The Netflix Original Series, Ranked

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The Netflix Original Series, Ranked

If you can still remember the thrill of receiving the white and red prepaid return mailer, chances are you’re still amazed at the way Netflix has transformed over the years, and changed the culture as well. You can still remember furrowing your brow when it was first announced that the streaming site was going to begin releasing TV shows—whole season at a time. Now there are so many Netflix shows—between originals and continuation series—we had to be a bit selective for our own ranking purposes. Shows that have completed their runs (like Hemlock Grove), are not included, nor are most of the continuations (we just couldn’t resist taking on Fuller House, and the revival of Arrested Development, which marked a powerful shift in TV). Here are [nearly] all of the Netflix original series, ranked.

22. Marco Polo


Creator: John Fusco
Stars: Lorenzo Richelmy, Benedict Wong, Joan Chen, Rick Yune, Amr Waked, Remy Hii, Zhu Zhu, Tom Wu
Premiered: 2014

In a desperate search for its Game of Thrones, Netflix teamed up with The Weinstein Co. in developing a prestige (read: very expensive) period drama chronicling Marco Polo’s early days in the court of Mongolian emperor, Kublai Khan. As any history buff will attest, this period proved to be a monumentally formative and dramatically rich era in the life of Polo and his family. Unfortunately, the program that ultimately emerged on the other end was a clunky, drab, culturally offensive affair that no amount of elaborate costuming or production design could salvage. Gross historical inaccuracies aside, the series makes the classic post-Thrones mistake of equating showy swordplay, gratuitous orgy scenes and eye-popping landscape shots for quality (Lord help me, there’s literally a scene where a woman strips nude in preparation for a sword fight—FOR NO REASON). Netflix has certainly experienced several misfires in its brief programming history, but nothing remotely on the epic scale as Marco Polo.—Mark Rozeman


21. Between


Creator: Michael McGowan
Stars: Jennette McCurdy, Jesse Carere, Ryan Allen, Justin Kelly, Kyle Mac
Premiered: 2015

Feeling like a discarded relic from the fringes of the Syfy channel or a Gossip Girl-era CW network, Between takes what initially appears to be a promising hook—a virus spreads through a small town and begins killing anyone over the age of 21—and spends the next six episodes draining it of any compelling drama or conflict. A Netflix co-production with Canadian network City, the series very quickly reveals itself to be little more than a thinly sketched, soapy teen drama with sci-fi elements haphazardly smeared over it like chunky jam. The characters are predictably arch, the production values look cheap and the acting is, at times, jaw- droppingly awful. In a world where shows like The Leftovers or Southcliffe (also distributed by Netflix) so thoroughly explore the emotional fallout of devastating catastrophes, Between treats its game-changing tragedy as little more than a convenient means of stacking a cast full of young, attractive actors. The only shimmer of light is, of all things, a charming lead performance from former iCarly star Jennette McCurdy as a pregnant pastor’s daughter.—Mark Rozeman


20. Fuller House


Creator: Jeff Franklin
Stars: Candace Cameron Bure, Jodie Sweetin, Andrea Barber, Michael Campion, Elias Harger, Soni Nicole Bringas, Dashiell and Fox Messitt
Premiered: 2016

Fuller House was a highly-anticipated event that lived up to the hype, for better or for worse. While it begins with a somewhat clunky premiere where they set up the new rebooted show (and poke fun at the missing Michelle), that’s pretty much where the awkward ends. Once the new show really takes off in episode two, it brings everything you loved about Full House back. Sure, it’s a cheesy series, but no more cheesy than the original show. To enjoy this season, you really have to buy into the fact that the show follows the exact same formula. Fuller House is not a modern show. They do not deviate from the writing style of the original series (which premiered in 1987), with the exception of a bit more adult humor. Kimmie Gibbler is still ridiculous, and DJ and Stephanie’s relationship is exactly what you would expect it to be. If for no other reason than to indulge late ‘80s/early ‘90s nostalgia and experience a very real blast from this past, this series is still worth a watch.—Keri Lumm


