “The Staircase,” Jean-Xavier de Lestrade’s long-running documentary series about the author Michael Peterson. In 2001, Peterson’s wife, Kathleen, died in bloody fashion on a staircase in the couple’s house, and Peterson was soon arrested and convicted of murdering her. He is either a cunning sociopath or an honest man whose life has been ruined by the courts, but his ultimate guilt or innocence isn’t really the point: Unlike many true-crime filmmakers, Lestrade doesn’t so much investigate the case as embed himself with Peterson, his defense team and his supportive family, raising new and uncomfortable questions along the way about Peterson and the American criminal justice system.
‘The Break With Michelle Wolf’
As the host of this year’s White House Correspondents Association Dinner, the comedian Michelle Wolf took aim at Sarah Huckabee Sanders with a joke about eye makeup that drew widespread ire. But Wolf’s routine also made her a progressive hero and primed audiences for her Netflix Sunday talk show. Although comedy news isn’t exactly in short supply these days, her half-hour episodes distinguish themselves with surreal commercial parodies, with funny guests like Hannibal Buress and Nick Kroll and, of course, with Wolf’s extreme irreverence. Even fellow comics are fair game: Recently, Wolf performed a note-perfect dissection of late-night hosts’ earnest Trump-era monologues.
‘Aggretsuko’ Season 1
Sanrio, the Japanese company behind Hello Kitty, has stopped being polite and started getting real. Its latest cartoon creation is Retsuko the Red Panda, a 25-year-old office worker whose gender and entry-level position make her professional life a waking nightmare. She channels her daily frustrations into death-metal karaoke, a pastime perfectly suited to the hyperbolic medium of anime. It isn’t the most substantive show — one could accuse it of being basically a one-note GIF generator, conceived to attract angsty millennials — but that hardly matters when its episodes are only 15 minutes long and that single note sounds like beautiful catharsis.
‘The Rain’ Season 1
Scandinavian television is best known stateside for its cerebral noir and sober political procedurals. But the Danish-language series “The Rain” isn’t exactly prestige TV. Set in a post-apocalyptic world where rain kills every person it touches, the show follows Simone Andersen (Alba August) and her little brother, Rasmus (Lucas Lynggaard Tonnesen), who have spent six years alone in an underground bunker after the disappearance of their scientist father. When the siblings join a group of other young survivors, flashbacks slowly reveal the characters’ back stories. The romances are syrupy, the dialogue hammy and the plot holes too numerous to count, but fans of teen dramas and “The Walking Dead” are sure to get hooked anyway.
Let’s get this out of the way: “Safe” follows a British widower named Tom Delaney, and — as critics in Britain have noted in bemusement — the actor who plays him, Michael C. Hall, doesn’t do a very convincing English accent. But once you get used to Hall’s odd inflections, this frothy, fast-paced thriller from the crime novelist Harlan Coben is hard to stop watching. When Tom’s 16-year-old daughter sneaks out and never comes home, he combs their gated community for clues to her whereabouts. Meanwhile, a female teacher is accused of sleeping with one of her students, and a hilariously ruthless rich family scrambles to cover up a dark secret.
‘GLOW’ Season 2
In its first season, the women’s wrestling comedy “GLOW” smuggled sweet portraits of a dozen diverse Hollywood outsiders from the 1980s into a “Bad News Bears” story, in which a group of underdogs trains, fights and schemes its way to a TV pilot. Season 2, which picks up before the show-within-a-show goes into production, doesn’t have quite the same narrative momentum, but it is still a lot of fun to watch. Episode 8 is a stand-alone work of pure television — and a must-see for anyone who treasures the surreal, low-budget aesthetics of early late-night cable.
‘Queer Eye’ Season 2
Bravo’s “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” was a product of the early 2000s: Five gay style experts would upgrade a hapless heterosexual, proving they could make useful friends for straight men. Fifteen years later, Netflix’s reboot could have been a retrograde mess. But the key to its zeitgeist-capturing success is in the shortened title: The new Fab Five doesn’t make over only straight guys, and cast members’ lives have become central to the story. Jonathan Van Ness, a grooming pro whose sweetness is as remarkable as his long, glossy tresses, is the breakout star. And while Season 1 is fun, Season 2 improves upon it, with emotional episodes that feature a selfless female cancer survivor and a transgender man growing into his masculinity.