From the origins of hip-hop in The Get Down to the return of OITNB, there's something for everyone
One of the most hotly anticipated Netflix originals of 2016, The Get Down is an ambitious period drama delving into the New York music scene of the 1970s. Taking in politics, race and religion along the way, the sprawling series paints a portrait of the teenage founders of punk, funk and hip-hop – and that includes a young Grandmaster Flash. With Baz Luhrmann as the show's co-creator, it's bound to be lush, exuberant and just the teensiest bit OTT.
Better Call Saul Video of BETTER CALL SAUL Trailer | Season 1
Fans of Breaking Bad will have an idea of what to expect from this Vince Gilligan spin-off. But even if the adventures of Walter White passed you by, there are lots of reasons to tune into this prequel about the show's Saul Goodman, aka James Morgan "Jimmy" McGill.
"Better Call Saul traces in loving, if corrosive, detail how Jimmy McGill, a debt-ridden, ambulance-chasing loser, changed his name to Saul Goodman and became a drug-lord consigliere," says the New York Times. It is "better than good", says the newspaper: "It's delightful - in a brutal, darkly comic way, of course".
It takes just a few episodes to become clear that Saul Goodman is a "compelling enough slimeball to carry his own backstory", says the Rolling Stone, which adds that the tone is "nowhere near as bleak as Breaking Bad".
With a third season in the making, it's the perfect time to catch up on seasons one and two.
The Crown Video of The Crown - Sizzle - Netflix [HD]
Another ambitious original for the site, The Crown follows the first years of the Queen Elizabeth's reign as she navigates politics, power and domestic life in her 20s. If it all sounds a little bit camp, don't worry - Frost/Nixon screenwriter Peter Morgan should keep things on the right side of silly. Claire Foy - no stranger to the royal court, having played Anne Boleyn in Wolf Hall - takes on the role of the young monarch opposite former Doctor Who Matt Smith as the Duke of Edinburgh. Third Rock from the Sun actor John Lithgow stars, somewhat improbably, as Winston Churchill. Coming in November.
Easy Video of Easy Teaser [HD] | Netflix
Described as a "Mumblecore master and Greta Gerwig-enabler" by Vulture, director Joe Swanberg is coming to Netflix this month with a new series called Easy.
The sitcom explores a number of diverse Chicago characters as they fumble through the modern maze of love, sex, technology and culture — topics that Swanberg "often tackles in his micro-budgeted drama features which employ extensive improvisation", says Deadline.
The comedy-drama is said to consist of eight stand-alone episodes showcasing the diversity of the city itself, focusing on characters from different neighbourhoods and economic backgrounds.
The interlocking theme of each episode will be "about sexual evolution" and there will be a huge number of actors appearing: Orlando Bloom, Malin Akerman, Michael Chernus, Marc Maron, Kiersey Clemons, Elizabeth Reaser, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Jake Johnson, Aya Cash, Dave Franco, Jane Adams, Hannibal Buress and Emily Ratajkowski, among others. Available on 23 September.
Love Video of LOVE | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix
This ten-episode romantic-comedy was produced and written by Judd Apatow, the director of The 40-year-old Virgin and Knocked Up. It stars Gillian Jacobs as Mickey Dobbs and Paul Rust as Gus Cruikshank, who crash out of bad relationships and slowly work up to going on a first date together. Mickey is a destructive drink and drugs enthusiast, while Gus is a "goofball beta male", says The Guardian. Both are "smart and hilarious", as is the show, although there is a lot of "to-ing and fro-ing and not getting on with it", says the newspaper.
The New Yorker says Love is "darkly funny" and "pleasantly shambling" with "uproarious" scenes.
One of the show's best aspects is how much time the central pair spend apart, it adds.
"Love is perhaps the wrong title for the series. It is less a story about a budding relationship than an argument that the more interesting, and certainly the more amusing, parts of a person's life take place outside of the courtship ritual – among friends, oddball strangers and inside the confines of a person's own head."
Happy Valley Video of Happy Valley: Trailer - BBC One
Written by Sally Wainwright and starring Sarah Lancashire, Happy Valley is a fresh take on the gritty crime dramas that the UK produces so well.
Police Sergeant Catherine Cawood (Lancashire) follows the trail of a dangerous criminal who tore her family apart, ultimately uncovering a chilling new case. There's a race against time to protect a young woman from the fate that destroyed her own daughter's life.
The Bafta-winning series first aired in April 2014, and series two gripped viewers in February and March this year.
While Wainwright's writing is superb, the show hinges on the incredible performance of Lancashire, says TV.com's Tim Surette.
