There are times in our lives when we must stop and ask ourselves: What is the "Netflix Original"? At face value, it seems the category is restricted to
Orange Is the New Black, House of Cards, Narcos, and Stranger Things. These are the Netflix Originals we know and love. (Well, some of us love them. Narcos has never really done much for me.) Explore the category, though, and you'll find a brave new world — filled to the brim with horror, fantasy, romantic comedies, and everything in between. Netflix secretly produces some — sorry, most — of the best content out there.
There's no way you could possibly watch it all. But I can! It's sort of my job.
To help you out, I've watched all of the Netflix Originals. Yes, all of them. I have sacrificed precious time in order to view at least the pilot of every OG Netflix series. Precious time that could be spent reading the great American novel or learning to crochet. To be clear: For each series, I have watched at least the pilot. (There are some pilots, friends, that simply do not invite a full binge-watch.) I have also restricted this list to fictional series — look out for another ranking of Netflix docuseries once I have the courage and fortitude to actually watch all the platform's nonfiction content.
Ahead, find the Netflix Original series, ranked from least-watchable to most-watchable for your bingeing convenience.
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37. Real Rob
I watched a full half-hour of this drivel, and for that I believe I deserve compensation. I will save you the trouble of putting yourself through the same: Comedian Rob Schneider struggles to enjoy his life as a stand-up comic married to a much younger Mexican woman named Patricia.
Released: December 1, 2015 More
36. F Is For Family
Family Guy wannabe that wasn't, at least in my book. There are only six episodes in the brief run of this Bill Burr-helmed animated sitcom. In truth, an easy binge. Alas, I made it only through two episodes. The show, which rotates around family man Frank Murphy, feels stale in comparison to its animated contemporaries (like Family Guy, Bob's Burgers, or Bojack Horseman).
Released: December 18, 2015 Photo: Courtesy of Netflix. More
35. Haters, Back Off!
I'm going to pose a controversial theory: Comedies are difficult to make binge-worthy. That said, it can be done. This show did not do it. I was not surprised. (In fact, I was gleeful that the show did not succeed for reasons that you can read about
here.) Released: October 14, 2016 More
Real thoughts I had while watching the pilot episode of
"Oof, this show is boring."
"This entire episode centers on three men objectifying a blonde woman."
"I wonder if I have any more sour cream and onion pita chips."
"Is that George Basil?"
Needless to say, I did not make it through this series. By all means, it should have been a great show. Will Arnett's there, as well as
Arrested Development executive producer Mitch Hurwitz. Something must have been lost in translation, like, er, coherence? (Shout out to George Basil, comedy great, who deserves better than this show.) Released: March 11, 2016 More
33. Fuller House
This show is divisive. The general agreement among Refinery29 folk is that
it ruined the joy of squeaky-clean Full House forever. I will admit that I watched every episode. I will also admit that I spouted malcontent throughout the viewing. What's that? Another musical number? More sequins? Yet another deejay/DJ Tanner pun? Somehow, the revival of the classic sitcom managed to be even squeakier than the original. The jokes were too chipper, the people too clean, and the kids too stylish. Nevertheless, I watched, because Full House left a void in my life that I will always seek to fill. Released: February 26, 2016 More
32. Arrested Development: Season 4
The first of Netflix's breathe-life-into-dead-things franchise,
Arrested Development struggled to find its footing on the formula. And I say this as a true fan of the original series. Sometimes, Netflix, things are best left alone.
Released: May 26, 2013 Photo: Courtesy of Netflix. More
31. Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life
The Netflix Original, this grand new form of entertainment, has the ability to lift old shows from their ashes. Now, did it do this with the beloved
Gilmore Girls? By my analysis, probably not. I think Netflix did everything in its power to revive this series, but by the time it reached the scene, it was too late. (You guys, Gilmore Girls was irrelevant way before the show received its four-part miniseries. For a few reasons.) The update had just enough steam to keep me captivated for four — admittedly long — episodes, but not enough to make me think Netflix needed to perform this favor for the show. It's fine, but money would be better spent elsewhere.
Released: November 25, 2016 Photo: Courtesy of Netflix. More
30. Marvel's Iron Fist
The most recent addition to the Marvel 'verse did not necessarily receive good reviews. I, your resident Netflix Original guide, cannot deny these critics. This show is bad. Throughout my watch, I thought perhaps — perhaps — it might redeem itself somehow.
Problematic whitewashing narrative aside, the dialogue is stilted, the story might as well have been borrowed from any other superhero narrative. That being said, punching things! Badassery! These are the addictive elements that this show provides. Released: March 17, 2017 More
29. Wet Hot American Summer: First Day Of Camp
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, this reboot tastes stale, like nostalgia gone sour. To boot, the serialized revival of the David Wain comedy relies too heavily on its celebrity cameos. Pro tip: If you want people to adore your show, focus your time and energy on the main characters in the show. Guest stars are just window dressing. It is wet. It is hot. But it is less like the first day of camp than the last, when you're packing your duffel and waiting anxiously for the summer to end.
