Documentary group Cinema Eye on Thursday unveiled nominations for the 2020 Cinema Eye Honors, with Netflix’s American Factory and Neon’s Apollo 11 leading the way with five nominations each. Netflix tops all distributors with 17 noms, the most ever in a single year.
Winners will be revealed at a ceremony January 6 at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens.
American Factory, which counts Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground among its executive producers, and Todd Douglas Miller’s deep dive into the 1969 moon mission Apollo 11 were nominated in the marquee Outstanding Nonfiction Feature category. They are joined there by For Sama, the PBS/Frontline Syrian drama from Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watt; Neon’s Honeyland, the Sundance-winning Macedonian beekeeper tale from Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevsk; 1901 Media’s Mexico City ambulance industry pic Midnight Family; and Amazon Studios’ Sundance U.S. Grand Jury Prize-winning One Child Nation.
Last year, Hale County This Morning, This Evening took the top award.
Last year, Netflix proved our cultural obsession with cults is far from over with “Wild Wild Country,” the hit docu-series about Rajneeshpuram cult leader Bhagwan Rajneesh and his followers. In the years since its massive international popularity has grown, yoga has attracted millions of devotees as fervent as any cult followers. But none as cult-like as Bikram yoga, or hot yoga, founded and popularized by Bikram Choudhury. A new Netflix documentary titled “Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator” tells the story of the cult-like figure, who abused his position to rape, assault, and harass multiple women in his ranks. The newly released trailer showcases countless interviews with his followers and victims, often blurring the line between them.
“He sees himself as a cross between Mother Teresa and Howard Stern,” one male interview subject says in the trailer. Another woman recalls, “I’d see flashes of megalomania, but I didn’t know how diabolical he actually was.” The rest of the trailer is full of explosive interviews with women who remain supportive of Choudhury, as well as difficult to stomach archival footage of Choudhury literally standing on top of multiple women in supine yoga poses.
In his positive review of the film out of its Toronto International Film Festival premiere, IndieWire’s Eric Kohn praised the film’s urgent political message while acknowledging its filmmaking was underwhelming. “It doesn't bring much new information to the table, but it's an infuriating look at the way Choudhury seduced thousands of followers with his yoga franchise, while raping and assaulting innumerable women, and how he managed — so far — to get away with it. Choudhury belongs in jail, and this frustrating overview provides the latest opportunity to keep that conversation in the public eye.”
“Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator” was directed by Eva Orner, an Australian filmmaker and producer who won an Academy Award in 2008 as a producer on Alex Gibney’s torture documentary “Taxi to the Dark Side.” This is the fourth feature documentary she has directed, and it follows “The Network,” “Chasing Asylum,” and “Out of Iraq.”
Netflix will release “Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator” for streaming on November 20. Check out the compelling trailer below.
Netflix has ordered From Scratch, a new limited series starring and executive produced by Zoe Saldana, based on Tembi Locke’s best-selling memoir, from Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine banner and 3 Arts Entertainment.
From Scratch, published on April 30 by Simon and Schuster, was selected as Reese's Book Club x Hello Sunshine May 2019 book pick.
From Scratch is a sweeping, autobiographical romance that follows an American woman as she falls in love with a Sicilian man while studying abroad in Italy then builds a life with him in the United States. When she unexpectedly loses him to illness, she is challenged to pull herself through grief so she can raise their daughter as they would have raised her together: with hope, joy and infinite love.
Tembi Locke’s sister Attica Locke Empire, When They See Us, will serve as showrunner and executive producer with Saldana. Witherspoon and her producing partner, Lauren Neustadter will executive produce under Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine banner, along with Richard Abate, Jermaine Johnson, and Will Rowbotham of 3 Arts Entertainment. Saldana’s sisters Cisely Saldana and Mariel Saldana will co-produce.
“Attica and I are honored to be adapting From Scratch with the visionary Reese Witherspoon, Lauren Neustadter, Richard Abate and the incredibly gifted Zoe Saldana,” said Tembi Locke. “We have a shared interest in championing stories that bring a rich tapestry of experiences to the screen. I am thrilled that this global love story has found a perfect home at Netflix.”
