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Scrolling through Netflix can be an arduous task - especially when shows you’ve never even heard of pop up. The problem with television is that there’s just too much choice. Luckily for you, we’ve sifted through UK Netflix, sorting the good from the bad to deliver the 50 programmes you really should be watching. (Or, let’s be honest, bingeing.) A mixture of BBC classics, Netflix Originals, foreign hits and soon-to-be cult favourites, here’s - in no particular order - the very best that UK Netflix has to offer.
Stranger Things (Season 1)
Much like a Demogorgon in the night, Stranger Things crept out of nowhere and took us all by surprise. A curious little sci-fi drama which doffs an affectionate cap to 1980s Amblin-era sci-fi, while standing assuredly on its own two feet, the Duffer Brother’s curious concoction quickly became the water-cooler TV show of 2016. Anticipation for Season 2, due this year, is fierce. Stock up on Eggos and get up to speed on one of Netflix’s biggest original hits.
The Fresh Prince Of Bel air (Complete Seasons 1-6)
Now this is a story all about how / Netflix’s life got flipped-turned upside down. And we’d like to take a minute, just sit right there, we’ll tell you how Netflix acquired the Fresh Prince of Bel Air: it was really a very straightforward library aquisition deal and not particularly interesting. Get a dose of heady '90s nostalgia and see where the Big Willie Style began.
A Series Of Unfortunate Events (Season 1)
Jim Carrey had a crack at Count Olaf on the big screen in 2004. Now it’s the turn of Neil Patrick Harris to slip on the prosthetic nose and arched eyebrow of Lemony Snicket’s cackling supervillain. This first season draws from the first four of Daniel Handler's witty gothic children’s books – though, as with the books, this is a children's show that seems emphatically unsuitable for many children.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Seasons 1-2)
“Un-breakable! They alive, dammit!” Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s absurd earworm of a theme tune will grab you from minute one; Tina Fey’s razor-sharp writing and Ellie Kemper’s eternally sunny performance will keep you there. Somehow finding the funny side of kidnapping, Fey’s follow-up to 30 Rock flits nimbly and confidently between goofy surrealism and painful subject matters; here, the belly laughs come with a point to make.
Marvel’s Luke Cage (Season 1)
We first met Luke Cage (Mike Colter) in Jessica Jones, but here he gets room to stretch his not-inconsiderable muscles, moving uptown from Hell’s Kitcen to Harlem, in attempt to forge a quiet new life. It doesn’t quite go down like that. The third Marvel property to arrive on Netflix is not always successful as its earlier brethren. But it’s still worth a watch, driven by an almost entirely-black cast/writing staff, buoyed by a killer soundtrack, and a bulletproof star.
The OA (Season 1)
If you ever needed an example of the sort of show only Netflix would be brave enough to commission, we present The OA. An eight-part drama about blindess being restored, interdimensional travel, near death experiences, angels, Fritzl-level kidnapping, and magic interpretative dancing? It is, by creator/star Brit Marling’s own admission, pretty out there. It’s also an example of the sort of show that could only be watched on Netflix: a strange little oddity that sneaks its way onto your watchlist and suddenly morphs into a 4am bingewatch. The mystery and intrigue is addicting, the execution is always surprising; the ending will leave you desperate for more.
The Crown (Season 1)
Peter Morgan is an unofficial documenter of the British royal family, with work on like The Queen and The Special Relationship opening up the palace doors to the big screen and small alike. So it goes with his latest creation, this gleefully scurrilous costume soap opera about Her Maj’s early years. Beginning with a character vomiting into a toilet bowl on the morning of Elizabeth II (Claire Foy)’s marriage to dastardly foreigner Prince Philip (Matt Smith), this is not a show that shy about breaking the perceptions of what a royal costume drama should be.
Rick And Morty (Seasons 1-2)
At first look, Rick And Morty is a goofy Back To The Future pastiche for overgrown children direct from the Cartoon Network late-night strand Adult Swim. But there’s more to this show than colourful aliens and dick jokes. Spawned from the brains of Justin Roiland (Adventure Time) and Dan Harmon (Community), few shows are world-building in their science-fiction ambitions. Many episodes take in infinite Ricks and infinite Mortys from an infinite multiverse; many episodes also feature the character Mr. Poopy Butt Hole. Think Twilight Zone crossed with Ren & Stimpy.
