Monday, November 29, 2021

The 50 Best TV Shows on Netflix Right Now

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Netflix adds original programming at such a steady clip that it can be hard to keep up with which of its dramas, comedies and reality shows are must-sees. And that’s not including all the TV series Netflix picks up from broadcast and cable networks. Below is our regularly updated guide to the 50 best shows on Netflix in the United States. Each recommendation comes with a secondary pick, too, for 100 suggestions in all. (Note: Netflix sometimes removes titles without notice.)

We also have lists of the best movies on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, along with the best TV and movies on Hulu and Disney+.

Created by the producer and director Ava DuVernay and the activist ex-N.F.L. quarterback Colin Kaepernick, this creative fusion of documentary and domestic dramedy tells alternately amusing and bittersweet stories about Kaepernick’s childhood as the adopted biracial son of white parents in central California. Nick Offerman and Mary-Louise Parker play the parents, who struggle with their son’s increasing interest in his cultural identity. Jaden Michael plays the budding young football star, who discovers how racial and authoritarian power dynamics affect the lives of student-athletes. Our critic described it as “Encouraging, even sweet, and hopeful in a hard-earned way.” (For another fascinating fiction and non-fiction hybrid, watch Errol Morris’s mini-series “Wormwood,” a murder mystery involving the C.I.A. and LSD.)

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Based on a beloved anime franchise, this genre-bending live-action series stars John Cho as Spike Spiegel, a bounty hunter who, alongside his partner Jet Black (Mustafa Shakir) and his colleague Faye Valentine (Daniella Pineda), encounter old friends and enemies in the colonies established by refugees from a ruined future Earth. The remake mixes elements of gritty westerns and stylish caper pictures into an entertaining science-fiction saga that stands on its own. Like its predecessor, it is scored by Yoko Kanno’s funky, brassy music, which, as described in a Times article by Leigh-Ann Jackson, “set the mood for every botched payday, steely-eyed showdown, lovelorn flashback and fast-paced space chase.” (If you prefer to see the original, the animated “Cowboy Bebop” is also available on Netflix.)

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Too often, the creators behind new versions of old favorites go too far in trying to make their updates feel modern and edgy; but the latest TV adaptation of Ann M. Martin’s “The Baby-Sitters Club” book series retains the easygoing charm and engaging episodic plotting of the novels. The show’s creator, Rachel Shukert, doesn’t shy from the unique pressures on teenage girls and the younger kids they look after in the 2020s; but the stories here are still bright and breezy. Our critic called it “sweet but not cloying, smart but not cynical, full-hearted and funny enough to please both grown readers of the original books and the young target audience of the new series.” (For another fine coming-of-age dramedy, try the somewhat more mature “Never Have I Ever,” about an Indian American teen juggling cultural expectations and romantic troubles.)

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Margaret Qualley gives an outstanding performance in “Maid,” playing a cash-strapped single mother named Alex, who scrambles to make a living cleaning rich families’ houses in the Pacific Northwest, without ready access to child-care or a safe place to sleep. Based on the memoir by Stephanie Land, this mini-series turns the stuff of everyday working life into a nail-biting drama as Alex tries to make it day by day, knowing that just one unexpected expense could sink her. Our critic said, “There are elements of wry comedy, of social-problem bleakness and of teenage-drama dreaminess, along with recurring touches of magical realism that illustrate Alex’s writerly imagination.” (For another stylish mini-series about labor, try the fashion-focused “Halston,” in which the characters aren’t stressed about money.)

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A handful of home bakers gathers in a tent in the English countryside, where they make baked goods in front of demanding judges and supportive comedians. The cooking competition show has been done dozens of different ways, but there is something special about “The Great British Baking Show,” a life-affirming series in which contestants of various ages and socio-ethnic backgrounds hug one another, cry together and enjoy one another’s company. Writing for The Times, Tom Whyman called it “the key to understanding today’s Britain.” (For more eye-catching pastries, watch “Crazy Delicious,” in which the contestants are encouraged to make every dish look fantastical.)

