We seem to spend more time browsing through Netflix extensive catalog than actually watching anything. Browsing categories like Popular on Netflix, the Top 10 and maybe even Because you watched Roadhouse desperately searching for anything to watch.
The best solution to this problem, usually, is to start a new television show. This way, if you like it, you won’t have to worry about finding something new night after night and can binge away for days. Netflix has a surprisingly great selection of TV shows on Instant and we’ve ranked our favorites.
I’ve split my favorites into two broad categories Drama and Comedy, depending on what type of mood you’re into.
Television’s best show has ended. However, since the series finale earlier this year its been fun to go back and rewatch the transformation of Walter White, the high school chemisty teacher who unfortunate cancer diagnoise turns him to a life of crime cooking meth in order to set up his family in case of his passing.
Another great show I was sad to see end. Yet it was time, as the last season struggled to live up to the high expectations of previous seasons. Showtime’s best program, based off the novel, Darkly Dreaming Dexter, is the story of Dexter Morgan, a blood spatter analyst for the Miami Metro police department, who also happens to be a serial killer himself. Plagued by what he calls “his dark passenger”, Dexter tries to justify what he does by only killing those who really deserve it.
A promising new show, the first season of The Following was an absolute thrill ride from start to finish. Kevin Bacon stars as Ryan Hardy, a former FBI detective who left the force after a long hard case in which he put author Joe Carroll in prison. Though Carroll is still locked up, he has developed a cult-like following who are ready to set him free and finish what he started. This psycholigcal thriller actually makes you want to read Edgar Allen Poe again.
Such a guilty pleasure, but a show that never got enough credit while it was on the air. Inspired by the book of the same title, Friday Night Lights is about the Dillon high school football team. Full of familar faces like Kyle Chandler, Connie Britton, Taylor Kitsch and Jesse Plemons, it does such a phenomenal job of mixing in the drama of high school and family with the high expectations of football in Texas.
Fringe was the show that we had all been hoping for since the X-Files ended. From the brilliant mind of JJ Abrams, Fringe is maybe the best sci-fi show in television history. Full of mystery and intrigue, the Fringe division is a secret FBI division which investigates the things we can’t explain.
The team consists of female agent Olivia Dunham, an institutionalized scientist Walter Bishop and his son Peter, who after leaving MIT has been on the run for his shady activities. Each episode has its own case for the team to solve, yet every episode also reveals a little more into why these unexplained phenomenas keep occurring.
House of Cards
The best Netflix original television series, House of Cards, is actually based off a British show of the same name (also on Netflix). From the mind of David Fincher, the show is about Francis Underwood, a democratic congressmen from South Carolina, played by Kevin Spacey, who takes revenge on those who have betrayed him. This isnt some low budget web series, as House of Cards was nominated for 9 Primetime Emmys in 2013.
AMC’s unappreciated drama The Killing may seem like a simple police investigation for the murder of 17 year old Rosie Larsen at first, it becomes so much more. As homicide detective Sarah Linden and Stephen Holder begin to discover it may involve family, friends or even a mayoral candidate. The show does a terrific job keeping you on your toes and having you sway from one suspect to another and they continue to untangle this web of lies and deception.
Lost is the show that got me hooked on everything JJ Abrams. The drama about the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 had the world talking, even if they had no idea what was going on. Deserted on an island, doctor Jack Shepard and the rest of the passengers are forced to uncover the mysteries of the island as they wait to be saved, although the island has different plans for them.
Every episode focuses on one of the survivors, taking a look into their past. Their flashback reveals a little more truth about what’s happened to them and way they were on that flight. Meanwhile each season focuses on another aspect of the island itself. There are so many questions, many which are never answered, but its so damn good, you can watch them over and over again and always find something you missed before.
The show that started it all for AMC, Mad Men elevated the standards for cable television original series. The drama about an ad agency in the 60’s, Jon Hamm stars as Don Draper, the firm’s top executive who has a mysterious past he would like to keep hush-hush.
This over the top drama will instantly turn into your favorite guilty pleasure. Best friends Sean McNamara and Christian Troy are plastic surgeons from Miami. Both men has different ethics and want to take the practice in their own direction. Each episode focuses on a different client, but the true drama lies between their inter-connected families. The characters have epic highs and lows frequently and because of that its hard not to watch the next the one.