19. Grace and Frankie


Creators: Marta Kauffman, Howard J. Morris
Stars: Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Sam Waterston, Martin Sheen, Brooklyn Decker
Premiered: 2015

Sometimes the only thing worse than a flat-out bad show is a woefully mediocre one that thoroughly squanders its vast potential. Indeed, despite its luminous cast, respected creative team (Marta J. Kaufman co-created Friends) and timely subject matter, Grace and Frankie never quite shakes the impression that it’s a broadcast comedy masquerading under a thick layer of “prestige half-hour” make-up. The story centers on the titular characters (Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, respectively) who end up becoming roommates/reluctant friends after their husbands (Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston) announce they’ve been engaging in a long-term affair with one another and wish to dissolve their marriages to be together. Feeling tossed out to sea in the twilight of their lives, the two women attempt to rediscover life as newly single gals. Cue gags fueled by elder dating, elder sex and the ever-reliable, “elders try to use technology.” It’s essentially How Stella Got Her Grove Back for the septuagenarian sect. These creative shortcomings are all the more disappointing given the unmistakable chemistry between Fonda and Tomlin, not to mention that, as actresses of a certain age, Hollywood is not exactly bowling them over with the roles they deserve. Grace and Frankie is far from a bad show, but it has enough going for it that one wishes it was so much better.—Mark Rozeman


18. Club de Cuervos


Creator: Gary Alazraki, Michael Lam
Stars: Luis Gerardo Méndez, Stephanie Cayo, Mariana Treviño, Daniel Gimenez Cacho, Antonio de la Vega, Ianis Guerrero
Premiered: 2015

You don’t need to be a fan of football to understand that the sport creates a sense of union. The love of the game brings people together and entire towns depend on their local teams to keep spirits high and offer community. Netflix’s first original Spanish-language series Club de Cuervos really drives that point home. Set in Nuevo Toledo, Mexico, the city is in mourning, following the death of Cuervos FC president, Salvador Iglesias Sr. The presidency is almost automatically passed on to his son Chava (Luis Gerardo Méndez), a party boy whose only interests are image, status, hookers and snorting coke with the players. His sister Isabel, who is competent, has dedicated her life to the club and just wants to keep her father’s legacy alive; she is barely considered for the position because, well, she’s a woman. The show follows Chava’s attempts to turn the Cuervos into the “Real Madrid of Latin America,” with Isabel always one step behind him, cleaning up the messes he makes along the way. Alazraki and Lam aimed to create a comical version of Game of Thrones set in Mexico’s world of soccer—one that is beautifully accentuated with lots of buey and chinga being thrown around. Although one of the show’s writers, Alessia Costantini, has stated that Club de Cuervos deliberately avoided the Telenovela style, it’s present in the Iglesias family history, particularly by his many wives. Having said that, it’s far more sophisticated than your usual soap and is filmed in a flashy manner that Chava, with his Hollywood vibe, would most definitely approve of.—Roxanne Sancto


17. Flaked


Creators: Will Arnett, Mark Chappell
Stars: Will Arnett, David Sullivan, Ruth Kearney, Lina Esco, George Basil
Premiered: 2016

What’s immediately apparent about Flaked, Netflix’s latest foray into the serio-comedy genre, is that it bears more than a passing resemblance to what is, for some of us, the streaming network’s greatest achievement, Bojack Horseman. Both star Will Arnett as a serial womanizer with addiction issues who finds himself thrust into a painful love triangle. In Flaked, Arnett plays Chip, a recovering alcoholic who—following a lethal drunk driving incident a decade prior—spends his days dispensing wisdom to fellow Alcoholics Anonymous members and acting as an inspiration to his Venice, California community. Quickly, however, it becomes clear that Chip’s good-guy guru demeanor masks a deeply troubling manipulative streak. Boasting a pilot episode directed by Wally Pfister, the show looks absolutely stunning, with Pfister’s camera vividly capturing the lived-in feel of its setting. Content-wise, the season boasts many noteworthy moments—most centering on the complicated friendship between Chip and his fellow AA member/romantic rival Dennis (David Sullivan)—which the series as a whole never properly services. Indeed, despite Arnett’s inherent charms as an actor, the show doesn’t quite sell why we should care about Chip — a character who, in many ways, acts as the villain of his own story. Likewise, a late-season turn risks pushing the show into more contrived, melodramatic territory. That all said, Flaked still boasts the potential to be an unorthodox exploration of a dark mentality. Should it get a second season, here’s hoping Arnett and Co. dive further into the more complicated issues that its first year instigates.—Mark Rozeman


