Why Should I Watch? It’s Ryan Murphy’s first original series for Netflix. That’s the narrative TV enthusiasts and industry titans will be watching, more so than any high school election shenanigans, when “The Politician” debuts this month. After signing a whopping $300 million overall deal in February 2018, Murphy is rolling out his first big-ticket Netflix series, and his deal along with more than few others is meant to help maintain subscribers as the O.G. streaming giant faces new competition from the likes of Disney+ and Apple TV+. The size of its audience is even more important than whether or not it’s any good, but awards prospects are top of mind for this star-studded venture. During his time at FX, Murphy served as an enticing dual threat: prestige and popularity. Now, he’s got to carry that over to Netflix.
Bonus Reason: Well, the cast is pretty stacked. Ben Platt plays Payton Hobart, a wehy student in Santa Barbara, CA who’s dreamt of becoming POTUS since age seven. His first step to higher office comes via a high school election, where he aims to be the student body president with a little help from his mother, Georgina Gwyneth Prow, a terminally ill running mate Zoey Deutch, and her grandmother, portrayed by the one and only Jessica Lange. Those are plenty of reasons right there, and everyone who couldn’t care less about the Hollywood business should be further intrigued by the dark comedy and bright California colors.
Why Should I Watch? Um, this photo? I mean, that’s enough, right? Oh, I should say it’s not a trick — two-time Emmy winnerMerritt Wever and all-around acting empress Toni Collette are series regulars, not guest stars, and they’re badass cop partners! End of argument.
Bonus Reason: Honestly, I could wrap this up with just two more words — Kaitlyn Dever — but I feel professionally obligated to explain what “Unbelievable” is about, so read on if you really need to: Based on the true story relayed by The Marshall Project and a Pulitzer Prize winning ProPublica article, “Unbelievable” follows Marie Adler, a teenager who files a police report claiming she’s been sexually assaulted by an unknown assailant who broke into her home. But few believe her claims, until two detectives uncover a pattern of crimes with similar descriptions. Dever plays Adler, Wever and Collette play the cops, and “Unbelievable” is set to tell a delicate and important story about believing women with the weight and intelligence it deserves.
Why Should I Watch? First off, yes, the Sturgill Simpson in the title is that Sturgill Simpson — the Grammy Award-winning country star behind “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth” and “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music.” And yes, those are two bright red animated eyes staring at you under said name in said title — “Sound and Fury” is a visual anime album, based on a story by Simpson, written and directed by Jumpei Mizusaki “Batman Ninja”, designed by manga artist Takashi Okazaki “Afro Samurai”, and featuring battling robot samurais — we think. Details are a little vague, but the official synopsis states “a noble few” are waging war “against their oppressors” in a “desolate, post-apocalyptic wasteland.” The sheer strangeness of this story from this creator in this format makes “Sound and Fury” a must-see.
Bonus Reason: Yes, there’s a new album from Simpson coming along with the record. The singer-songwriter described the making-of process in a press release as such: “We went in without any preconceived notions and came out with a really sleazy, steamy rock-‘n’-roll record. It's definitely my most psychedelic. And also my heaviest. I had this idea that it'd be really cool to animate some of these songs, and we ended up with a futuristic, dystopian, post-apocalyptic, samurai film.” The entirety of his Netflix special is set to Simpson’s original compositions, and the blend of visuals and music feels like an inevitable next step for the artist — he recently acted in the short-lived CBS All Access original series “One Dollar,” as well as Jim Jarmusch’s zombie movie “The Dead Don’t Die,” and will soon be seen in Lena Waithe’s latest film, “Queen & Slim.” Acting, writing, making music — it’s all coming together for the visionary, and “Sound and Fury” is the next step in his ongoing evolution.
