I spend most of my waking hours watching Netflix and people always ask me for recommendations so I thought I would summarize what’s available on Netflix, what I’ve watched, and what is worth watching!
So keep this in mind next time you’re wondering “What should I watch?”
2006-2013, Series Completed
From her time working on Saturday Night Live, Tina Fey crafted the sitcom 30 Rock, which focuses on an imaginary sketch series called TGS (“The Girly Show”). When we begin the show, Liz Lemon (Fey) finds out that TGS is struggling and NBC has brought in a new executive (Alec Baldwin) to innovate the brand. His first big decision is to bring in Hollywood trainwreck Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan). But will TGS’ current star Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski) be able to cope with a new star of the show?
30 Rock is a fast-paced half-hour show which uses pop culture and fast cuts to other places/times/scenarios to illicit humor. It doesn’t really make you think and it never really veers into the emotional but its ability to parody modern television (and some incredible work by Alec Baldwin) won the series quite a few Emmys in its first few years. The show is also known for some outstanding guest stars, including reoccurring roles for Matt Damon, Elizabeth Banks, James Marsden, Will Forte, Jason Sudeikis, Will Arnett, Salma Hayek, Julianne Moore, Jon Hamm, and Steve Buschemi.
Pros: Witty humor, stellar supporting cast, relevant in today’s culture. Cons: Reliance on pop culture might hurt show in the long run, lacks depth.
2003-2006/2013, Show Possibly To Be Continued
Two of my entries on this list found life after their original airing, prompting revivals (the other being Futurama). Arrested Development only lasted three seasons back in the mid 2000s and was just starting to hit its stride. After a huge hiatus, it was brought back as a Netflix exclusive. It’s also unclear if Arrested Development is finished or if more seasons (or possibly a movie) might be coming.
The show follows Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman), who is a successful manager in his father’s company. But when George Bluth (Jeffrey Tambor) is arrested for potential treason, Michael must step up to keep the business (and the family) together. This show introduced mainstream audiences to Michael Cera and Will Arnett, who have both gone on to great things, and the show has coined more catchphrases than you could possibly keep up with.
This show is divisive though, as some people will love it and quote it everyday, while others will feel alienated right off the bat by the quirky family. I’d recommend you watch 3-4 episodes before you pass judgment but that’s a fairly good indicator on if you’ll like it or not. This show requires a deeper and more subtle humor (as opposed to blatant shows like The Office or 30 Rock). This means it relies on you paying attention. There are some jokes that you won’t even realize were jokes til episodes (or seasons) later. It’s brilliantly crafted but definitely not for everyone. It has an incredible amount of rewatchability, as you’re constantly discovering new jokes that you didn’t notice the first (or eighth) time around.
Pros: Incredible amount of detail with jokes that pay off big, surreal characters that will definitely keep you interested, introduced the world to some great comedic talent. Cons: Forces you to pay attention, sometimes jokes don’t pay off immediately, quirkiness of show may be alienating.
2011-Present, Series In Progress
I remember when I had roommates and I sat down and watched a few episodes of Bob’s Burgers and I was so surprised. There are some cartoons on this list that go towards the sentimental this series relishes (pun intended) being strange, with a truly eclectic cast of characters.
The show follows Bob (H. Jon Benjamin), who runs a burger place in a small coastal town. He has an odd wife and three children, each more strange than the others. While the show doesn’t veer towards the sentimental, it does however veer into intellectual, rewarding viewers for knowing odd bits of trivia. The show has a high replayability, as I’ve gone through the multiple seasons on Netflix probably three or four times now.
While it may not do anything super creative, the show is dependable. It knows its strengths and plays to them. The voice cast is impressive, with a wide array of guest stars and comedic talent (including Kevin Kline, Tim Meadows, Aziz Ansari, Bill Hader, and Zach Galifianakis).
Pros: Great voice work, smart comedy, always dependable. Cons: Nothing super original, sticks with what is safe.
2014-Present, Series in Progress
This Netflix exclusive comedy features Will Arnett as the talking horse BoJack Horseman. It’s aimed at an older audience, trying to tap into the adult cartoon fans by infusing some shock into the genre (but nothing we haven’t seen with other similar outings). Aaron Paul, Patton Oswalt, and Alison Brie also lend their voices.
