Netflix users watched an average of 93 minutes a day in 2015, the same year it put out 450 hours of its own original programming. At that rate, it would take 290 days to get through just Netflix’s shows alone; 19 days if every second was dedicated to the binge. In 2016, it followed that up with 600 more hours of programming, and promises a gargantuan 1,000 hours of original programming this year. There’s simply no way to catch all the good stuff, and that’s just on Netflix! There are a ton of other apps and services to watch TV on these days.
We know we can’t convince you to give up every waking hour for TV. So instead, we’ve compiled a list of great TV shows that, for a variety of reasons, you may not have heard of or watched yet. Give a couple of them a try this year! You might be surprised.
This Netflix original follows the story of self-help guru and stool maker Chip, played by Will Arnett, as he tries to maintain his sobriety as well as the web of lies that have created his identity. Arnett co-wrote every one of the eight episodes from the first season and his usual penchant for exuberant off-the-wall comments are replaced by equally as hilarious dry humor.
So far, the series has barely averaged more than 2 million viewers and was only renewed for a six-episode second season, down from the first season’s eight episodes. It may come and go quick, but we don’t think you should flake out on Flaked.
The Americans (FX)
Two covert Russian spies masquerade as an American family with two children living in suburbia trying to raise a traditional American family while fighting for their home country. Stars Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys have put on some of the most emotionally commanding acting performances of the past few years of “peak TV.”
The show has failed to average a million viewers or get a Best Drama Series nomination at the Golden Globes for the better part of the past two years. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t still amazing. You can stream earlier seasons on Amazon Prime and catch the new episodes on FX Network’s mobile and web applications when the show returns for its fifth season on March 7.
The New Yorker Presents (Amazon)
If you don’t have $100 a year to give to print journalism, Amazon’s The New Yorker Presents is the best bang for your buck. The 11-episode first season covered the precarious world of bull riding, the dark side of agribusiness, and a crafty silver thief with the same meticulous exploration you get from the award winning magazine. The sounds of pages flipping in between video segments and a montage of New Yorker iconic illustrated covers, made this a favorite for New Yorker fans.
Amazon usually renews successful shows for sophomore seasons no more than two months after the first season debuts. The New Yorker Presents has not been renewed yet and it aired in February 2016, so we probably will not get a second season this year, but the original season remains a highlight. Watch it, upvote it, and maybe Amazon will change its mind!
Queen Sugar (Own Network)
Queen Sugar is a drama created and executive produced by Ava DuVernay and it focuses on three Bordelon siblings as they reconnect to take over the family farm after their father passes. The show is ostensibly a family drama, but by the end of the first season it becomes a deep analysis of the racist disenfranchisement of Black farmers. Gripping performances by True Blood star Rutina Wesley as tough-nosed journalist (and marijuana enthusiast) Nova give this show potential in the future.
The 13-episode first season is not on any of the major on demand streaming services. Outside of OWN’s relatively few primetime viewers, it’s likely not on most folk’s radar, but we highly recommend you delve into it.
If you replaced Orange is The New Black‘s joyful prison escapes by inmates to take a dip in the lake with no humor and more murder, you would be watching Wentworth. The Australian television drama series follows the lives of inmates inside of the all-female Wentworth prison as they fight each other and the guards over who really runs the prison. The show is masterful at character development and after four seasons has enough fully developed storylines to do a dozen spinoff series.
There is a way to watch Wentworth. Though it airs on Australian pay TV provider FoxTel, it’s made available globally on Netflix after each season is over; historically around when a new Orange is the New Black season debuts. Do not let a potentially thrilling season Netflix’s most popular original series preclude you from strolling down the engrossingly grim Wentworth episodes. The first four seasons are already available to stream.
Lady Dynamite (Netflix)
Lady Dynamite stars Maria Bramford as a fictionalized version of herself trying to recover from a mental breakdown, one psych ward flashback at a time. The show feels like walking through an overactive imagination that borders on blissful delusion. Once you are introduced to her Diane persona, you may be surprised how funny the phrase “salmon poached” sounds.
Lady Dynamite‘s niche style got lost in Netflix’s huge 2016 comedy offerings, and it will likely get buried next year, too. But it’s there, and we think you should dig it up and keep an eye out for its upcoming second season later this year.
Teachers (TV Land)
Berating children for drawing anatomically incorrect pictures of their teacher and filming The Bachelor audition tapes in classrooms are a few of the hilarious teachable lessons that happens on TV Land’s Teachers. Four teachers, played by comedy ensemble The Katydids, show the hilarity that would ensue if the teachers acted like kids. Yes, that means stealing clothes and video games from the student’s lost and found box.
The show is not on any of the major subscription streaming services, but you can catch up on the first season on TV Land’s app. The second season debuted January 17.
Greenleaf (OWN Network)
The Greenleafs are a proud family of a megachurch built on a tapestry of deceit that begins to unravel one insidious thread at time once estranged sibling, Grace ‘Gigi’ Greenleaf played by Merle Dandridge returns home. There are full episodes where you seldom can take a breath without it being snatched away by arresting monologues from the likes of acting veterans Keith David and Lynn Whitfield.
Mr Student Body President (Go90)
YouTube sensation Jeremy Shada plays the hilariously precocious Tyler Prendergast, the youngest student body president in Berenger High’s history, as he builds and maintains an empire out of pep rallies and lunch room treaties. In one episode, Tyler works to maintain a school-wide treaty where nerds can push around athletes and take their lunch money in exchange for good grades. These episodes are less than 20 minutes, yet have enough clever writing delivered at breakneck speed to compete with similar shows like Comedy Central’s millennial catnip Broad City.
The show is only on availble to watch on Verizon’s Go90 mobile app and website. Without more ubiquitous distribution, it’s hard for most folks to watch the upcoming 30 episode second season. Still, if you’re ever around a Verizon device, take 15 minutes and relive high school.
The Carmichael Show (NBC)
Comedian Jerrod Carmichael takes the multi-camera family sitcom format and injects it with some of the most irreverent humor about porn, Trump, and Black Lives Matter you will see on TV. In the Racial Profiling episode from season one, Jerrod’s character remarks “I just don’t understand why someone had to get shot on my birthday” to laughter. Thirty seconds later he compares Black men in America being stopped by the cops to jury duty: “sometimes your number’s going to be up.” Scenes like that are what makes the show feel like it is what The Chapelle Show would have been if it was on network television.
NBC’s debuting its Chicago PD spinoff Chicago Justice this March in The Carmichael Show‘s usual Sunday 9 p.m. timeslot. However, you can stream past seasons on Hulu and NBC’s digital apps in anticipation for the upcoming third season.
- The 50 best movies on Netflix right now
- The best shows on Netflix right now (January 2022)
- The best TV shows on Amazon Prime Video right now
- The 93 best shows on Hulu right now
- The 64 best shows on Peacock right now