Released: July 31, 2015 Photo: Courtesy of Netflix. More
28. A Series Of Unfortunate Events
Alack, alas, I was excited for this one. I prepped my pillows, did some stretches, and settled in for a good binge-watch. But 'twas not to be. The show based on the books of my childhood soured on the Netflix screen. It is stale, slow-moving, and struggles to find a tone. It isn't campy enough for a fun binge-watch and it isn't dark enough for a titillating one. My diagnosis: The show relies too heavily on its big name star, Neil Patrick Harris.
Released: January 13, 2017 Photo: Courtesy of Netflix. More
27. W/ Bob & David
If someone on the street asked me, "Would you like to watch a reboot of
Mr. Show with Bob and David starring David Cross and Bob Odenkirk?"
I would respond with this question: "Well, are there many women comedians in the reboot? That show is from the '90s and, you know, it could use some diverse perspectives."
The answer to this question is no. Cross and Odenkirk's absurdist sketch show that once aired on HBO got a modern revival, but it flails. It fails to update the model, as they say. Watch this series if you want to consume a relic of '90s television that was made in the 2010s. (The one success, I must say, is the use of the comedian Brian Posehn.)
Released: November 13, 2015 More
Joe Swanberg's anthology series about friends and lovers in Chicago is perhaps Netflix's most avant-garde series, and it shows. By which I mean, this is not a binge-y show at all. I plucked through the series like a bowl of jelly beans, choosing which episodes I might like. (Subsequently, I would scrub through certain episodes to parts I might like. Hey, I'm not perfect.) Episodes like "Controlada," which is done entirely in Spanish, are lovely bits of film. Episodes like "Utopia," in which Orlando Bloom has a three-way with Kate Micucci and Malin Akerman, are experimental watches at best. (I watched the entire episode. Experimentally.)
Released: September 22, 2016 More
25. Four Seasons In Havana
This Cuban production is a vision in grit. Imagine: diaphanous red curtains, mysterious meetings with strangers in the middle of the night, and smoke-filled streets. Coupled with an eerie, jazz-infused soundtrack, this makes for a pretty alluring show. Or, sorry, miniseries. I should warn you: These episodes are longer than your standard fare, running at about 90 minutes each. (C'mon, that's practically a movie! The great paradox of binge-watching is that I'll watch six hours of a half-hour sitcom, but a 90-minute miniseries? Oof.)
Released: December 9, 2016 More
24. Marco Polo
My proposed tagline for this show: like
Game of Thrones, but worse. Set in the sprawling east during the rise of the Mongol Empire, our main character is Marco Polo (Lorenzo Richelmy), and he's quite silly. Come to think of it, this whole show is silly, down to the extremely varied "accents" that the actors performed. However, if you're jonesing for Thrones, this will work in a pinch. (There are men in armor! Riding horses! And fighting wars!) Released: December 12, 2014 More
At face value, this show screams slurp-me-up soapy. There's a wealthy family in the South operating a well-respected inn. Kyle Chandler of
Friday Night Lights fame headlines the show, and sibling rivalry reigns. (Like, really. This show is about as violent as sibling rivalries can get.) Bloodline wins more at atmosphere than narrative, however. The setting is lovely, the acting is captivating, but the story is just as slow as the southern wind. In my opinion, it would have been better off as a weekly serialized show on HBO.
Released: February 9, 2015 Photo: Courtesy of Netflix. More
22. The Ranch
Dudes. A ranch. Cattle. Baseball caps. Two of the actors from
That '70s Show. For all its masculine bravado, this Netflix Original sitcom is surprisingly sweet. Ashton Kutcher plays Colton Bennett, a prodigal son who returns to his family ranch. Mostly, there's jokes about pee-gasms, but hidden in the blue humor is a bit of heart. Was it worth receiving a second season? Probably not. Will I watch it? Probably.
Released: October 7, 2016 Photo: Courtesy of Netflix. More
21. House Of Cards
Perhaps the most popular of Netflix Originals,
House of Cards is the sexy-sultry political thriller that people want to watch on a Friday night. It's yet another great example of a Netflix Original doing what the platform does best: being both edgy and mainstream. I have to admit, I'm a detractor. I'm a dedicated fan of The West Wing and Veep, and Frank Underwood's callous purr has always rung rather offensive to me. It's at the back of this list because I cannot bring myself to watch more than a few episodes. These are my confessions.
Released: February 1, 2013 Photo: Courtesy of Netflix. More
Narcos, like Breaking Bad, will forever be the show I have not watched. I have watched the pilot. But that was where my fandom stopped. Perhaps it was the bleak narration, or the walkie talkies, or just the fact that it was a gritty shoot-em-up drug kingpin narrative. (I must say, this makes it very similar to Breaking Bad. That being said, I have watched neither show in full.)