At this point, only one season of BoJack Horseman is available for streaming, so its 12-episode run can be knocked out in a day. It manages to get a few laughs every episode but it struggles to get from laugh to laugh and sometimes resorts to the lowest common denominator for shock value, when it could’ve aimed for higher. Arnett saves the show, making the title character funny but abrasive enough to be interesting.
So with all these other comedies to choose from, should you ever turn to BoJack Horseman? I’d say no. It’s okay but there are some stellar shows available for streaming now that are far superior. If you want Will Arnett at his best, Arrested Development is the obvious choice.
Pros: Decent laughs, will appeal to those that have a tendency to appreciate shock value, Arnett carries the show. Cons: Doesn’t deliver enough laughs per episode, generally forgettable storylines, shock value is intrusive on most occasions.
2012-Present, Series In Progress
Netflix is making some smart moves, which includes picking up the very odd choice of Derek, which is a half-hour dramedy which focuses on Ricky Gervais as an autistic caretaker at an elderly living facility. It’s hard to categorize this as a comedy because there are so many strong emotional moments, but due to its 30-minute structure, it probably makes the most sense here.
Each episode, we go on some sort of adventure with Derek, as he either gets to know a member of the facility or sometimes he goes out and about the town (one of my favorites is when he visits the zoo). It’s never said if it’s truly autism that Derek has, but it doesn’t really matter: Derek is one of the most compelling and interesting characters on television today. Gervais disappears completely into the role, with a combination of physical tics and cues, as well as an unrelenting love and kindness for others.
Now, this show may not be for everyone. First off, I have to watch with the closed captions on because the British actors talk pretty fast, have somewhat thick accents, and use slang that I don’t understand. The show also confuses people in the tone because it goes from absolutely hysterical to “cry your eyes out” emotional in just a scene or two. But to me, it works. It’s uplifting, even in its saddest moments. I’ve learned many lessons from Derek and I want others to learn those lessons as well, which is why I’m constantly telling people via social media to watch this show.
Pros: Absolutely incredible performance from Ricky Gervais, satisfying emotional storylines, hilarious moments as well. Cons: British style and jarring tone of the show may alienate some viewers.
1993-2004, Series Completed
People laugh when I tell them I’ve been watching Frasier, as it’s been off the air for about ten years. It was one of the standouts of NBC’s old Must-See-TV era television, as a spinoff from the hit Cheers. It highlights Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammar) as a radio psychologist who helps his callers figure out life issues. In his own personal life, Frasier is adjusting to living with his father (John Mahoney) and his physical therapist Daphne (Jane Leeves). Sparks begin to fly when Daphne meets Frasier’s brother Niles (David Hype Pierce) and we get an 11-season “Will they? Won’t they?” storyline. The last prominent character is Frasier’s producer on his radio show Roz, played by Peri Gilpin.
Frasier is one of the shows I didn’t really appreciate back in the day, as a youngster. Shows like Friends I could understand, at least a little, but Frasier had a whole different aura about it. Jokes about fine dining and wine tastings flew right over my head. But now as an adult, I find Frasier to be hilarious. Kelsey Grammar and David Hyde Pierce have an incredible chemistry. John Mahoney as their father delivers the lines that we often want to say and often help connect the average viewer to these extravagant antics of Seattle’s elite. It’s clever and witty, while not underestimating its audience. It’s a nice feeling that the show actually teaches you things, instead of resorting to the lowest common denominator.
Don’t shrug off this show because it’s a little dated because there is a lot to enjoy here. At 11 seasons, it can be a little long but it doesn’t feel stretched too thin.
Pros: Witty and smart humor, great cast and chemistry. Cons: Sometimes humor is too smart and you might need to look up jokes, 11 seasons can be daunting when you’re starting a new show.
1994-2004, Series Completed
Friends is one of the shows that everyone has been waiting to arrive on Netflix and it’s finally here. How does this classic stand up to the test of time?
