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Since it started putting original programming out just four years ago, Netflix has become one of the most dependable places to find top quality television, regardless of what kind of stories you're looking for. It's getting increasingly harder to sort them all properly, given how vast Netflix's library has gotten, but we've put on our binge-session lab coats and ranked the best original series from the streaming giant. For the most part, we've avoided continuations and imports of international series that Netflix didn't produce, though an exception or two may crop up. Have fun!
20. The OA
While Netflix's promotional campaigns have never been overwhelming, it was an especially quiet lead-up to The OA, the shrouded-in-secret sci-fi-ish project from writer/director Zal Batmanglij and writer/actress Brit Marling. A project that defies any simple classifications, The OA stars Marling as a woman who returns to her hometown and family after being missing for seven years, complete with mysterious scars and other major physical changes, and recruits locals to help her find other missing people. Despite gorgeous direction and solid performances from Marling, Scott Wilson and Jason Isaacs, among others, The OA is perhaps Netflix's most polarizing series yet, with the twisty, genre-straddling storyline splitting viewers, especially with that unpredictable finale. See for yourself.
Comedian and writer Paul Rust might be recognizable to most for his role in Inglorious Basterds, but the shining star in his ever-broadening career is definitely Netflix's sassy romantic comedy Love. Co-created by Rust, Leslie Afrin and Judd Apatow, Love feels like one of the latter's films, but not really like any of his former TV shows. With an excellent supporting cast including Claudia O'Doherty and Brett Gelman, it follows the dysfunctional path to a relationship taken by Rust's film tutor (and song improviser) Gus and Gillian Jacobs' substance-abusing and convention-eschewing satellite radio manager Mickey. The foundation for Love may be stereotypical, but everything built on top of it is awkwardly refreshing.
18. Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life
2016 kicked off with the revival series Fuller House and closed out with the return of Lorelei and Rory Gilmore, along with the rest of Stars Hollow, for Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. A quartet of 90-minute seasonal installments necessitated waterfalls of information and character transitions, and the show had to tackle the death of Richard (Ed Hermann) and the limited use of Sookie (Melissa McCarthy). The result was a nostalgic reunion with characters who, like most of us, had grown and changed with time, and if it wasn't the most ideal reconnection, it still preserved our love for everything Amy Sherman-Palladino created. Plus, there's the hunger for more, after those final four words.
17. W/ Bob and David
An apex of sketch comedy, HBO's Mr. Show with Bob & David turned Bob Odenkirk and David Cross into household names (along with Ronnie Dobbs and Senator Howell Tankerbell). Though the comedy geniuses occasionally worked together since the show ended in 1998, it wasn't until Netflix stepped in that fans finally got to see Bob and David, along with their superb cadre of actors and writers, hit the small screen again for W/ Bob & David, where even the name is a joke at HBO's expense. With only four episodes, it isn't as groundbreaking as their earlier efforts, but it's still all pretty fucking amazing and hilarious. And that opening title sequence should win awards.
16. Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp
Arguably the least likely of any revival project in history, the cult 2001 comedy Wet Hot American Summer had its 1980s set camp saga brought back 15 years later for a Netflix series that doubled down on the actors-playing-younger conceit by setting the series on the first day of camp. If this isn't your comedy, it really isn't your comedy, but for everyone else, it's impossible to name all the things there are to love. The whole cast is back, from Paul Rudd to Amy Poehler, and the absurdly convoluted story consistently ties back to the film in hilariously weird ways. (The origin story of the talking can of vegetables, for example.)
One of the most infamous criminals on the planet in the past half-century is Columbian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, and his rise to prominence and subsequent fall make for one hell of an intense story. Luckily, that story can be seen in Netflix's crime drama Narcos, which stars the magnificent Wagner Moura as the vicious but also charming Escobar, who built an empire on cocaine. The series plays both sides of the law, with Boyd Holbrook and Pedro Pascal's DEA agents getting caught up in the quagmire of bringing Escobar to justice. One big issue is Season 1 blows through 15+ years of narrative, while Season 2 stretches out just over one, but it's still a hell of a ride.
Netflix's first real attempt at sci-fi was an expansive one, as the service teamed with the Wachowskis and J. Michael Straczynski for the global ensemble thriller Sense8, which centers on a cast of widely varied characters (called sensates) who are all connected through a woman played by Daryl Hannah. You can find it all in this narrative-swapping series, from car chases to emotionally wrought arguments to well-choreographed fight scenes to a variety of parent-child relationships. A head-scratcher that takes a few episodes to fully invest audiences, Sense8 offers a story (or combination of stories) like no other, with a strong focus on the LGBTQ community, international customs, and Jean Claude Van Damme fandom.
13. Luke Cage
The third of Marvel's streaming series, Luke Cage continued breaking the TV mold in big ways, not the least of which was setting everything in Harlem. Mike Colter reprised and expanded his Jessica Jones appearance in huge ways, and while Luke Cage does suffer from story pacing issues, they're overcome by laudable elements such as effective social commentary, incredibly enjoyable music (both instrumental and live on stage), and the aces cast. The villains side is locked up by chilling work from Mahershala Ali, Theo Rossi and Alfre Woodard, while Cage is assisted by MCU vet Rosario Dawson's Claire Temple and Simone Missick's detective Misty Knight. This is comic book action you can't find anywhere else.
12. Stranger Things
Netflix's previous attempt at horror, the monster-mashing Hemlock Grove, didn't stoke optimism among genre fans, but that all changed with the release of the 1980s throwback Stranger Things. A long-gestating project created by Matt and Ross Duffer, Stranger Things is a darkly fun and thrilling romp that mashed together the hunt for a missing child, strange sci-fi experiments, small town police work, and the power of friendship. For those who aren't so into the thought of other-dimensional creatures, the draw here is in the cast, which includes Winona Ryder, David Harbour, and a slew of fabulous young and charismatic actors. The opening titles and synth soundtrack are worth the entry alone.
11. The Crown
Every few years, there's a big, glitzy film out that tackles the life and times of a major figure in British royalty, but this time around, it's Netflix's The Crown, an extremely expensive and extremely worth it look at the life of Queen Elizabeth II, with the currently out Season 1 covering 1947-1955. Created by Peter Morgan, responsible for writing The Queen and Frost/Nixon, The Crown is exactly the vast and all-encompassing approach to monarchy that one would hope for, offering up a brilliant ensemble, with Claire Foy exquisitely portraying her majesty, as well as remarkable and generally authentic writing. As well, direction/cinematography is such that wall art could be produced from almost any pause-friendly moment.
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