Television drama is the defining genre in the 21st century. Shows like The Sopranos, The Wire, and Mad Men reign in the most recent Golden Age of Television. No longer are movies the only source for high-quality drama. Netflix doubled down on the change in television’s potential and now offers a wide variety of top-notch drama for streaming. The result is a slate of shows hard to find anywhere else. And the best part is, Netflix just doesn’t stop and keeps making more.
Family dynamics are a favorite source of drama. We all know how difficult it can be to come home sometimes. Nothing can get under your skin quite like family. Now mix in years of resentment and a dark underlying secret, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
Bloodline, for example, tells the story of a group of adult siblings living on an island in the Florida Keys. Their idyllic island life gets interrupted when the black sheep of the family returns home after a years-long absence. The siblings are heirs to a seaside inn, and questions arise about everyone’s motivations. Past secrets begin to bubble to the surface, and the Rayburn family’s future starts to look uncertain.
Boasting an impressive cast, including the likes of Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights), Linda Cardellini (Freaks and Geeks, Mad Men), and Ben Mendelsohn (Star Wars: Rogue One), Bloodlines is a compelling and dark family drama. All three seasons of the Netflix show are available for streaming right now.
Before he was the BDSM heartthrob Christian Grey, Jamie Dornan played a character with equally sociopathic tendencies. Albeit with a lot more passion and follow-through than his 50 Shades of Grey counterpart. So before you write Dornan off as a boring beefcake, witness his turn as serial killer Paul Spector. Originally a British-Irish co-production for the BBC, Netflix was able to grab the show for North American distribution.
When London police officer Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson) gets temporarily assigned to the Northern Ireland police, her investigation into a murder leads her to believe that a serial killer is on the loose. The killer is Paul Spector, a loving father, and husband with a dark secret. As Stella builds a case against him, she meets resistance and complications from the Irish police. At the same time, Spector’s personal and professional life is falling apart, threatening the stability he built for himself.
The Fall was a critical success both at home and abroad. Lauded as one of the best shows in its genre, it brought international attention to lead actor Jamie Dornan. They are even producing a French remake. Thanks to Netflix, all episodes are available at your convenience.
Lost in Space
Danger, Will Robinson! Netflix’s newest tentpole TV show had some big shoes to fill. It’s based on a hugely influential TV show of the same name from the 1960s. The original has the campy charm of the period, an appeal that aged very well for fans of the genre. But rightfully so, Netflix realized that it was time for a remake. After all, the ’60s version is set in the ’90s, a period that was more defined by its lousy tailoring than its space exploration.
Set in the year 2048, the Robinson family sets out to lead a mission of deep-space exploration and colonization. When an alien robot breaches the hull of the spacecraft, the colonists are forced to evacuate. The Robinsons become Lost in Space – that is, they become stranded on an alien planet and need to survive in the strange new environment. With the goal to find a way to reach their ship, the family adjusts to their new life. Meanwhile, Will, the youngest Robinson, begins to encounter the robot. And instead of being dangerous, as first assumed, he might actually be an ally for the survivors.
Released this past April, the show is a success with the audience. It’s already renewed for a second season, so you better get in on the ground floor right now. It is a testament to the scale of production Netflix can tackle these days.
Dear White People
It is safe to say that race relations are a tough nut to crack — the proverbial elephant in the room that is America. And this elephant is a big, gray manifestation of a systemic problem that is ironically less gray, and more black and white. Not shy about anything, Dear White People is the only show taking this issue head-on.
Set in an Ivy League school, the show follows a group of Black students navigating life and identity in a predominantly white environment. Events kick off when a satirical magazine run by white men throw a Blackface party to protest a campus radio show pointing out racist behavior. With lines drawn sharply, and divides only growing, conflict seems unavoidable.
Dear White People is a clever satire on racism in college and the United States as a whole. The title might suggest that all the show does is blame white people, but it is so much more than that. With razor-sharp wit, the show skewers racism and identity in every group. Its great entertainment for the current, strictly divided Zeitgeist.
With the royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, interest in the British crown is high again. While monarchy might not be a modern way to run a country, nothing breeds drama quite like it. And thanks to Netflix, we can take a deep dive into what shaped the Royals as we know them today — through the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.
Following young Elizabeth just after the end of World War II, the drama show covers her life until the present day. Dealing with everything from the early parts of her reign, her marriage, court intrigue, and political turmoil, the show is a must-watch to fans of the Royal family. Jumping through the decades as the seasons continue, The Crown eventually aims to reach modern day.
