For its unrivalled range of content, from the gripping to the quirky and downright strange, Netflix Australia has you covered. If you’re wondering what to watch this weekend, fire up the telly – or tablet – load Netflix and settle in for some binge watching.
Netflix is one of the most popular streaming services in Australia as people move away from traditional free-to-air TV, sick of all the ads and mindless programming. The beauty of Netflix is that it’s constantly updating and expanding its library to deliver even more exciting content – both ‘Original’ and licensed. After Netflix announced that it will aim to make 50% of its content ‘Netflix Original’, there is growing anticipation about what the streaming giant will offer up next. Here are the top 10 shows to watch on Netflix, with many being Originals.
Netflix Australia – Top 12 Shows to Binge
Below are – in this author’s opinion – the top 12 shows you should take a look at on Netflix right now. Cast aside the clichéd Orange is the New Black and House of Cards recommendations for now – there are some left-of-field suggestions here, listed in no apparent order!
When Netflix wants you to tune in to a new show, or season, it has a habit of trying to ram it down your throat, keeping it in your eye’s view until you eventually give in and click. It’s like that with Ozark, but in this instance you really should take the advice. Ozark could be described as the new Breaking Bad given it tells the story of a main character pretty much out of his depth dealing with a Mexican drug cartel. But instead of making drugs, our main character here is instead involved with laundering money on behalf of the bad guys. Said main character is played by none other than Jason Bateman (playing Marty Bryde), ably supported by Laura Linney (who plays Marty’s wife, Wendy).
The couple and their kids quickly find themselves having to move from Chicago to the seemingly idyllic Ozarks region to escape their cartel-related problems. But surprise, surprise, things don’t go accordingly to plan. Be aware, this show is not as funny as Breaking Bad often was, and is in fact a lot darker at times. But it’s essential viewing for fans of the genre. Season 2 is now playing!
- 2 seasons, 10 episodes per season, 60ish minutes an episode
First and Last
If there’s one genre Netflix has nailed right now, it’s real-life crime. The latest jaw-dropping series tells the story of inmates during their very first, or very last, day in jail. From repeat offenders to ‘wrong-place-wrong-time’ types, we learn exactly what happens to those who fall foul of the law across middle America. Perhaps the most eye-opening insight is how these new prisoners are left to beg or borrow the money they need from friends or family to ‘make bond’ and avoid spending longer than they have to behind bars waiting for their day in court. For some, this is a game they’ve played before, but for others, it’s a terrifying first impression of what prison will be like.
On the flip side, we see prisoners preparing to leave jail on their last day before tasting freedom once again. In most cases, the show only tells the story of relatively short-term prisoners of just a month or two for the odd misdemeanor, so no Shawshank-style tearjerkers here. Nevertheless, it still seems quite groundbreaking to see such access to ‘behind the scenes’ footage of inmates at arguably their most vulnerable moments. Like a lot of similar Netflix shows, each episode in the series follows something of a ‘template’, which can be good or bad depending on your view. But one thing’s for sure, it’s compelling viewing.
- 1 season, six episodes, 40ish minutes at episode
Hot off the press, the Staircase is a demonstration of what Netflix seems to do best – gritty ‘whodunnit’ documentaries. The Staircase is actually a 2004 French miniseries that was picked up and expanded upon by the Netflix productions team in June 2018. It documents the trial of Michael Peterson, an American man accused of killing his wife Kathleen in 2001. She was found dead at the bottom of a staircase and the series plays out in the courtroom, not dissimilar to that of ‘Making a Murderer’. It’s a meticulous and thought-provoking documentary that’s sure to take you out of the sun for a few hours.
The miniseries picks apart the private lives of the Petersons and the husband so ‘obviously’ did it – or did he? It’s an interesting insight into how both prosecution teams and the defence mount their arguments, what they latch onto, and how they present their cases.
- 1 miniseries, 13 episodes, 45ish minutes an episode
Another ‘whodunnit’ series – but this time fictional – Safe details a widowed surgeon whose teenage daughter goes missing and uncovers some dark secrets about the affluent town he lives in, and some people closest to him. In an eight-episode suspenseful miniseries, Safe is a British drama series that features crisp cinematography, sweeping British countryside and Michael C Hall from Dexter sporting a British accent.
