Netflix makes a lot of originals, from documentaries to movies, but the ones that excite people the most are, understandably, their series – or is the plural serieses? (No, it's series). Unfortunately, where a service such as Apple TV+ or the BBC will stand by shows they believe in, even if they struggle initially, Netflix has a somewhat crueller attitude to its offspring. This can basically be summed up as 'if youre not Stranger Things, we will probably kill you sooner or later… usually sooner.' This has left the Netflix menu strewn with excellent series that you can start streaming, get immersed in their worlds and come to love their characters, played by some of the finest actors in the world, and then be left wondering what the hell happened next, when the rug is abruptly pulled on a cliffhanger after 2 series.
Putting a more positive gloss on it, I have to give some credit to Netflix for historically taking risks on new shows that might well not be green-lit anywhere else. It's just a shame that they have then so consistently 'red-lit' them as well but you know what they say: always quit while you're ahead and leave them wanting more.
I am certainly not someone who cancels an original series of middlingly-successful stories about Netflix while the fans are still demanding more, so check out the best films to watch on Netflix in January and the best comedies on Netflix to beat the January blues – and, indeed, the February ones. You may also enjoy the best R-rated movies on Disney+, featuring cannibalism, extreme violence, gore and SATAN himself.
What is it with Netflix and terrible titles? Despite sounding like a comedy quiz show, Mindhunter is – or rather was – a thoughtful show about the FBI's first ever unit dedicated to trying to understand, and hence track down, serial killers. Starring the all-time great odd couple of Jonathan Groff – awkward young nerd cop with a fascination for murderers – and Holt McCallany – gruff dad cop with no interest whatsoever – the series ran for two series, kind of petered out, and ended with absolutely nothing resolved whatsoever.
If you like the scenes in Silence of the Lambs where Jodie Foster visits Lector in prison, you will love this, as it sees our surrogate dad/son cop pairing visit a succession of history's most evil men in prison to have very awkward conversations indeed. The 'guest stars' include Ed Kemper, David Berkowitz and Charles Manson, and one of the recurring plots abandoned by the cancellation concerned the rise to infamy of 'BTK' killer Dennis Rader. Another intriguing subplot concerned McCallany's son and seemed to be floating the idea that he too might have the potential to be a murderer. Now we'll never know.
- Watch Mindhunter on Netflix now (opens in new tab)
The perfect Marvel show for people who don't like Marvel, this is also by far the best interpretation of the long-running vigilante comic on the screen. Okay, I know that is barely saying anything. For those not familiar, The Punisher concerns family man and former special forces soldier Frank Castle. Long story short, his family are horribly killed and he is not best pleased about it, causing him to vow to fight crime… by killing any criminal he meets. It's a more realistic spin on 'truth, justice and the American way,' really.
It helps a lot that Frank is played by the great Jon Bernthal, who brings all the necessary brooding and believable violence of the character, and then some. The issue with this is the show runners seem to have spent all the money on Bernthal and filming some really excellent action sequences, initially saddling The Punisher with a seriously anonymous supporting cast and a gear-grinding plot – Ben Barnes is particularly forgettable as Castle's whiny arch nemesis Jigsaw.
Season 2 seemed to be picking up the pace a bit, while retaining the violent pleasures of the first season, so needless to say, Netflix pulled the plug, although in this case the choice may have been out of their hands.
The arrival of Disney+ has seen most Marvel properties vanish from broadcasters other than Disney+ – see also Daredevil and Jessica Jones. There have been rumours of a third runout for The Punisher and his impressive arsenal of weapons, but I'll believe it when I see it, and it probably won't be on Netflix.
- Watch The Punisher on Netflix now (opens in new tab)
Having commissioned a show about a bunch of scrappy kids who meet a mysterious female with miraculous powers, but who is threatened by sinister government forces, Netflix had a surefire smash hit on its hands. Unfortunately, the show in question was Stranger Things, while The OA languished in obscurity.
It's hardly surprising. The OA could be likened to Stranger Things' grown-up sibling who is having a difficult time in their life, and experimenting with psychedelics. It is a lot darker and more confusing, with older teen/early 20s lead characters, some of whom who are considerably less sympathetic. The pacing is very odd, with quite lengthy sections where next to nothing appears to be happening, and some of the plot twists are real head scratchers. There is also more nudity and sex in The OA and – more troubling still for most viewers – a lot more interpretive dance.
As you can tell, this is a very hard show to describe beyond that facile comparison to Stranger Things. But if you can get into The OA, you'll never forget it, that's for sure.
- Watch The OA on Netflix now (opens in new tab)
Sometimes, you have to hand it to Netflix. When they cancelled Warrior Nun, the reaction of most people in the world – me included – was, "Wait, there's a show called Warrior Nun? Why did nobody inform me of this?" The result was greatly increased viewing figures for the show, which is about some nuns, who are also warriors.
The show's furious fanbase, meanwhile, was not about to take this shit lying down. Just last week, they purchased a billboard demanding the return of the show. A cute gesture but no big deal, you might think, until you factor in that they placed it right outside the Netflix HQ. The fans' ire is understandable – after a baffled response to season one, the critics gave the second series of Warrior Nun a rare 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Admittedly only 11 of ’the critics’ bothered to review it, so the statistics are not built on the most solid of ground, but you can't really do better than 100%, can you?
Incidentally, it's been suggested that the Lesbian overtones of Warrior Nun may have contributed to its demise but come on, that never stopped Xena the Warrior Princess, did it? Netflix's show is a lot more adult and upfront than Xena ever was, admittedly.
- Watch Warrior Nun on Netflix now (opens in new tab)