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“Seinfeld” is often referred to by its co-creators, Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David, as “a show about nothing,” but that is only partly true. Ostensibly about a self-absorbed stand-up comic (Seinfeld) and his cranky friends, the series became one of the most popular sitcoms of the 1990s thanks to its impressively intricate plots, featuring intertwining story lines that convert the minor annoyances of everyday life into a source of complicated and absurd adventures, rewarding to watch and rewatch. Reviewing the early episodes, our critic praised Seinfield himself, saying he is “fascinated with minute details and he collects them with a keen sense of discernment.” (For another landmark show created by a stand-up comedian, watch the sketch comedy series “Chappelle’s Show.”)

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The former “Saturday Night Live” and “Detroiters” writer and performer Tim Robinson created (with Zach Kanin) this fast-paced and funny sketch series, which is steeped in the comedy of obnoxiousness. Nearly every segment is about how people react when someone in their immediate vicinity behaves rudely or strangely. The show is both a sharp depiction of how social mores sometimes fail us and — through two seasons now — a reliable generator of viral memes. Our critic wrote that Robinson “channels a recognizable brand of Midwestern ticked-off-ness: a freak-out that bursts through his mild exterior like a volcano erupting out of a lake of mayonnaise.” (For another comedy about hellish human behavior, watch “The Good Place.”)

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This colorful, cleverly plotted Korean thriller is similar to horror and fantasy films like “Saw” and “The Hunger Games,” with its darkly compelling story of desperate people who must compete in dangerous contests. In “Squid Game,” a few hundred men and women, most of them deeply in debt, find themselves playing deadly versions of children’s schoolyard games, risking their lives for the chance to win an enormous sum of money. The show has become an international sensation in part because of its flashy visual style but also because it speaks to some common anxieties in an age of stagnant wages and diminished social mobility. (Netflix carries a lot of addicting Korean genre series. Next, try “Kingdom,” about an ancient realm confronting a spreading plague.)

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What if two lively and opinionated New Yorkers — the venerable filmmaker Martin Scorsese and the irascible humorist Fran Lebowitz — spent a few hours gabbing away about the highs and lows of urban life? In the seven episodes of “Pretend It’s a City,” Scorsese goads his old friend into sharing her anecdotes and complaints while he laughs along infectiously. Scorsese — who directed the series — also frames Lebowitz’s stories against lovely shots of New York City, turning even her gripes into paeans. The Times called this show “a tantalizing snapshot of New York in full bloom, along with Lebowitz’s lively and unapologetic commentary on what it means to live there.” (A lot of Lebowitz’s fans first saw her on David Letterman’s talk shows, and they might also enjoy Letterman’s newest interview-focused series, “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.”)

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There are plenty of snappy teen dramas and sitcoms set among the comfortably middle class and the fabulously wealthy. But across the four seasons of “On the Block,” all that adolescent angst, romance and camaraderie was transplanted to South Central Los Angeles, where a handful of African-American and Hispanic high schoolers handled the usual high school melodrama by day and the complications of living on tight budgets on nights and weekends. Lauren Iungerich, who created the darkly comic MTV series “Awkward,” was one of the creators of “On My Block,” which our critic said has Iungerich’s “off-center charm and quirky comic rhythms.” (For another vibrantly realistic show about Los Angeles natives striving for a better life, watch “Gentefied.”)

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The prolific writer-director Mike Flanagan specializes in thoughtful horror stories, heavily influenced by Stephen King. This eerie and eccentric mini-series is his most ambitious project yet, using the familiar form of a supernatural thriller as a way to examine life in a tiny, run-down island fishing village. Zach Gilford plays an ex-convict who returns home, still wracked with guilt over his crime, at the same time that a charming priest (Hamish Linklater) arrives at the local church, full of hope and promises. Soon, a series of strange events upends the islanders’ lives, forcing them to face the literal and figurative monsters in their midst. (Flanagan has several movies and TV series available on Netflix; start with his 10-part adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s “The Haunting of Hill House.”)