In many ways ‘Safe’ is a sociological insight into the extremes people go to, to keep their secrets. Think sex scandals, dead bodies and unruly teenagers in a quaint upper-class English town. In typical Netflix fashion, it’s made for bingeing with cliffhangers and easily-digestible runtimes. The first season is out, with the opportunity for a second.
- 1 season, 8 episodes, 45ish minutes an episode
If you’re in Australia and reading this, then congrats because you probably have access to running water that’s safe to drink. The residents of Flint, Michigan currently – largely – do not have this privilege. Since 2016, the water in Flint has been deemed unsafe to drink, containing toxic amounts of lead. A foreign concept to anyone in a first world country, there are many more issues in Flint than having to ship in bottled water.
Situated an hour or so outside of Detroit, Flint experienced a boom time in the mid-2oth century. However, after car manufacturer GM pulled out, the city steadily descended into one of the most violent in the US. This documentary series details the seriously understaffed and underfunded Flint Police Department, with fewer than 100 officers for over 100,000 residents. On top of the water crisis and heady levels of crime, they must deal with political struggles, racism and a mistrusting public. It’s not pretty – even though the series is shot beautifully – but it’s important to learn about Flint and cities like it.
- 1 season, 8 episodes, 40ish minutes an episode
The Confession Tapes
If you’ve seen Making a Murderer then you’ll probably love this. The Confession Tapes is exactly as the name describes – the series follows six different cases with guilty verdicts largely based on confession tapes used as evidence. Except, these confessions seem dodgy at best – devious police tactics are used and confessions are only given after hours of interrogation. The first two episodes depict the very same case, arguably the most compelling presented. There is always doubt cast over the guilty verdict and viewers can’t help but to and fro between their opinions on the matter.
As Netflix did with Making a Murderer, producers’ filmmaking did become quite heavy handed, so extracurricular reading may be needed for a more balanced view. Nevertheless, the Confession Tapes is a series that ticks all the right boxes for ‘binge-ability’. Each episode ends on somewhat of a cliffhanger with no obvious answers, the episodes are long enough to draw you in, and the production quality is top notch. Seven episodes with 45 minutes per episode – that’s an easy weekend.
- 1 season, 7 episodes, 45ish minutes an episode
If conspiracies don’t scare you enough, are you familiar with the secretive twisted world of the CIA? Wormwood is a combo of dramatic recreation and documentary series. While the dramatic recreation cuts starring Peter Sarsgaard as Frank Olson are worthwhile if a bit dull, the real ‘meat on the bone’ is the documentary side of things.
In 1953 at the peak of nuclear fear and the Cold War, CIA agent Frank Olson, ‘fell’, ‘jumped’ or was ‘dropped’ out of a window in a New York City hotel. Frank was part of the notorious ‘Project MKUltra’ CIA program and was covertly dosed with LSD and the death was ruled a suicide – but there’s more to it than that. Eric Olson – Frank’s son – has tirelessly sought to seek the truth his whole life, and now he has reached a conclusion even though ‘what happened’ is still up in the air. Think conspiracies, the dark world of the Cold War and the murky undertakings of the CIA. It’s slow, but fascinating.
- 6 episode docuseries, 42ish minutes an episode
Mindhunter is the latest of these Netflix Originals – and is arguably the most compelling. The series is largely directed by David Fincher and is reminiscent of the film Zodiac. Set in 1977 – long before criminal psychology was a respectable field to be in – Mindhunter follows Holden Ford (yes, that’s his name) and Bill Tench. The two are at first at odds with each other, but become loyal FBI partners nonetheless. Their job is to teach emerging psychology to local police departments around the country, but they get caught up in investigating and interviewing serial killers – simply labelled ‘sequence killers’ at the time – locked up in prison, to find out what makes them tick.
The detectives are fictional, but the killers interviewed are based on real ones, and the semblances are uncanny. For the true crime buffs out there, Dennis Rader and Edmund Kemper are depicted. The two detectives use the knowledge they gather from their interviews to further improve their own training courses, and also apply the knowledge to prevent and solve other ongoing cases. Mindhunter is a bit of a slow-burning thriller but viewers are well rewarded for their patience. Trust David Fincher to produce another winner.