16. Netflix Presents: The Characters


Stars: Lauren Lapkus, Kate Berlant, Dr Brown, Paul W. Downs, John Early, Tim Robinson, Natasha Rothwell, Henry Zebrowski
Premiered: 2016

Between distributing stand-up specials from comedy’s biggest and brightest and ponying up the resources to produce the much acclaimed Wet Hot American Summer prequel series, The Characters marks the logical next step in Netflix’s master plan to establish itself as a mecca for alt-comedy. The idea of The Characters fits perfectly into the grand tradition of such programs as Mr. Show and The Tracy Ullman Show. Each of the season’s eight episodes highlights a different comedian who proceeds to write and star in their own half-hour show (each one directed by Andrew Gaynord). This results in a loosely structured, near stream-of-consciousness narrative wherein the actor or actress portrays different characters that weave in and out various plotlines and tangents. Such a format inevitably births major ups and downs, but when the hits come—as they do most consistently with Natasha Rothwell’s installment—they are almost transcendent in their comedic dexterity.—Mark Rozeman


15. W/ Bob and David


Creator: Bob Odenkirk, David Cross
Stars: Bob Odenkirk, David Cross
Premiered: 2015

When Mr. Show premiered over 20 years ago, Bob Odenkirk and David Cross—clearly influenced by SCTV and Monty Python—brought alternative comedy to the masses. What started as a group of comedians and writers just doing what made them laugh led to these same people becoming the heroes of comedians starting out today. With Mr. Show these people were still trying to make a name for themselves, but W/ Bob and David—the 4-episode Netflix revival of sorts—they’re now legends. The series continues delivering the brilliant ridiculousness and satire of the original show, with skits like “Better Roots,” which bring the group back together, though now more self-assured, having honed their skills as some of the best comedians in recent memory.—Ross Bonaime


14. F is for Family

Creators: Bill Burr, Michael Price
Stars: Bill Burr, Laura Dern, Justin Long, Debi Derryberry, Sam Rockwell
Premiered: 2015

F is For Family presents the long-awaited premium cable/streaming vehicle for comedian Bill Burr, one of America’s foremost stand-up masters. Co-created by Burr and long-time Simpsons scribe Michael Price, the animated series stars Burr as Frank Murphy, the ill-tempered, Archie Bunker-esque patriarch of a blue-collar family in 1973. Taking cues from the celebrated Norman Lear comedies of the era, the writing mixes broad humor with more cutting insight into societal mores and generational divides. In keeping with the Netflix model, however, the series also boasts several serialized plotlines, including Frank’s struggle to prevent a union strike and Murphy matriarch Sue’s (Laura Dern) ongoing rumination on the state of her marriage. Much like Burr’s stand-up material, the series’ humor is confident and coarse (albeit, skillfully so) while never feeling overly mean-spirited or disingenuous. F is For Family is no game-changer, but—along with NBC’s exceptional The Carmichael Show— it’s a fully realized, fresh take on what’s often considered a retro genre. Not to mention, the show features one of the absolute best, most loaded opening credits sequences in recent memory.—Mark Rozeman


13. Bloodline


Creators: Todd A. Kessler, Glenn Kessler, Daniel Zelman
Stars: Kyle Chandler, Ben Mendelsohn, Linda Cardellini, Sam Shepard, Sissy Spacek, Norbert Leo Butz, Jacinda Barrett, Enrique Murciano
Premiered: 2015

