BREAKING BAD (2008)
5 seasons / 62 episodes and one movie
This one breaks my rule about only listing shows that are streaming originals, but I must always alert people to the fact that the best television show in history (in my humble opinion) is available on Netflix. Unfortunately, only the first five seasons are currently available, but if you haven’t seen it yet, get caught up through those and then reach out to me, and I’ll tell you where you can watch the rest. Also, it may not stay on Netflix, so watch it while you can!
What is it about? Bryan Cranston plays Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher in Albuquerque, New Mexico, who is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Faced with leaving his pregnant wife and disabled son in debt, he decides to team up with a former student, played by Aaron Paul, to cook meth so he can earn enough money to provide for his family before he dies. The only problem? His brother-in-law is a DEA agent and, oh yeah….the cancer turns out to not be fatal after all.
THE CROWN (2016)
4 seasons / 40 episodes (so far)
If you can only watch one fictionalized version of the life of Queen Elizabeth II, this jewel in Netflix’s crown sets the standard for acting, production design and costumes, while also serving as a neatly packaged history lesson. The performances, particularly from Claire Foy, who plays the Queen in the first two seasons, and Olivia Colman in seasons 3 and 4, are stunning. Catch up before season 5, which features Imelda Staunton as the monarch, debuts in November.
BETTER CALL SAUL (2015)
6 seasons / 63 episodes
Again, this is a show that isn’t a streaming original, but I recommend it so highly, I urge you to seek it out. Better Call Saul is a prequel to the series Breaking Bad, so I strongly recommend watching that first. But, even though it is a prequel, creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould have created a series that has a completely different vibe and feel than Breaking Bad. While Breaking Bad was a thrilling series about a good guy turned bad, Better Call Saul is a character portrait of, well, a bad guy who REALLY wants to be good. With brilliant performances from Bob Odenkirk, Rhea Seehorn and Michael McKean, Better Call Saul is one of the best shows of all time.
4 seasons / 44 episodes
A dark drama about a family that gets caught up with the Colombian drug cartel and is forced to move to the Ozarks to launder drug money is a roller-coaster ride that never lets up. Jason Bateman, Laura Linney and Julia Garner head an incredible cast on this show that was as good its last episode as it was its first.
THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT (2020)
1 season / 7 episodes
This series became a sensation due to its timing, having had the good luck to come out right at the beginning of the pandemic, and due to its fascinating story of a young female prodigy in the ‘50s who turns the world of chess upside down. Driven by a dynamic and riveting performance by the enigmatic Anya Taylor-Joy, The Queen’s Gambit is compelling and gorgeous and a show you can watch with your parents and your teenage kids.
HOUSE OF CARDS (2013)
6 seasons / 73 episodes
I know, Kevin Spacey has been cancelled, rightfully so. But that doesn’t take away how thoroughly entertaining this wickedly mean-spirited drama about the seedy underbelly of American politics is. Spacey plays conniving Congressman Frank Underwood and Robin Wright plays his equally conniving wife, Claire. Together, they have big plans, including the White House. Watching them get there is all the fun. The series loses itself a bit towards the end, but the first few seasons are absolutely addictive.
1 season / 8 episodes (so far)
This may seem like another run-of-the-mill high school show, but Heartstopper is able to take a genre that’s been done to death and make it feel fresh, thanks to some utterly appealing actors and a warm and wonderful story about the heartbreak of teen love, which just happens to be compounded by the complexities of coming out. Young actors Joe Locke and Kit Connor will steal your heart and Heartstopper will remind you of all the joys, pains and possibilities of youth.
ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK (2013)
7 seasons / 91 episodes
Although this women’s prison drama/comedy overstayed its welcome by a few seasons, the first three seasons are truly compelling and entertaining viewing, featuring some magnificent performances from an ensemble of women that are as diverse in tone and talent as they are in demographic. I am particularly a fan of Samira Wiley, Laverne Cox, Danielle Brooks, Kate Mulgrew, Natasha Lyonne, Selenis Leyva and the brain-rattling breakout star, Uzo Aduba, who won two Emmys for her role as Suzanne “Crazyeyes” Warren, a character unlike any other you’ve ever seen.
