Netflix has come a long way in its 21 years of existence. Remember when they were simply the disks that arrived at your house in red envelopes, movies that you added to your queue months ago, only when they arrived, you weren’t in the mood to watch them, so they sat for weeks until you sent them back?
Now they have fantastic original programming that makes you say, “What networks?” Everybody knows about Stranger Things. But what don’t you know about?
I’m going to countdown 5 shows that you should definitely check out.
#5 — Lost In Space
The 2018 reboot of the 60s classic is imaginative and action-packed. Don’t sit down thinking you’re just going to watch one episode, because they rock the cliff-hanger like they invented it.
Let’s not kid anybody, this is intended to be a family show, so there’s a certain amount of reality viewers are expected to suspend. But they’ve brought to the table 21st Century sensibilities — Mom and Dad’s relationship is strained. Mom brings to the marriage a daughter from a previous relationship. The kids feel a certain amount of alienation from Dad.
One glorious departure from the original show is the fact that they made Dr. Smith a woman. And why would they not? Parker Posey amps up the creep factor with her chillingly sociopathic villain, and makes this a must-binge-watch series.
Here’s the official Netflix trailer.
#4 — Safe
Created by crime writer Harlan Coben, Safe is the story of a girl who’s gone missing from a lovely gated British neighborhood where everyone harbors secrets.
Michael C. Hall (yes, the one from Dexter) plays a widowed surgeon whose teenage daughter goes to a party and vanishes. Every episode peels back layers of a complex story, and you never know who to trust.
Watch the trailer for Safe.
#3 — Magic for Humans
In this reality series of half-hour episodes, magician Justin Willman explores the nature of being human, blending it with humor and street magic. This fascinating look at people in their natural habitat runs the gamut from funny to downright scary.
In one hilarious segment, he replicates the Stanford marshmallow/delayed gratification experiment with a group of kids. Willman is a magician, right? So when the kid covers his marshmallow with a Solo cup, of course, the white confection disappears. In another, he (with the help of an audience that’s in on the gag) convinces a few unsuspecting adults that they are, in fact, invisible.
But one segment was a frightening reminder of just how far down the paranoia road we’ve traveled when he convinces several adults that the government is tracking them, and he appears to remove a ‘microchip’ from their arms. His chilling observation was that not one of his subjects questioned the notion that the government had embedded tracking devices in their bodies without their consent.
Here’s the official trailer for Magic for Humans.
#2 — Bloodline
The opening line says it all: We’re not bad people. But we did a bad thing.
At its core, Bloodline is a dark family drama about the Rayburns, a prominent family in the Florida Keys. The story is a slow burn, told in tantalizing flashbacks, and features some of the best acting you’re going to see anywhere.
Danny Rayburn, the identified black sheep of the family, is played with creepy, unsettling depth by Ben Mendelsohn. But there are so many Rayburns with secrets. The excellent cast includes Kyle Chandler, Sissy Spacek, Tony winner Norbert Leo Butz, and the divine Sam Shepherd in one of his final roles.
I love this series on so many levels. I live in south Florida, and completely related to Kevin Rayburn’s comment, “I can’t move to Orlando. It gets cold there.” Again, Bloodline can feel low-key, but patience (and attention to detail) is richly rewarded. Stellar supporting actors like Chloë Sevigny, John Leguizamo, and Beau Bridges bring new elements to the story.
Alas, legislation in the Sunshine State doomed Bloodline. Between its third and fourth seasons, Florida decided to end tax credits for film and television production. Which was horrific for fans like myself. Season 3 ended with a hell of a cliff hanger, and for a time it looked like we’d have to be satisfied with it.
The show ended up coming back for three final episodes, and they attempted to tie up all the loose ends. But it wasn’t helpful. Which is the only reason Bloodline is #2 on this list, rather than #1.
Watch the official trailer for Bloodline.
#1 — Dark Tourist
Dark Tourist is a fun, fascinating reality series. It features Kiwi journalist David Farrier (think, a laid-back John Oliver), a smart, affable globetrotter in search of adventure on the road less traveled, eschewing beaches and other tourist hot-spots in favor of visiting places more associated with death and tragedy.
And while that might sound macabre, it is, in fact enlightening in a lot of ways. With his low-key, self-deprecating manner, Farrier ingratiates himself with his hosts, suspending judgement and appreciating the sites, cultures, and people for what they are, whether visiting vampires in Louisiana or touring Medellin with a Pablo Escobar look-alike.
In the last few days, Japan seems to have taken exception to the episode in which Farrier took a commercial tour of Fukushima and went where he was not supposed to go (he does that a lot).
If you’re looking for something different for your next binge session, I highly recommend Dark Tourist. Check out this trailer.
Okay, so I’m going to cheat right now. All of my recommendations moved up one notch because the original #1 seems to have rotated off of Netflix. But I’m going to tell you about it anyway.
Living on One Dollar is a beautiful, uplifting hour-long documentary produced in 2010 by four young American film-makers. They set out on a mission to see if they, like 1.1 billion people around the world, could survive on a dollar a day, settling in the tiny village of Pena Blanca in rural Guatemala.
For fifty-six days, they set aside $56, drawing a number from a hat each day to see what they could spend, from zero to nine dollars. Along the way, they’re embraced by the community, and throughout the hour, they tell the stories of people who envision a better life for themselves and their children.
This is the most amazing thing I’ve seen in a long time, and I’m so sad Netflix has rotated it off. But you can watch the trailer here.
YouTube advertises that you can pay to watch the documentary there.
Here is the official Living on One website. Why not check it out?
That’s my Netflix list, just one sassy ginger erotic romance writer picking her favorites.
What are yours?