With two seasons already available from the Netflix show, and a total of six seasons planned, there is plenty to get excited about. And sure, democracy is great and all, but who wants to follow a prime minister through several decades?
Making a Murderer
Netflix is the undisputed champion of true crime. For some reason, we have a collective morbid curiosity with killers and criminals. Nothing catches our attention quite like violent crime, be it fictional or true to life. No show summarizes this quite as well as Making a Murderer.
The show follows the wrongful conviction and resulting 18 years in prison of Steve Avery. However, after being released thanks to DNA evidence, he gets arrested again two years later on a count of murder. What drove a man who spends almost two decades in prison to commit a crime that will ensure he will spend the rest of his life back behind bars? This question and many more are what Making a Murderer is about. It is gripping, it is stunning, and most of all, it is all true.
Were it not for Making a Murderer, Netflix would not have invested in what is now the best catalog of true crime streaming available today. So if you enjoy this show, there is more where it came from.
Moving is hard. It’s hard on the children; it’s hard on the parents. Minus divorce or death, it is probably the most stressful event a family can go through. Especially moving from the comfortable suburbs of Chicago to the backwater Ozarks. But sometimes, doing what is best for the people you love means doing bad things.
Ozark tells the story of financial planner Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman). His company is responsible for money laundering in the millions. But when a scheme goes wrong, and a Mexican drug lord holds him accountable for losing his money, Marty thinks up a desperate plan. Uprooting his family, he not only has to deal with finding a way to repay his debts but also a way to keep his wife and kids happy. The family comes entangled with local criminals, and to make things worse, the FBI begins to investigate Marty’s illegal dealings.
In the vein of Breaking Bad, Ozark explores what happens to an ordinary life when it gets caught up in the underworld and good men turn bad.
Netflix’s newest drama series is another European drama import. The British-French co-production is the latest show on this list.
Set in a gated community in Surrey, Safe focuses on Tom Delaney (Michael C. Hall), a widowed father of two trying to keep his life together. His world comes crashing down as his 16-year-old daughter goes missing. Along with his girlfriend (Amanda Abbington), a detective, he unravels a web of secrets in his frantic search for her.
The small screen comeback of Dexter’s Michael C. Hall is a semi-pulpy mystery surrounding the anguish and panic of parents fearing for their children. More than that though, we see how an entire community begins to deal with tragedy after they have been trying their best to avoid danger. Its magnificent watchability keeps it from drowning in the misery of its central mystery.
The Western is not what it used to be, and that is a good thing. Following decades of revision, Godless is a sad and somber Western. Gone are the noble gunslingers, the hookers with hearts of gold, and the Sheriff upholding peace. In a country in which people want to call the frontier home, all that is left is violence, dust, and blood.
Netflix’s Godless is a mini-series drama about the citizens of the small town of La Belle. After the men perish in a mining accident, only women are left living in La Belle. When a man with no name comes into town, he unwittingly brings down the attention of a violent outlaw whose gang already massacred another town. How will the women be able to survive an all-out attack?
With talents such as Jeff Daniels, Downton Abbey’s Michelle Dockery, and Scoot McNairy, the cast is studded with heavyweight actors. The 10-episode mini-series takes the backdrop of the Wild West and tells a story of the role of women and the traumas of our past.
Orange is the New Black
Orange is the New Black is an original Netflix original hit drama show. When it first released back in 2013, it was a minor phenomenon. Due to that, chances are you already know its plot. After all, its a Netflix flagship Original production.
Centered around, and inspired by, the real-life experience of Piper Kerman, the show is about life in a women’s prison. After being named in a drug trial for a stupid mistake she made years ago, Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) gets sentenced to 15 months in prison. Being upper-middle-class and white, she quickly finds herself out of her depth navigating the ins and outs of daily prison life. And if that were not hard enough already, her ex Alex (Laura Prepon), who made her commit the crime, is in the same prison. The show explores the lives, past, and mistakes of an ensemble of inmates. With enormous heart and empathy, we learn about the road that leads everyone to where they are now.
If you are not up to date, with five seasons out already, there is plenty for you to watch.
Netflix Is Only Just Starting
The great thing about Netflix is how relentless it is with pumping out great drama. This list did not even mention half of the impressive Netflix Originals available for streaming right now. There are great underrated gems or well-known favorites. So take a seat, start binging, and see where the evening leads you. And with new episodes and shows always around the corner, Netflix is a gift that keeps on giving.