- 1 season, 10 episodes, 50ish minutes an episode
Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
Moving away from murder, if you like comedians, and to a lesser extent cars and coffee, then this show is for you. What was originally on ‘Crackle’ – a streaming service you probably haven’t heard of – ‘Comedians’ was picked up by Netflix and is a show run by Jerry Seinfeld as he pokes and prods fellow comedians and comic actors – and Barack Obama. Most episodes come down to the common question – what is ‘funny’? Every comedian has a differing opinion, and Jerry is along for the ride.
As a car enthusiast himself, Seinfeld picks the car to match the guest’s personality and takes them out for coffee. The show features all the biggest comedians and actors of our time, including fellow ‘Seinfeld’ show cast members. The episodes are bite-sized, just enough for a quick pick-me-up that will leave you wanting more.
- 4 seasons, around 13 episodes a season, 15ish minutes an episode
Jessica Biel plays ‘Mrs Boringmum’ who suddenly commits one of the Cardinal sins, and no one knows why. Based on the novel by Petra Hammesfahr, The Sinner is an eight episode miniseries originally aired on cable TV in the US and was quickly picked up by Netflix.
The show doesn’t follow the crime, as such, it follows the psychology behind the crime and what really makes people tick. Dohn Norwood plays Detective Dan Leroy and is arguably one of the most interesting characters in this Boringtown, USA setting, with backup law enforcement officers little more than a cookie cutter sidenote. The Sinner is a bit of a slow burner, but it’s very easy to binge.
- 1 miniseries, 8 episodes, 42ish minutes an episode
Wild, Wild Country
Wild, Wild Country is a deeply illustrative look into the mindset of cults – particularly from the inside. In this cult there was no ‘drinking the Kool Aid’ or overly malevolent leader – instead, the cult focused mainly on weird dance and sex therapies in the middle-of-nowhere in Oregon. Wild, Wild Country is a series about the controversial Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh or ‘Osho’ for short and his ‘Rajneeshpuram’ community embedded in the wild countryside of Wasco County, Oregon.
It’s safe to say the locals don’t take kindly to this ‘community’ taking residence in this small, rural county and is met with intrigue and fury. It’s one of the most intriguing ‘cults’ of our time, and the series will have you questioning who the ‘bad guys’ really are. Are the bad guys the narrow-minded locals, or the strange, maniacal cult whose leader drives a Rolls Royce everywhere?
- 1 season, 6 episodes, 65ish minutes an episode
My Next Guest with David Letterman
To round out the list, it’s probably good to end on a funny note, and that’s with David Letterman’s newest series. Letterman left late night TV in 2015 after a stellar 33-year career. My Next Guest is somewhat of a continuation from those days, but with a much more stripped-down, minimalist set and feel to it. Letterman interviews the biggest stars and influential people, pries into their upbringing and sometimes isn’t afraid to ask uncomfortable questions.
From Jay Z to Malala Yousafzai, Letterman handles all the interviews with panache, with no gags, ‘Top Ten List’, ostentatious band or heady sets. Some episodes are stronger than others, and some guests are arguably more ‘prominent’ than others, but all episodes are worth a watch. New parts are released about once a month, so it pays to check back in regularly and add it to your list.
- 7 episodes, 50ish minutes an episode
What should I binge watch on Netflix?
No matter your TV tastes, Netflix has new shows and new seasons releasing all the time. The beauty with Netflix is the large majority of its TV series are released all at once, meaning you can binge watch instead of having to wait weekly for the new episode. If you’re new to Netflix, get caught up with these shows and you’ll soon be at the cutting edge of the water cooler conversation, playgroup chat, or school drop-off catch-up.
Netflix has plenty on offer here, and if you’re looking for something new to watch, or you have a free weekend, the above shows may be suitable. So grab the popcorn and snacks, get in your pyjamas and have a weekend in full of bingeing delight! It’s also worth checking out the very best shows on Stan and Amazon Prime.