Netflix is still every bit as popular as it was a few years ago when the internet discovered the term “Netflix and Chill” for casual college hookups. One reason it grows increasingly popular with adults is due to the fresh Netflix Originals content added to the platform each month.
We all love the way Netflix is bringing back our old favorites with reboots of beloved ‘80s and ‘90s TV shows. But most of all, it has become a wellspring of some amazingly creative new television trends.
Luckily for us, Netflix doesn’t dismiss the offbeat or restrict its creators into narrow genres. The results of this openness to new ideas are apparent when it comes to innovative television. Netflix takes chances and flips stereotypes on their backside.
Ever Widening Content Choices
The streaming service plans to release 700 new Netflix Originals in 2018, including 80 original movies. And because Netflix allows writers and producers so much artistic license in their contracts, there’s something for everyone. It also means that each production has its own individual twist. Netflix’s subscription service means consumer-driven programming, and that means more diversity and creativity when it comes to content.
TV Veterans Buy into Netflix
Even entertainment powerhouses like Shonda Rimes are signing with Netflix. And it’s not just because of the money. Rimes told reporters:
“Ted provides a clear, fearless space for creators at Netflix. He understood what I was looking for — the opportunity to build a vibrant new storytelling home for writers with the unique creative freedom and instantaneous global reach provided by Netflix’s singular sense of innovation.”
Netflix’s contracts with David Letterman, Dave Chapelle, and even Barack and Michelle Obama prove that it’s not about the money. It’s about the freedom to share their vision with audiences.
Current Netflix Originals You Need to See
The following are just a handful of excellent Netflix Originals you may not have seen yet. Even though some of them are now household names, you may have been put off by the hype.
Trust us. All of these shows live up to the hype and more!
Orange is the New Black
Orange is the New Black (OITNB) seems to be the turning point for the explosion of Netflix Originals content. Along with House of Cards, it was one of the first web-only television series to receive an Emmy nomination. Based on the memoirs of Piper Kerman and launched in 2013 as a TV series, OITNB is still one of Netflix’s most-watched shows. Boasting 12 Emmy nominations and three wins in its first season, the story focuses on Piper Chapman. Piper is a self-involved, upper-class white woman in her thirties who ends up in prison because of her involvement with a drug cartel.
The contrast between Piper’s privileged life and the one she has in prison is no less than arresting. And although early episodes centered on Piper, at its heart, OITNB is an ensemble show with a diverse cast. The writers bring viewers into the stories of all the woman in the prison. From the wise and wonderful Russian immigrant, Red, to former firefighter and transwoman, Sophia, audiences connect with the often unjust and even humorous stories behind their prison sentences.
You can check out the trailer below, but beware — OITNB explores adult situations, including sex and violence, and there is some strong language.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
On the flip side of OITNB is Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, in which protagonist Kimmy maintains her sunny and hopeful demeanor despite a traumatic past. Kimmy and a handful of other women were kidnapped and held imprisoned in an underground bunker for 15 years. This Netflix Originals comedy series opens when she and the others escape the doomsday pastor holding them captive.
Kimmy must come to terms with this brand new world on her own. The problem is that she’s basically the same naïve 14-year-old girl she was when abducted. And the charm of her naivety while she navigates the adult world is what makes this show work.
Kimmy approaches everyone with the same childlike and trusting openness. And this quality gives the writers great opportunities for humor and pathos. Kimmy lives in contrast to her two comic foils, her flamboyant roommate, Titus Andromedon, and her cynical employer, Jaqueline White. Titus has given up on his dream of stardom to become a costumed street performer in Times Square. Jacqueline’s obsession with status has turned her into a self-absorbed icon of the 1 percent. But that doesn’t stop Kimmy from dealing with them tenderly and treating their somewhat superficial problems as very real.
Grace and Frankie
Meet Grace and Frankie, the wives of two law partners, Robert and Sol. Their lives are turned upside-down when their husbands finally admit that they’ve been in love with each other for over 20 years and no longer want to live apart. Despite the fact that these women can’t stand each other, they end up living together. Grace, a retired cosmetics mogul, and Frankie, an ex-hippie, must support each other after their broken marriages.