The first season of Bloodline, I found myself asking “Is this good? Do I like this?” after every episode. “Better watch the next one to figure out how I feel about it.” Before long, I was fully invested in the show’s mystery and had made it through all 13 episodes, but I still find myself wondering why I’m not totally blown away by it. It’s got a stellar cast—Sissy Spacek, Linda Cardellini, Kyle Chandler and Ben Mendelsohn (the latter two of whom were nominated for Emmys for their work on the show). It’s got a compelling plot (the family’s black sheep returns home and threatens to reveal a bunch of secrets that could tear everything apart, with flashbacks to a decades-old tragedy mixed in for good measure). It’s beautifully shot, so much so that the Florida Keys are almost another character on the show. And yet there’s something missing that I can’t quite put my finger on, something that hasn’t quite taken the show to where it should be on paper. That said, I’ll probably blow through season two in a weekend this year to see if they’ve found it.—Bonnie Stiernberg


12. Sense8


Creator: The Wachowskis, J. Michael Straczynski
Stars: Aml Ameen, Doona Bae, Jamie Clayton, Tina Desai, Tuppence Middleton, Max Riemelt, Miguel Ángel Silvestre, Brian J. Smith, Freema Agyeman, Anupam Kher
Premiered: 2015

There is no bigger WTF TV show in the world right now than Sense8. This globe-trotting and glitzy sci-fi series, created by Lana and Lily Wachowski (co-directors of The Matrix trilogy) and former Babylon 5 showrunner J. Michael Straczynski, drops us into a world where eight strangers in different parts of the planet are somehow psychically and emotionally linked. Through the first season’s 12 episodes, we follow this assortment of confused and beautiful people as they try to understand this connection, use their newfound abilities to help one another out, and engage in a raging, somewhat unintentional orgy. As wacky and over-the-top as Sense8 can often get, the series remains important as it deals with important issues of sexuality and identity through the work of trans actress Jamie Clayton and the relationship that the show’s character Lito gets into involving his longtime partner and a female friend.—Robert Ham


11. Love


Creators: Judd Apatow, Paul Rust, Lesley Arfin
Stars: Gillian Jacobs, Paul Rust, Claudia O’Doherty
Premiered: 2016

If you’re a fan of Undeclared or Freaks and Geeks, you should make it your business to give Judd Apatow’s latest series, Love, a try. In a lot of ways, it feels like what would happen if Sam Weir and Kim Kelly wound up dating in their 30s—we meet Gus (Paul Rust), a dorky on-set tutor for the child star of a witch-themed teen drama, and Mickey (Gillian Jacobs), a radio producer struggling with her sobriety. As they’re both reeling from tough breakups, we get to watch as they fall for each other. Like anything Apatow’s got his name on, there’s an underlying sweetness here and an incredibly strong cast (Claudia O’Doherty steals pretty much every scene she’s in as Mickey’s roommate, Bertie), and the addiction plot lends some dramatic muscle. The characters are complicated (and not always likable), but hey, so is love.—Bonnie Stiernberg


10. Arrested Development


Creator: Mitchell Hurwitz
Stars: Jason Bateman, Portia de Rossi, Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Alia Shawkat, Tony Hale, David Cross, Jeffrey Tambor, Jessica Walter
Premiered: 2013

No other modern TV show has had to reinvent its entire show quite the way that Arrested Development had to in its fourth season. With seven years between the third and fourth season, audiences realized the genius of Arrested Development, turning most of its cast into stars and allowing most of them to move on to their own film and television projects. However this popularity led to a complete restructuring of how Arrested Development was made when it returned thanks to Netflix.