"The Last Tango in Halifax actress absolutely absorbs the role of Catherine, bringing this complicated character to life by bouncing back and forth between her professionalism as a hard-nosed cop and emotional foundation as a caring family woman still affected by her daughter's tragic suicide," he writes.
With the third series on the horizon, now is the perfect time to immerse yourself in the world of Happy Valley.
House of Cards Video of House of Cards - Season 4 - Official Trailer - Netflix [HD]
Ready to get another dose of Kevin Spacey's scheming politico Frank Underwood? Actually, that's scheming President Frank Underwood after Garrett Walker's resignation in the season two finale saw him take charge.
However, as season four gets underway, Frank faces the prospect of losing it all – it's election season and his long-suffering wife, Claire, has walked out. Not a good look for a presidential candidate.
On top of that, it looks as if his misdemeanours may finally be about to catch up with him. But Frank is hardly one to let a few inconveniences get in his way – after all, this is the man who once pushed a nosy journalist under a speeding train. So what does President Underwood have up his sleeve this year?
Arrested Development Video of Official Arrested Development Season 4 Trailer [HD] | Netflix
A fifth season of Arrested Development is "definitely coming in 2016", says Cinema Blend, and "it seems like all the stars will be back for more Bluth-enasia".
The show follows the fictional Bluth family, who have experienced the inverse American dream, going from riches to rags. Throughout the course of four seasons, the clan are "utterly corrupt, barely tolerating each other and trying to stay out of jail", reports the Daily Telegraph.
Despite being showered in awards, including several Emmys, Arrested Development was cancelled after its third series received less-than-positive reviews.
It was picked up by Netflix in 2013 and given a new lease of life. Critics raved over the fourth season, as the "out-of-order narrative structure started to bear fruit and the callbacks and sight gags began to hit home", The Guardian says.
Luke Cage Video of Luke Cage | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix
Luke Cage is the third in the Netflix-Marvel collaboration, following on from the success of Daredevil and Jessica Jones. Iron Fist is also due and then all four superheroes will team up for The Defenders.
Mike Colter plays Luke, a former convict with superhuman strength and unbreakable skin. He describes the character as "darker, grittier, more tangible" than Marvel stars such as Iron Man and Thor. "He likes to keep things close to his chest, operate on the hush-hush. He has these abilities but he's not sure how and when to use them. He's a very nuanced character," says Colter
The series has a "beautifully plotted arc", says the Daily Telegraph: Cage is drawn into conflict with local crime lords "in a steadily escalating spiral" and "we believe his struggles because of the show's unfailing sense of place". Harlem is "far more vivid and developed" than the Hell's Kitchen of Daredevil and Jessica Jones, says the newspaper, which adds: "This could be Netflix's best Marvel series yet."
Coming on 30 September.
Orange is the New Black Video of Orange is the New Black - Season 4 - Official Trailer
The inmates of Litchfield penitentiary are back in the hotly anticipated new season of OITNB. An extended trailer has given us a good idea of what to expect, with a group of new guards and prisoners threatening the survival of our favourite inmates. "I've been in Litchfield for a while now and I'm starting to feel unsafe," says Piper Chapman, played by actress Taylor Schilling.
The show has been praised by critics for expertly blending the dark drama of prison life with the humour that many inmates use to survive their incarceration, but there isn't a lot to laugh about this year, says The Guardian. "Pain has always been a part of this show, but it seems like the writers have made a choice to let us see just how all of these women are going to suffer."
The previous season confirmed the show's status as one of the most diverse and inclusive series running today, says IndieWire. "Race, age, appearance, sexuality - doesn't matter. What does matter is the same sort of existential crisis that undercuts all of the great television we've seen recently: A search for meaning in unforgiving circumstances."
Stranger Things Video of Stranger Things - Trailer 1 - Netflix [HD]
The buzz surrounding this creepy new eight-part series skyrocketed as soon as the first trailer was released. Set in the 1980s, Stranger Things stars Winona Ryder as the single mother of a 12-year-old boy who disappears in the woods of a small town in Indiana.
"We have so much nostalgia and love for this era," Matt Duffer, who created, wrote and directed the series with his brother Ross, told The Independent. "We really wanted to see something on television that was in the vein of the classic films we loved growing up: the Spielbergs, the John Carpenters, as well as the novels of Stephen King."
The trailer features a number of 80s sci-fi and horror favourites: a young girl with supernatural powers; a government conspiracy and a mystical entity.
BoJack Horseman Video of BoJack Horseman - Season 2 - Official Trailer - Netflix [HD]
Netflix's only misanthropic animated horse won critical acclaim last year and a third season came out in July. BoJack Horseman, an ageing 90s TV star, is unable to marry his successful past with his unsuccessful present.
