7 Netflix shows you didn't know existed
You've heard the buzz about The Get Down, and you know all about Netflix's big tentpole shows, like Orange Is the New Black and House of Cards. You've watched Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Jessica Jones, and BoJack Horseman, and you even obsessed over Making of a Murderer when it came out last winter. But here's a guarantee: You know absolutely nothing about at least one Netflix series. It doesn't matter how thoroughly you binge-watch what's available — a few shows are bound to slip past your notice.
That's not just because Netflix makes so much television (although it does). It's because Netflix is doing its best to fill niches rather than appeal broadly — it wants to make a show for every audience, and it's only going to promote them to you, Netflix subscriber, if it thinks you'll like them. If you're into Louie or 30 Rock, you'll probably see a recommendation for Master of None. If you gave Gilmore Girls one star, you may never hear a peep about the Gilmore Girls revival. (Okay, you'd probably have to quit the whole internet to stay in the dark on that one, but you catch my drift.)
With that vast landscape in mind, here are seven Netflix shows you probably didn't even know existed. You may not love 'em all, but you can use this knowledge to broaden your TV horizons. Think of it it as a chance to explore uncharted territory, to try to understand people whose tastes are not your own. People, for instance, who love Flaked.
For Those Who Don't Actually Pay Attention to TV
Hoo boy, Flaked. Some of the series on this list are excellent and deserve your time, and some of them are unheard of because it's just better that way. Flaked, a Will Arnett–starring comedy about middle-aged white men finding themselves, is definitely the latter. File it under "grown men who behave like children" and "aging hipster-wannabes." It's set in Venice Beach, California, and everyone on the series seems to enjoy frequently mentioning that they live in "Venice."
For Those Who Love Thoughtful, Old-School Sitcoms
This is my mea culpa, because I didn't plan on liking The Ranch. It's not at all tilted toward my interests, so Netflix would never advertise it to me. But that's kind of a shame, because The Ranch is a little like a series I do like quite a bit, The Carmichael Show — both use a very old sitcom format to tell more modern stories. There are jokes about missing George W. Bush, and there are jokes about men who wear Ugg boots. But there's also no small amount of humanity and real pathos in its focus on the economic struggles of a blue-collar family, fathers who withhold affection, and what it means to set aside youthful dreams.
For Those Who Like Being Yelled at When They Eat
Netflix has two original food shows: The buzzy Chef's Table is food porn par excellence; the lesser-known one is Michael Pollan's mini-series Cooked. In four episodes, it ranges widely across history and cultural exploration, throwing in anthropology and politics and random food trivia with a hefty dose of editorializing about being better eaters. There is a lot of interesting content in Cooked, but there's also a tendency to draw overly broad generalizations about a topic that's endlessly personal, variable, and nuanced.
For Those Who Like Family Guy, and Also The Wonder Years
F Is for Family is an animated sitcom from the mind of comedian Bill Burr, and it feels overwhelmingly familiar. From its 1970s setting and almost-but-not-quite-dismantled Father Knows Best mentality to its dumbly raunchy sense of humor, none of this is especially groundbreaking. Indeed, there are plenty of moments where F Is for Family does not overcome any of its well-worn tropes. It's a comedy whose idea of hilarity is being trapped under your parents' bed while they have sex, and being forced to look up and see your father's hairy testicles rendered as cartoons, slapping rhythmically against a bed. In its better moments, though, F Is for Family is more generous, and can show glimmers of characters drawn with complexity and introspection about themselves and their lives.
For Those Who Miss Friday Night Lights
Last Chance U is a documentary about a tiny community college in East Mississippi with one of the country's best records for sending football players to Division I schools. It touches on complicated social issues and often falls short in exploring those ideas in meaningful ways, but Last Chance U is nevertheless thoroughly watchable. It's full of beautiful footage, for one thing, and it also tells some remarkably moving stories about EMCC players.
For Those Who Don't Fear a Virus Outbreak
Between is not a great show. It's not even a particularly good show. But for a very specific genre, it ticks a lot of boxes: virus outbreak, all the adults die, teens in a chaotic apocalypse, conspiracies, love interests, and passing attempts at wry sarcasm. If that's your jam, Between is the show to fill your viewing niche, but you should only turn to it after you've exhausted The 100, and already watched the Hunger Games and Divergent movies.
For Those Who Enjoy Maria Bamford's Stand-Up
None of the shows on this list are well-known, and a handful of them are just fine staying that way. (The world is doing great without having a deeper discussion about Flaked.) But there are also shows like Lady Dynamite, which are quirky in ways that will never appeal to a massive audience. Those kinds of shows often do fascinating and strange things, even as they're overlooked. Lady Dynamite is an exhausting (and exhaustively) self-aware exploration of what it's like to be in show business, to have a breakdown, and to make a television show. It's not always successful, but it is gutsy and experimental in a way that deserves attention.