We follow six friends, played by Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry, Matt LeBlanc, and David Schwimmer. They’re usually either hanging out in their gigantic New York City apartments or lounging in the Central Perk coffee shop. Throughout the 10 seasons, we watch them grow up and struggle with a lot of issues that 20-somethings will likely face, including love and loss. Why this show was so popular 20 years ago when it began airing is the same reason it’s still popular today, with a completely different generation: It’s about people. And what makes people tick hasn’t changed since 1994.
Is the show funny? Yes. It’s clever and manages to make entire episodes out of the smallest of social blunders. Is it emotional? Also yes. I love when a 20-minute show is able to pull at your heartstrings, which is why most of my 5-star comedies also do a great job in making you completely invested in these characters. You’ll laugh and you’ll cry as you follow these six people through 10 years of their lives.
For context, I didn’t really watch Friends until now. But I loved this show. So if you haven’t seen it, now is a great chance to dive into something that is still completely relevant and applicable to your life. Even though it’s 20 years old, you’ll relate to these characters like they’re actually your friends.
Pros: Hilarious writing, likeable characters, and emotionally charged throughlines. Cons: Some cultural references are really dated, definitely some filler episodes.
1999-2003, 2010-2013, Series Completed
I’m going to be honest with you. I’ve never been a huge fan of The Simpsons. Though to be fair… I’ve never given it that much of a chance. If it were on Netflix……… Anyways. So when Futurama started, I kind of wrote it off. It wasn’t til a few years ago that my buddy Corey suggested we watch it and I tend to trust his taste. After just a few episodes, I instantly understood the appeal and I want to use this as a chance to convince you.
At the core, this story is about Philip J. Fry, who accidentally fell into a cryogenic pod in the year 2000 and was frozen in time until the year 3000. He now has to cope with the world as it exists now. Of all the comedies on this list, this is actually one of the more emotional series. While Scrubs and Parks & Rec both had some serious episodes, it was Futurama that made me bawl like a baby. It manages to delicately balance some incredible writing and wit with some absolutely heartbreaking and poignant stories. The writers smartly address concerns that a lesser show would’ve avoided. How does a man cope with losing everyone he’s ever known? How does a man with no valuable skills in this futuristic society impress women and eventually find love? There are some interesting tales here.
The show was cancelled in 2003 but found life in a few straight-to-DVD movies, which ignited new fans and eventually brought the show back to a life for a few seasons and they got the series finale that they deserved. Ignore that this is a The Simpsons-like clone visually and ignore any preconceptions you might have about cartoons, because Futurama is able to deliver more human stories than most of these shows. Don’t pass up this show, you’re only doing yourself a disservice.
Pros: Absolute hilarity mixed with beautiful and human stories, balance of both overt and subtle humor, incredible voice talent when you consider that a handful of actors/actresses voiced the entire cast. Cons: Animation may alienate you initially.
2005-2014, Series Completed
This is probably one of the most divisive shows on this list, as people tend to fall in (and then out of) love with it pretty quickly. Ted (Josh Radnor) is a young architect who is looking for love in New York. He’s accompanied by his best friends (Jason Segal, Neil Patrick Harris, Alyson Hannigan). In the first few episodes he falls for Cobie Smulders but then spends the rest of the series struggling to be just friends with her.
The show is framed with narration from a future Ted who is telling his two kids how he met their mother. This narration, while clever at the beginning, becomes more of a burden, as it actually spoils (what could have been) big reveals. While Radnor is the lead, it’s really Segal, Harris, and Hannigan that carry the weight of the show. I’m actually surprised these three kept renewing their contracts, especially since Segal was able to make himself a pretty solid career in movies.
But this asks the question. Is nine seasons too long to drag on a simple story on how he meets the mother? Yes, it is. This is a standard case of a show that should have ended a few seasons earlier. There are definite filler episodes here that waste time until the next forward-moving storyline episode. The show had definite promise but the magic wore off. As of now, I’d recommend most of these other shows over How I Met Your Mother.
Pros: Great chemistry among the supporting cast, interesting concept for a show. Cons: Concept became a burden, laugh track for the show can disorienting, storyline dragged on a few seasons too long.
