Probably once a month, someone on Facebook or Twitter asks for a recommendation for something to watch on Netflix. I usually type out the same groups of shows based on what I think that person has seen, but because I am lazy, I wanted to have a link of everything I would recommend, so I can casually slip them a link. Afterwards I receive applause and many thanks for my good taste and everyone tells me they’re going to watch Hart of Dixie.
Ummm, that might be me fantasizing. Moving on.
We can easily recommend most of the prestige shows on premium cable channels. We love Outlander, Deadwood, Game of Thrones, The Affair, Veep, Silicon Valley, The Knick, Penny Dreadful, etc., but if you have those services, you watch those already. Many of these are also available to stream, so check your favorite service for those shows. (Notice no mention of True Detective or Homeland? Yeah, the less said about those the better.)
We did not list a lot of the more popular exclusive programs, as you have heard so much about them, but also because we wanted to focus on things we are super-passionate about (Fargo) or shows we think would have a wider audience if people knew about them (Vikings). Some of these are still airing, so you will have to resume watching them on live TV or when the service catches up.
Finally, many shows are not able to stream, but we like them anyway–maybe you can find the DVDs or have alternative ways to view things. That list is at the end.
Netflix: You have this already. Tons of classics, like Mad Men and Breaking Bad, but also some fantastic original programming (Jessica Jones, Master of None, Orange is the New Black), much of The CW (Gilmore Girls, Arrow) and many exclusively distributed British series (Happy Valley, Black Mirror).
Hulu: Great for comedy (all the Comedy Central shows, like Key & Peele and Review, are available), British shows, classic sitcoms (think Taxi and Mary Tyler Moore) and stuff that’s currently airing. The original comedies (Difficult People, The Mindy Project & Casual) are worth paying for the service for a month. I have not been a hulu subscriber for very long, but in 2016, look for a post where I review all the hulu Britcoms.
Amazon Prime: Prime has deals with both FX (NOT the comedies–those are on hulu) and HBO, so if you’re interested in The Wire or The Shield, pick this service. The shows they produce, some of which are in this post (minus the much-written about Transparent), are also excellent.
Acorn: The only people I know who use this are Katie and my parents, so if you want all the British dramas, many of which are not available on other sites, this might be for you.
The Ones You Already Know About
These would be my first recommendations if you are looking for something to watch right now.
Mad Men (Netflix)
I think Mad Men is a show that really benefits from binge-watching, because the deeper level of Matthew Weiner’s beautiful, smart show becomes more clear. Our favorite show of all time.
Breaking Bad (Netflix)
I’m almost annoyed when people bring this up as the best show ever, because its masculine energy and violence can be a bit too much. Thankfully, there’s Skylar to shake everything up, and Vince Gilligan and the writers imbue almost every episode with so much humor to take the edge off.
Friday Night Lights (Netflix)
FNL covers so many big, important issues (death, race, marriage, gender, religion, family, poverty) so deftly that it makes me sad there are no other shows like it.
Downton Abbey (Prime)
While we would agree that Downton goes off the rails later on, the first few seasons are gold. #teamedith
The X-Files (Netflix/Prime/hulu)
The new season starts early next year, so grab a list of skippable non-mythology episodes (like this one) and get started. The humor in X-Files is great, and if you have never seen the show before, you will notice how influential it has been (see Fringe, below).
When You Finish Those
RIYL: the Coen brothers particular brand of dark comedy
Seasons available: 1 archived, 1 current that can be watched on demand
This is on everyone’s year end list and they have written about it more eloquently than I ever could… But watch both seasons; season 1 for the belly laughs, cold Canadian landscapes and love for Molly, and season 2 for the anxiety, cinematography, and wonderful cast of characters.
The Good Wife (hulu/Prime)
RIYL: Ally McBeal, procedurals
Seasons available: 6, which will keep you busy because this is a network show with 20+ episodes per season
I actually gave up on TGW a few years ago when football kept fucking with the schedule and I would have to set my DVR to record four hours of television every Sunday. But it’s worth checking back into, because it’s still one of the best network shows not involving Shonda Rimes.