Yes, Arrested Development’s fourth season is the most inconsistent of the show and while it does features the series’ worst episodes, it also comes with it some of the series’ best. For those of us who binged through the entire season in a matter of hours, what seemed like clumsy construction became an oddly satisfying and groundbreaking way to watching TV. The fourth season of Arrested Development felt like a first attempt at doing something truly revolutionary with the way we watch TV, almost like watching a seven and a half-hour movie that needed to be watched in one sitting. By reinventing itself, Arrested Development divided audiences, but did something unlike we’d ever seen on television before.—Ross Bonaime


9. Daredevil


Creator: Drew Goddard
Stars: Charlie Cox, Deborah Ann Woll, Toby Leonard Moore, Elden Henson, Rosario Dawson, Vincent D’Onofrio
Premiered: 2015

With Daredevil came darkness to the MCU, and humanity realized, as humanity often does, that this is what it wants. Maybe fans were still smarting over the kick in the crotch that was Ben Affleck’s go at the Man Without Fear, but if adults were waiting for something to appeal to their elder sensibilities—lust, violence, morbidly de-saturated color palettes—they could do worse than to start here, with Matt Murdock’s (Charlie Cox) 13-hour origin story. Impeccably acted by pretty much everyone involved, especially Vincent D’Onofrio as the terrifying Wilson Fisk, Daredevil did something the MCU had yet to really lean in on: ground all of its comic book qualities in a starkly real world, that of a New York nearly leveled in the first Avengers movie. In placing these post-Avengers Marvel entries in a world with the same indelible questioning of morals as our post-9/11 one, creator Drew Goddard (as did Jessica Jones creator Melissa Rosenberg) found plenty of room (and running time on Netflix) to explore what being a “hero” really means. While far from perfect (the second half of the season really starts to lag after a bravura first 5-or-so episodes), Daredevil does what any good first season should: It develops a singular visual language and sets the stage for what will most likely be a much pulpier, much darker second season. If Deadpool is the new frontier for what adults want out of their superhero movies—shout out to Lexi Alexander for making Punisher: War Zone before Marvel had any idea what they were doing)—then Daredevil first made it clear that the studio’s recent “no R ratings” announcement is little more than cash grab disguised as parental guidance.—Dom Sinacola


8. Narcos


Creators: Chris Brancato, Carlo Bernard, Doug Miro
Stars: Wagner Moura, Boyd Holbrook, Pedro Pascal
Premiered: 2015

One popular line of criticism has it that Narcos romanticizes the violence and degradation associated with the Colombian drug wars—and drug culture in general—and I would agree that the excellent Wagner Moura plays kingpin Pablo Escobar so engagingly that he becomes a sort of Walt White-esque antihero. And the rhythms of the documentary-style narration are fast-paced in a way that’s reminiscent of Guy Ritchie, whipping us along at an almost breakneck speed. Nevertheless, this valid criticism misses the important point that we are watching a work of fiction based on historical figures—not a realdocumentary. And when viewed that way, Narcos was one of the most successful new shows on TV, in how it managed to flesh out some very dark characters and tell a complicated story with such urgency and clarity. This is not the hyper-realist drug fiction of Traffic or 2015’s wonderful Sicario, but as conflict entertainment goes, it succeeds wonderfully.—Shane Ryan


7. House of Cards


Creator: Beau Willimon
Stars: Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, Kate Mara, Corey Stoll, Michael Kelly
Premiered: 2013

Netflix’s House of Cards is occasionally ridiculous, occasionally overblown, but always, always, always intriguing. As a political drama, it bears about as much relation to reality as Mortal Kombat does to professional boxing, but it’s brilliant in the way it manages to capture the vicious atmosphere behind D.C.’s ruthless power players, and translate that sinister feeling into hyperbolic evil. Veep may be more accurate for the way it reduces politics to farce, but the House of Cards approach captures something just as legitimate, and the underlying menace is embodied in the wonderful, scheming monologues of Kevin Spacey’s Frank Underwood. Watching him break the fourth wall is still so strange and chilling, even after four seasons, and his seedy, malevolent, oily voice still gives me chills. And I can’t tell what’s more disturbing—the moral vacuum inside Underwood’s brain, or the fact that real-life politics seems to be moving in his direction.—Shane Ryan