Despite featuring a talking horse and a host of other animals, this is no light-hearted caper. Alan Sepinwall at HitFix called it "an unblinking, incredibly empathetic portrait of middle-aged melancholy", while Todd VanDerWerff at Vox went further, praising the second series for its hard-hitting take on the modern obsession with celebrity culture.
"Netflix's BoJack Horseman found its footing beautifully in season two, earning the title of not just the streaming service's best show, but of one of television's best shows," he said.
Ian Crouch in the New Yorker called it a "brilliant comedy of despair", adding: "there has never before been a television comedy in which the main character was so unhappy and so self-aware at the same time."
With Will Arnett from Arrested Development voicing the lead and a whole host of A-list co-stars, including Alison Brie from Mad Men and Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul, BoJack Horseman looks set to be one of Netflix's big calling cards this summer.
Narcos Video of Narcos - Official Trailer 2 - Netflix [HD]
Narcos, made by Netflix itself, dramatises the life of Pablo Escobar, the Colombian drug lord who died in 1993 after reportedly becoming one of the ten richest men in the world, with his own private army. The first series was "superb", says the Daily Telegraph. "With more plot strands than a Dickens novel, this is drama that commands your utmost attention."
Brazilian actor Wagner Moura piled on 40 pounds to play the role of Escobar and his performance has been praised as "glowering" by the Telegraph. "He vacillates between taciturn menace and warmth towards his family, all the while throwing his weight around literally and symbolically," says the newspaper. The show was nominated for two Golden Globes this year, including best drama television series and best performance by an actor for Moura. The second series came out at the start of September.
Orphan Black Video of Orphan Black Season 1 Trailer
Tatiana Maslany finally won an acting Emmy this year for Orphan Black, in which she plays more than 40 different characters. Fans of the sci-fi thriller, which explores the ethical implications of human cloning, have been praising her skills since the series premiered in 2013.
The action focuses on Sarah Manning, a woman who discovers she has genetically identical sisters, including soccer mom Alison, PhD student Cosima and the dangerously disturbed Helena. Maslany shows "exceptional talent" in portraying their different personality traits, quirks and accents, says Hollywood Reporter.
The sisters have to battle a religious cult hell-bent on destroying them, as well as the mysterious Dyad Institute and even some of their own genetic copies, such as Rachel Duncan, who was raised as a corporate cutthroat aware of her origins. Sarah is also fiercely protective of her daughter Kira and foster brother Felix.
A fifth and final season is due to be released next year but until then, Netflix has all four seasons available for you to enjoy.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Video of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Trailer
This Netflix-only series from 30 Rock producers Tina Fey and Robert Carlock was first released last year and already has two seasons under its belt. Bridesmaids star Ellie Kemper stars as Kimmy Schmidt, a doomsday-cult escapee starting her life again in New York.
After living in an underground bunker for 15 years, convinced she and four others were the sole survivors of humanity, Schmidt moves in with struggling actor Titus Andromedon (Tituss Burgess) and finds a job as a nanny to Manhattan trophy wife Jacqueline Voorhees (Jane Krakowski). But the world has changed a lot since she was first locked up by cult leader Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (Jon Hamm).
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has been nominated for 11 Primetime Emmy awards and won high praise from critics. "What infuses the entire series with sweetness and positivity is Kemper's never-flagging, completely endearing portrayal of Kimmy, who doesn't want to be a victim and doesn't want to waste another day of her life," says the Hollywood Reporter.
Grace and Frankie Video of Grace and Frankie | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix
Created by Howard J Morris and Marta Kauffman (of Friends fame), the series sees Grace (Jane Fonda) and Frankie (Lily Tomlin) blindsided by the revelation that their respective husbands are gay and divorcing them to be with each other. During the whirlwind break-ups, Grace and Frankie, two opposites, find solace in each other's company and attempt to help each other through the experience.
The series stars Sam Waterston, Martin Sheen, Brooklyn Decker, Ethan Embry, June Diane Raphael and Baron Vaughn alongside the two shining leads.
"The chemistry between the former 9 to 5 co-stars and real-life friends Fonda and Tomlin is absolutely incredible," says The Guardian's Brian Moylan and, better yet, the show is "uniquely original in that it focuses on two women of a certain age".
Describing it as a "gift from the comedy gods", the Daily Telegraph's Sarah Carson says: "It's lighthearted in celebrating the continued vigour of people in the later years of their lives, addressing their concerns without reducing its characters to fumbling old biddies with a lost sense of purpose."
With season three premiering in early 2017, catch up on the first two seasons of Grace and Frankie now.
This article was from The Week and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.