“This is a profound true story of love and family, deprivation and nourishment, that needs to be brought to life on the screen as Tembi Locke brought it vividly to life for me on the page,” said Zoe Saldana. “We are grateful to Netflix and thrilled to be working with Reese, Lauren, Attica and 3 Arts on this wonderful project.”
“Tembi's memoir is a raw and tender exhibition of life in all its pieces,” says Witherspoon. “She brings you into her love, her loss and her resilience with such vulnerability and strength. We immediately fell for Attica and Tembi's vision and feel honored to have the opportunity to help bring it to life on-screen. We could not imagine more perfect partners for this than Zoe and her sisters and 3 Arts Entertainment, along with the incredible team at Netflix.”
“Between the Locke sisters and the Saldana sisters, I've never seen a show that's more of a family affair,” said Channing Dungey, Vice President of Original Series. “Reese Witherspoon and Hello Sunshine have been producing really exciting content and we're thrilled to make this powerful and emotional series with them.”
'From Scratch' is based on a best-selling memoir by Tembi Locke.
Zoe Saldana is headed to Netflix.
The Guardians of the Galaxy and Avatar actress will star in and executive produce From Scratch, a limited series based on a best-selling memoir of the same title by Tembi Locke. Reese Witherspoon is also an executive producer.
From Scratch is an autobiographical romance about an American woman who falls in love with a Sicilian man while studying abroad in Italy and then builds a life with him in the United States. When she unexpectedly loses him to illness, she is challenged to pull herself through grief so she can raise their daughter as they would have raised her together: with hope, joy and infinite love.
Tembi Locke's sister, Attica Locke When They See Us, Empire, will adapt the book and serve as showrunner. She executive produces with Zoe, Cisely and Mariel Saldana; Witherspoon and her Hello Sunshine partner, Lauren Neustadter; and Richard Abate, Jermaine Johnson and Will Rowbotham of 3 Arts Entertainment.
"Attica and I are honored to be adapting From Scratchwith the visionary Reese Witherspoon, Lauren Neustadter, Richard Abate and the incredibly gifted Zoe Saldana," said Tembi Locke. "We have a shared interest in championing stories that bring a rich tapestry of experiences to the screen. I am thrilled that this global love story has found a perfect home at Netflix."
Reese Witherspoon Sets Home-Organizing Series at Netflix
Added Saldana, "This is a profound true story of love and family, deprivation and nourishment, that needs to be brought to life on the screen as Tembi Locke brought it vividly to life for me on the page. We are grateful to Netflix and thrilled to be working with Reese, Lauren, Attica and 3 Arts on this wonderful project."
From Scratchwas published in April by Simon and Schuster. The book was the May pick for Reese's Book Club, which has become a powerhouse in the publishing industry. The partnership with Hello Sunshine has helped several titles become best-sellers.
"Tembi's memoir is a raw and tender exhibition of life in all its pieces," said Witherspoon. "She brings you into her love, her loss and her resilience with such vulnerability and strength. We immediately fell for Attica and Tembi's vision and feel honored to have the opportunity to help bring it to life onscreen. We could not imagine more perfect partners for this than Zoe and her sisters and 3 Arts Entertainment, along with the incredible team at Netflix."
The project is the latest for Witherspoon and Hello Sunshine. She's an EP on three shows at Apple TV+: The Morning Show, in which Witherspoon stars with Jennifer Aniston; Truth Be Told, starring Octavia Spencer and Aaron Paul; and a comedy based on Curtis Sittenfeld's You Think It, I'll Say It. Hello Sunshine is also developing an unscripted home-organizing series at Netflix, a rock 'n' roll drama at Amazon and a family drama at Starz.Witherspoon is starring in and executive producing Little Fires Everywhere at Hulu.
"Between the Locke sisters and the Saldana sisters, I've never seen a show that's more of a family affair," said Channing Dungey, vp original series at Netflix. "Reese Witherspoon and Hello Sunshine have been producing really exciting content, and we're thrilled to make this powerful and emotional series with them."