2015-Present, Series in Progress
I’m a big fan of Parks and Recreation, so when Aziz Ansari was set to write and star in a Netflix-exclusive television show, I was beyond excited. Ansari stars as a character similar to himself, though amped up for comedy. Each episode has a different focus, such as parenting, old people, or various spins on relationships. The reoccurring cast includes Noel Wells, Eric Wareheim, Kelvin Yu, and H. Jon Benjamin.
This show starts off a little weak, with the first episode feeling like a standard episode of most other sitcoms, but it becomes apparent in episode two that this show is something special. The second episode, called Parents, stars Aziz’s actual parents as his fictional parents in the show. It tackles the relationship between parents and children, with the added dimension of parents who move to the United States from somewhere else. The show became more than just standard fare but instead gave us something much deeper. The episode called Mornings shows a relationship with all its ups and downs in a real way. It’s only ten episodes and most of them deliver some incredible moments.
The standout talent is Noel Wells as Aziz’s love interest, especially in the later episodes. I only knew her from one or two seasons that she was on Saturday Night Live but she’s definitely going somewhere after this series. For every outstanding actor though, there’s definitely some weak links. Aziz’s parents are really hit or miss, as are some of the other smaller talent. That didn’t detract too much but it definitely reminds you that they’ve just memorized a script.
Pros: Incredible writing, Wells as the romantic lead is great, deep and impactful messages. Cons: Some spotty acting, starts a little weak.
2011-Present, Series In Progress
I didn’t really know what to expect from this show. I guess I assumed it was going to be a standard sitcom about young people. I like Zooey Deschanel but not enough to seek out this show. So finally, I found myself watching it when I had a whole weekend to waste and I burned quickly through the couple seasons that were streaming.
The show started off exactly how I imagined but towards the end of the first season, actually started to go to a deeper place (which I always appreciate). When Nick (Jake Johnson) thinks he may have cancer, I realized that this show was trying to do something different than what I had expected. It manages to bring in lots of laughs, usually from Max Greenfield’s Schmidt, but it also has its fair share of enlightening and emotional moments.
While I appreciate that fine balance, you find yourself remembering all those emotional highlights but the jokes seem to fall short in the longterm. In our culture of binge-watching, none of the funny moments stick after watching the series. And for a network comedy to struggle with its humor, that’s not a great sign for the show in the long run.
Pros: Funny yet still sentimental, talented cast. Cons: While it’s funny, nothing too memorable stays with you, other than these emotional moments.
2009-Present, Series Completed (but last season not yet on Netflix)
This series began as a spiritual spinoff from The Office, capitalizing on the concept of the cast knowing and recognizing that they were being recorded. The first season of Parks and Recreation is probably the worst because they tried to take the template of Michael Scott (Steve Carell) and make Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope a copy of that character. The show really got into its groove during the second season when they allowed Leslie to become more of a human character and not an outlandish embellishment. Amy Poehler’s supporting cast includes Aziz Ansari, Rashida Jones, Chris Pratt, Aubrey Plaza, Adam Scott, Rob Lowe, Nick Offerman, Retta, and the butt of every joke: Jim O’Heir as Jerry Gergich.
Parks and Recreation takes the quirky antics of a powerful woman (similar to Fey’s Liz Lemon in 30 Rock) but instead of focusing on entertainment-industry related antics, focuses on the issues in local government. I know, I know, it may not sound interesting but the characters actually make these situations really enjoyable. This series also gets into a few heartfelt scenarios as Poehler’s Leslie falls in and out of love. The comedic highlights usually involve Nick Offerman as the libertarian head of the Parks and Recreation department Ron Swanson and the aloof boyfriend of Rashida Jones, played by Chris Pratt. Pratt’s character was supposed to be written off in the first season but the audiences loved him so they created story arcs to keep him around. Pratt is making quite a name for himself, after costarring in Moneyball, Delivery Man, Her, and next summer’s big Marvel movie Guardians of the Galaxy.
This current season of Parks and Recreation includes the departure of both Rashida Jones and Rob Lowe, as well as the culmination of most of Leslie Knope’s hard work. Right now, I’m not tired of the show, but I could see this show becoming stale with a few more seasons so I hope they choose to go out on a high note instead of lingering on too long.