Fargo (Seasons 1-2)
TV remakes should always be taken with a heavy pinch of gritting salt. But Noah Hawley’s FX show breathes new life into the Coens’ cult classic, taking you down the expected retread route before severely twisting it on its head. Season 1 saw Martin Freeman and Billy Bob Thornton head into the snowy Minnesotan plains, with Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons heading up Season 2. Ewan McGregor, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Scoot McNairy have already been confirmed for Season 3, so there’s never been a better time to catch up.
Daredevil (Seasons 1-2)
Blind, mild-mannered Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) doesn’t scream ‘superhero’, but Netflix sure turned him into one. Series creator Drew Goddard balances The Man Without Fear’s backstory and present day struggles with ease, even finding room for a bit of humour and romance – though we’re pretty sure this is the only superhero story involving a meet cute in a dumpster. Season 2 saw the arrival of Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal), a Smith & Wesson-wielding villain hoping to out-villain Season 1's Wilson Fisk (Vincent D'Onofrio). Bernthal's damaged character will be getting his own show very soon...
BoJack Horseman (Seasons 1-3)
Will Arnett lends his vocal talents to this darkly comic look at the life of disenchanted actor-slash-horse, BoJack. It’s quirky, colourful (the trippy titles are evidence enough) and meta as they come, but the further you progress, the more tragic BoJack’s longing for the limelight becomes. You might find BoJack difficult to get on with at first, but stick with it - we promise it’s worth it.
Top Of The Lake (Series 1)
When pregnant 12-year-old Tui (Jacqueline Joe) tries to kill herself, Detective Robin Griffin (Elisabeth Moss) returns to her New Zealand home to discover why Tui disappeared soon after her suicide attempt. Jane Campion’s Kiwi mystery won Moss a Golden Globe as the woman who finds herself linked to the troubled young girl in more ways than one. The always excellent Peter Mullan also turns up amidst the weirdness. Nicole Kidman and Gwendoline Christie will be joining Season 2.
Luther (Series 1-3)
Idris Elba is the titular detective chief inspector, sharing a lot of blood with Sherlock (more on him later…) in this BBC drama. There may currently be more television crime experts than you can shake a stick at, but this murder detective is slicker (and more violent) than your average. Warning: may contain shock character deaths a la Game Of Thrones.
Archer (Seasons 1-7)
Constant quoting and uncontrollable fits of laughter are just two of the things you’ll blame FX’s Archer for - but you’ll be very glad it exists. Following the antics of Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin) and his International Secret Intelligence Service (aka ‘ISIS’, swiftly dropped in Season 6) coworkers, this adult animation boasts in-joke payoffs like no other. The stellar voice cast includes Judy Greer, Chris Parnell, Aisha Tyler and Jessica Walter as alcoholic boss - and mother - Malory Archer.
It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (Seasons 1-11)
Paddy’s Pub is owned by ‘The Gang’: essentially four friends and Danny DeVito. And by ‘friends’ we mean a group of people who inflict pain and hardship on each other just because they can. If you’re after short, sharp bursts of alcohol-infused, televised anarchy from five utterly irredeemable bastards, It’s Always Sunny is undeniably the one for you.
Fawlty Towers (Complete Series 1-2)
In a list drawn up by the BFI at the turn of the century, Fawlty Towers was decreed the greatest British television show ever made. It's tricky to argue with that assessment. John Cleese and Connie Booth's delectable farce is the biggest noise ever to come out of Torquay. With Prunella Scales and Andrew Sachs also onboard, Fawlty Towers became one of the BBC’s biggest ever hits. (Just don’t order the Waldorf salad.)
The Thick Of It (Complete Series 1-4)
“I’d love to stop and chat to you but I’d rather have Type 2 diabetes” - and that’s pretty much the only quote from Malcolm Tucker we can write without censorship... Peter Capaldi may have swapped swears for the keys to the TARDIS, but his profanity-spewing policy enforcer is his crowning glory.
Better Call Saul (Seasons 1-2)
Long before Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) crossed paths with Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, he was struggling lawyer James McGill. Saul’s slow burn nature may not sit quite right with new viewers, so we heartily recommend working your way through all five seasons of Breaking Bad first. The pleasure in this prequel is revisiting characters (hello Mike Ehrmantraut) we’d always wanted more backstory on.
American Horror Story (Seasons 1-4)
Another series, another spooky story. Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s horror anthology (a far cry from your previous work on Glee, boys…) features a repertory cast including Jessica Lange, Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson and Angela Bassett. Murder House, Asylum, Coven and Freak Show - aka Seasons 1-4 - are available on UK Netflix if you think you’re brave enough.