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Some of Netflix’s best original series are about teens but not really for them … or at least not for them to watch with their parents. In the funny, raunchy British dramedy “Sex Education,” Asa Butterfield and Emma Mackey play unpopular kids who have valuable insights into their classmates’ sexual hangups, which they dispense to their peers in paid therapy sessions. Through the first three seasons, these unlikely advisers see their lives become more complicated as they go from being outsiders to insiders. Our critic described the show as “timely but not hamfistedly topical” and “feminist, with a refreshing lack of angst about its subject.” (For another sharp show about foul-mouthed teens, watch “Derry Girls,” a sitcom about life in Northern Ireland in the early 1990s.)

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This lacerating social satire loosely adapts the 2014 film by Justin Simien about a group of African-American students managing micro-aggressions and intra-racial infighting at a mostly white Ivy League university. The show addresses modern collegiate controversies using character-driven, episodic storytelling and a sharp sense of humor; over the course of its run it becomes more daring, culminating in a final season that employs flash-forwards and musical interludes. Our critic wrote that “Dear White People” “keeps the movie’s essence but recognizes that TV is not just the movies with smaller screens and longer run times.” (For another look at contemporary Black culture, watch Spike Lee’s “She’s Gotta Have It.”)

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In this pointed dramedy about the politics of modern academia, Sandra Oh plays Dr. Ji-Yoon Kim, a professor in the English department of a prestigious university where she has just become the first woman to serve as the chair. An excellent cast — including Jay Duplass, Holland Taylor and Bob Balaban — play the colleagues who make Dr. Kim’s job more difficult. She tries to balance her faculty’s petty complaints and eccentricities with her shrinking budgets, the evolving needs of her students and her own complicated personal life. In an article about the show for The Times, Nicole Sperling called it “a sharp and often hilarious satire of contemporary academia disguised as a rom-com.” (For another dramedy about aging professionals questioning their relevance, watch “The Kominsky Method.”)

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Set in Tel Aviv and New York City, the international mystery-thriller “Hit & Run” was cocreated by Lior Raz, who also plays the hero, Segev, a semiretired special forces agent who calls on his old contacts when his wife dies in a suspicious accident. Sanaa Lathan plays Segev’s ex-girlfriend Naomi, an American journalist who helps him track down the leads to what could be a far-reaching conspiracy. The chase involves several tense and exciting action sequences. Our critic said it “has the same frenzied urgency of other exciting Israeli shows.” (The creative team behind “Hit & Run” is responsible for the hit Israeli action series “Fauda,” which is also on Netflix.)

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After a long layoff, this quietly compelling Israeli series recently returned for a third season, picking up the story of one Haredi Jewish family in Jerusalem a few years after the events of Season 2. Collectively, the entire run of “Shtisel” to date removes some of the mystery of an ultra-Orthodox Haredi community by following one traditionalist rabbi and his grown children as they cope with everyday relationship and career struggles. In a Times article about the show’s popularity, Joseph Berger wrote, “The tension between the Jewish laws that guide their daily lives and the yearnings and whims of the characters make for emotionally powerful television.” (For a different take on faith try “Unorthodox,” an adaptation of a memoir about a woman escaping her strict religious upbringing.)

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H.G. Bissinger’s book “Friday Night Lights” is partly about Texas high school football and partly about Texas itself: the culture, the racial and economic disparities and the hopes and heartbreaks of the younger generation. The sensitively rendered and emotionally powerful TV adaptation uses the daily ups and downs of a hard-working and conscientious coach (played by Kyle Chandler) to frame the struggles of his players and their families. The naturalistic performances, the beautifully lit locations and the intensely dramatic stories combine for a unique and unforgettable portrait of early 21st century America. Our critic called it “not just television great, but great in the way of a poem or painting.” (For a different take on high school football, watch the Los Angeles-set drama “All American.”)

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After Tina Fey’s stint as a “Saturday Night Live” head writer, she created and starred in this Emmy-winning sitcom, set behind the scenes of an “S.N.L.”-like sketch comedy show. “30 Rock” has Fey playing a frazzled writer-producer managing two eccentric, egotistic stars (played by Tracy Morgan and Jane Krakowski), along with a network boss who is more into profits than art (Alec Baldwin). Fast-paced and madcap, “30 Rock” lovingly savages the modern media business; but it is also, in its own weird way, a sentimental show about co-workers who take care of one another. Writing about the series as a whole, our critic called it “a witty sendup of network television that cut uncannily close to the bone.” (Fey also cocreated the Netflix sitcom “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” which has a similarly loopy sensibility.)