Comedy is one of the most personal genres of entertainment, as subjective and divisive as politics. Thank heavens, then, for the wide library of Netflix, which is here to service all of our laughter needs. Craving a traditional laugh-tracked sitcom? A more serious, single-cam series? A mockumentary? Done, done, and done. So here are the 15 funniest shows on Netflix streaming right now.
Related: The Best Dark Comedies On Netflix Right Now
NBC 1. The Office U.S.
9 seasons, 201 episodes | IMDb: 8.8/10
While this The Office owes its existence to the original, this is a great example of the rare success of an American remake of a beloved British property. The U.K. version was the original cringe comedy, starring Ricky Gervais as clueless boss David Brent, whose desperate attempts at connecting with his underlings are a painful exercise in futility. Steve Carell plays his American counterpart, though his Michael Scott, while equally awkward, proves himself to be more sympathetic as time goes on. There are some who will never see the U.S. version as anything other than a pale imitation of its British predecessor, and it's true that its overextended existence it really should have ended when Carell departed in season seven takes some of the shine out of the series. But both can and should be viewed on their own merits, and when enjoyed as such, have moments of equal, cringe-inducing brilliance. Unfortunately, the U.S. version is the only one on Netflix right now.
NBC 2. Parks and Recreation
7 seasons, 125 episodes | IMDb: 8.6/10
The idealism of longtime public servant Leslie Knope can seem a little hard to swallow in these post-2016 election times, but that's precisely why we need Parks and Rec: Leslie's optimism makes us believe that government — and life itself — can truly be good if you stand by your work and imbue everything you do with passion and an undying hunger for waffles. And if you aren't ready to adopt such a sunny disposition for yourself just yet, you can always look for distraction and a laugh in a classic like “Flu Season.” Or “Lil' Sebastian.” Or “The Debate.” Or “Halloween Surprise.” Or any number of episodes populated by the hilarious, delightfully demented residents of Pawnee Perd Hapley, Joan Callamezzo, Ethel Beavers, and so many more and the stacked cast of regulars populating the Parks Department Chris Pratt, the MVP of non-sequiturs and pratfalls; Jim O'Heir, the perennially upbeat punching bag Jerry/Larry/Terry/Garry. And if nothing else, Parks gave us Ron Swanson, a pyramid of greatness unto himself. You had us at “meat tornado.”
Fox 3. Arrested Development
5 seasons, 91 episodes | IMDb: 8.8/10
Setting aside its disjointed fourth season a divisive effort that's best viewed as its own entity, Arrested Development is a modern comedy classic, a screwball farce masquerading as a mockumentary about an inherently unlikable clan of rich folks who are as out of touch how much could a banana cost — ten dollars? as they are dysfunctional Motherboy XXX. When patriarch George Sr. is arrested for fraud, it sends the clueless Bluths into a tailspin, desperately trying to cling to their remaining cash and the last vestiges of their lavish lifestyle, propping up the illusion tricks are something a whore does for money in increasingly ridiculous ways and prompting increasingly exasperated commentary from narrator Ron Howard. Breakfast Family may be the most important thing, but when it's populated with hop-ons, nevernudes who blue themselves, and Franklin the puppet, can you blame Michael for continuously threatening to bail on his? Fortunately, you won't have any reservations about sticking with the Bluths, especially since the first three seasons — and their intricate, carefully plotted jokes — reward multiple viewings.
NBC 4. The Good Place
3 seasons, 37 episodes | IMDb: 8.2/10
Michael Schur The Office, Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine steps away from his usual workplace sitcom for this afterlife comedy, which focuses on Eleanor Shellstrop Kristen Bell, who finds herself in “the good place” after her life comes to an end. Though told this is because she's led a good, altruistic life, Eleanor knows she's pretty much a terrible person and is only in this utopia because of its architect's Ted Danson mistake. With this limitless, fictional world, Schur is able to take chances and create a truly goofy show that still deals with morality and other philosophical issues. While the first season is great, a spoiler-filled twist really opens up the show's potential in its second season.
