The best Netflix TV shows as of December 2019
What are the best shows on Netflix?
High quality TV series exclusives are the jewel in Netflix Australia’s crown. To help fight off the evening-long bouts of indecision that comes with the glut of choice, here are 10 of the best Netflix TV shows to binge in 2019.
1. Stranger Things
Stranger Things is an ode to the BMX-riding, D&D-playing heyday of the early 1980s (and the Spielberg films of the period). Where a lesser show would point and laugh at the bulbous haircuts and gigantic VHS players, directors the Duffer brothers go beyond mere aesthetic, nailing the tone, heart and naivety of childhood in a less connected era.
After neighbourhood kid Will Byers goes missing one night, the show follows his friends and their tireless search for him. Not only is it charming, but it’s also good supernatural horror when it wants to be, and Winona Ryder is a revelation as Joyce, the mother of the missing boy. Essential viewing.
Kingdom tackles the question on all our lips: how would feudal Korea deal with a zombie outbreak? (The answer involves a lot of swords and quite a bit of fire.)
The show deftly mixes all the palace intrigue of a period drama with the undead slashing of a classic zombie film, sprinkling a layer of martial arts biffo on top for good measure. The zombies are only active at night, meaning each day is spent preparing for the inevitable siege in a new location. It’s tense, clever, beautiful, and one of the best shows around. (Fair warning: watch it in the original Korean with subtitles because the English dubbing is awful.)
3. Star Trek: Discovery
Star Trek: Discovery is the most drastic reimagining of the Trek formula since Deep Space Nine ditched the USS Enterprise for an intergalactic shopping mall 26 years ago.
On the in-universe timeline, Discovery takes place just before the events of the 1966 original series, and uses the first serious conflict between the Federation and the then-fractured Klingon Empire as a backdrop. Structurally, the show stands apart by relegating the captain to second fiddle behind main protagonist First Officer Michael Burnham. It preserves the philosophical pontificating but speeds up the action for modern audiences.
4. Jessica Jones (Season 1 Only)
Netflix has a whole stable of Marvel TV shows, which may or may not fit into the MCU continuity depending on who you talk to. They range from the excellent (Jessica Jones S1, Daredevil S1, The Punisher, Luke Cage S2) to the meh (Iron Fist, Daredevil S2) to the truly awful (Jessica Jones S2, The Defenders). When they do succeed, though, it’s because they focus on smaller, more contained tales than their cinematic counterparts – Daredevil isn’t trying to save the world, just the few city blocks he calls home.
In season one of Jessica Jones, the titular super-powered, often-hungover private detective confronts long-repressed personal demons. Krysten Ritter is great as Jessica, but it’s David Tennant that steals the show as Marvel’s creepiest antagonist.
5. The Crown
Dramatising the life of Queen Elizabeth II, The Crown is one of the most expensive TV shows ever produced. From castles and estates, luxury yachts, ceremonial jewels and gowns – all captured in crystal clear 4K – you can see every penny. Whether you’re a devoted royal watcher or a republican sharpening the metaphorical guillotine, drama this well-scripted shouldn’t be ignored.
Claire Foy and Matt Smith have complex, fascinating chemistry as the couple at the heart of the monarchy, and John Lithgow is uncanny as Winston Churchill – the Emmy-winning season one episode “Assassins,” about Churchill’s bruised ego over a portrait painted for his 80th birthday, is an all-time TV great.
6. The Toys That Made Us
Did you know the original creator of Barbie was arrested for fraud? Or that back in the ’70s every major toy company in America wouldn’t touch a little untested property called “Star Wars”? The Toys That Made Us is a nostalgia IV drip that dives deep into the creation of the world’s most iconic toy lines, like Lego, Masters of the Universe, and GI Joe.
Through interviews with the creators of these toys, the sometimes-controversial origin story of millions of childhoods is told in a succinct, entertaining fashion. More than that, it unashamedly celebrates the human need to play. Heart-warming and fascinating.
