Believe it or not, there was a time when streaming services like Netflix and Hulu were only for streaming episodes of shows produced by traditional networks. It has now become very lucrative, however, for these services to develop their own original programming. As such, this list will countdown the 8 Best and 8 Worst Netflix original series.
The basic premise for the entries on this list is that they must have been originally created by Netflix for its platform. I did, however, include the exception of Black Mirror. Even though it was originally created (and its first two seasons aired) on another platform, it did not reach anywhere close to the level of fame that it has since becoming a cult classic on Netflix.
Containing recent shows, as well as some which are now off the air, this list is truly representative of Netflix’s fascinating history of creating its own original programming.
16 Best: Narcos
Since Scarface and Miami Vice in the 1980’s, America has had a fascination with drug lords and the drug trade. Seeking to take advantage of this fascination, Netflix developed the show Narcos; following the story of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar.
Escobar is, of course, a real person who had amassed billions of dollars through his use of the drug trade in Colombia. You know how everyone now associates the country of Colombia with cocaine and other drug trafficking? Yeah, that’s because of this guy. Escobar was hugely famous during his life, and the Netflix series does an amazing job of following the life of this “regular guy” who would go on to become one of the most wealthy and influential criminals of all time.
Escobar was hugely famous during his life, and the Netflix series does an amazing job of following the life of this “regular guy” who would go on to become one of the most wealthy and influential criminals of all time.
15 Worst: Making a Murderer
When Making a Murderer first came out in 2015, it was instantly popular and got a lot of positive press for its attention to detail and revolutionary documentary style. While these accolades are certainly true, Making a Murderer as a program simply isn’t very good.
Admittedly, I am a 3rd year Law Student so I’m about to go way over the top here, but it is clear from the shows evidence (and this doesn’t even include the pieces of evidence that the show has been accused of not showing) that Steven Avery was more than likely guilty of the murder.
The outrageous conduct of the police aside (including the absolutely heinous fact that Avery’s nephew was found guilty as an accomplice when it is clear he had absolutely nothing to do with what happened), the evidence points heavily towards Avery as the murderer, a fact that ruined much of the show for me.
14 Best: Last Chance U
From one of my least favorite documentaries on Netflix to one of my favorites. If Making a Murderer is bad for being biased, then you can say that Last Chance U is great because it is so unbiased.
It would have been easy for the documentary filmmakers to go into Mississippi and paint the community college football program featured as a perfect testament to the JUCO system. Instead, the series showed the East Mississippi program exactly as it is, warts and all.
The sad fact of the JUCO system is that a large majority of its athletes are in junior college because they couldn’t hack it in the NCAA (whether due to poor academic performance, off the field issues, or lack of talent). Last Chance U depicts all these deficiencies in an accurate light, making it a must watch for any sports fan.
13 Worst: A Series of Unfortunate Events
When will producers learn that Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events just isn’t molded very well to television (or film). Most People know that the 2004 film starring Jim Carrey was an utter disaster, but many thought that Netflix would be able to work their magic on the popular children’s series (much as they have done with the other entries on this list). This has not come to fruition, however, as the recently released first season of the show isn’t markedly better than the original film.
I have hypothesized that the unique way in which the books were written (not to mention the fact that, at their core, they are books written for children) makes them wholly incompatible with adaption for television. As a fan of the books, I find that to be a sad fact indeed.
12 Best: Black Mirror
I don’t think a lot of people know just how politically charged the historic Twilight Zone series was. Watching it now, it’s hard to grasp the political messages being advocated for because many of the issues aren’t relevant to modern society. The Netflix original series (I talked in the introduction about the tumultuous nature of Black Mirrors to this title) Black Mirrors, however, steps right into the void left by Twilight Zone.
Covering topics from race, our relationship with technology, our constant need for gratification, and military indoctrination; this show enlightens viewers on a variety of relevant (and sometimes controversial) topics through the lens of a very entertaining program.
This show has won a litany of awards, and I am happy to see that it is finally establishing the rabid fan base that it deserves.
11 Worst: Skylanders Academy
The #11 Worst entry on our list has the sole distinction of being the only program listed here that I have not personally watched. Really, this entry is just an excuse for me to bitch about the Skylanders franchise as a whole. Remember back in the day when you bought a game (video or otherwise) and that game itself was all that you needed to recognize the full enjoyment of it?
Nowadays, for a kid to play the multitude of Skylander games, they have to buy these little action figure things (Skylanders isn’t alone in doing this, by the way, don’t think that you’re getting off the hook Nintendo).
Thereby, I view (and I don’t think unfairly) the Skylander animated series as just another way for the Skylander franchise to trick kids into buying more of their dumb little avatars.
10 Best: The Ranch
First of all, I want to recommend any fans of That 70’s Show to go home tonight and instantly start watching The Ranch. Though the plot is radically different, the chemistry between Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson is still clearly there, and you can still feel some of the old atmosphere that existed on that classic show.
For those of you who are not That 70’s Show fans (what is wrong with you?), give The Ranch a few episodes before you give up on it.
Admittedly, the plot is simplistic and predictable at times, but If you give it enough time the show starts to grow on you and the actors really begin to find their groove with their respective characters.
Also, who can turn down the chance to see Sam Elliot in action.
9 Worst: Richie Rich
While a lot of the Netflix remakes to make the bad portion of our list are simply the result of bad writing/producing on the part of Netflix, I think that the basic premise of the Richie Rich program may be fundamentally flawed.