In my external opinion, this is a Great Show. I will forever recommend it to my distant relatives during the more awkward silences at family weddings. But in my internal opinion, this is a Fine Show.
Released: August 28, 2015 Photo: Courtesy of Netflix. More
19. Santa Clarita Diet
This show is painless and actually fairly enjoyable if you can watch Drew Barrymore munching on zombie brains. It's fairly painful if you can't.
Released: February 3, 2017 Photo: Courtesy of Netflix. More
18. Master Of None
Aziz Ansari's low-key comedy about an up-and-coming actor in New York City isn't much of an addicting show — which is to say that it isn't meant for binge-watching. When I watched this show, I did something blasphemous: I filtered through the episodes in a willy-nilly order, watching the episodes I wanted to see first, and ignoring the ones I thought I didn't like. Don't get me wrong — the show is good. At times, it was just overtly allegorical, which means that it makes you think more than it makes you want more.
Released: November 6, 2015 More
17. The Characters
Netflix has the leeway to make shows that aren't actually designed to appeal to everyone.
The Characters is a show for a niche audience. An anthology series for sketch comedy, it showcases six comedians in six episodes: Lauren Lapkus, Kate Berlant, Phil Burgers, Paul W. Downs, John Early, Tim Robinson, Natasha Rothwell, and Henry Zebrowski. Some episodes, like Rothwell's freewheeling caper (featuring the song " Basic Bitch ") will scratch any itch you might have. Others are less than perfection. I will admit as a dedicated fan of comedy that I did not watch every episode in this series. (But those I did were all worth it.)
Released: March 11, 2016 Photo: Courtesy of Netflix. More
16. Lady Dynamite
Fans of Maria Bamford will love this one — it is loosely based on the life and times of this manic genius comedian. As I count myself a fan, I devoured this freewheeling series. Self-referential and absurd, it's perhaps too bizarre to count as a perfect Netflix Original, but I have what I'll call the Bamford bias. It's a perfect show, and I encourage everyone to bury themselves in it for a weekend.
Released: May 20, 2016 Photo: Courtesy of Netflix. More
15. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Kimmy Schmidt wins in a lot of ways. A pastiche of New York love letters like Sex and the City, it wins at comedy. It wins at casting — Carol Kane shows up in this show long enough to prove she deserves her own. It loses at sensitivity, though, which is a fairly important factor when it comes to modern comedy. It plays fast and loose with topics like trauma and cultural differences. These are slip-ups that might fly in a cable television show. But this is a Netflix Original! We expect better of these shows. I watched the full first season of the show but did not watch the second, as it started to make me feel queasy.
Released: March 6, 2015 Photo: Courtesy of Netflix. More
14. Marvel's Jessica Jones
Jessica Jones does something pretty cool: It takes the stylized Marvel setting and adds modern social commentary on the effect abusers have on women. Jones (Krysten Ritter) is an antihero more than an actual superhero — more Hannah Horvath than Clark Kent, and that's why this show is so darn good. Again, though: Punching things! Badassery! A gritty, purple palette and comic-book camp! I count this show among the best binge-watches of my life and I look upon it wistfully. Released: November 20, 2015 More
13. Marvel's Luke Cage
There is a God, because Netflix took the most mysterious character from
Jessica Jones and gave him his own series. Even better news: Mahershala Ali plays villain Cornell "Cottonmouth" Stokes. Set among the sights and sounds of Harlem, Luke Cage feels in part like a love letter to the neighborhood. And, lucky for us, it makes for delicious binge-watching.
Released: September 30, 2016 Photo: Courtesy of Netflix. More
12. Club De Cuervos
Netflix's first Spanish-language series is as campy as The CW's
Jane the Virgin but as sexy as HBO's Ballers. Translation: It's a perfect show. It centers on the Club de Cuervos, the football team of Nuevo Toledo, México. At the start of the show, the president of the team dies, leaving his children to fight for control over the beloved Cuervos. Tongue in cheek and self-aware, the show pokes fun at telanovela formulas while exploring real ish like sibling rivalry and heartbreak.
Released: August 7, 2015 Photo: Courtesy of Netflix. More
11. The Get Down
Baz Luhrmann's overblown series about the birth of hip-hop in the Bronx isn't perfect. It is garish. The musical numbers go on too long. It is more absurd than
Moulin Rouge, which is saying something because Nicole Kidman actually has to sing in that movie. But I loved every minute of The Get Down. This is the glory of the Netflix Original: Even though it isn't perfect, it's coming back with more episodes, which is enough to perhaps get this silly show off its feet so that the rest of America can love it as much as I do.