While the Castlevania video game series has lain dormant since 2014’s rubbish Lords of Shadow 2, it recently found new life as an animated Netflix Original. And unlike literally every other adaptation of a video game… it’s good! Set in 15th century Wallachia, Dracula seeks bloody revenge after the church burns his human wife at the stake for witchcraft.
Trevor, the heir to the disgraced monster-hunting Belmont family legacy, busts out the whip and somewhat reluctantly tries to stop the ensuing slaughter. It’s angsty, dramatic, insanely gory, and beautifully drawn in a pseudo-anime style.
8. Our Planet
Natural wonder David Attenborough takes us on a spectacular eight-part tour of, er… our natural wonders. Our Planet is as spectacular as you’d expect. Filmed across 50 countries, over four years, with a crew of more than 600 people, the resulting footage will be used to explain HDR in JB Hi-Fi TV departments for years to come.
Most intriguingly, Netflix, unlike the BBC in decades past, has encouraged Attenborough to get explicitly political; his commentary repeatedly calls out the need to act on climate change if the wonders depicted are to survive into the future. Honestly, it’s about time.
It’s estimated that at the peak of his powers Pablo Escobar controlled more than three-quarters of the American cocaine trade. In amassing his $30 billion fortune, he murdered presidential candidates, kidnapped and tortured civilians, broke out of a jail he had custom built for himself, and blew up a commercial airliner.
Although some of it might seem absurd, Narcos has been praised for its historical accuracy – you don’t need to exaggerate much when Escobar’s exploits are stranger than fiction.
On top of the well-scripted drama and strong performances from Wagner Moura, Pedro Pascal, and Boyd Holbrook, it doesn’t hurt that the Columbian jungle and rabbit-warren streets of Medellín look incredible in 4K. If you have a new UHD TV to test out, fire up Narcos.
10. Bojack Horseman
Few shows about a washed-up child star (who is also a talking horse) can evoke melancholia one minute, fits of laughter the next.
Will Arnett injects BoJack’s alcoholic self-centred depressive streak with just enough pathos to make him likeable – kinda – and Aaron Paul’s deadbeat-but-lovely Todd is the heart that balances out the anthropomorphic bleakness.
The show improves after its slow first season and ends up being an insightful critique on the vapid nature of fame and the human condition. And, once again, it’s about a talking horse.
11. Big Mouth
Like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Big Mouth is a show that really should offend more than it entertains. But with the harsher jokes firmly on the worst offenders, a willingness to push comedy into uncomfortable but everyday areas and, most importantly, hilarious execution, this animated show is a crowd-pleaser for any fan of mature humour.
Even though its cast of characters is mostly made up of prepubescent and pubescent teenagers, there’s so much truth in the humour of every episode that it’s difficult to not relate to what’s going on. Best of all, unlike Bojack Horseman – fantastic as that show is – Big Mouth never forgets that it’s there to make you laugh first and tug at your heartstrings later.
The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. Yup, that’s what GLOW stands for. It’s hard to believe that the premise of GLOW isn’t pure imagined satire, but it’s actually a fictionalisation of an American women’s professional wrestling association that was syndicated in the 1980s.
Like Stranger Things, anyone who grew up in the ’80s will appreciate the fashion sense (or lack thereof), music hits, and other pop-culture touchstones that make the setting a call-back delight. But what really entertains is the belly-laugh comedy, hard-hitting but believable drama, and fantastic love-of-old-school-wrestling choreography that makes for binge-worthy viewing. The cast is pitch-perfect to the point that even the supporting characters have fantastic arcs and, ultimately, this is the kind of heart-meets-humour entertainment that Netflix was built for.
Most popular NBN50 plans
Hoping to stream these shows in all their 4K glory? You might want to consider upgrading your broadband speed first. Here are the most popular NBN50 plans in Australia according to WhistleOut’s comparison engine.