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The proudly geeky writer and director Kevin Smith is the primary creative force behind this revamp of the 1980s “He-Man” toy line and TV cartoon. Aimed at grown-up fans of the original series — but accessible to almost anyone who enjoys sword-and-sorcery stories and animated adventures — “Masters of the Universe: Revelation” continues some of the story lines from the original show, set in a world where warriors and mystics protect the Castle Grayskull from Skeletor’s forces of evil. Though still kid-friendly (so long as those kids are old enough to handle scary-looking monsters and violence), this new version of “Masters of the Universe” has a more mature plot, including surprise twists and even death. (Also highly recommended for youngsters who like animation and fantasy: “She-Ra and the Princess of Power,” from the same mythological universe.)

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The former “Saturday Night Live” and “Detroiters” writer and performer Tim Robinson created (with Zach Kanin) this fast-paced and funny sketch series, which is steeped in the comedy of obnoxiousness. Nearly every segment is about how people react when someone in their immediate vicinity behaves rudely or strangely. The show is both a sharp depiction of how social mores sometimes fail us and — through two seasons now — a reliable generator of viral memes. Our critic wrote that Robinson “channels a recognizable brand of Midwestern ticked-off-ness: a freak-out that bursts through his mild exterior like a volcano erupting out of a lake of mayonnaise.” (For more one-of-a-kind sketch comedy, watch “Chappelle’s Show.”)

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This three-part true crime docu-series is like a real-life version of one of those moody European detective shows, from the murder’s picturesque, remote location to the eclectic assortment of suspects with shaky alibis. The story begins in 1996, when the French TV producer Sophie Toscan du Plantier was found dead outside her vacation home in Ireland, in a community where crime of any kind is rare. “A Murder in West Cork” covers an investigation that has continued to captivate Ireland and France for over two decades as the public keeps learning surprising details about the victim’s life and about the people who crossed her path before her death. (If you prefer a more high-energy fictional murder mystery, stream the popular Mexican thriller “Who Killed Sara?”)

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The comedian Mae Martin cocreated and stars in this emotionally charged romantic dramedy about a stand-up comic named Mae whose already chaotic life gets even crazier when she falls hard for a sweet, grounded gal named George (Charlotte Ritchie). The relationship goes through multiple ups and downs — some of them related to Mae’s being a recovering addict, some related to George’s having never dated a woman before — but the couple’s passion for each other carries them through. In a Times article about the show, Maya Salam wrote: “Against all odds, it’s funny, immensely warm and downright charming. And a love story.” (For another fresh, honest look at modern love, try “Master of None.”)

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Based on a popular true-crime podcast, this anthology series tells ripped-from-the-tabloids stories about women who have had their lives ruined by shady men. The strong first season (which left our critic cold) has Connie Britton as a crafty entrepreneur who falls under the spell of a con artist (Eric Bana). In the admittedly stronger second season, Amanda Peet gives a phenomenal performance as Betty Broderick, who was convicted of murdering her ambitious ex-husband (Christian Slater) after he dumped her for a younger woman. The show’s creator, Alexandra Cunningham, keeps these stories entertainingly pulpy but also focuses on the ways gender and social status can skew the power balance in a relationship. (For another provocative, illuminating true crime anthology series, watch “American Crime Story.”)

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In the early 20th century, Maurice Leblanc wrote dozens of stories about the mysterious gentleman thief Arsène Lupin. In the French adventure series “Lupin,” Omar Sy plays Assane Diop, the son of a Senegalese immigrant and a fervent fan of Leblanc’s books. The twisty and action-packed plot jumps between the past and the present, teasing out the reasons the crafty Assane is so determined to use his heist-planning mastery to wreck the reputation of a powerful family. The Times called this show “fleet-footed” and “deliberately old-fashioned,” adding that, “For fans of the original stories, Easter eggs abound.” (For another fun and popular French series, watch the showbiz dramedy “Call My Agent!.”)