The series opens when the men make the announcement at dinner, and we follow Grace and Frankie as they try to come to terms with the upheaval in their lives. Frankie, who sincerely loves her husband, feels wounded by his abandonment. Tight-laced Grace is angry that everything she thought she could depend on is gone.
This Netflix Originals show hits all the comedic spots you’d expect. But the touching moments of real honesty, particularly between Frankie and Sol, elevate this series above the usual sitcom fare. And with Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Sam Waterston, and Martin Sheen, Grace and Frankie is brimming with seasoned talent.
House of Cards
Despite the scandal surrounding lead actor Kevin Spacey and the subsequent cancellation of the show, House of Cards is an intense political drama well worth a view. This thriller documents the vengeance exacted by Congressman Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey) as he pays back everyone in Washington D.C. he thinks wronged him on his rise to prominence. His schemes go all the way to the White House, too. Underwood and his wife, Claire (Robin Wright), are both incredibly corrupt and move through the D.C. landscape like snakes in the grass in a ruthless campaign for power.
What makes House of Cards so addictive is the conflict the writers have created by making Underwood both the villain and hero of his own story. This American version of an original BBC series doesn’t use kid gloves when showing us how low Underwood will go to satisfy his ambitions, and careful writing and superior acting make sure he never goes too far. Both Spacey and the writing team have developed Underwood as a nuanced character with many sides.
Both winsome and frightening, Stranger Things has taken America by storm with its nostalgic take on the 1980s horror movie. Do you like Stephen King? Did you love movies like ET and War Games when they came out? Do you miss the days when kids could go outside and play for hours, and nobody pressed charges? Then you’ll love Stranger Things.
The show follows small-town high school students while they battle an insidious evil released by a secret government laboratory in the middle of nowhere. Noah Schnapp plays Will Byers, the freshman who disappears into a mysterious dimension known as the “Upside Down.” At the same time, “Eleven” (Millie Bobby Brown), a strange girl with unusual powers, escapes from the secret lab. Will’s friend, Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard), finds her and hides her from pursuit. It seems that the lab has been performing questionable experiments on children like Eleven, and only these special kids seem to be able to control the monster the lab has unleashed.
Starring ‘80s iconic actress Winona Ryder as the slightly mad and awfully frazzled single mom of two, this Netflix Originals series features an outstanding cast, including David Harbour as Jim Hopper. Make sure you catch up with Seasons 1 and 2 in time for the new season due to release in October 2018.
This reboot of the 1990s TV favorite has gotten lots of attention from fans of the original series. Full House aired on network television from 1987 to 1995 and starred John Stamos and comedian Bob Saget. In Fuller House, however, little DJ Tanner has grown up and has three kids of her own. As a new widow, she teams up with her sister, Stephanie, and childhood friend, Kimmy, to help raise them. Just like her father did when he found himself a widower in the original series! The cast features the original characters and actors from the show, except for the littlest sister, Michelle Tanner, who was played by twins Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.
The first season is replete with the same hokey, family-friendly humor as the original, but that’s not always a bad thing if you’re looking for something light-hearted. We don’t get many cute sitcoms on network television anymore, so it’s refreshing to have something you can watch with the kids that doesn’t feel completely outdated.
13 Reasons Why
Netflix Originals launched this series in 2017 to a slew of controversy. Based on the novel by Jay Asher, the series deals with hot-button high school issues in the 21st century. Unfortunately, these issues include bullying, rape, and suicide.
Protagonist Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) tries to unravel the reasons behind the suicide of his crush and coworker, Hannah Baker, while listening to the cassette tapes she recorded detailing her decision to end her life. It’s a story containing shocking events, and just when you think the worst has happened, it leads to yet another outrage. Hannah narrates the bullying, abuse, and ostracism she suffered in 13 separate audio cassettes, calling out those who assaulted her and the friends who failed to help her. This is made all the more tragic, as she narrates from beyond the grave, and Clay must listen passively, unable to change the past.
This drama will have you on the edge of your seat wondering just what could have driven her to such a tragic end. And as the story unfolds, you’ll find yourself thinking very differently about how we treat other people. This reason alone makes 13 Reasons Why a must-watch series.
Daredevil is the first of the Netflix Originals forays into superhero TV, released in 2015 to wide acclaim, and garnering the award for Best New Media Television Series from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror. Netflix contracted with Marvel to explore the backstories of some of its more interesting, and perhaps, less sympathetic, heroes. Each show has its own dark twist, unlike the more family-friendly superhero fare on network television.
