Scenario: You’re on the last episode of an AH-MAZE-ING binge sesh with that show that is so freaking good nothing will ever replace it in your heart. The minutes tick by. The panic begins to descend. The silence looms. omgwhatamigoingtowatchnexthelpmeplease.
Take a breath. Relax. I’VE GOT YOU. No more aimless scrolling through endless options that all look exactly the same — what is this, Blockbuster?
Never again. Never again, friends. The next time you need a sure thing, you know what to do. Pull up this list of Netflix recommendations, of course.
If you like The Office (salty, dry humor):
It’s been proven time and again, the Brits know how to do dry TV like no other (except maybe the Aussies, more on that below). W1A is everything you could want from a workplace sitcom — delightfully incompetent employees, a plucky score, and an underlying narration that’s basically the audio version of the Jim Halpert face. Plus, Hugh Bonneville (aka Mr. Downton Abbey) doing comedy is everything my eyes have ever wanted. Season three is back this year, so if you start now you can say you knew it before it was cool.*
*Say this at your own risk, you hipster.
Dreamland (or Utopia as it’s known everywhere outside of Netflix) is the driest show I have ever seen. And yet, it makes me laugh like nothing else. It’s the ultimate workplace comedy. Every joke is a precisely placed barb on that office situation — from a team building motivational speaker to those four endless hours of safety training. Truly a show for anyone who’s ever tried to get something done, only to be held up by nuisance at every turn. So, basically, anyone who’s ever worked in an office.
If you like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Pitch Perfect (sassy and feminist with musical elements):
Why don’t more people know about Crazy Ex-Girlfriend?! It’s one of the smartest shows I have ever seen (cough, Rachel Bloom for all the Emmys, cough) and manages to produce at least two (two!) original songs every episode. And they SLAY. Glee, eat your heart out.
In terms of pure, entertaining whimsy, you can’t go wrong with Galavant. A deft satire that also manages to be an uproarious medieval musical, this show made me chuckle aloud in my empty apartment like a real weirdo. Where has this been all my life and why must everything that is pure be canceled too soon?
If you like Law & Order: SVU, The Wire (gritty crime with a story to solve):
Prepare yourself — this show is INTENSE. Early on, a character straight up gets their skull run over by a car and it really ain’t pretty. I am a delicate squeamish flower, but I stuck it out through this entire series because the underlying mystery is THAT good. The acting is also spot on, because of course it is, this is a British show.
Gillian Anderson is queen. That is all.
(P.S. because I couldn’t help myself: Jamie Dornan — aka Mr. Bondage will see you now — is a key character in The Fall and plays a seriously twisted creep with actual gravitas. Who knew the man who once said “ball twitchingly mad” with a straight face could also act?)
If you like Pride & Prejudice, Jane Eyre (romantic period pieces swimming in drama):
Death Comes to Pemberley
Mini-Series, 3 Episodes
I am, and forever will be, a sucker for anything relating to Pride & Prejudice (#basic). This mini-series takes you into the lives of Elizabeth and Darcy after Austen’s story ended — and throws them into a kerfuffle with murder, mystery, and Matthew Goode. Yes, please.
North and South
Mini-Series, 4 Episodes
World, I’d like you to meet Richard Armitage, circa 2004. Phwoar. This series is everything you could ever want from a British period piece: headstrong female lead, tall-dark-and-growly male authority figure, buckets and buckets of tension. You’re welcome.
If you like How I Met Your Mother (friends just trying to figure this life stuff out):
I binged all of Lovesick over a long weekend when I was actually sick and it made me laugh through my phlegm — no mean feat. The premise is unique: Dylan finds out he has Chlamydia (not ideal) and has to contact all of his former sexual partners with the news. Already hooked? That’s what I thought.
If you like SNL (sketch-y comedy with screwball laughs):
Documentary Now! is like watching a documentary in a fever dream. Everything looks familiar and yet it’s all incredibly, delightfully bizarre. For anyone who’s enjoyed a doc, or for fans of Bill Hader and Fred Armisen — a power couple if I’ve ever seen one.
Comedy Bang! Bang!
I’m not sure if Comedy Bang! Bang! still counts as a “hidden gem,” but it’s worth a mention all the same. If sketch comedy is at all something you’re into, this is the show for you, full stop. Watch it for the guest stars and the incomprehensible sketches that will make you laugh like no other.
If you like Amy Schumer (funny ladies kicking ass):
I’m Gonna Die Alone (and I Feel Fine)
Comedy Special from Jen Kirkman
Jen Kirkman is all of us. If you’ve ever been a single lady (don’t lie to me), this will make you cry with laughter.
If you like The Vampire Diaries (soapy teen drama plus vampires, werewolves, and witches — oh lord):
Being Human (UK)
For a show about a vampire, werewolf, and ghost who all become roommates (lol, I know, I know), Being Human is surprisingly deft. Sure, that vampire guy is really hot, but he’s also sad, you guys. This won’t be the most intellectual TV you’ve ever seen, but it’s fun and it’s sexy and you can thank me later.
If you like The Holiday, Love Actually, About Time (glowingly romantic, with just enough bite):
Watching Man Up will make you happy in your heart. Lake Bell is utterly charming and the sweet, witty repartee between her and Simon Pegg will put a permanently goofy smile on your face.
This is one of those movies to watch for the look of it all. I couldn’t tell you a thing about what actually happens (some people sing…? someone’s daughter is unfulfilled…?), but the essence of it is mesmerizing. From Kiera’s slouchy menswear to makeshift back alley band practice with a nylon hose thrown over the mike, Begin Again is disarmingly sweet. A beautiful interlude perfect for your next rainy Sunday afternoon.
If you like Tiny Furniture, anything with the Duplass brothers (i.e., #mumblecore), or just looking at Jake Johnson’s face (yum):
Win It All
This is trademark Joe Swanberg — simple, clean-cut storytelling, with dialogue that’s mostly improvised (major props). And yet, this one shines above the rest (at least in the humble opinion of yours truly). It’s a movie about gambling that feels real — it’s not slick, it’s not showy. These characters are drawn like real people, people you’d meet in the world, and it’s enjoyable, frustrating, and just plain lovely to see the harsh, comedic reality of these moments echoed on screen.
If you like Mad Men, Breaking Bad (you’re into the prestige, we get it):
I feel like I never hear anyone talking about Peaky Blinders. Why is that?! I’d watch it for the visuals alone — there’s nothing like the buzzy brilliance of the 20s (those clothes! that flair! the hats!).
The Honorable Woman
Okay, so I know Maggie Gyllenhaal won an Emmy for this series — not exactly a “hidden” gem — but did you know it was on Netflix?! Neither did I. It’s gripping, heart-wrenching, and gut-punching… but worth the watch if you can make it. I’d forgo bingeing on this one and pepper episodes of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt in between as needed.
If you like American Horror Story, Supernatural (ghostly elements with an edge of the disturbed):
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
I adore the whole schtick of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. It’s delightfully peculiar, but don’t be fooled. The bewigged, painted faces can take on an edge of slick, sinister eccentricity that is shiver-inducing. I’d watch with the lights on.
Speaking of lights, TURN THEM ALL ON PENNY DREADFUL IS FREAKING ME OUT AGAIN. What is it about the Victorian times that is just. so. freakin. creeptastic? If you’re looking for a beautifully — seriously, this show is gorgeous — drawn world full of the disquieting bizarre, look no further. Plus, it’s nice that Josh Hartnett had a job for a little while.