Thursday, January 7, 2016

RWB's Back With a List of Great Shows to Catch on Netflix

2016: the year RWB returns with a bang and Netflix comes to India! Rejoice, everyone except paid VPN services! I've got a list of fabulous shows on Netflix that will almost definitely kill your desire to leave the house this year.

Netflix Original Shows:
Netflix Original hit the ground running with some of the best television on TV. For all those who HAVEN'T just kept their US/UK Netflix accounts and haven't already watched all of Netflix's original programming on "other" sites, here's a few to get you started!

1. Master of None: This is by far the best comedy show of 2015 (I feel like the word "sitcom" no longer applies to most shows). Aziz Ansari plays an Indian-American actor in New York navigating through the vagaries of relationships, career and his family's immigrant history. You might think you know what to expect if you've watched Ansari's standup, and yes, there are a few scenes from his old material that make it in here but they are meatier and fit well into the narrative of the show. Think Woody Allen's older movies set in the 21st century.

2. Jessica Jones and Daredevil: These two are kind of companion shows so I'm putting them together. Marvel's lesser known superheroes get the obligatory gritty treatment, but completely OWN it.  Jessica Jones is a superhero version of Veronica Mars, complete with the noir PI office and painful past. Matt Murdoch is an idealist lawyer by day and beats up bad guys at night. There is a bit of self-consciousness about the kitschy superhero costumes, but both of them make it work. And better yet, we meet two of the best Big Bads on television: Kilgrave and the Kingpin. Kilgrave especially is played to perfection by David Tennant. Watch Daredevil first to ease you into the murky world of Hell's Kitchen and then feel very pleased with yourself when you spot all the easter eggs in Jessica Jones.

3. Orange is the New Black: This was probably the breakout hit from the Netflix stable and you'll see why when you watch it. Piper Chapman is a prissy, rich, white woman who ends up in prison for a past indiscretion. From her perspective we meet a fantastic group of women with richly drawn histories and motives. By season 3, Piper-the-outsider's role is reduced and OITNB truly becomes an ensemble show. It's ostensibly a comedy show but I've cried more than a few times.

4. Better Call Saul: My favourite Netflix show! A spinoff from the masterful Breaking Bad, Bob Odenkirk plays Saul Goodman, a conman trying to go straight with a law degree and a hole-in-the-wall office space. It's funny, it's sad, it's dark and everything else you want from a television show.

Non-Original Shows on Netflix
While most Netflix originals are fantastic, here are a few non-Netflix shows to watch while waiting for the new seasons from your favourite shows. These are shows I'd probably not have watched if they weren't on Netflix:

1. Call the Midwife: I'm a big fan of the period drama and this one is particularly excellent. Set in post World War II London, just after the introduction of the National Health Services, a naive young midwife, Jenny Lee sets up shop at a hospital in the dreadfully poor East End. She's confronted by crushing poverty and squalor and joy in unexpected places. And also makes a powerful case for universal healthcare and reproductive rights!  Supported by a fabulous cast that include Miranda Hart and Jenny Agutter, expect to sob and laugh and learn loads of uncomfortable stuff about childbirth.

2. North and South: This one's an oldie but a goodie. If you liked the Colin Firth-starring Pride and Prejudice, expect to love this miniseries. Set in grimy, industrial era-y Manchester, a beautiful woman adn a very handsome rich man (Richard Armitage of Thorin Oakenshield fame!) fall in love (sort of) but discover that they're on opposite sides of the labour rights movements (but only kind of). I'm not doing a very good job of selling it, but it's REALLY good.

3. Broadchurch: Yeah so, there is going to be a lot of British television on this list. David Tennant plays a sad broken detective in a quiet little holiday town on the Jurassic Coast. The town is ripped apart by the murder of an 11 year old boy and suddenly, everyone's a suspect and everybody saw their neighbour sneaking off somewhere at 1 am. Broadchurch is more than just a whodunnit-- it's about loss and loneliness and how hard it can be to do the right thing.

4. Brooklyn Nine-Nine: This one is a really funny if slightly typical sitcom. Set at the 99th precinct, it features a motley group of cops and is surprisingly good! A lot of the humour is apt (including a great unselfconscious Die Hard parody) and avoids many sitcom pitfalls. It is the perfect show for post-work-dont-want-to-leave-the-couch-procrastination.

5. Orphan Black: This is one of those shows that you've probably heard of but somehow haven't gotten around to watching. Well, now you've got Netflix! Tatiana Maslany plays Sarah Manning, a hardbitten woman who discovers that she has 10 or more clones (all played by Maslany of course). Manning and the clones must uncover their dark past while escaping from shadowy corporate thugs who don't want them spilling any beans. A gripping show (with a somewhat silly season 2 "reveal" but still watchable) but really, it's all about Maslany. She manages to imbue every clone with a singular personality, so much so that you entirely forget that they're all played by one person.

6. Life on Mars: This is a clever little show with a gimmick that ends up playing very well! DCI Sam Tyler is an intelligent and thorough police officer who wakes up in the '70s after a road accident. Now he's got to find murderers with the help of an incredibly inefficient and corrupt set of colleagues, all without any forensics. You'd think that they would run out of stuff to mock about the '70s after the first two episodes, but the show becomes a lot more than a parody, as Sam struggles to tell if he's travelled back in time or is just dreaming it all up.

7. A Young Doctor's Notebook: This miniseries should only be watched on a gloomy evening, with a moscow mule or fifteen at hand. An adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov's short story collection, Jon Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe play the old and young versions of a country doctor sent off to practise medicine in a small village hospital somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Russia. The older doctor reflects on his past, as though he can try and stop himself from treading in steps that will inevitably lead to his downfall. Depressing, obviously

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