Orange Is The New Black (Seasons 1-4)
When Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) finds herself behind bars for a crime she committed a decade earlier, her life becomes a messy merry-go-round of exes, current fiancés and trying to avoid becoming a prison wife. Based on the real Piper’s memoirs, a diverse cast transform this quick-witted comedy drama into essential viewing. As for the standouts amongst the inmates? It’s a tough one, but Uzo Aduba’s Crazy Eyes, Samira Wiley’s Poussey and Yael Stone’s Lorna Morello are right up there.
House Of Cards (UK) (Complete Series 1-3)
You all know about the Kevin Spacey/Robin Wright House Of Cards, but what of the original British series also based on Michael Dobbs’ book? Another Francis - this time Urquhart - sees an opportunity when Margaret Thatcher resigns as Conservative leader. You know the rest: it’s diabolical schemes a go-go as the chief whip attempts to climb the ranks. Tautly-told, this 12-parter doesn’t face the Netflix Original’s problems of being renewed without an obvious end in sight.
The Killing (Denmark) (Series 1-2)
Before it was inevitably remade for US screens, Forbrydelsen (aka ‘The Crime’) ran from 2007-2012. The Danish original kicks off with the same premise: a young girl gets murdered and a huge case of ‘whodunnit’ unfolds. The closest the UK have come to gripping the nation with the mystery of Nanna Birk Larsen? It would have to be Broadchurch. The Killing does it even better.
Peaky Blinders (Series 1-2)
The infamous Northern gang are the focus of Steven Locke Knight’s post-Great War drama. Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy with a perfect Brummie twang) is the cool but deadly leader of the pack, crossing paths with the police and Winston Churchill on his rise to notoriety. Drawing comparisons to Boardwalk Empire, Series 2 ramped up its star wattage by adding Tom Hardy and Noah Taylor into the mix.
The Good Wife (Seasons 1-7)
Alicia Florrick’s (Julianna Margulies) world is rocked when her politician husband (played by Chris Noth) finds himself behind bars following a scandalous sex and corruption one-two punch. Forced to return to work after years with her children, Florrick hits the courtroom with a vengeance, returning as a litigator. If you’re after another guilty pleasure to suck you in, Scandal-like, look no further.
Line Of Duty (Series 1-2)
Series 1 dealt with corruption within the force. Series 2 dealt with an attack on the force. Combined, the separate threads secured this drama as one of BBC Two’s best shows of all time, with Gina McKee, Lennie James, Keeley Hawes and Neil Morrissey each bringing their A-games. With Series 4 due to start shooting this year, you’ll want to jump on the bandwagon now.
Sherlock (Series 1-3)
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman have caused the internet to go into meltdown multiples times since Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat’s Conan Doyle reimagining hit our screens back in 2010. Full of modern day touches (Holmes wears nicotine patches and uses GPS; Watson served in Afghanistan), Cumberbatch’s character is still very much of a Victorian nature - and still very much a user. If the idea of venturing into 221B Baker Street has never appealed to you, this Beeb version might just be the ticket.
Arrested Development (Seasons 1-4)
Seasons 1-3 of Arrested Development may just be the funniest thing ever created: Will Arnett as an egomaniac magician, Liza Minnelli as a vertigo-suffering neighbour, and David Cross spending the majority of Season 3 pretending to be ‘Mrs. Featherbottom’. And that barely scratches the surface of this dysfunctional family comedy that swaps a laughter track for a Ron Howard narration. Netflix-only Season 4 was a difficult slog for many, so fingers crossed that the proposed fifth season returns us to the glory days.
Sons Of Anarchy (Complete Seasons 1-7)
First rule of SAMCRO? You don’t talk about SAMCRO. Actually, that’s not true, although you definitely don’t want to bad mouth the members of the Sons Of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original to their faces. Or to their mums' faces, for that matter. Charlie Hunnam’s Jax is the main focus, struggling with his responsibilities to his Hells Angels-esque clan and new baby in this hard-hitting, high intensity, who's-going-to-die-next crime saga.
Jessica Jones (Season 1)
We’ve already mentioned The Man With No Fear. Now it’s time for The Girl Who Will Join Him In The Defenders, aka Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter). It may have a lighter colour palette, but Jones deals with much darker material: rape, PTSD, and being in a controlling relationship with a positively bonkers David Tennant. Jones spends most of her time as a private investigator trying to escape her superhero past, but the sparks really fly when Ritter gets fighty with love interest and man of steel, Luke Cage (Mike Colter).