Netflix 5. Bojack Horseman
6 seasons, 76 episodes | IMDb: 8.6/10
BoJack Horseman might originally turn off viewers in its first few episodes due to its silliness. But it gets deeper than a show about a horse-man and fellow animal-people should get, getting very real and very depressing in some spots. But there's always a layer of comedy woven into its intricate plots that are only ened by the sadness. After all, there's a recurring character named 'Vincent Adultman' who is very clearly a few young children stacked up inside a trench coat. That's the kind of show we're dealing with here.
CBC 6. Schitt's Creek
5 seasons, 66 episodes | IMDb: 8.2/10
Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara star in this Canadian sitcom about a wealthy family forced to scale down their extravagant lifestyle with hilarious results. Levy plays Johnny Rose, a rich video-store magnate who loses his fortune when his business manager fails to pay his taxes. O'Hara plays his wife, Moira, a former soap opera star who, along with her husband and their two pampered children, must move to a town called Schitt's Creek. Johnny bought the town as a joke when the family had more money than they could spend, but now, the town and its residents serve as a comedic wake-up call for a guy who has problems rooting himself in reality. Levy is brilliant in this thing and it's a damn shame the show is so overlooked by American audiences. Let's change that.
10 seasons, 236 episodes | IMDb: 8.9/10
There are some who argue that Friends was an overrated sitcom, with protagonists as unrealistic as they were lily-white. But like a big bowl of mac 'n cheese, Friends is TV comfort food: not exactly great for you, but sometimes exactly what's needed. From classic episodes like “The One With the Embryos” and “The One Where Everybody Finds Out” to its sprawling cast of eccentric supporting characters, the enduringly funny Friends will be there for you when you need to kick back and forget about the real world for a while.
8. Big Mouth
3 seasons, 32 episodes | IMDb: 8/10
The animated, coming-of-age comedy from Nick Kroll is full of familiar voices and even more familiar life problems. Centered on a group of pre-pubescent friends, Kroll voices a younger version of himself, a kid named Andrew who's going through some embarrassing life changes like inconvenient erections and strange wet dreams and bat-mitzvah meltdowns. All these traumatizing and hilarious happenings are usually caused by Maurice, Andrew's own Hormone Monster also voiced by Kroll who takes pleasure literally in abusing the poor kid. As painfully accurate as the show is, if you're lucky enough to be removed from that angst-ridden era of life, you'll probably appreciate the humor in all of it.
9. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
4 seasons, 62 episodes | IMDb: 7.8/10
The title may initially turn you off — as may its status as a rom-com/musical hybrid airing on The CW — but as protagonist Rebecca Bunch will tell you, the situation with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a lot more nuanced than that. The genre-bending show spends just as much time churning out toe-tapping tunes as it does exploring the depths of mental illness, sometimes simultaneously, but stops just short of becoming an outright dramedy thanks to the impeccable comedic timing of its stellar cast, led by Rachel Bloom as Rebecca and Donna Lynne Champlin as Bex's coworker and BFF, Paula. There's plenty of comedy to mine from its music songs like “Settle for Me,” “Textmergency,” “West Covina,” and “Dream Ghost” are as catchy as they are key to plot development, but it's the throwaway moments that really make the show pop: Paula the singing raccoon, Daryl proudly declaring himself a “bothsexual,” Heather's expert knowledge of mating signals, every aside uttered by Father Brah. If loving this show makes us C-R-A-Z-Y, so be it.
8 seasons, 79 episodes | IMDb: 8.2/10
It helps if you've lived in and/or been to Portland, and like most sketch comedy, Portlandia is wildly hit and miss, but the hits are often huge, and the misses are easy enough to fast-forward through. It's clever and strangely understated for sketch comedy, and although it works best as a send-up of Portland, the absurdist comedy is still effective outside of the Northwest.
11. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
4 seasons, 51 episodes | IMDb: 7.8/10
This joyful series has no business being so sunny, especially considering its pitch-black premise: Kimmy, kidnapped as a teenager and forced to live among a doomsday cult in an underground bunker, is finally rescued, and trying to rebuild her life. But as played by the effervescent Ellie Kemper, this female is strong as hell, and determined to make the most of her freedom. A ragtag roster of supporting characters helps her through her transition her roommate Titus the most delightful among them, though pretty much everyone she encounters is comedy gold, whether it's figuring out what slang is outdated, or how best to kill the sentient robot you suspect is sleeping with your husband. Season two delves a little deeper into the psychological toll the Reverend's kidnapping had on Kimmy, but despite the darker material, the show maintains its madcap charm. Special shout-out to delightful guest star Tina Fey, who co-created the show with her 30 Rock collaborator Robert Carlock.
2 seasons, 13 episodes | IMDb: 8.3/10
Ricky Gervais followed up his nearly unfollowable first show, The Office, with Extras, another tale loosely based on his own life, only this time his struggles with finding and being satisfied with success in television. On the exterior, Gervais' character Andy Millman is much different from The Office's David Brent, but at their core they're the same, chasing fame and thinking they're better than they actually are. The show is stolen, though, by Millman's refreshingly platonic friendship with Maggie Ashley Jensen, his clueless agent co-creator Stephen Merchant, and the celebrities willing to poke fun at themselves in every episode including a bitingly memorable diddy from the late David Bowie. It's another two-series-and-a-Christmas-special show, so a binge'll take no time at all.
13. American Vandal
2 seasons, 16 episodes | IMDb: 8.2/10
“Who did the dicks?” The question seems juvenile at first, but it's the enigma that drives American Vandal. Netflix decided to produce a parody heavily inspired by one of its own shows, Making A Murderer, with this teen mockumentary that focuses on the vandalism of 27 faculty cars in a school parking lot. With all the evidence pointing toward the local troublemaker/burnout, the case seems wrapped up before it even begins, but once the protagonists start looking more closely at what really happened, everyone becomes a suspect. It's a hilarious show but also a tense one as the mystery gets deeper and deeper. Season two only builds on season one's success, this time having the teen investigate a poop conspiracy that makes those dick jokes look tame. Unfortunately, Netflix has pulled the plug on the show.
14. I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson
1 season, 6 episodes | IMDb: 7.6/10
Saturday Night Live and Detroiters alum Tim Robinson creates and stars in this 15-minute sketch comedy series that is perfectly happy to offer up a few irreverent laughs without all of the post-comedy commentary that weighs down other funny shows in 2019. It's a mixed bag of unconnected stories about toddler pageants and old men out for revenge and how Instagram has warped our social interactions in hilariously bizarre ways. What each of these skits has in common is Robinson's particular brand of comedy and his unrivaled ability to make you laugh.
15. I'm Sorry
2 season, 20 episodes | IMDb: 7.8/10
Andrea Savage is brilliant in this throwaway comedy series about a comedy writer, wife, and mom who attempts to forge a normal life despite her neuroses and odd job requirements. Kathy Baker and Tom Everett Scott also star, and some funny names, including Jason Mantzoukas, pop up occasionally, but the real star is Savage. She's witty and sharp and crass and perfectly fine with all of it. There aren't any huge, climactic plot point per episode — the show deals mostly with weird neighbors and common parenting mistakes and relationship humor — but it doesn't need any of that to make us laugh. It just needs Andrea Savage.
9 seasons, 110 episodes | IMDb: 8.7/10
The long-running Showtime series understands better than any other drama on television what it's like to be poor in America. Set in Chicago, Shameless follows the lives of the Gallagher family as they struggle beneath the poverty line to make ends meet. The family is afflicted with alcoholism, drug addiction, mental illness, poor decision-making skills, and the kind of terrible luck that so often follows poor families, but they've also got each other, their resilience, and a determination to break the cycle, but in Shameless, impoverishment is the boogeyman that always comes back, hilariously and heartbreakingly.
11 seasons, 275 episodes | IMDb: 7.8/10
Mike Schur, the creator of Parks and Recreation, is an avowed disciple of Cheers, citing the NBC sitcom as his favorite show and driving influence. It's not hard to see why: Cheers is a classic for a reason, a sitcom populated with colorful characters Norm!, complicated relationships Sam and Diane, and reliably hilarious hijinks that legendary Thanksgiving food fight that easily sustain its 11 seasons. Schur has often said that he modeled the protagonists of Parks on the characters of Cheers, people who genuinely liked each other in spite of their differences. Sure, Cheers frequently features caustic one-liners particularly those delivered by Carla and grating personalities why anyone hung out with Cliff is a bit of a head-scratcher. But despite the occasional unpleasantness, Cheers isn't just a place where everybody knows your name — it's where everybody's family, misfit barflies and all.