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It’s rare to find a post-apocalyptic saga as heartwarming as “Sweet Tooth,” the writer-director Jim Mickle’s adaptation of the comic book series by Jeff Lemire. Christian Convery plays Gus, a human-animal hybrid who looks like a cross between a deer and a little boy. Alongside a burly guardian (Nonso Anozie) who is holding onto painful secrets, Gus sets off on a mission to find more of his kind, across a near-future America transformed by a pandemic and a wave of mutations. Our critic wrote, “The show can be brutally dark, and its plague stories are sometimes uncomfortably resonant right now, but it’s also, well, hugely endearing.” (For another imaginative fantasy series, try “The Witcher.”)

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Based on a book by the culinary historian Jessica B. Harris, this docu-series connects African recipes to American recipes, by way of the experiences of slaves and their descendants. Hosted by Stephen Satterfield, “High on the Hog” is both a vibrant travelogue and a valuable education, going in-depth into the reasons ingredients like rice, ham, okra and yams have become staples. In an essay for the Times, the James Beard award-winning food writer Osayi Endolyn called the series “an incredible reframing of history that reintroduces the United States to viewers through the lens of Black people’s food — which is to say, American food.” (For another globe-hopping culinary docu-series, watch “Salt Fat Acid Heat,” hosted by Samin Nosrat.)

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Although it ran for only three seasons — a total of 57 episodes — the sitcom “Happy Endings” is still often mentioned whenever TV buffs talk about shows canceled too soon. Why do people love it so much? Give some credit to a charming core cast (Eliza Coupe, Adam Pally, Elisha Cuthbert, Damon Wayans Jr., Casey Wilson and Zachary Knighton), playing young adults who struggle with maintaining mature relationships and meaningful careers. Credit also the riotously funny scripts. Our critic wrote, “The writers layer jokes on jokes on jokes, many of which coil in on themselves to hit three or four consecutive punch lines, pop culture references, or clever bits of wordplay.” (For more of the “Happy Endings” hangout spirit, try the equally delightful “New Girl.”)

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The most obvious point of comparison for this oddball science-fiction dramedy is the movie “Groundhog Day,” given that “Russian Doll” is also about a character who keeps reliving the same 24 hours, over and over. Here, the trapped person is a sad-sack software engineer named Nadia (played by Natasha Lyonne, who also created the show with Leslye Headland and Amy Poehler). On the night of her 36th birthday, Nadia keeps dying and rebooting — like a video game character — and has to figure out what she needs to change about her life to survive. Our critic wrote, “This is a show with a big heart, but a nicotine-stained heart that’s been dropped in the gutter and kicked around a few times.” (For another series about alternate realities, watch the anthology “Black Mirror.”)

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The veteran naturalist and TV host David Attenborough has realized one of his career-long ambitions with the new three-part series “Life in Color,” which relies on special cameras to help depict the world the way animals see it. Shot in exotic locations across the planet, the series emphasizes how color affects a wide variety of creatures as they hunt, eat and mate. Our critic hailed the show’s “dazzling images, here made even more arresting because of the series’s focus on varicolored plumage and skin.” (For a more cautionary take on the natural world, watch Attenborough’s docu-series “Our Planet,” which emphasizes the effects of human progress and climate change on the animal kingdom.)

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One of the longest-running sitcoms with a predominately Black cast, “The Game” ran for nine years, offering an alternately funny and soapy look at the private lives of professional football players and their wives. Netflix has the show’s first three seasons, which are largely concerned with three women: Melanie (Tia Mowry-Hardrict), a med student whose boyfriend is new to the league; Kelly (Brittany Daniel), the socialite wife of a respected veteran player; and Tasha (Wendy Raquel Robinson), the meddling mother of a star quarterback. The series deals with these ladies’ doubts and fears as they watch their men risk their health for million-dollar paydays. The Times called it, “More real than reality TV.” (“The Game” is a spinoff of the sitcom “Girlfriends,” which is also available on Netflix.)