Most people use television as an avenue to escape the horrors of the outside world, but a program about an enormously wealthy white kid (though the writers did make the updated Richie a self-made trillionaire through the use of a new green energy invention, instead of simply a wealthy heir) just seems out of place in our current society.
Throw in the fact that the new Richie doesn’t have quite the magic that Macaulay Culkin did, and this program was an instant miss for me.
8 Best: Orange is the New Black
I think there is a perception now that Orange is the New Black is a program only for women, but that is simply not true. Not even noting the fact that the show is in many ways an accurate representation of our current prison system (especially private prisons), this is a damn good show.
The depth that the writers are able to give to a plethora of characters causes the viewer to become truly invested in the lives of these women.
Not only this, but the acting is superb throughout, and the ability of the actresses to portray both lighthearted and emotionally devastating scenes is a true testament to their craft. This show continues to have an active fan base, so we can expect at least a few more seasons of this program before it goes off the air.
7 Worst: Santa Clarita Diet
One of the more disappointing shows for me in recent memory is Santa Clarita Diet. From the previews and the description, this seemed like just the kind of quirky show that I would enjoy.
For those of you who have seen Weeds, you know that it is a show about a mother turned drug dealer, however, you also recognize that over time the show becomes about so much more than just her dealing drugs.
Over the course of the first season of Santa Clarita, the show just never makes that jump to being about more than a woman who likes the taste of human flesh (yes you heard that right). For that reason, I just had to put this new Netflix original on the bad portion of my list at #7.
6 Best: Stanger Things
Is there any show on TV right now that made you more glad you watched it than Stranger Things? There are so many programs now that leave you feeling unsatisfied (or even dirty) after you watch them, that Stranger Things proved to be breath of fresh air to so many viewers.
Styled after 1980’s cinema, this show combines good acting with great storytelling and is a fun and compelling program throughout. I usually don’t even try to recommend shows to my parents, but Stranger Things was so good that I made my dad sit down and watch the entire first season with me.
The show is that good, and the fact that the music director threw in a ton of rad (after watching Stranger Things I feel comfortable using that word) 80’s music just completes the show’s retro setting.
5 Worst: Marco Polo
I’m acquiring my PhD in History (and I'm naturally a huge historical fiction fan) and even I could barely stomach the Netflix original series Marco Polo. A lot of history nerds (like myself) dislike historical fiction programming because it does not tie closely enough to what we know about the respective subject, but that’s not the problem with Marco Polo.
Actually, due to the limited number of primary resources, we know very little about Polo’s journey to the far east, therefore, the writers of the show practically had a clean slate to work with.
The problem, then with Marco Polo is that the writers took that blank slate and wrote on it a horrendous piece of fiction. I could barely finish the first season of this highly publicized show.
4 Best: House of Cards
I often ask myself how I became so invested in a show where there is essentially no protagonist. House of Cards follows the career of Congressman Frank Underwood and his wife Claire in their constant quest for ever increasing power and authority.
Frank is clearly the main character, but from the start of the show he is anything but the stories hero. Instead, the show is a graveyard of characters he stepped on during his ascent to power, and it is incredibly easy for viewers to get so caught up in his quest that they forget they’re supposed to be cheering for his eventual downfall.
I’m not a big fan of politics, but this original series' incredible writing makes this show a must watch for any fan of great television.
3 Worst: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
There was a time last year when Netflix was heavily pushing Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt as its next big program. I, along with countless other Netflix subscribers, broke down and watched much of the first season.
Generally if I begin a new program I do my very best to finish it, however, I don’t know if I could’ve handled many more episodes of Kimmy’s shenanigans.
Admittedly, this is not the type of show that I would generally watch, but after wasting about three hours of my life watching five episodes I can tell you that this program simply isn’t very good. I’m not alone in this opinion, as the largely negative fan feedback has caused Netflix to cool down their constant advertising of this original show.
2 Best: Daredevil
I write a lot of superhero lists for TheRichest and I always find myself talking about how great the Daredevil series on Netflix is. One of the more compelling characters in the Marvel Universe, I always thought the Daredevil franchise got a raw deal after the catastrophe of the 2003 film starring Ben Affleck.
As such, it was nice to see Netflix put in the time and resources necessary to make this show great. Not only did the producers do a phenomenal job with casting (Charlie Cox is the perfect Matt Murdoch), but the writing is superb, and closely ties in with the main tenets of the comic book storylines.
Following the success of Season 1, I was very pleasantly surprised to see the producers up the ante with the introduction of some beloved characters like Elektra and the Punisher for Season 2. So far this show has done everything right in my book, so let’s see if that continues on in the upcoming Season 3 premiere.
1 Worst: Fuller House
Before I get a ton of nasty comments from 90’s babies reveling in their nostalgia, answer me this; did you really enjoy Fuller House?
Did you finish an episode and then start another even though you had two papers due the next morning? I’d be willing to bet that your honest answer to both these questions is no. While there were certain points within the show (usually at the return of some beloved character) where I was truly having fun, for most of the episodes I found myself on Facebook or playing with my dog.
The writing just isn’t there to supplement the inherent nostalgia of the show, and for that reason, it is doomed to fail. These types of shows can be hugely successful (look no further than Disney’s Girl Meets World for evidence), but only if the Netflix creative staff gives Fuller House the time and energy that it deserves.