RIYL: Better Call Saul, Deadwood, the work of Elmore Leonard (Get Shorty, Out of Sight)
Seasons available: 5, plus a final season that should be streaming soon
I would recommend Justified to all sort of people–those who love dark comedy, small town stories, both procedurals and serialized dramas, high quality shows and the FX cadre of actors.
RIYL: PBS Masterpiece Mystery, our boyfriend James Norton
Seasons available: 1
Many of these mystery shows (like Sherlock, for example) have self-contained mysteries each episode and a season-long story that make them delightful to binge. The perfect show to cuddle up with during the holidays (you will want beer, so make sure you have some). [I love to re-watch this show and send Melissa screencaps of James Norton –RAWR! – ]
The Americans (Prime)
RIYL: Breaking Bad, action movies that involve Russia (so… all of them)
Seasons available: 2, and the third should be up soon
Why aren’t you watching this? I mean, really, WHYYYYYYYY???? Don’t you like period pieces that take place in the 80s but are really about things that are important to us today, such as homeland security, privacy, religion, and immigration? Plus: WIGS, well-placed music, family drama and teen actors you don’t hate!
RIYL: Sons of Anarchy
Seasons available: 3, but still airing
I wish Vikings was on FX and not the History Channel. Then maybe people would appreciate it, not just for the fighting scenes or the ties to very real characters (Ragnar and his children, Rollo, Lagertha, and the British royalty all existed), but also for its fantastic acting, beautiful cinematography, and well-drawn characters.
The Hour (Prime)
RIYL: Mad Men, classic British mysteries
Seasons available: 2
Stylized, fun and SHORT because it’s British, this series is great to watch with either older family or teens who are just developing good taste.
Strike Back (Prime)
RIYL: All of the Die Hard films, Blindspot, The Player, mildly gratuitous sex, profusive swearing, dudes kicking ass
Seasons available: 5, only two seasons on Prime right now
Strike Back is amazingly glorious testosterone TV. It is nothing more than action, swearing, guns, sex, and the BEST bromance ever on TV. No two men in the history of TV love each other as much as Scott and Mikey. The best part of streaming Strike Back is watching the two of them go from unlikely allies to BFFs. Bonus: it’s funny.
Hart of Dixie (Netflix/hulu)
RIYL: Gilmore Girls, classic WB
Seasons available: all 4 as of December
Criminally underwatched while it aired (but we still got to enjoy Fug Girls recaps), HoD has the small town warm-hearted WB thing in spades. It was even filmed on the same set of Gilmore Girls (and shared a set piece with True Blood). Lots of cute boys, love triangles, sweet family relationships and AMAZING CLOTHES.
RIYL: The X-Files, Lost, freak of the week + an interesting and involved mythology
Seasons available: all 5
I love shows that surprise me and Fringe was consistently surprising in the characters it created and the stories it crafted. One of the problems with procedurals of all kinds is that they either favor character development or plot development but Fringe was somehow able to create interesting freak-of-the-week cases, guest stars and series regulars who leave a lasting impression, and an overall mythology that never felt poorly planned or tacked on.
Being Mary Jane
RIYL: Gina Prince-Bythwood, family drama, Scandal, CNN
Seasons available: 2, 1 currently airing
I don’t know why I thought this was a comedy–the marketing was initially confusing, I think–but it’s a really great drama about a woman with a complicated family who lives in a gorgeous house alone and works as a cable news anchor. I just started BMJ, but I am impressed with how strongly feminist it is–it covers so many topics that affect women, particularly women of color. [My mom binged this in 4 days a week ago because she just couldn’t turn it off. I watched the first four episodes and then 2 episodes from season 2 with her and I can’t wait for the holidays so that I can finish it. -K]
Peaky Blinders (Netflix)
RIYL: The Knick, Boardwalk Empire, accents so thick you can barely understand what people are saying
Seasons available: 2, I hear they’re filming a third
Do you like Nick Cave and massive violence? Then you will love this show that is full of movie stars slumming it on TV! Cillian Murphy, Sam Neill and Tom Hardy (!!!) star in this very British reaction to prestige cable American dramas. Often I had to watch an episode multiple times to understand what was going on because of the accents and the slow pacing, but maybe you don’t do three other things while you’re watching TV.