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The writer-producers Ins Choi and Kevin White based this low-key Canadian sitcom on Choi’s play of the same name, about a Korean immigrant couple named the Kims (played by Paul Sun-Hyung Lee and Jean Yoon), who run a convenience store and meddle in the lives of their two independent-minded adult children (Andrea Bang and Simu Liu). During its five-season run — recently completed — “Kim’s Convenience” told stories set in a modern, multicultural Toronto, concerned with family traditions and generational divides. Its short, sweet episodes are as funny as they are relatable. Our critic said, “If you miss when ‘Modern Family’ was good, try this.” (For another genteel, heartwarming Canadian comedy, watch the Emmy-winning “Schitt’s Creek.”)

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This fascinating three-part docu-series starts as a tale of murder, covering a series of Salt Lake City bombings that shook up the Mormon community there back in 1985. The co-directors Jared Hess and Tyler Measom quickly shift the focus to the accused bomber, Mark Hofmann, a mercurial local businessman who had an unusual moneymaking scheme, serving as a broker for rare documents related to the church’s early history. What emerges is a fascinating story about the foundations of religious faith, examining the lengths to which some leaders will go to avoid a potentially devastating scandal. (For another absorbing true-crime documentary set in and around a strict religious community, stream “The Keepers.”)

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In this flashy German crime drama, Volker Bruch plays Inspector Gereon Rath, a cop who gets transferred to Berlin at the end of the 1920s, right when the city is at its most decadent and untamed. Ostensibly a police procedural — one of the creators and occasional directors is the skilled genre stylist Tom Tykwer (“Run Lola Run”) — “Babylon Berlin” is also a study of the social and political conditions in Europe between the world wars, when libertinism and reactionary conservatism set the stage for the troubles to come. Our critic said the show “cruises along like a particularly eventful amusement park ride — Weimar Fever Dream — that practically negates the concept of suspension of disbelief.” (For another exciting and socially relevant political drama, watch the Danish series “Borgen.”)

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This moving and tense docu-series features faltering college football hopefuls, now attending smaller universities in hopes of bouncing back from the academic, discipline and injury problems that have derailed their dreams. There’s also a spinoff, “Last Chance U: Basketball,” which applies the same premise to a different sport. Each iteration of the show balances stories about the players with a look at their tutors and coaches, detailing how they all adjust their hopes, their expectations and their definitions of “success.” Our critic wrote, “Alongside the show’s ability to engender simmering loathing for broken systems is its love for its subjects.” (For another engaging series about athletes, try “The Last Dance,” a documentary about the Michael Jordan Era of the Chicago Bulls.)

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Based on Piper Kerman’s memoir about serving time in a minimum security women’s prison, “Orange Is the New Black” is a remarkable showcase for its eclectic cast, depicting a wide spectrum of social classes and sexual orientations. The series was created by Jenji Kohan, who, as our critic wrote, “plays with our expectations by taking milieus usually associated with violence and heavy drama — drug dealing, prison life — and making them the subjects of lightly satirical dramedy.” (For another lively dramedy about feisty women, watch “GLOW,” about the 1980s rise of pro wrestling.)

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Multiple versions of this quiz show have been popular both in Britain (where the original series has aired for over a decade) and the United States (where ABC’s current version features the former “Jeopardy!” champions Ken Jennings, Brad Rutter and James Holzhauer). Netflix carries two seasons of the now-defunct first American version of “The Chase,” hosted by Brooke Burns. Here, the supersmart Mark Labbett, nicknamed “The Beast,” is the designated “chaser,” tasked to outguess the contestants in order to keep them from winning big money. With its challenging questions and its intense cat-and-mouse format, “The Chase” has long been one of the best modern game shows. (For another challenging trivia game, turn to “Jeopardy!,” available on Netflix in episode “collections” that rotate regularly.)

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Most TV series aimed at young children tend to be repetitive and remedial, designed to teach a few simple lessons while keeping the little ones engaged. But there’s much more going on in “City of Ghosts,” a show that offers a relaxed and informative tour through the history and culture of Los Angeles. Created by Elizabeth Ito (a veteran of TV animation who previously worked on “Phineas and Ferb” and “Adventure Time”), “City of Ghosts” is about a team of elementary school-aged paranormal investigators who interview friendly ghosts and the people they haunt. The visually striking blend of photographs and drawings — coupled with the use of real, off-the-cuff audio interviews — gives this delightful cartoon the feel of a documentary. (For another educational kids’ show filled with creativity and heart, stream “Carmen Sandiego.”)