18. The Inbetweeners
3 seasons, 18 episodes | IMDb: 8.3/10
Plenty of comedies focus on those awkward teenage years, but few are as painfully funny as The Inbetweeners, a Britcom about four pals struggling to make it through high school, and all the bullying, underage drinking, and thwarted sexual encounters — so, so many thwarted sexual encounters — that go with it. The lads can sometimes revert too easily to their archetypes Will is the impossibly nerdy protagonist who can't seem to ever do or say the right thing; Jay, the crude skirt-chaser whose intact virginity is the bane of his existence, but you'll be laughing too hard at their boneheaded antics and horrendous luck to care.
19. Jane the Virgin
5 seasons, 100 episodes | IMDb: 7.8/10
This genre-defying telenovela send-up has one of the weirdest premises of any show, ever: Jane Villanueva, a devout Catholic who's vowed to remain a virgin until marriage, is accidentally artificially inseminated during a routine gynecological visit, and becomes pregnant. It sounds more soap operatic than comedic, but that's where Jane proves naysayers wrong, infusing the title character's unlikely journey with countless laugh-out-loud funny moments that shock and delight viewers at every turn. While Gina Rodriguez's radiant performance as Jane is the heart of the show, its comedic success is largely thanks to two characters: Her long-lost father, telenovela superstar Rogelio de la Vega Jaime Camil; and the Narrator brilliantly voiced by Anthony Mendez, whose helpful explanations and perfectly timed interjections make him as integral to the proceedings as Jane herself. The Narrator is both an audience stand-in regularly exclaiming “OMG!” at surprising developments and the ultimate insider showrunners have teased that his connection to the characters runs deeper than just an omniscient voiceover presence. The preening Rogelio steals the show; the Narrator keeps you coming back for more.
20. The End Of The F***ing World
2 seasons, 16 episodes | IMDb: 8.2/10
The End of the F***ing World is a dark comedy based on the comic series by Charles S. Forsman about James Alex Lawther, a withdrawn and disturbed 17-year-old who believes he is a psychopath, and his burgeoning Bonnie & Clyde-like relationship with Alyssa Jessica Barden, a classmate damaged by a dysfunctional family. Written by Charlie Covell and directed by Jonathan Entwistle and Lucy Tcherniak, the series is akin to a high school version of True Romance and about two deeply troubled, misanthropic teenagers who find comfort in one another and who are willing, if necessary, to perpetrate crimes to maintain their relationship. It's bleakly funny but things take a more serious turn in season two, when Alyssa is left managing the aftermath of the pair's crime spree and a new psychopath enters the mix.
Cops and robbers have been some of the most durable subjects for TV since the inception of broadcast television: Jack Webb's Dragnet was the original docudrama. And Netflix is no exception, with great shows like Orange Is The New Black, Breaking Bad, and Peaky Blinders tackling everything from the emotional connections between gang members to the struggles of surviving prison. But, when you're done with those, there are thousands of hours of mysteries, questionable crimes, and dangerous criminals, but we've narrowed it down to the fifteen best crime shows on Netflix to binge on.
Related: The Best Crime Movies On Netflix Right Now
American Crime Story
2 seasons, 19 episodes | IMDb: 8.5/10
Ryan Murphy has made a name for himself on TV thanks to his nightmare-inducing anthology series, but this mini-series, which chronicles the events leading up to and following the murder trial of O.J. Simpson, proved the showrunner can do drama like no one else. Employing an award-winning cast including Sarah Paulson, Sterling K. Brown, Courtney B. Vance, Cuba Gooding Jr., and John Travolta, Murphy charts the fall of one of the most beloved sports stars in a case that gripped the nation. The events are well-known, but it's the meat added to the behind-the-scenes details, particularly Paulson's portrayal of Marcia Clark, that make this a worthwhile watch. In its second season, the show moves focus on the assassination of design legend Gianni Versace by Andrew Cunanan. While not as strong as the amazing ensemble in Season 1, Season 2 boasts memorable portrayals of conflicted, complex figures by Darren Criss, Penelope Cruz, Édgar Ramírez, and surprisingly Ricky Martin.
