If you liked Office Space, but think it would have been better if the characters were cartoon animals, you may be pleased to learn that such a thing exists. Aggretsuko, a Japanese cartoon from mascot company Sanrio (creators of Hello Kitty), follows Retsuko, a red panda in her 20s working a soul-crushing job at a trading firm. Her career is going nowhere, she can barely muster the energy to get up in the mornings, and her boss is a pig (literally and figuratively) — and those are just the problems she faces in the first episode! Despite the cute character designs and short episodes, Aggretsuko is a surprisingly mature series, tapping into the anxieties of being a millennial in the workforce.
‘The End of the F***ing World’
It seems unlikely that a story about a teenage psychopath traveling with the girl he intends to kill could be funny, or even touching. Somehow, The End of the F***ing World manages to be both. The show follows James (Alex Lawler), the self-described psychopath, and Alyssa (Jessica Barden), a modern rebel without a cause. She convinces him to run away with her, and the two embark on a road trip across England, getting into bizarre shenanigans as James plots to kill her. Dark, funny, and strangely poignant, The End of the F***ing World is one of the most unique shows on Netflix.
One of the sitcom tropes that often defies belief is that groups of 20-somethings with ordinary jobs can somehow afford nice apartments in big cities. That’s not a problem for Crashing; actually, it’s key to the premise. The show follows a group of young friends in need of housing in Britain. Their solution? Become property guardians, living in a derelict hospital, keeping the place safe from squatters in exchange for cheap rent. Among the residents are Lulu (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), a quirky rover, her childhood friend Anthony (Damien Molony), and Kate (Louise Ford), an uptight professional and Anthony’s fiancée. These three and the other residents do their best to get along and enjoy life in their dire situation. Season 1 is short (six episodes, roughly a half-hour each), perfect for binge-watching. Hopefully there will be a season 2!
‘She’s Gotta Have It’
Thirty years or so after the release of his directorial debut, Spike Lee reimagined She’s Gotta Have It, this time as a 10-episode series for Netflix. She’s Gotta Have It follows Nola Darling (DeWanda Wise), an artist with no interest in settling down, in life or in love. Nola is polyamorous, and her three main lovers are immature-but-sweet jokester Mars Blackmon (Anthony Ramos), egotistical model Greer Childs (Cleo Anthony), and controlling older man Jamie Overstreet (Lyriq Bent). The original film kept the focus tightly on Nola’s relationships, but the show uses its extended running time to explore other facets of her life, making for a richer character study. The show is gorgeously shot, luxuriating in the colors and movement of its protagonist’s bohemian life.
Not content to spend his days making jaunty indie rock, Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig leaped into the world of showrunning with Neo Yokio, an anime-inspired comedy of manners which torches the insular, image-obsessed world of New York high society. Set in a futuristic New York plagued by demons (who seek out displays of opulence), Neo Yokio follows the life of Kaz Kaan (Jaden Smith), a demon hunter reeling from a breakup. Kaz’s aunt Agatha (Susan Sarandon) gives Kaz various assignments — exorcising a possessed fashion blogger, protect a Damien Hirst sculpture — but he’d rather play field hockey or shop for a new blazer. The cast of characters includes Charles (Jude Law), Kaz’s robot butler, Arcangelo (Jason Schwartzman), his aristocratic rival, and Helena St. Tessero (Tavi Gevinson), the aforementioned blogger who turns into a Marxist critic of capitalism after a run-in with a demonic Chanel suit. It’s a goofy show, and it doesn’t always work, but it’s got guts, and the humor is spot on.
If you were to go into American Vandal without reading anything about it, you might think you’ve stumbled onto the next, great true crime story. The show’s setup is ominous. A student, Dylan Maxwell (Jimmy Tatro), stands accused — falsely, he claims — of a heinous act: Spray painting “dicks” on all the faculty cars at Hanover High School. Given his history of pranks — including drawing dicks on whiteboards — the school expels him. Only Peter Maldonado (Tyler Alvarez), a sophomore who works on the Hanover High morning show, thinks Dylan might be innocent and sets out to prove it. The case quickly becomes stranger than it first appeared. For those who enjoy true crime stories like Making a Murderer, American Vandal is a tonally perfect parody, emulating the lighting and story structure that define the genre.
