Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Weekend Roundtable: Favorite Streaming TV Series

Although this blog covers a lot of broadcast and cable TV shows, those that air exclusively via streaming have been a notable blind spot for some time. Whether it be by Netflix, Amazon, Hulu or some other provider, which streaming-exclusive series are your favorites to binge?

M. Enois Duarte

I’ve never been a very heavy TV watcher, but when a series catches my fancy, I’m glued to the boob tube like a fly on you-know-what. And since I’ve been a Netflix subscriber since its early years, the company has been my go-to for streaming, providing some of the best content available.

Of late, I’m addicted to ‘Black Mirror‘, an anthology series from the UK that originally started for broadcast television in 2011 with two three-episode seasons and a Christmas special. However, the program was optioned by Netflix a couple years ago for twelve episodes broken into two seasons, making it an exclusive to the company. I love the sci-fi show’s dark, satirical themes told in standalone episodes that remind me of ‘The Twilight Zone’, or at least something Rod Serling would be doing if he were alive today. Some are more disturbing and twisted than others, but each feels like an individual short film touching on contemporary society’s love affair with advanced technology, one that seemingly brings us closer together while also creating a more distant, apathetic and indifferent civilization. I can’t wait for the fourth season!

I also want to point out that I love shows that undermine or dissect the very genre they’re partaking in. Worthy of honorable mentions are Judd Apatow’s ‘Love‘ and Marvel’s ‘Luke Cage‘. The latter adds a blaxploitation feel that makes the series all the more awesome and addictive.

Luke Hickman

As a huge fan of what Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling have done on the big screen (‘The Sound of My Voice’ and ‘The East’), I was excited when their latest collaboration quickly dropped onto Netflix without any advance warning. During the Christmas break, I watched all eight episodes of ‘The OA‘ over a three-day period. Without the limitations of cinema (runtime, etc.) or even standard television (some episodes run an hour, while one episode runs just 30 minutes), they’e able to write a story that unfolds in a perfect and brilliant way.

The story starts with a long-missing girl (Marling) finally coming home after a failed suicide attempt. Her adoptive parents are in shock, but not only because she finally returned. More shocking is the fact that she has been blind for 20+ years, but returns home with her sight restored. Acting like a person suffering the trauma of abduction and abuse, she doesn’t talk about where she’s been – at least, not to her parents. Instead, she makes five new friends and slowly tells them her story and her secret.

The less you know about this Netflix original series, the better. I went in blind and definitely recommend that you do the same. The first season would be a wonderful standalone, but we’re lucky that Netflix green-lit a second season shortly after the first debuted.

Brian Hoss

Hulu, Amazon and Netflix all have impressive exclusive series, especially the latter two. In fact, with Amazon and Netflix jumping in early on the HDR bandwagon (in both HDR10 & Dolby Vision), their good series are practically essential. Of these, Amazon’s ‘The Grand Tour‘ is the easy standout. The exotic locales and expensive cars are stunning and really blow away the visuals of the long-running ‘Top Gear’ series. The two-part dune buggy episode is demo material, and it is not alone.

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

Cursed with a “physical or die” collector’s mentality, I’ll confess to being late to the streaming party. I’ve watched more of Netflix’s series on Blu-ray than I’ve watched on Netflix itself. My streaming has largely been limited to not-so-exclusive shows like ‘Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23’, ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ and ‘The Great British Baking Show’ with my wife. I’m slowly coming around, especially now that I have a shiny new 65″ OLED and have so many alluring options to stream in UHD.

For a Roundtable like this, I’d rather write about a series I’ve only watched on a streaming service rather than caught on Blu-ray months later. That doesn’t leave me with all that lengthy a list to choose from at the moment, but I bet I’d be champing at the bit to write about ‘The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt‘ even if I were some kind of grizzled Netflix veteran. True to its title, ‘Kimmy’ never loses its bright-eyed cheer (at least not for long!) even in the most trying of circumstances. I can’t get enough of the way its unhinged sliver of the world collides with the otherwise quasi-normal planet around it.

As silly and ridiculous as ‘Kimmy’ can get, the series is completely committed to its central characters (love interests, not so much) and has a heck of a heart thumping underneath it all. Its earworm musical numbers get lodged in my head for weeks at a time. Like ‘Community’ and ‘Arrested Development’ before it, I’m also a sucker for the running gags and mythology it’s amassed over the past few seasons. There’s just not another series on my radar these days that makes me laugh this hard, this consistently. I’d be counting down the days to season 4 if I had any clue how many days there are to count, exactly.