Pros: Great comedic supporting cast with soon-to-be A-List talent, interesting and unique city-related storylines, relateable and sympathetic characters. Cons: Rough beginning, could become stale if show continues much longer.
2011-Present, Series In Progress
This is probably the least well-known show on the list but one you might find interesting. Portlandia is the child of SNL’s Fred Armisen and his buddy Carrie Brownstein. It takes place in Portland, OR and showcases via sketch comedy how out-of-time Portland seems. “Portland is the city where young people go to retire,” says Armisen in the opening number. This is more than just a traditional sketch show because it really only stars these two, as they play characters across all races, ages, genders… Part of me might enjoy it because I know how true these stories are but I know quite a few not-Oregonians who appreciate the show too.
Aside from Armisen and Brownstein’s sharp wit, another highlight is that they’ve managed to get a huge amount of guest stars, including Aubrey Plaza, Roseanne Barr, Jeff Goldblum, Tim Robbins, Patton Oswalt, Steve Buschemi, and Jim Gaffigan. The scenarios can be hit and miss, just like with any sketch show, so there are some that I’ll skip on a second viewing, but most of them are at least entertaining on the first viewing.
It’s hard to say if you’ll like Portlandia or not. If you appreciated Armisen on Saturday Night Live, you might give it a chance. The first episode is a good indicator of the entire series, so one episode should give you enough information to tell if you’d like it or not.
Pros: Armisen and Brownstein have incredible range, poignant Portland humor, amazing guest stars. Cons: Some of you just may not like it, some sketches miss the mark.
2001-2010, Series Completed
I watched Scrubs halfheartedly when I was younger but I didn’t really relate to the characters until I hit my mid-20s and could relate with the issues with growing up and finding out who you are. It stars Zach Braff as J.D., a young intern at Sacred Heart Hospital. The show follows J.D. as he makes friends (and enemies) and comes to grips with the successes and failures of being a doctor. He is joined by his best friend Turk (Donald Faison), friend and sometimes lover Elliot (Sarah Chalke), mentor Dr. Cox (John C. McGinley), and loveable nurse Carla (Judy Reyes). Their plans are often foiled by the Chief of Medicine Dr. Kelso (Ken Jenkins) and the mischievous Janitor (Neil Flynn).
Scrubs manages to do three things really well. 1.) It has been said to be the most accurate and authentic look at the medical field. These seem like real people, struggling with very real issues. 2.) It manages to deliver big laughs. Braff really grew into his own but it’s his supporting cast that makes him shine, most notably John C. McGinley and Donald Faison. 3.) When it slows down the pace, Scrubs delivers some incredibly deep and complex episodes where our young doctors struggle with loss, death, love, and how to cope with their lives and the tragedies that sometimes accompany a medical profession. Not every patient they come across makes it through. And our cast manages to balance big laughs and heartfelt emotion with ease.
To see a more in-depth look at Scrubs, check out this installment of Finally Caught Up.
Pros: Hilarious cast with great chemistry, accurate look at medical field, emotional storylines that give real depth. Cons: Last season is horrible, as it was meant as more of a spinoff but never got off the ground.
1998-2006, Series Completed
I didn’t discover That 70’s Show until recently but it has a lot going on. The idea of it taking place during the 70’s doesn’t really matter, if you see that as a detraction. It’s the story of a group of friends, who fight, love, annoy, and support each other. This launched the careers of five incredible actors (and then there’s Wilmer Valderrama). It is mostly a story about Eric Forman but he actually leaves for a season or so at the end and we get some quality time with a few of the other characters.
In terms of humor, That 70’s Show is pretty in-your-face. Not a lot of subtlety. Fez has an accent and doesn’t understand American culture. Hyde is a stoner with a heart of gold. Kelso is a goof and doesn’t get what’s happening around him. It’s pretty superficial but it works. Even though it’s set in the 70’s, these teens still experience things that are relateable. They try to form their identities. They will succeed and they will fail at things that we’ve all experienced. There are a few episodes that dig deep into what it means to love and lose. I’ll admit it, I cried a few times.