‘The Good Place’
Bureaucratic mix-ups can be a nightmare — just ask anyone who has needed to apply for a passport — but on occasion, they can work out in your favor. Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) finds herself on the good side of a paperwork snafu when, after dying, she ends up in the Good Place, a serene afterlife neighborhood built by a cosmic architect named Michael (Ted Danson). In reality, Eleanor was an abrasive person who only looked out for herself. Now, in order to avoid being discovered and sent to the Bad Place, she must learn how to behave like a nice person. The Good Place is an upbeat comedy whose unique setting and surprising plot set it a notch above most sitcoms.
This comedic slice of life follows Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham), a business-minded single mother, and her academic daughter Rory (Alexis Bledel). Living in the small New England town of Stars Hollow, the two women seek fulfillment and love. Lorelai, having dropped out of school after getting pregnant, wants to get her career on track, while Rory struggles with the pressure to succeed in school, navigating teenage rivalries and young love. The dialogue is frequently snappy, so those who enjoy quips will feel right at home. Lighthearted and episodic, Gilmore Girls is as comforting as a warm cup of coffee with a slice of pie. Longtime fans of the series will also appreciate that Netflix recently released four, 90-minute episodes that pick up the story where the original series left off.
After he is diagnosed with chlamydia, hapless romantic Dylan (Johnny Flynn) must contact all his former lovers from recent years and inform them. In the process, he must also reflect on those relationships, and get a sense of what he really wants in life. The show is told largely through flashbacks, with each episode focusing on a specific woman from Dylan’s past, and the story is complex; unlike in classic sitcoms where Dylan’s misadventures would be isolated stories, events from the past inform the present. Lovesick strikes a careful balance between comedy and drama. Hijinks abound, particularly when Dylan’s feckless playboy roommate, Luke (Daniel Ings), is around. Despite the comedy — or perhaps because of it — the somber moments hit hard. This is a show that understands the many facets of relationships, both platonic and sexual.
Musicals are in short-supply on television — perhaps because audiences just find song-and-dance a bit too corny. That same drought makes Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s lavish musical numbers all the more striking, however. The titular ex is Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), a tightly strung lawyer who abandons her career in New York and moves to West Covina, California, to reconnect with her first crush, Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III). The premise seems like typical rom-com fare, but Crazy Ex-Girlfriend rises above by embracing absurdity. The musical numbers, of which there are many, are funny and bombastic, paying homage to various genres of music and classic films.
‘Master of None’
Created by and starring comedian Aziz Ansari, Netflix’s Master of None concerns the everyday life of Dev, a 30-year-old actor who attempts to navigate the twists and turns of adulthood while making a living for himself in New York City. Reportedly based somewhat loosely on Ansari’s own life, the show even features the former Parks and Recreation actor’s real-life mother and father as Dev’s parents in the show. Even if you haven’t dabbled in Ansari’s prior work (you should, too, he’s absolutely hilarious) Master of None is sure to please with its witty dialogue, multidimensional cast of characters, and relatable storylines. It appears Netflix has once again struck gold.
Netflix’s original animated comedy features voices from some of the brightest stars on TV today (i.e., Will Arnett, Alison Brie, Aaron Paul). Comedian Amy Sedaris also lends her voice to this raucous show about a washed-up celebrity horse who attempts to reignite his stagnant career. Ridiculous in all aspects, BoJack Horseman is good for some hearty laughs at the expense of the commonplace celebrity lifestyle. Season 1 starts off goofy, but by the first season finale, the show evolves into a shockingly sad, yet still hilarious examination of depression and pop-culture.
Archer isn’t your average animated series. It’s like a hybrid between Arrested Development and every spy flick ever. The show whirls around ISIS, an international spy agency that deals with global crises. Considering the spy agency is essentially a pressure cooker that is Sterling Archer’s mother, Malory Archer (Jessica Walter), and Archer’s ex-girlfriend, Lana Kane (Aisha Tyler), most events are just opportunities to screw over co-workers. The show is cynical, with rapid-fire dialogue and characters unlike anything else on Netflix.
From the comedic brilliance of Judd Apatow comes Love, a Netflix original sitcom about what it’s really like to date in the 21st century. Starring Community alum Gillian Jacobs and stand-up comic Paul Rust — who also co-created the show — Love centers primarily on these two characters as they attempt to facilitate a loving relationship despite their laundry list of differences. While exploring the exhilaration of new love, the awkwardness of growing up, and everything else a new relationship throws at 30-somethings, Apatow pulls no punches with Love. All three seasons are now available.