Black Mirror (Series 1-3 and Christmas Special)
Though it is tempting to believe, given recent events, that life is one giant Black Mirror episode, we can rest assured that it remains primarily a work of fiction. After calling Channel 4 home for its first two series, Charlie Brooker’s gloriously bleak anthology series has jumped ship to Netflix for its third series, dealing with everything from reality television to memory implants to futuristic funeral homes with a wry, cynical, darkly satirical eye. A new series is due later this year; given the state of current affairs at the moment, Brooker’s got his work cut out for him.
Planet Earth/The Blue Planet/Human Planet/Frozen Planet
A large chunk of BBC documentaries and original programming are available on Netflix UK, but few come close to this quartet. Whether it’s the sea, the sky, or the icy arctic tundra, when it comes to David Attenborough, we don’t need to give a reason.
Sense8 (Season 1-2 and Christmas Special)
Eight unrelated strangers find themselves inexplicably linked in this Netflix Original from the Wachowskis. Taking on each other’s languages, fighting skills, and, at times, lovers, these interlinked bodies work together to find an answer to their sudden psychic link. Featuring a sexually, racially, and culturally diverse cast, you’ll be longing to be reunited with the core ensemble once the first 12 episodes are through.
The Office (UK) (Complete Series 1-2 and Christmas Specials)
Slough’s Wernham Hogg paper merchants needs to downsize, but management have different thoughts on how they want to approach the matter. Mockumentary at its finest, The Office made stars of Ricky Gervais and Martin Freeman, with seven other versions created in its wake. If you haven’t already seen it - or simply fancy a rewatch - the complete series and Christmas specials are ready and waiting. You bring the stapler, we’ll bring the jelly.
Community (Seasons 1-5)
Community has had a tough old time (replaced showrunners, cancellation and series regulars departing), but when this super-meta comedy’s on form, it’s hard to beat. Set at Greendale Community College, the show follows a mismatched study group; Joel McHale, Alison Brie and Chevy Chase among them. But these are no conventional library study sessions. Epic paintball fights, Dungeons & Dragons, alternate timelines… It’s a wonder this lot ever got any work done at all.
Wet Hot American Summer: First Day Of Camp (Season 1)
If you haven’t seen David Wain’s Wet Hot American Summer, well, we’ll eat our own tent if First Day Of Camp makes a lick of sense. A prequel to the events of the 2001 film, this reunites us with the campers of Camp Firewood - still teenagers 15 years on - and a whole host of new, famous faces (hello Lake Bell, Kristen Wiig and a bunch of amazing cameos we don’t want to ruin). It’s honestly worth it just for Paul Rudd’s mopey alpha teen, Andy.
The Trip (Series 1-2)
Impressions, impressions and more impressions are order of the day in Michael Winterbottom’s sitcom. Playing fictional versions of themselves, Rob Brydon heads off on a gourmet tour of England’s restaurants in place of Steve Coogan’s now ‘ex’ girlfriend. Series 2 sees them head to Italy, but the laughs and bittersweet realisations still come thick and fast. As for Series 3? It films in Spain later this year.
Master Of None (Season 1)
New York City life sure has its obstacles for 30-year-old actor, Dev (Aziz Ansari). Post-Parks And Recreation, the comedian continues to dominate the small screen, this time in the self-penned Netflix Original. Real life situations are given a comic spin (Ansari’s parents roped in to play his fictional ma and pa) as Dev navigates romance, stereotypical casting and death.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Seasons 1-3)
Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) and friends take police rivalry to the next level in the hopes that Captain Ray Holt (Andre Braugher) might just crack a teeny tiny smile in this hilarious cop comedy. Serious bromances and office roleplay prevent the gang from doing much actual work, though when they do, they’re pretty good at it. There are guest stars aplenty, but it’s Terry Crews’ sensitive tough guy who steals the show.
Extras (Complete Series 1-2 and Christmas Special)
Andy Millman (Ricky Gervais) and Maggie Jacobs (Ashley Jensen) serve as our thesp guides during this mock, behind-the-scenes peek at the extras industry - but whether their friendship will survive sudden fame is another matter entirely. Very funny, yet very bittersweet, Gervais employed a bunch of his movieland friends for Extras, including Ben Stiller, Kate Winslet, and the late, great David Bowie.