4. “The Spy” available now
Sacha Baron Cohen in “The Spy”
Why Should I Watch? If you don’t know the true story of Eli Cohen, “The Spy” is a solid blend of entertainment and edification. The Israeli spy became a national hero for his unprecedented advancement through the ranks of Syrian government, and this six-hour Netflix drama starts with his initial training session, works through his early missions, and tracks him all the way through being appointed as Syria’s Minister of Defense. It’s a story worth watching, especially in how writer-director Gideon Raff highlights the cost of Cohen’s sacrifice.
Bonus Reason: Are you a Sacha Baron Cohen superfan? Have you been dying to see what he can do in front of a camera sans heavy makeup, crazy accessories, and/or thick accents? Well, “The Spy” gives you one answer — it may not be the defining answer, especially if you’re hoping Cohen becomes an all-genre leading man, but the actor holds his own in a serious, substantial role. Perhaps there’s more to uncover.
5. “Archibald’s Next Big Thing” available now
“Archibald’s Next Big Thing”
Why Should I Watch? “Archibald’s Next Big Thing” is primarily for kids and families, but, as a childless 30-something, I gotta say it still works for anyone who can appreciate inventive storytelling, excellent design, and impeccable voice work. An adaptation of the critically acclaimed children’s book of the same name, created by “Veep” stars Tony Hale and Tony Biaggne, the Netflix original series follows a brown-sweatered chicken who follows the first rule of improv — always say “yes, and…” — through various exciting adventures. In this way, “Archibald’s Next Big Thing” teaches a generation of screen addicts how to stay present in the moment, appreciate their surroundings, and see life as a fascinating journey, rather than one destination after the next.
Bonus Reason: Tony Hale’s voice is an under-appreciated aspect of his vast skillset. Sure, his silent expressions and comic reactions behind Julia Louis-Dreyfus elevated “Veep” go beyond brilliant wordplay, but Gary’s elated outbursts and calculated whispers added just as much to the character. Here, the Emmy winner is clearly having a blast voicing Archibald Strutter, upping his pitch to delightful s and imbuing his hero with an addictive exuberance, no matter the situation. It’s fun simply to imagine Hale in the recording booth, let alone coming up with various phrases and situations for his eponymous creation. But don’t just watch for Hale: “Archibald’s Next Big Thing” has a stacked cast, including Adam Pally, Jordan Fisher, and Rosamund Pike as series regulars, as well as Casey Wilson, RuPaul, Christine Baranski, Gary Cole, and President Meyer herself, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, filling out the guest cast.
6. “Criminal” available September 20
David Tennant in “Criminal”
Jose Haro / Netflix
Why Should I Watch? Like “Law & Order” crossed with “In Treatment,” this new Netflix original boils down a police procedural into its most dramatic moments: the interrogation. “Criminal” takes place entirely within the confines of a “police interview suite” per the official synopsis, as a police officer tries to crack their prime suspect one-on-one. Now, that could prove to form an exciting one-act play and a true acting showcase for a rotating group of stars like David Tennant and Hayley Atwell… or it could just a cheap way to produce content, with one set, limited production cost, and not a lot of room for creativity behind the camera. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.
Bonus Reason: I already said it: David Tennant and Hayley Atwell. Let these two loose in any room, and we’ll be there to watch what happens.
7. “Disenchantment” Season 2 available September 20
Why Should I Watch? Matt Groening’s first foray with Netflix, and third created series ever, got off to a rocky start before finding a compelling rhythm late in Season 1. Can it keep up the good vibes? “Disenchantment” earned a two-season order of 20 episodes total right off the bat, so the answer might come down to whether or not Groening wrote everything up front or waited to make adjustments for the follow-up episodes. If it’s the latter, this one could really take off — there’s a lot of potential in this fantasy kingdom, led by a rowdy princess and her demon sidekick. Netflix needs the wide appeal inherent in the beautiful animation and Groening’s natural storytelling instincts, but it also needs a little edge and originality to make sure its big investment breaks through the clutter of “too much TV.”
Bonus Reason: Remember the demon? Yeah, the demon is great. More demon, please.