Call the Midwife (Netflix)
RIYL: Nuns, British humor, babies, cathartic crying
Seasons available: 1-4 are on Netflix, the 2015 Christmas episode will air on PBS on Christmas day, and season 5 will be broadcast sometime in 2016 on PBS
You might not or you don’t think a show about midwives in the fifties in a poor section of London would be this smart, touching, and fun but this show takes on issues such as poverty, abortion, abuse, incest, homosexuality, and race with such subtlety, humor, and reverence that it is a constant delight. Part of what makes the show so special is that it is grounded in the truth (the first three seasons were based on the memoirs of nurse Jennifer Worth) and so none of the stories ever feel exploitative and overly dramatic. ALSO NUNS!
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (Netflix)
RIYL: PBS Masterpiece Mystery, beautiful costumes
Seasons available: 3
Come for the clothes, stay for the sass! Essie Davis, who gained fame here in the States for playing the single mom in The Babadook, is so effing good as the liberal-minded Phryne Fisher female detective.
Agatha Christie’s Partners in Crime (Acorn TV)
RIYL: PBS Masterpiece Mystery, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Grantchester, the witty banter of The Thin Man
Seasons available: 1 season which includes two, three episode mystery’s
This British mystery is set in the fifties and stars Jessica Raine from Call the Midwife and David Walliams from Little Britain as Tuppence and Tommy, who fall into solving crimes after a failed attempt at bee keeping. It’s bright, breezy, and beautifully British.
True Blood (Prime)
RIYL: You’re now too old for Twilight and your interests have spread to dudes with abs (lots of them in many flavors), southern Gothic literature, and Vampires with sass
Seasons available: 1 – 5 are on Amazon, seasons 6 & 7 are on HBO Go/Now
Here’s the thing about True Blood, season 1 is a hell of a good time, seriously it’s good it’s the reason I read all of the books and was excited for season 2. Seasons 2 – 7 are good if you fast forward through Sookie (except season 4, 6, and 7), Bill (skip Bill he is THE WORST), anything to do with Sam’s family (his little brother is the second worst), that time Jason was kidnapped and raped by the warepanthers (the warepanthers are the third worst), and move past Tara until season 4 (the show takes her on a dark path that’s painful to watch). Instead focus on Pam and Eric (the sassiest vampires EVER), Lafayette, great character actor Dennis O’Hare (his camp game is sublime), Ginger the ditzy fang banger, and Jason and Andy being cops. Kristin Bauer van Straten and Alexander Skarsgard seriously need their own webseries just being catty and bitchy.
Other completed dramas available we like: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Netflix). Parenthood (Netflix), Alias ( Netflix), White Collar (Netflix), Misfits (hulu), & Melrose Place (hulu).
The Ones You Already Know About
I’m certain you’ve watched this, but I want to recommend it as a nice, funny background show. PLUS: Julia Louis-Dreyfus is always fantastic and kooky. Always.
Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock, and The Office (Netflix)
Watch them again for the first time. The jokes on 30 Rock are particularly great and sometimes I wonder how it stayed on the air for as long as it did.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (Netflix)
The worst people in the world own a bar. That is it. That is the concept. One of the things I love best about It’s Always Sunny is the cast of Philly weirdos that go in and out of the main characters’ lives.
When You Finish Those
Difficult People (hulu)
RIYL: Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, making fun of celebrities
Seasons available: 1, renewed for a second
Are you sick of hearing me talk about this show yet? If you like this blog you will love Difficult People. I didn’t mention this the last time, but Julie and her boyfriend own two extremely adorable Basset Hounds. Definitely a reason to watch, right?