Orange is the New Black
Orange is the New Black is another premium Netflix original series. Based on the true story of Piper Kerman, the show revolves around Piper who is sent to an all women prison after being convicted of being a drug runner. How this privileged woman adapts to life behind bars and the cast of characters around her is what makes this show a pleasure to watch.
This gritty drama about a New York firehouse after 9/11 was the show that put FX on the map for me. The mixture of Dennis Leary’s humor and some of the real troubles firefighters went through after the attacks. This, like Nip/Tuck, has so much over the top drama its hard to turn away and some of the improv banter between the guys in the firehouse is some of the best TV you’ll ever watch.
Sons of Anarchy
More FX goodness. It may take you a while to warm up to the concept of the show if you aren’t into motorcycles and leather jackets, but Sons really has nothing to do with that. The Sons of Anarchy are a biker gang, but the real drama comes from the things they do under the table, drugs and guns trafficking.
United States of Tara
Toni Collette shows why is an Oscar nominated actress in United States of Tara, as a mother who is suffering from multiple personality disorder. She struggles to balance her life as Tara without allowing her alters, who include a teenage girl, biker and old fashioned homemaker, to take over her life.
The Walking Dead
Zombies have taken over Hollywood thanks to the huge success that is The Walking Dead. This is the first true horror experience on TV. The AMC drama based in a zombie apocalyptic world, follows one group of survivors as they fight to survive. While they know the best thing for them is to stick together against the horde of zombies that now walk the Earth, but how much can you trust a bunch of strangers who you’ve only met due to desperation.
Jack Bauer and 24 had a hell of a run on Fox for a long time. Kiefer Sutherland is Jack Bauer, the Director of Field Ops for the Counter Terrorist Unit of Los Angeles. Each episode is based in real time as Jack fights against the clock to take down those who are responsible for the attacks on the nation.
Always Sunny in Philadelphia
One of the best comedies in recent memory, Always Sunny is all about the brilliant characters from Paddy’s Pub. Dennis, Mac, Dee, Charlie and Frank, played by Danny Devito, all have big egos and big ideas. Each have their roles, but are never satisfied with their place in life. You’ll grow to love them all, even though they may be a little crazy.
Yes, this is a show about fantasy football, but it works. The League is about a group of friends who will do anything to win in their fantasy football league from week to week. This show is so relatable for any person who loves fantasy and has even created new vocabulary, like rosterbating, for all of us to enjoy.
Parks and Recreation
Parks and Recs plays off the format from The Office. A documentary-type comedy about the Parks and Rec department of Pawnee, Indiana is fun and adorable. Amy Poehler plays Leslie Knope, the deputy director and self-proclaimed Pawnee spokesperson, who cares more about her town than anyone should. However, Ron Swanson, a real man’s man, steals the show. With his amazing mustache and love of everything meat, you can help but love this character.
Maybe the most popular comedy since Seinfeld, The Office was a huge success in the UK and an even bigger hit here. This comedy about the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company has characters upon characters that make you laugh, but what made this show so unique was love story between Jim and Pam. Their innocent flirting turned true love was something so satisfying to watch.
Freaks and Geeks
The Jud Apatow series Freaks and Geeks didn’t last long, although it instantly became a cult classic for those who’ve seen it. The show also jump started the careers of Seth Rogan, James Franco and Jason Segel. The title of the show is exactly what you think it is, a story of a bunch of high school outcasts. The freaks, those who think they’ve cool and the geeks, who know they aren’t.
Ron Howard’s Arrested Development had a hard time surviving on Fox, but thanks to its huge popularity on Netflix, was revived for yet one more season. The comedy of the Bluth family is brilliantly written and a cast of characters that rival the best of any show. Starring Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, David Cross and more is a can’t miss show if you love Netflix.
Showtime’s smart and witty comedy based on a single mom turned drug dealer was a wild success for 8 seasons. Nancy Botwin is a mother of two boys in a rich suburban community who decides that selling pot may be the solution to keeping their upscale lifestyle. She may be a little bit naive, but she’ll do anything to keep their lives the same.