Breaking Bad (Complete Seasons 1-5)
Are you familiar with the one who knocks? Have you ever wished someone an A1 day? If not, you need to start Breaking Bad immediately. It may seem like an irrational decision to start selling meth after a terminal cancer diagnosis, but Walter White (Bryan Cranston) takes to it like a pro. Assisted by unruly former student Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), Walter spirals into darker territory with each passing season. So addictive it should be illegal.
Trailer Park Boys (Seasons 1-10)
This comic mockumentary’s premise is simple: three Nova Scotian trailer park residents’ questionable get rich quick schemes never go to plan. But not for lack of trying. Ricky (Robb Wells) and Julian (John Paul Tremblay, drink always in hand) spend most of the show in and out of jail, with poor, gullible sidekick Bubbles (Mike Smith) along for the ride. Keep your eyes peeled for a young Ellen Page amongst the quirky ensemble.
Blackadder (Series 3-4 and A Christmas Carol)
The Regency era Black Adder The Third and WWI trench-based Blackadder Goes Forth (as well as A Christmas Carol) can be found amongst Netflix UK’s TV ranks. The monarchs may change (Hugh Laurie makes a perfectly barmy Prince of Wales), but Blackadder’s bite remains - politically astute in Series 3, and tragically satirical in its final stretch.
Star Trek/The Next Generation/DS9/Voyager
Netflix have breached the final frontier. They have gone where no streaming platform has dared to go before. They have added the entire Star Trek back catalogue to UK Netflix. Yes, Captains Kirk, Picard, Sisko, Janeway, and Archer are ready and waiting to beam you up for more Starfleet adventures than you can shake a phaser at. Resistance, as they say, is futile.
Knowing Me, Knowing You/I’m Alan Partridge (Complete Series and Christmas Special)
Did you know Alan likes ABBA? Well, he really does. So much so, in fact, that he named his (definitely not real) talk show after one of their songs. I’m Alan Partridge goes a step further, following Alan’s post-Knowing Me exploits as he presents on Radio Norwich. If Alpha Papa was your introduction to Partridge, you’ll be wanting to dig through the Parchives, pronto. (Just make sure cringe-o-meters are set to stun.)
Freaks And Geeks (Complete Season 1)
James Franco, Seth Rogen and Jason Segel all but kicked off their careers with Paul Feig’s short-lived, but comically astute look at ‘80s high school life. Linda Cardellini stars as Lindsay Weir, a high-flying student who finds herself drawn to the pot-smoking cool ‘freaks’. Lindsay’s younger ‘geek’ brother (John Francis Daley) also faces challenges of his own, and there’s a not-to-be-missed cameo from a young Shia LaBeouf that’s up there with the best performances he’s ever given.
Wolf Hall (Series 1)
Before Mark Rylance had to deal with Frank Stallone, he went head-to-head with King Henry VIII (Damian Lewis) on the Beeb. After Cardinal Wolsey (Jonathan Pryce) lost favour with the infamous king, ol’ Thomas Cromwell (Rylance) seized the opportunity to rise through the ranks – but playing the king’s advisor doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll walk away with your head attached to your shoulders. Receiving a bucketload of award nominations and one of the BBC’s best mini-series in recent years, Wolf Hall also features a pre-Spidey Tom Holland.
Narcos (Seasons 1-2)
If you don’t know your Pablo Escobars from your El Chapos, it’s time to brush up on your narcotics history. Another Netflix Original, Narcos stars Wagner Moura and Boyd Holbrook as Escobar and DEA agent Steve Murphy respectively. Pedro ‘Oberyn Martell’ Pascal also pops up amongst the intense performances and ludicrous amounts of cocaine. Seasons 3 and 4 have now been confirmed.
Making A Murderer (Season 1)
Whether you’re yet to start this bingeing phenomenon, you’ve undoubtedly heard about Steven Avery by now: a man freed for a crime he didn’t commit after 18 years, only to be put behind bars for something else. Could he really have been wrongly accused twice over? The first of Netflix’s original programming that truly begs to be watched in one sitting, Making A Murderer proved that it’s possible to create event television without making a show’s launch an event in itself.
Louis Theroux: LA Stories (Complete Series 1)
Never one to shy away from controversy, Louis Theroux tackles the City of Angels head-on in his signature style. City Of Dogs sees him meet those whose lives are centred on their canine companions; Edge Of Life explores the halls and wards of the city’s notorious hospital, Cedars-Sinai; Among The Sex Offenders investigates how sex offenders deal with life after prison. Unflinching and often tough to watch, this is Theroux at his absolute best.