In Daredevil, Matt Murdock is a blind lawyer by day and the masked crime fighter Daredevil by night. Blinded in a chemical spill as a child, his other senses heightened to superhuman levels. As a master of martial arts, he works as a vigilante to bring down the bad guys of Hell’s Kitchen. Tinged with moral ambiguity, Daredevil is a comic book show for grown-ups, with striking cinematography and a gritty undertone that takes the action in some unexpected directions. Aside from the comic book aspects, you’ll find Daredevil a gripping crime drama that will have you binge-watching through all the available seasons.
Marvel’s Jessica Jones
Also harboring adult themes such as around rape and abusive relationships, Jessica Jones is the story of a reluctant superhero played by Krysten Ritter. Jessica gave up the cape to launch her own private investigative firm. Unfortunately, her first battle is against her own horrific past. Kilgrave (David Tennant), the villain who used mind control to force her to bend to his every sick demand confronts Jessica. She finds that she must overcome her own fears to save the next young woman he targets. Battling PTSD, as well as Kilgrave’s exceptional mental abilities, Jessica fights for justice and her own life to bring him down in this riveting Netflix Originals series.
Her failure as a superhero has left Jessica stumbling through low-paying detective jobs and drinking whiskey straight from the bottle. Self-loathing and emotionally paralyzed, she’s content to get numb and get by until Kilgrave walks back into her life. At one time, Jessica was a puppet to his demands. He forced her to dress as he liked her to dress and smile upon command. He even forced her to kill an innocent woman on his orders. Kilgrave’s psychic control powers require a bit of suspension of disbelief. However, once you buy into the premise, you’ll quickly become addicted to this show.
Both Ritter and Tennant deliver stellar performances as this drama of good versus evil plays out. Often lauded as a feminist icon, Jessica Jones is the superhero story that every grown-up girl should watch.
Another member of the Defenders, Luke Cage is invulnerable to physical damage, but not emotional damage. This low-key and thoughtful superhero is an ex-con himself. Played by the deliciously subtle Mike Colter, Luke Cage tries to run from his own past. Then, circumstances inspire him to return to Harlem and stand up for what’s right.
We watch as Luke get his own origin story that explores his time as a cop and how he ended up in prison after being framed. It also follows Luke as he agrees to undergo experiments in exchange for a reduced sentence. When the corrupt prison warden sabotages the experiment, it gifts Luke with his superhuman invulnerability.
The show has a dark, noir feel to it, and Colter’s portrayal as the stoic superhero is spot on. A deep backstory on one of Marvel’s black superheroes is far overdue, and Luke’s life in Harlem and his decision to return feels heartbreakingly real. Best of all, this Netflix Originals take on the Marvel Universe features some spectacular, and unexpected, bad guys.
Played by Finn Jones, protagonist Danny Rand, must reconnect with his family after having gone missing for 15 years. Iron Fist is certainly one of Marvel’s more unique heroes. Rand is a Buddhist monk and martial arts specialist who can call up the powers of a mystical “Iron Fist.” Presumed dead in a plane crash for 15 years when the show opens, Rand must convince his family he’s still alive. Not surprisingly, Rand soon ends up in a mental institution. We soon discover that Rand is the current Iron Fist and sworn enemy of The Hand. This supervillain drug cartel manipulates people with both dangerous substances and healing medicines. The Hand has infiltrated Rand Enterprises, and our hero must work to remove the criminal element from this family business.
Fans have praised the show for its loyalty to the original source material. Others have lauded Iron Fist’s interesting side characters. With two seasons available to watch, catch up with Rand’s origin story before watching Marvel’s The Defenders in the penultimate battle.
Catch One of These Netflix Originals Today
Netflix really knows how to tune into the zeitgeist and deliver what its audience wants. The company has historically been shy about revealing its viewer data. But it certainly isn’t shy about using it to deliver the kind of fresh, original content that has turned it into an award-winning entertainment studio. From innovative shows like Stranger Things to truly diverse casts like OITNB to superhero shows for an adult audience, Netflix is leading the way in entertainment trends. Catch one of these Netflix Original shows for your next marathon and enjoy.