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The accomplished TV producer Shonda Rhimes and her longtime “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal” writer Chris Van Dusen bring their formidable facility for melodramatic storytelling to this soapy historical romance — the television equivalent of a page-turner. Based on Julia Quinn’s series of Jane Austen-inspired novels, the show is set in Regency Era London and is concerned with various high-stakes lovers’ games among the aristocracy. With its multiracial cast and its steamy bedroom scenes, “Bridgerton” satisfies as both a provocative social commentary and a sensationalistic potboiler. Our critic called it “a reliable story in fancy modern packaging.” (For another addicting take on British high society, watch “The Crown.”)

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This spoof of the Latin American soap operas known as telenovelas also wholeheartedly embraces their schtick. “Jane the Virgin” starts as the story of an aspiring writer who is accidentally impregnated through an artificial insemination mix-up. The show then gets wilder, with at least one crazy plot twist per episode — all described with breathless excitement by an omnipresent, self-aware narrator. Our critic called it “delicious and dizzyingly arch.” It’s also emotionally affecting, featuring a nuanced portrait of three generations of Venezuelan-American women in Miami. (For another wild mix of heart-tugging melodrama and wacky comedy, try the musical series “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.”)

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In this darkly comic Emmy-winning crime drama, Jason Bateman plays a shady money-manager who moves his family to a Missouri resort community, where they all adjust to a new culture while still dealing with their patriarch’s criminal associations. Bateman is also a producer and a director on the series and has been canny enough to give his co-stars room to shine. Julia Garner is especially strong as a damaged young femme fatale, while Laura Linney gives one of the best performances of her career as a wife making impossible choices to keep her loved ones safe. Our critic said, “The show isn’t a tragedy — most of the time, it’s a satirical (though quite violent) culture-clash caper with pretensions.” (For a lighter take on small-town melodrama, watch “Virgin River.”)

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“Game of Thrones” gets more attention, but “Outlander” has been just as successful at adapting a sprawling book series — and at mixing political intrigue with high fantasy. (Netflix carries Season 1-3; all five seasons to date are on Starz.) Based on Diana Gabaldon’s novels about a time traveling 20th century English doctor (Caitriona Balfe) and her romance with an 18th century Scottish rebel (Sam Heughan), the show offers big battles, wilderness adventure and frank sexuality. It has a rare historical scope as well, covering the changing times in Europe and the Americas across centuries. Our critic wrote that it should appeal to viewers who “have a weakness for muskets, accents and the occasional roll in the heather.” (The German science-fiction series “Dark” features a similar mix of earnest drama and time-travel.)

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Based on a 1983 novel by Walter Tevis — an eclectic writer best-known for “The Hustler” and “The Man Who Fell to Earth” — the seven-part mini-series “The Queen’s Gambit” is about a chess prodigy who struggles with addiction and self-doubt while rising through the international ranks in the 1960s. Anya Taylor-Joy plays the young master, who has a tough childhood she finds hard to shake, even as she’s clobbering her competition. The creators, including Scott Frank, bring just enough ornate visual style to frame Taylor-Joy’s outstanding performance as a woman who gets lost whenever she looks beyond an 8×8 grid. Our critic wrote, “Frank wraps it all up in a package that’s smart, smooth and snappy throughout, like finely tailored goods.” (For more of Frank’s work, watch his western mini-series “Godless.”)

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The British sketch comedy troupe Monty Python combined the cheekiness of old English music hall comics with the surrealism and self-awareness of the psychedelic era. Their series, “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” ran for four seasons from 1969-74 and was syndicated around the world, popularizing an absurdist approach to humor — and to life — that has inspired countless sketch comedians. Although the original show is 50 years old now, it “hasn’t aged a bit.” (The “Mr. Show” creators, Bob Odenkirk and David Cross, were clearly inspired by Monty Python, as evidenced by their Netflix series “w/Bob & David.”)