You’re the Worst (hulu)
RIYL: You like both dark humor AND romantic comedies
Seasons available: 1 on Hulu, season 2 just wrapped up on FXX (so hopefully for my mom it will be on Hulu soon), and it was renewed for a third season
At first You’re the Worst just seems like it wants to completely subvert the idea of a romantic comedy by making its lead duo THE WORST, and yet all you want is for Jimmy and Gretchen to be happy together by being mean to everyone else in the world (except Edgar, stop being mean to Edgar). Also this show has one of the best recurring cast (Sam, Shit Stain, Honey Nutz, and Vernon are standouts).
RIYL: the Edgar Wright Cornetto trilogy
Seasons available: Both of them. Because its British, there are only 14 episodes total
Even thought I hadn’t seen it, when Spaced was released on DVD I purchased it immediately based on my love of Edgar Wright’s movies (Shaun of the Dead/Hot Fuzz/The World’s End), and the weird, dark humor (seriously, what is up with Brian??) charmed me greatly.
Everybody Hates Chris (hulu)
RIYL: Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Terry Crews, funny coming of age stories
Seasons available: all of them
When I looked this up, I found out that it started in 2005, which seems ages ago. Because EHC, which is based on Chris Rock’s childhood (he narrates), takes place in the 80s, it still feels fresh. This is where I first saw both Terry Crews, who play’s Chris’ dad Julius, and Tyler James Williams as a young Chris Rock. Because I feel like I haven’t mentioned it ever, TJW was GREAT on Go On, one of my favorite one-season wonders. Seriously, it is so weird.
The Inbetweeners (Netflix, hulu)
RIYL: The IT Crowd, British humor, more funny coming-of-age stories
Seasons available: 3
Do NOT get this confused with the short-lived American remake on MTV, which had some amusing bits but was not as painful and awkward as the British original. This show follows four nerdy outcasts through high school; since it’s British, a lot of the things you expect to happen actually do not.
Garfunkel and Oates (Netflix)
RIYL: Flight of the Conchords, Broad City
Seasons available: One single, glorious 8-episode season that you can watch over two mornings of wrapping presents or eating brunch
I feel bad I didn’t watch this when it originally aired on IFC–maybe I could have saved it! Two comedian BFFs live in a beautiful LA apartment and deal with friendships, men and their own weird issues. Like Flight of the Conchords, the two women often break out into song, which are filmed like videos, inserted into the show. Please watch this and then we can cry together about how much we loved the show that dared make a Walton Goggins reference.
Alan Partridge shows: Knowing Me, Knowing You; I’m Alan Partridge; Alan Partridge’s Mid-Morning Matters (hulu)
RIYL: The Larry Sanders Show, British humor, Steve Coogan
Seasons available: a shit-ton, plus a movie somewhere
I DARE YOU to listen to Steve Coogan say, “Knowing me, Alan Partridge, knowing you, Alan Partridge” and bust into giggles. If you’ve finished the IT Crowd, Black Books and other Britcoms, this satirical look at presenters (we call them hosts), might be the next level.
Bojack Horseman (Netflix)
RIYL: Bob’s Burgers, Arrested Development, cartoons for people who hate cartoons
Seasons available: two, with more on the way
Bojack, an asshole out-of-work television horse voiced by Will Arnett, is the centerpiece of this underrated Netflix original, which maybe sounds too weird for most people–and I wouldn’t let kids watch it–but it is the perfect palate cleanser after suppressing your opinions about guns and the Confederate flag for an entire family holiday meal. Watch it and be yourself.
RIYL: WTF podcast (duh), Louie, middle aged comedians who can’t get it together
Seasons available: 2, with one on the way
I’m a little in the camp that Marc Maron is a genius, which sometimes reveals itself in his funny, self-titled IFC show. Like Louie and Master of None, these episodes are almost self-contained and pretty breezy (well, not like Louie) AND Big Head from Silicon Valley appears in some episodes as Marc’s assistant. Marc knows everyone and sometimes you get to see into his character’s garage (not THE garage, obvi) during interviews so there are tons of celebrity guest stars.