1 season, 6 episodes | IMDb: 8.2/10
The UK's most popular new drama has made its way across the pond. The procedural thriller stars Game of Thrones' Richard Madden as David Budd, a military vet turned police officer tasked with protecting a high-profile politician during a particularly dicey time. There's plenty of suspense and action to string you along, coupled with a vulnerable performance by Madden, who ditches his King of the North swagger to play a man conflicted by his past and his present duty to his country.
Making A Murderer
2 seasons, 20 episodes | IMDb: 8.6/10
This is one of Netflix's most popular documentary series, and you'll understand why after one episode. The show follows the case of Steven Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey, who were arrested for the murder of photographer Teresa Halbach. But what initially appears to be a clear-cut case becomes much more questionable once filmmakers Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi take you inside a system that seems designed to generate guilty verdicts rather than discover the truth. The show's second season, perhaps its strongest, follows Avery's appeal process led by a tough-as-nails attorney who digs past the red tape to expose corruption at the highest levels of our judicial system. If the first season is a whodunnit, the second explores how such a crime was pinned on what very well could be an innocent man.
When They See Us
1 season, 4 episodes | IMDb: 9/10
Director Ava DuVernay's limited series about the wrongfully accused men in the Central Park Five case is an emotionally heavy reimagining of a truly tragic event in our history. The series sheds light on racial profiling and corruption in the NYPD as a group of young Black men are targeted for a heinous crime and put on trial with little evidence. It's a gripping, heartbreaking retelling, but one that feels sadly relevant.
2 seasons, 19 episodes | IMDb: 8.5/10
Based on the book by John Douglas, the real-life FBI agent who made “criminal profiler” a job Hollywood thought every FBI agent had, David Fincher's moody procedural series is less focused on the whodunit, as usually that's solved by the time they show up, and more about the psychological wear and tear that comes from trying to explore the minds of people compelled to murder, or do it because they're bored, or any of a host of other reasons. It's a fascinating character drama about crime and how some crimes eat at us.
2 seasons, 20 episodes | IMDb: 8.3/10
Ozark, from part of the team behind Ben Affleck's The Accountant, is an example of what I call stress-watching television. A combination of Breaking Bad and Bloodline, Ozark sees a money launderer Jason Bateman and his wife Laura Linney move from Chicago to backwoods Missouri in an effort to clean $8 million in three months, lest their entire family be killed by a Mexican drug cartel. It's not a fun show, and it's barely entertaining, but like Bloodline, it's the kind of series where the viewer is anxious to binge through it just to see if the antagonists will survive and how. It's a seedy, well-written, well-acted series, and Bateman is terrific, but the entire point of Ozark is to put the viewer through the wringer: It's tense and stressful, and we don't watch for resolution; we watch for relief.
2 seasons, 13 episodes | IMDb: 8.5/10
This ironically titled show follows beat cop Catherine Cawood Sarah Lancashire as she juggles her job, her complicated feelings about a local man, and the brutal crime that drove her daughter to suicide. As she methodically assembles the case against who she thinks the perpetrator is, a tragedy begins to come into focus. Happy Valley can be a tough watch, but the focus on day-to-day policing, and Lancashire's rich performance makes it a show we're glad Netflix tracked down.
4 seasons, 40 episodes | IMDb: 8.8/10
With Narcos, Netflix takes on the rise and fall of Colombian kingpin Pablo Escobar and the Medellín drug cartel. Splicing together dramatized scenes and actual news footage, Brazilian filmmaker José Padilha Elite Squad combines Scarface and Goodfellas to track the life of Escobar. However, the real story here is not the characters as much as it is the Colombian drug trade and the spread of cocaine from South America into the U.S. in the 1980s. Escobar is used as a vehicle to illustrate the futility of the American drug war and the toll it took on both the criminals in Colombia and the authorities in the U.S. The show's fourth season, billed as an entire separate entry, gives us a stylish re-imagining of the early days of Mexico's drug war with Diego Luna playing the new big bad, a drug lord looking to expand his reach, while Michael Pena plays the fed tasked with busting his operation.