1 season / 8 episodes (so far)
I didn’t know anywhere else to put this show, it defies category, it’s equal parts comedy, fantasy and drama, a show made for young adults but thoroughly enjoyable for anyone who appreciates brilliance. Jenna Ortega stars as Wednesday Addams, the psychic, morose and disarmingly charming teenage daughter of Morticia and Gomez Addams, the famous characters from The Addams Family fame. Wednesday is miserable at her boarding school–well, to be honest, she’s miserable everywhere–but finds ways to keep herself busy by helping track down a vicious monster who lurks in the woods. While there are plenty of high school tropes along the way, this series is charming and utterly watchable in every way, mostly because of Ortega and her star-making performance. A must-see.
13 REASONS WHY (2017)
4 seasons / 49 episodes
A drama about a high school girl who commits suicide—yeah, I know, but hear me out. Before she does it, she makes several cassettes (some of you may remember those) that hold clues to the reasons (and the people) that made her do it. When her shy friend listens to the cassettes, he decides to follow the clues and he ends up uncovering much more than just one girl’s sad end. I have only watched the first two seasons, have no idea how seasons 3 and 4 are, but I can tell you season one had me riveted. It’s not as much a mystery as it is a teenage drama, but it’s still very well done.
1 season / 6 episodes
Six fast-paced episodes make this British thriller series about a bodyguard who is tasked with protecting a high-level member of the British government a must-see for anyone who loves intrigue, spies and thrillers. Add to it the fact that the bodyguard is played by the dreamy Richard Madden and you’ll be hooked.
3 seasons / 30 episodes
These two series about the Mexican and Colombian drug cartels and the DEA agents who try to take them down are brutal, violent and sooooo good.
NARCOS: MEXICO (2018)
3 seasons / 30 episodes
1 season / 8 episodes
You can’t give me a show that stars Toni Collette, Merritt Wever and Kaitlyn Dever and not expect me to show up. It doesn’t even matter what it is, I will watch it. Ok, if you’re not like me and it actually matters what the show is about, Collette and Wever play police detectives charged with investigating the accused rape of a young woman, played by Dever. It’s tough to watch, mainly because of Dever’s extraordinary gift of bringing the audience into her trauma, but it’s so worth watching these three powerhouse actresses playing roles unlike anything they’ve done before. Seriously, can we just have Toni Collette and Merritt Wever in everything?
1 season / 4 episodes
Shira Haas is absolutely phenomenal as a young woman who flees her ultra-Orthodox Jewish community for religious and personal freedom. In only four episodes, you experience a lifetime.
WHEN THEY SEE US (2019)
1 season / 4 episodes
Ava DuVernay’s chilling, haunting and infuriating dramatization of the real-life false accusations and criminalization of five black teenagers who are accused of a brutal attack in Central Park, who came to be known as the Central Park Five. Essential viewing.
1 season / 5 episodes
Ewan McGregor plays the titular fashion icon in this limited series from writer/producer Ryan Murphy. Although it gets a little too blinded by its own flashbulbs in moments, McGregor’s committed and purposeful performance (for which he won an Emmy) makes all the cheesiness go a long way.
1 season / 9 episodes
A heist series that gets a little too caught up in its concept and doesn’t really nail the delivery, Kaleidoscope is still watchable enough, thanks to a great cast, headed by Giancarlo Esposito, who is terrific. The hook for this series is they say you can watch the 9 episodes in any order, but it still boils down to being your basic heist drama, with a bunch of criminals planning the ultimate and complicated robbery. If you love Ocean’s Eleven, you’ll love this, but don’t expect it to be either as clever or as good.