My Name is Earl/Raising Hope (Netflix)
RIYL: Roseanne, Grace Under Fire, sweet weirdos who aren’t rich and are not brilliant
Seasons available: Good news–all of BOTH shows are on Netflix!
I watch Raising Hope, about 4 generations of non-geniuses who live under one roof, on FXX and it remains charming and funny. Greg Garcia ALSO created My Name is Earl, which you probably watched while it was on, but it has been forgotten to time. Guess what: it’s still hilarious. Garcia created the now-cancelled The Millers with Will Arnett. Maybe check that one out too.
Dance Academy (Netflix)
RIYL: Bunheads, Australians, Ballet, the movie Center Stage, and old WB teen dramedies
Seasons available: All of them
This Australian teen comedy set at a dance academy is so much fun for those of us who love teen dramedies AND dancing. FUN FACT: Nearly everyone on Dance Academy latter starred in NBC’s short-lived summer series Camp because it was produced in Australia but everyone had to do an American accent.
Mozart in the Jungle (Prime)
RIYL: Slings & Arrows, you think Gael Garcia Bernal is HOT (I do!), workplace comedies, AND ART
Seasons available: 1, but renewed for a second
Mozart in the Jungle is one of the most unique shows I have ever seen on TV. Much like Slings & Arrows, which revolved around a small theater company, this show takes you backstage of the New York symphony. Everyone is a little bit odd and eccentric, which is exactly what you need in a workplace comedy. The show is also beautifully shot and the music is fantastic. It moves a little slow and isn’t laugh out loud funny but stick with it for its flights of fancy.
RIYL: romantic comedies, Rob Delaney’s twitter
Seasons available: Just one six-episode series, and another is currently airing in the UK
Catastrophe, like You’re the Worst, is also trying to do something different with the romantic comedy formula. Here we have Sharon and Rob who meet and hook-up a lot for one week while Rob is in London, Sharon gets pregnant, and Rob, who was abandoned by his dad, moves to London to be a father. Now on most shows you would think I just spoiled the entire season but nope all that happened in the first six minutes of episode 1. Aren’t you curious what happens in the next 20 minutes and 5 episodes? I watched this in one evening while packing for a cross-country trip it zips by so fast.
Other completed comedies that we recommend: M*A*S*H (Netflix), Better Off Ted (Netflix), The Bernie Mac Show (Netflix), The Wonder Years (Netflix), Cheers (Netflix), & Ugly Betty ( hulu).
Wolf Hall (Prime)
RIYL: Historical fiction, The Tudors, the Tudors, very long and slow miniseries, the wonder that is Mark Rylance in a quietly brilliant performance
If I’m being honest, I never finished Wolf Hall, and the only reason I made it to the penultimate episode is the performance of Mark Rylance. His magnetic Thomas Cromwell is careful, smart, sarcastic, but also conniving and power-hungry.
The Ken Burns oeuvre (everywhere)
RIYL: documentaries, the American experience, the Ken Burns effect
Series available: SO MANY. If I spent my TV time only watching Ken Burns docs, my eyes wouldn’t cross something else for at least eight months.
I like watching things that make me feel smart. Like I didn’t just marathon six episodes of The Great British Bake Off. Katie has seen The Roosevelts TWICE and Melissa is obsessed with Prohibition. Future Ken Burns docs include Ernest Hemingway, the Vietnam War and country music.
30 for 30 (Netflix)
RIYL: sports documentaries
Seasons available: Like ten? I have no idea.
Every time I put one of these award-winning documentaries on, I am pleasantly surprised. Once you watch one, the others will keep popping up in your feed of suggested things to watch, which is great for lazy people like me.
Shows NOT AVAILABLE that we would recommend: Battlestar Galactica, Playing House (only season 2 is on hulu), Another Period (only 1 episode available to stream on hulu, WTF), Happy Endings, Slings & Arrows (was on Acorn TV and Netflix but not anymore which is so sad), Felicity, Everwood, and ED.
We know this is A LOT and you will not have time in your life to watch everything (we definitely don’t), but if you are looking for your next binge show, this is a great place to start. If you have more favorites, please let us know! We fucking love TV.