5 seasons, 63 episodes | IMDb: 8.3/10
Originally airing on A&E, and adapted from a popular mystery series, Longmire follows the sheriff of the title as he solves murder mysteries in and around the Wyoming county he's elected sheriff of, while battling with local tribal authorities, the county government, and powerful families. What makes Longmire such a fascinating series is that what could just be Law & Order: Wyoming quickly becomes a series about aging men struggling with their feelings, their choices, and the truth hollowing out the comfortable world they've built for themselves, often looking squarely at the tropes of the Western and how they do and don't hold up in the modern world. Anchored by Robert Taylor in the title role you might remember him as one of Agent Smith's sidekicks in The Matrix and Lou Diamond Phillips as Henry Standing Bear, Longmire's good friend and a man often stuck between his native heritage and the “white” world he's expected to blend into, it's a thoughtful, unexpectedly engaging series.
Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes
1 season, 4 episodes | IMDb: 7.9/10
Ted Bundy is one of the most infamous serial killers in American history so you'd think we'd know the whole of this sociopath's exploits by now, but this docuseries manages to find a new angle on the story of Bundy's descent into madness. Through confessional recordings, victims' testimonies, and investigative reporting, the short series charts how Bundy, a handsome, educated white man, was able to deceive so many for so long, murdering young women along the way. What's even more interesting about this series is that, while the show explores how Bundy's crimes made him an idol for some, it also does justice by his victims, detailing their backstories and interviewing their surviving family members.
2 seasons, 22 episodes | IMDb: 8/10
Jessica Biel stars as a woman with a dark past in this mystery series with Bill Pullman and Christopher Abbot. Biel plays Cora, a wife and mother who commits a horrific act of violence during a family beach trip for no apparent reason. It's only once a detective Pullman begins looking into her life before the murder does he discover a conspiracy plot as tangled as it is gruesome.
1 season, 10 episodes | IMDb: 8.2/10
It's the question every TV fan hears sooner or later: “Have you seen The Wire?” Sadly, The Wire is over at Amazon, but on Netflix, there's a sometimes overlooked spiritual sibling worth looking into. Irish novelist and screenwriter Ronan Bennett's series follows Ra'Nell, a boy struggling to survive in public housing when his mother is committed to an institution, and two young drug dealers find themselves working their way up the food chain to the top of a questionable heap. Bennett's warmth and humanity helps bring into focus the very real struggles preteens at the bottom of Irish society and makes for a series you won't soon forget.
7 seasons, 92 episodes | IMDb: 8.7/10
If Orange Is The New Black is taking forever to come back for you, consider picking up the more serious Australian take on women in prison, Wentworth. A reimagining of the classic Australian drama Prisoner, it follows a woman in jail for attempted murder as the court figures out her case. It's a compelling take on the prison drama with unexpected turns, being in Australia, and one of Netflix's best sleeper series.
5 seasons, 100 episodes | IMDb: 7.8/10
Ostensibly a story about the city of Batman while Batman is still just young Bruce Wayne, Gotham quickly became the kind of sprawling, bizarre campy drama that shows like Law & Order: SVU and NCIS can only wish they were. While the show has recognizable Batman villains and even makes characters like Jim Gordon and the Penguin central to the plot, in the end it's a grandiose melodrama about an utterly corrupt city and the one man at its center hoping to change it one case at a time. Also a character is kidnapped by pirates. No, really. That happens.
4 seasons, 30 episodes | IMDb: 8.4/10
Sometimes the justice system fails, and the wrong person is punished for a crime they didn't commit. Rectify follows Daniel Holden Aden Young as, after spending half his life with a death sentence hanging over his head, is cleared by DNA evidence and has to adjust to life as not just a free man, even as many around him seek to undo his release.