6. Jessica Jones


Creator: Melissa Rosenberg
Stars: Krysten Ritter, Mike Colter, Rachael Taylorl, Erin Moriarty, Carrie-Anne Moss
Premiered: 2015

Marvel’s first team-up with Netflix, the excellent Daredevil early in 2015, took the shiny Marvel Cinematic Universe and rubbed much needed dirt on it. Jessica Jones furthers the trend with a psychological thriller that is, somehow, more brutal and dark than its Hell’s Kitchen contemporary. Unlike Daredevil, Jones not only redrew the lines for a Marvel production, but redefined what a comic book show could be. The emphasis is not on the physical, but instead the mental destruction caused by Kilgrave (the phenomenal David Tennant), a sociopath with mind-control powers. Netflix’s binge model is used to its full-effect, each episode’s conclusion begging the viewer to let the train roll on. And, like a victim of Kilgrave, its impossible not to abide. Jessica Jones keeps the viewer guessing, leaving them suspended in a state of fear and anxiety for 13 perilous, but wonderful hours.—Eric Walters


5. Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp


Creators: Michael Showalter, David Wain
Stars: H. Jon Benjamin, Michael Ian Black, Bradley Cooper, Janeane Garofalo, Nina Hellman, Joe Lo Truglio, Ken Marino, Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd, Michael Showalter, Elizabeth Banks, Christopher Meloni
Premiered: 2015

When a follow-up comes along for any project with a huge cult audience, it seems doomed to disappoint. Arrested Development’s fourth season’s breaking apart of the cast was bound to frustrate, and Anchorman 2 could never reach the surprising joy of the original. Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp obviously came with a certain amount of trepidation. But instead of trying to recreate the glory of the last day of camp, as seen in the 2001 film, First Day of Camp added a considerable amount of depth to the original film and explained aspects of Camp Firewood that never needed to be understood, but make the entire history of these characters feel more whole. The Netflix series managed to redefine these characters that we fell in love with over a decade ago, all while giving us laughs and immense heart as well.—Ross Bonaime


4. Bojack Horseman


Creator: Raphael Bob-Waksberg
Stars: Will Arnett, Amy Sedaris, Alison Brie
Premiered: 2014

BoJack Horseman is one of the most underrated comedies ever made, and it almost pains me that it doesn’t earn more praise. Right from the title sequence, which documents BoJack’s sad decline from network sitcom star to drunken has-been—set to the beautiful theme song written by the Black Keys’ Patrick Carney—this is one of the most thoughtful comedies ever made. Which doesn’t mean it’s not hilarious, of course. Will Arnett is the perfect voice for BoJack, and Paul F. Tompkins, who is in my mind the funniest man on planet Earth, could not be better suited to the child-like Mr. Peanut Butter. This is a show that isn’t above a visual gag or vicious banter or a wonderfully cheap laugh, but it also looks some very hard realities of life straight in the eye. There are times when you will hate BoJack—this is not a straight redemption story, and the minute you think he’s on the upswing, he will do something absolutely horrible to let you down. (There’s a special irony in the fact that a horse is one of the most human characters on TV, and the unblinking examination of his character makes “Escape from L.A.” one of the best episodes of TV this year.) So why isn’t it loved beyond a strong cult following? Maybe it’s the anthropomorphism that keeps people away, or maybe it’s the animation, but I implore you: Look beyond those elements, settle into the story, and let yourself be amazed by a comedy that straddles the line between hilarious and sad like no other on television.—Shane Ryan


3. Master of None


Creators: Aziz Ansari, Alan Yang
Stars: Aziz Ansari, Noël Wells, Eric Wareheim, Kelvin Yu, Lena Waithe
Premiered: 2015

