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5 best Netflix shows of 2024 so far, ranked

A man looks at the camera in Baby Reindeer.

We’re not even halfway through the year, so why are we ranking the best shows of Netflix after just five months? While these lists usually come at the end of the year, we couldn’t wait — there are just too many good shows out there that need to be watched either for the first time or the 10th.

And that’s certainly true of Netflix’s original series programming, which has been on fire in the first half of 2024. From a low-key sci-fi show about a mother’s discovery and a father’s attempt to uncover the truth to a wildly popular show about obsession and sexual trauma, these five Netflix series showcase not only what’s great about the streamer, but what’s great about the television format as well.

Interested in more? Then try the best shows on Netflix and the 5 best Netflix movies of 2024 so far, ranked.

5. The Signal

A father holds his daughter's hands in crop field in The Signal.

There are underrated shows on streaming services, and then there’s The Signal, which is so underrated, it barely even registered when it premiered a few months ago. But, oh man, is this show good! In this sci-fi series, scientist/astronaut/mother Paula discovers something while stationed on the International Space Station. But before she can tell her husband and daughter back at home, she mysteriously vanishes. What happened to Paula? And what secret did she uncover?

The Signal is simple, but effective. Its killer premise is only matched by its sure direction and excellent acting from Florian David Fitz as Paula’s husband, Sven, and Yuna Bennett as their precocious child, Charlie. The ending is a gobsmacker, one you won’t see coming, and yet one that also makes the most sense. If you like out-there sci-fi stories with a human touch, then The Signal is for you.

4. John Mulaney Presents: Everybody’s in L.A.

Two men laugh in John Mulaney Presents: Everybody's in L.A.

When was the last time you watched a late-night talk show? For me, it was when Craig Ferguson and Conan O’Brien were still on network television. What those two hosts had were a flippant, but respectful attitude, a killer sense of humor, and a love for spontaneity that made their respective programs fun to watch. You just never knew what you were going to get from them.

That midnight-hour spirit came through in John Mulaney’s bizarro experiment Everybody’s in L.A., which consisted of six episodes streamed live each night between May 5 to May 10. With a panel of guests that ranged from the typical like Jerry Seinfeld and Jon Stewart to the utterly weird like Elvira, O.J. Simpson prosecutor Marcia Clark, and forgotten musician and Kim Kardashian porn tape co-star Ray J, Mulaney played up the “anything goes” vibe with great success. Like his predecessors, Mulaney showed a genuine love for the talk show format, which is why the show worked so well. More, please.

3. Dead Boy Detectives

Two men investigate a grave in Dead Boy Detectives.

Growing up as a teenager in the late 1990s means you probably were a fan of one or more WB shows. The youth-skewing network was impossible to ignore for that age group, and for a comic book fan like myself, you better believe I was watching Smallville and Buffy the Vampire Slayer every night they were on. (I drew the line at Charmed, though.)  Those days are mostly gone in this fractured streaming era, but every once in a while, a show comes out that is reminder of those glory days of genre network TV.

Dead Boy Detectives is the type of show that will never get the kind of critical love that, say, Succession or The Bear get. That’s a shame, because like those two shows, what it does, it does very, very well. It serves up a fresh monster of the week with style and humor, while also delicately building a season-long narrative surrounding a Big Bad. More importantly, it introduces us to a lovably weird found family of ghosts, psychics, demons, and Cat Kings, all bound together by their relentless, — and at times hopeless — pursuit of peace, justice, and love.

2. Ripley

A man rides an elevator in Ripley.

The best way to describe Ripley, Netflix’s new adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s much-adapted novel The Talented Mr. Ripley, is “cool to the touch.” There are not a lot of emotions raging on the surface of this impeccably stylized version. And as for color? Well, there is none. The whole series is shot in crisp, severe black-and-white that is all the better to emphasize the growing shadows that begins to circle our antihero, Tom Ripley.

If Ripley seems remote, even flat, then why is it so gorgeous to look at, and so impossible to forget? Credit Steve Zaillian, the show’s writer, director, and creator, for remaining faithful to Highsmith’s text without indulging in the European postcard beauty that other adaptations, including the great 1999 film by Anthony Minghella, couldn’t resist. And credit lead actor Andrew Scott for making Ripley into a creepy, empty cipher, who isn’t so much talented as he is desperate to escape himself. No other show looks or feels quite like Ripley, and that it even exists is a small miracle unto itself. Watch and shiver — you’ll enjoy it.

1. Baby Reindeer

A man stands in a telephone booth in Baby Reindeer.

Who would’ve thought that a show about a woman stalking a male comedian named Donny would be so popular? Factor in the brutally honest depictions of sexual assault — and the pain and uncertainty that results from it — and Baby Reindeer seems like an odd choice to be one of Netflix’s most popular shows in 2024 — and maybe ever. Richard Gadd’s autobiographical comedy/drama/thriller/whatever is the rare series that truly is bingeworthy. Like a good book, you just can’t put it down.

Baby Reindeer may have started as one-man stage show, but the series succeeds because of its three stars. As Teri, Donny’s new girlfriend, Nava Mau finds reserves of humor when encountering her lover’s many crises. As Martha, Donny’s stalker, Jessica Gunning makes you understand her character’s need for companionship, even if it comes in the form on barely coherent texts. And as Donny, Gadd puts himself out there in a way that few performers have done before or since. This is a raw, fascinating look at a man’s wounded masculinity, and he uses his stalker to reinforce an image of himself that only exists in someone else’s mind.

Editors' Recommendations

Jason Struss
Section Editor, Entertainment
Jason is a writer, editor, and pop culture enthusiast whose love for cinema, television, and cheap comic books has led him to…
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