Released: August 12, 2016 Photo: Courtesy of Netflix. More
I have the same relationship with Judd Apatow's series
Love as I do with the real thing. I'm going to keep pursuing this show because I believe there is meaning in it. I really do. My efforts might be in vain — is this show really making a grand statement about capital "L" Love or is it just an excuse for Hollywood's comedy community to show off their chops? Nevertheless, my interest in nice guy Gus (Paul Rust) and hot girl Mickey (Gillian Jacobs) remains. Released: February 19, 2016 More
9. One Day At A Time
Netflix's reboot of this '70s sitcom is what
Fuller House should have been. The setting is modern — replete with a mansplaining millennial trust fund baby — the jokes irreverent, and the political commentary astute. And with all these updates, the show doesn't lose the slapstick acting that sitcoms require. The show also pulls off a laugh track in 2017, which feels like blasphemy in certain corners of the world. This tale of a mother raising her two kids alone, taking it "one day at a time," is the type of inspiring, candy-coated nutritional television that I want to keep on my Netflix queue. Released: January 6, 2017 More
8. The OA
Brit Marling's science-fiction tale seemed to polarize people. The pilot is great, but the subsequent episodes lose momentum. It teases a mystery for eight episodes then spins wildly off course, reaching an inexplicable ending that still makes me angry. I complained throughout my entire viewing. I thought it was too similar to
Stranger Things. I thought it was confused. But Jason Isaacs is captivating as the villain Hep and Phyllis Smith ( The Office) made her Netflix Original debut, so I kept watching. I will probably watch the second season. I will probably complain throughout that series as well.
Released: December 16, 2016 Photo: Courtesy of Netflix. More
7. The Crown
Is this show an urgent narrative-driven drama? No. Is this show the most beautiful series about the British royal family? Yes. I watched this show for the oohs and ahs that it inspired, not for the thrilling plotlines. There will be a second season, but I'll be honest — I'd rather re-watch
Sense8. Released: November 4, 2016 More
6. BoJack Horseman
Dare I invoke the term "comedy perfection"? I shall. This is it.
Bojack Horseman is the type of bizarre irreverent comedy that you can only find at 1 a.m. on mainstream cable. It's also surprisingly dark, which is another thing you can't always find on cable. The titular Horseman is a washed-up actor struggling to make sense of his post-heyday (hayday?) life. Expect animal puns. Expect cutaways that make little to no sense. Expect heart-wrenching drama. Released: August 22, 2014 More
Listen, you don't turn to a show like
Sense8 for its cerebral exploration of the human condition. (For that, watch Master of None.) No, you turn to this Netflix Original for the stunning international landscapes, lush cinematography, and — I'll say it — equally lush sex scenes. The premise is absurd: Eight people across the world share "senses," making them Sensates. Don't watch for dialogue. Don't watch for coherence. Watch for the beautiful overhead shots of San Francisco, or Berlin, or Iceland.
Released: June 5, 2015 Photo: Courtesy of Netflix. More
Perhaps one of the lesser-known Netflix Originals,
3% is the first Brazilian series made by the streaming site. Full disclosure: It's incredible. ( I'm not the only one at Refinery29 who thinks so.) I watched it in the space of a weekend, and you can, too. In the series, teens undergo the "process," which will determine whether or not they can live on in affluent society. It's got the drama of The Hunger Games without the slick Hollywood feel. It's a pop culture mainstay gone edgy and intellectual, which is what Netflix Originals tend to do best.
Released: November 15, 2016 Photo: Courtesy of Netflix. More
3. Stranger Things
I believe that I was the first person on this Earth to watch
Stranger Things. I finished the first season within 24 hours of its release, then almost immediately started watching again. The show, which focuses on the mysterious disappearance of a young boy in small town Indiana, capitalizes on '80s nostalgia. Coupled with a modern self-awareness, the show stands out as one of the best Netflix Originals to emerge since House of Cards. Released: July 15, 2016 More
2. Grace and Frankie
Grace and Frankie, how I shall confess my love to thee? It is both campy and heartfelt, grandiose and simple. The houses are beautiful, the women are whip-smart, and the narrative just simple enough to keep you going through the whole season in just 24 hours. Full disclosure: I watched the entire third season on a Saturday morning sipping coffee. It was a perfect experience.
Released: May 8, 2015 Photo: Courtesy of Netflix. More
1. Orange Is The New Black
OITNB, we must bow down. This is the show that put the term "Netflix Original" on the map. It pioneered the form back in 2013, when the term "web series" recalled your neighbor's blurry eight-minute vlogs. But this web series was different. It was funny. It was chock-full of women — and a trans woman, too. It set a precedent for Netflix, declaring the platform a place for the outcasts and the underserved. The show about a women's prison has taken on topics like police violence, intersectionality, and private prison reform, all the while holding America utterly captivated. Released: July 11, 2013 More
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