It’s incredible to consider that Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu have only been producing original content for the past seven years or so. The industry has seen a tremendous seismic shift since the modest beginnings of shows like “Lilyhammer,” “Alpha House,” and “Battleground”—a total eruption of the idea of how we approach “television.”
Since literally hundreds of new episodes have appeared on these platforms since their founding, IndieWire has been motivated to assess and rank the top 10. These television shows, which range from intimate relationships to horrifying dystopias, have taken full advantage of the potential provided by the change in distribution and have developed into outstanding narratives.
“Marvel’s Jessica Jones” (Netflix, 2015-Present)
“Jessica Jones,” the greatest Netflix/Marvel series, starts out strong and introduces Marvel fans to a new kind of hero: a young, superpowered woman whose inner demons are more powerful than anybody she faces on the streets of New York. The audience learns about Jessica’s deep trauma and the part of her that still yearns for happiness while she works as a private investigator, delving into the seedier side of the city. Or, at the very least, an evening free from jerks and another bottle of the good stuff. Melissa Rosenberg’s Jessica, a tough, unyielding, and yet incredibly vulnerable character from the start of the series, opens up opportunities for a darker, sexier take on superhero storylines. – LSM
“Forever” (Amazon, 2018)
It would be spoilery to try to explain what makes this series from co-creator of Master of None and veteran “30 Rock” talent Matt Hubbard so unique. So if you want to avoid learning the real basis of the show, stop reading! It’s enough to mention that you should take the title literally because the show shows how Fred Armisen and Maya Rudolph’s marriage has gradually deteriorated into a state of boredom and aggravation. When Armisen’s character dies, the marriage is drastically upended. Rudolph’s odd blend of relief and grief over her husband’s passing is pierced when she passes away as well, leaving the two of them stuck in the afterlife and unable to spend eternity together. – LH
“Castle Rock” (Hulu, 2018-present)
Makers In the first season of this new Hulu smash, Sam Shaw and Dustin Thomason transformed the most well-known fictional location created by Stephen King into their terrifying playground. Even if the show didn’t always succeed in hitting all of its goals, its captivating balance of family drama, pain, and dread was most evident in its seventh and most notable episode, “The Queen.” In an hour-long performance, writer Shaw and director Greg Yaitanes depict what it’s like to battle dementia through the character of Sissy Spacek’s Ruth Deaver, who alternates between the past and present. What distinguishes “Castle Rock” is its emphasis on the feelings of terror rather than just the obvious scares. – LH
“The Crown” (Netflix, 2016-present)
This royal drama, which attempts to portray the whole weight of regal expectations via the prism of the most well-known king of the 20th century, has an astonishing sense of ambition baked into it. “The Crown” avoids being the Buckingham version of “Forrest Gump,” but it nevertheless succeeds in highlighting some significant moments in the history of the country. The changing destiny of Britain is evident in the manner that Claire Foy’s captivating lead role and Elizabeth’s worldwide accomplishments and disappointments are localized.