That 70’s Show is just about as common denominator as you can get. Most people will like it, since it will appeal to most viewers. It doesn’t take any huge risks though and it doesn’t deliver any humor that really has any substance. But it’s dependable. It’s that show you can always appreciate but it’s by no definition the best of the best. But it’s a safe choice.
Pros: Will appeal to most people, even though in a 70’s setting you can relate to it, fun to watch A-list stars before they were big. Cons: No real substance to humor, can be a bit superficial, maybe lasted a few seasons too long.
2005-2013, Series Completed
The Office is interesting in that your friends will be divided into diehard fans and people that have never seen it. Most folks that give The Office a chance will eventually come to love it, especially once you’ve held a job that might seem familiar to this. The characters are pretty human (except for Rainn Wilson’s Dwight Schrute) so it’s easy to relate to them and find which ones resonate most with you. It’s a huge supporting cast so finding a few characters you love will come pretty easy to you. The main star of the show is Steve Carell as Michael Scott, who is the Branch Manager for a Pennsylvania paper company. His #2 Dwight Schrute (Wilson) gets thrown off when a new guy enters the company named Jim (John Krasinski). Jim starts to notice the receptionist Pam (Jenna Fischer) and it triggers one of the best “Will they? Won’t they?” storylines since Frasier. Other notable cast members include Ed Helms, B.J. Novak, Mindy Kaling, and Craig Robinson.
The Office doesn’t deliver as overt laughs as some of these other shows. Yes, Dwight is crazy and Michael does weird things, but a lot of the humor is in the situation. “Wow, that could totally happen where I work” moments are common. And as you get invested in the characters, it becomes more and more complex. Michael’s antics become much more sympathetic when you start to understand why he does what he does. The format of having someone supposedly recording all of these events can be a bit hard to believe, especially considering some of the bad judgment displayed. But if you can suspend your belief, there’s a lot to like here. The last few seasons were rough for me, but the final few episodes were among the best of the entire series. The first season is rough, so I’d recommend giving it a solid start before deciding you don’t like it. They had to find their footing.
Pros: Tons of characters to relate to, quirky characters eventually gain depth, finishes strong. Cons: Later seasons were inconsistent, quirky characters can alienate or frustrate you, have to suspend your disbelief about show’s “always being recorded” concept.
2015-Current, Series in Progress
A Netflix exclusive starring Ellie Kemper (The Office), Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt focuses on the story of four women who were locked away for 15 years in an underground bunker and are now trying to live normal lives. We follow Kimmy (Kemper) as she tries to get by in New York City by getting an apartment with a budding Broadway star (Tituss Burgess) and getting a job working for a high maintenance and eccentric housewive (30 Rock‘s Jane Krakowski). The show is produced by Tina Fey.
Other than Derek, this is the only Netflix-exclusive comedy and it’s a little more hit or miss than its stellar drama offerings. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt follows a formula similar to 30 Rock, which often cuts to flashbacks as the punchline to a joke. It works mostly. We also have an extremely likeable lead in Ellie Kemper, who made a name for herself in the last few seasons of The Office. She plays essentially the same character here, but it’s a character you can’t help but fall for. Jane Krakowski also basically rehashes her character of Jenna from 30 Rock. This can be a little unnerving, as I don’t know if this show is really as good as either of those shows they’re borrowing from.
As of now, the first season is available and it’s a pretty self-contained story which wraps up the story of the bunker and their doomsday cult, so I’m curious what future seasons will hold. It’ll either come into its own with some new original material or it’ll falter without the story of the bunker and truly become a clone of 30 Rock and The Office. I’m hoping it manages to succeed but only time will tell.
Pros: Likeable lead in Ellie Kemper, clever writing, a few fun cameos and guest stars. Cons: Feels very familiar if you’ve watched other comedy shows from this team, not sure how future seasons will do now that the initial conflict is resolved.
Our taste in television is obviously going to be very different. You may hate shows I loved or love shows that I hated. That’s okay. Sound off with your comments below and let me know what you agree/disagree with!
And I haven’t seen everything, so let me know what television comedies I should be checking out next!