Josh Zyber

Lately, I’ve been obsessed with ‘Patriot‘ on Amazon streaming. Reading the plot summary would tell you that it’s an espionage drama about a CIA operative (Michael Dorman) who suffered a nervous breakdown but gets pulled back into field work by his spymaster father (Terry O’Quinn) on a mission to hinder the Iranian nuclear weapons program – which might perhaps sound like ‘Homeland’ by way of a Jason Bourne movie. Although that’s sort-of accurate, the show is also a wicked dark comedy loaded with delightfully weird character work (Dorman’s hero regularly writes the classified details of his missions into folk songs he performs at cafés and on the street) and hilarious plot turns. Kurtwood Smith has a prominent role as the hardass boss that Dorman reports to as part of his cover working at an industrial piping company – a job he has zero idea how to do. The tone of the show strikes a very delicate balance between legitimate intrigue and suspense to goofy comedy, and somehow pulls it off. I can’t wait for Season 2.

Tell us about your favorite streaming-exclusive TV shows in the Comments.

11 comments

  1. NJScorpio

    My favorite is easily ‘Sense8’. A compelling and varied cast of characters, interesting story lines, and some extremely cool direction by Lana Wachowski. This is the kind of show that each episode feels like it is contributing to a larger story, and not just treading water with a ‘crime of the week’ or ‘monster of the week’ story, having the primary story line linger in the background.

  2. Paul Anderson

    While it airs on broadcast TV in Britain (BBC), “Peaky Blinders” is only available to us over here on Netflix. Incredible show. Very well shot and acted.

  3. Scott

    It’s hard for me to not pick House of Cards. Have watched everything up to this current season. I guess ugly politics are getting a little too real for entertainment purposes. Have also been enjoying Narcos since the start.

    Interesting story I can share:

    Back in the late 90s I was living outside the Silicon Valley. I worked at a custom home theater shop in a small town called Scotts Valley and at the time we were the only place in town where people could buy DVDs. We had a lot of notable clientele based on where we were and the services that we provided. Many of these people liked to hang out at our shop and shoot the breeze and talk about the latest toys and gadgets related to audio and video.

    One day I was working and a guy who I kinda sorta recognized as a regular customer asks me if I can give him my opinion on an idea that he has. He says, “DVDs are hard to find, and I don’t always have time to come to your shop to get them. What would you think if there was a service were you could rent DVDs through the mail?” I looked at him and in the kindest way possible said that I thought it was one of the dumbest ideas I had ever thought of.

    That customer was Reed Hastings. And I regret not having offered him all of my life savings at that point to even get a .1% stake in his business idea. Man oh man, one of those truly regrettable moments!

  4. Elizabeth

    I’m a bit shocked that no one has mentioned Stranger Things. This is really the only streaming series I’ve binge watched. I started watching right before my birthday last year. I had plans for my birthday but I think I was more excited to get home and continue watching it. I think I finished it a little over 2 days and have actually rewatched it. When season 2 comes out, I will be attached to my TV that following weekend until it’s done (unless it somehow sucks).

    My runner ups would be Sense8 and Man in the High Castle. I haven’t watched the second season of either of them though (and might not bother with Sense8 knowing that it’s cancelled).

  5. ‘Stranger Things’ as well, and ‘Orange Is The New Black’. Bingewatched them all in a few weeks (had never seen a single episode up until the time Season 5 rolled along, so had some catching up to do).

  6. photogdave

    I think Master of None is the best-written show on TV (Netflix) right now.
    Ansari and Yang successfully straddle the line between clever and realistic dialogue in a way the likes of Kevin Smith could only dream of.
    Although the characters are a decade younger than me and the setting foreign to my own, their situations and ways if dealing with them are timeless and universal. Each episode builds on the previous one, building anticipation and the need for seeing it through.
    I’ll take Master of None over Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead any day of the week!

  7. William Henley

    This is tough because there are several on my bucket list that I have not started yet.

    Right now, I am watching Fuller House, Castlevania, one that I think is called Hunters (found it on Netflix while looking for 4k content – its by the BBC, looks like it may have been shot in conjunction with Planet Earth 2), and I just started The Tick. So yeah, wide variety there.

  8. Charles Mall

    Wow, someone else actually likes The OA. Must be one of the most underrated shows I know. One website even just reviewed the last episode and gave it a low rating. I felt it was one of the best shows in a long time. Certainly better than Stranger Things which mostly relied on 80s nostalgia.

    Sense8 was also a great show in parts. Was upset they’d cancelled it without a proper ending.

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