The visual brilliance that surrounds the interpersonal sagas in “The Crown,” which are brought to life with a remarkable, immersive craft that recreates decades’ worth of history through costume and location-related elements, is what gives the show its strength. Time will tell how this concept is carried out in the upcoming, time-jumping Season 3, but for now, it’s a lavish depiction of a larger-than-life institution that succeeds in transcending the conventions of a typical historical piece. SG
“Mozart in the Jungle” (Amazon, 2014-2018)
It’s still unfortunate that one of Amazon’s longest-running series, despite numerous Golden Globe victories, was always an underappreciated entry. The lighthearted but sensitive dramedy about life in the peculiar and fiercely competitive world of classical music is one that merits consideration. The ensemble cast was incredible, featuring a stunning performance by Gael Garcia Bernal as the eccentric composer who takes over a New York orchestra, Lola Kirke as the budding oboist who finds new interests in her work, Bernadette Peters who steals every scene she’s in, and Malcolm McDowell looking like he’s having a blast on camera. However, “Mozart” is also fascinating because of its producers, Paul Weitz, Jason Schwartzman, and Roman Coppola, whose visual and conceptual experiments are a feast for movie buffs. “Mozart” is a show about artists, their craft, and the rewards and drawbacks that come with it. And what exquisite music that is. – LSM
“Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” (Netflix, 2018-present)
This devilishly dark retelling of “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” on Netflix is something wicked. In the show, Kiernan Shipka’s character Sabrina and her high school pals battle demons, ghosts, and witches in a grotesque, horror-themed adventure. However, the show also makes use of those horror tropes to go deeper into concepts of responsibility and strength, giving this thought-provoking coming-of-age story an unexpectedly profound depth. Even though the program loves fun as much as gore, Satan is a serious presence, and his disciples are not to be taken lightly. So far, “Sabrina” has proven to be a suitable successor to “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and may endure just as long. – HN
“A Series of Unfortunate Events” (Netflix, 2017-2019)
Before receiving the ideal on-screen adaptation, young adults loved Lemony Snicket’s marvelously quirky stories for years. The entire story of the tragic Baudelaire orphans, who were relentlessly pursued for their enormous fortune by the despicable Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris, demonstrating a newfound level of dedication), was finally brought to life in three seasons, as it turns out. A show meant for both children and adults, “Unfortunate Events” has a rich production design, an addictively dark tone, and fantastic performances from both its young cast and the strange adults they meet on their way to a happy ending. That is, provided that the terrible nature of the terrible tales being told doesn’t deter any of those audiences. – LSM
“The Looming Tower” (Hulu, 2018)
The combined talents of Dan Futterman, Alex Gibney, and Lawrence Wright managed to keep a tragic and genuine narrative from feeling like a history lesson, which is no easy feat. “The Looming Tower,” which follows Osama bin Laden’s ascent while the US leadership quarreled irrationally among itself, is a poignant and insightful read. Up until it lets go of the hammer, though, it is also animated, captivating, and light on its feet.
In his role as FBI Agent John O’Neill, Jeff Daniels exudes a fierce professionalism that is only rivaled by his easygoing charisma outside of work. Tahar Rahim exudes a youthful, vivacious energy, Bill Camp is a master at questioning, and Michael Stuhlbarg will make you pray you’re never called into his office for the wrong reasons. (He’s disappointed; he’s not angry.) The ten-episode series has so many small moments to enjoy that it’s easy to forget about the terrible conclusion.
“Red Oaks” (Amazon, 2015-2017)
One of the rare nostalgic comedies from the 1980s that works without excessive allusions is the charming comedy about a coming-of-age directed by Gregory Jacobs and Joe Gangemi. It’s true that you would anticipate a story like this from John Hughes or Harold Ramis—a smart but lost tennis pro who falls in love with the club president’s daughter—but they didn’t write it.
“Red Oaks” is a tribute to the ’80s with its incredible body swap scene and several allusions for movie buffs. More than that, though, it’s a tribute to that ephemeral period between childhood and maturity, when you’re simultaneously carefree and insanely under pressure to accomplish something, even though you know that if you don’t, you’ll be lost for a very long time. Whatever piques your interest, you should definitely check out Amazon’s three-season comedy; it’s charming, funny, and unexpected. – BT
“Orange is the New Black” (Netflix, 2013-2019)
“Orange Is the New Black” will be the longest-running series on Netflix when its seventh and final season debuts sometime in 2019. In 2016, Netflix made the historic decision to renew the show for not one, but three seasons. That’s a significant success for the one-hour prison dramedy, which, despite its flaws, succeeds greatly because of the way it develops. The film’s merits lie not in the narrative of a well-off white woman who confronts the prison system as an inmate, but rather in the outstanding and diverse cast. “Orange” always sought to present tales about the kinds of women who might never be featured in a prestige drama, and it turned actors like Laverne Cox and Uzo Aduba into award-winning stars who might never have achieved success in this profession. – LSM