Like its creator and star, Master of None is stylish, smart and clever—a half-hour comedy that ranks as one of Netflix’s best efforts in original programming. Following the trend set by Louie, Transparent, You’re the Worst and many other modern sitcoms, Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang built a show that doesn’t mind the occasional laugh hiatus. Instead of pushing the joke quota to astronomical levels, Master of None is content to find poignancy amid the humor, and if the former outshines the latter, so be it. The result is a show that is fun to watch, emotionally satisfying and thought provoking. It’s also been paramount in furthering the discussion about race and representation on television, both with its own casting and the topics it addresses. There is so much to say about this show, and these few hundred words are a pathetic attempt to do it justice. Master of None is not only one of the best shows of 2015, but one of the most important in a long, long time.—Eric Walters


2. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt


Creators: Tina Fey, Robert Carlock
Stars: Ellie Kemper, Tituss Burgess, Carol Kane, Jane Krakowski
Premiered: 2015

NBC has made any number of mistakes over the years, but few bigger than shelving Tina Fey and Robert Carlock’s 30 Rock follow-up, before punting it over to Netflix. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt wound up becoming one of the highlights of a great year for TV comedy. The fast-paced and flip sitcom featured breakout performances by Office vet Ellie Kemper as the titular former “mole woman” trying to make it on her own in New York, and Tituss Burgess as her flamboyant and put-upon roommate, Titus Andromedon. (NBC has recently tried to make it up to Kemper for dropping the ball on this by planting her in the guest host chair at Today—too little, too late, peacock peddlers.) Throughout the first season’s run, some writers and critics seemed dead set on finding some kind of flaw to pounce on with the show, zeroing in on how the minority characters are represented. This may be a wild generalization, but I think this was a natural reaction to one of the most overtly feminist sitcoms ever produced. Kimmy Schmidt is most certainly upsetting the natural order of your typical network sitcom. The show’s titular character is defining her life on her own terms and by her own standards. For some reason that still freaks some people out so they dismiss it or find some way to poke holes in the vehicle for that idea. That is what makes the prospect of a second season so exciting. Just as the show can go in a myriad of different directions, so too can Kimmy Schmidt. Now that she has put the awful time in the bunker to bed, she can face a new day with that infectious smile, bubbly attitude, and enthusiastic embrace of life experience. Sorry nitpickers and network executives; Kimmy Schmidt is going to make it after all.—Robert Ham


1. Orange is the New Black


Creator: Jenji Kohan
Stars:Taylor Schilling, Uzo Aduba, Laura Prepon, Kate Mulgrew, Danielle Brooks, Natasha Lyonne, Taryn Manning, Adrienne C. Moore, Dascha Polanco, Samira Wiley
Premiered: 2013

No show remains as compulsively watchable as Orange is the New Black. The third season, especially, took on the weighty topic of religion and faith and brought some previously background characters into the forefront. Cindy (Adrienne C. Moore) truly became the breakout character of the latest season, while we also learned more about the others at Litchfield Penitentiary. Along the way Nicky (Natasha Lyonne) broke our hearts, as did the backstory of a character who was, in past seasons, incredibly difficult to understand or identify with—Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning). Spending time with Orange is the New Black can be like hanging out with life-long (foul-mouthed) friends. Sometimes these characters annoy you to no end (like the increasingly narcissistic Piper), but it doesn’t make you love them and the stories they bring into your life any less.

And beyond the undeniable entertainment factor, there’s a cultural relevance that distinguishes this series from most of what’s on TV today. Whether you’re fighting for the rights of women, people of color, lesbian, gay, transgender or gender-fluid individuals (or all of the above and more), you are seeking to redefine the way a culture understands and relates to those individuals; you are seeking to redefine that culture as a whole. Through the brilliant work of Jenji Kohan and her writing team, the cast of OITNB is doing just that. As we continue to fall in and out of love with these characters, and get to know the various paths and circumstances that brought them to Litchfield, this hugely important cultural phenomenon (also known as binge-worthy TV) continues to unfold, informing countless discussions and shaping new theories along the way.—Amy Amatangelo and Shannon M. Houston