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As a producer and director, Ava DuVernay has tackled the Civil Rights Movement, in her Oscar-nominated film “Selma,” and racial bias in the American criminal justice system, in her Emmy-winning documentary “13TH.” In her four-part mini-series “When They See Us,” she dramatizes the story of the Central Park Five, who were convicted of raping and almost killing a jogger in New York City in 1989, then exonerated in 2002. Salamishah Tillet wrote that the Five “emerge as the heroes of their own story — and if we pay heed to the series’s urgent message about criminal justice reform, ours too.” (For another politically pointed true-crime drama stream “Unbelievable,” which examines gender bias in policing)

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Of all the older “Star Trek” series, “Deep Space Nine” today feels the most ahead of its time. Set near a wormhole connecting distant quadrants of the galaxy, the show deals frankly with the tricky politics of a remote outpost where different species warily interact. It’s a complex kind of space western: like “Gunsmoke” with phasers. And while mostly episodic, “Deep Space” does feature longer story arcs and subplots, more akin to 21st century television. Our critic called the whole “Star Trek” franchise “part of our national mythology, a continuing megastory whose characters come to represent our abstract ideals.” (Some of the concepts and characters on “Deep Space Nine” were introduced on “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” which is also on Netflix.)

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Set amid the New York City “drag ball” scene of the late ’80s and early ’90s, the exuberant drama “Pose” is groundbreaking for the way it employs a large cast of transgender women playing transgender women. The series deals with serious issues — including the devastation of AIDS and the way the city’s economic boom of the ’80s bypassed the marginalized — but it is surprisingly optimistic, emphasizing the community fostered by these underground fashion and dance competitions (hosted by the acid-tongued Pray Tell, played by Billy Porter). Our critic wrote that “Pose” “stands, bold and plumed, and demands attention.” (Netflix’s visionary science-fiction series “Sense8“ also features transgender actors in transgender roles.)

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The “Breaking Bad” prequel series, “Better Call Saul,” covers the early days of the can-do lawyer Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) as he evolves into the ethically challenged criminal attorney “Saul Goodman.” Throughout the show, Jimmy crosses paths with another “Breaking Bad” regular, the ex-cop Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), during Mike’s first forays into the Albuquerque drug-trafficking business. In this frequently surprising and incredibly entertaining crime saga, these two very different men discover the rewards and the perils of skirting the law. Our critic wrote, “Cutting against the desperation and violence that frame it, ‘Saul,’ in its dark, straight-faced way, is one of the funniest dramas on television.” (Also a must-see? “Breaking Bad,” of course.)

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The first season of the retro science-fiction series “Stranger Things” arrived with little hype and quickly became a word-of-mouth sensation: Viewers were enchanted by its pastiche of John Carpenter, Steven Spielberg, Stephen King and John Hughes — all scored to ’80s pop. This story of geeky Indiana teenagers fighting off an invasion of extra-dimensional creatures from “the Upside-Down” has the look and feel of a big summer blockbuster from 30 years ago — “a tasty trip back to that decade and the art of eeriness,” our critic noted, but “without excess.” (If you prefer ’90s teen nostalgia, try “Everything Sucks.”)

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It’s hard to explain “BoJack Horseman” to the uninitiated. It’s a showbiz satire about a self-absorbed former TV star trying to mount a comeback. It’s an existential melodrama about the fear of fading relevancy. Oh, and it’s a cartoon in which that former star is an alcoholic horse. Our critic wrote, “The absurdist comedy and hallucinatory visuals match the series’s take on Hollywood as a reality-distortion field. But the series never takes an attitude of easy superiority to its showbiz characters.” (One of the “BoJack” production designers, the cartoonist Lisa Hanawalt, also created the wonderful Netflix animated series “Tuca & Bertie.”)

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This thoughtful drama depicts the early years of the digital age, starting in the mid-80s, when personal computers and the internet became an integral part of our everyday lives. “Halt and Catch Fire” empathizes more than glamorizes, following the punishing step-by-step of four visionary engineers and programmers — sometimes partners, sometimes rivals — as they try (and often fail) to get their projects funded and shipped: “Failure,” our critic wrote, “from this show’s perspective, is not the end; it’s how people level up.” (For a different take on techies, stream the British sitcom “The IT Crowd.”)

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