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 10 Shows to Binge
Below are – in this author’s opinion – the top 10 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!
After a hot start with its first two seasons, Netflix has moved away from the Pablo Escobar storyline and in Season 3 focuses on the exploits of the Cali Cartel. If you thought Pablo was hauling serious cocaine, Cali took it to a whole other level. Narcos was set primarily in Colombia to begin with, but in its latest installment a much wider variety of locations are featured. Many Narcos fans will be wondering how the show will fare without Wagner Moura’s (Pablo Escobar) presence on screen and their concerns may be right. There is certainly less intensity or immediacy when you know you’re not watching a malevolent murderer on screen. The Cali Cartel has moved it more upscale, infiltrating the lives of politicians and the elites.
Narcos has 1980s written all over it. Think fat cigars, huge lapels, moustaches and loafers – from both law enforcement and the crime gangs. Season three of the show heavily features arguably the most compelling law enforcement officer in the show, Javier Pena (played by Pedro Pascal), move on from the aftereffects of the Escobar era and tackle the Cali Cartel.
- 3 seasons, 10 episodes per season, 50ish minutes an episode
Stepping further back in time than Narcos, Mad Men is set in the tumultuous 1960s, but it’s not all free love and flowers in your hair – quite the opposite. ‘Mad Men’ was, and is, a term to describe the men in advertising working on Madison Avenue in New York City. The 60s were a follow-on from the days of the 50s – before the Civil Rights Movements, before women’s liberty, before the Summer of Love. It was a cutthroat business world, and Don Draper and his ‘mad men’ of Sterling Cooper ad agency had it all… big salaries, three martini lunches, inappropriate relationships with secretaries, a white picket fence and a dog. For anyone but rich white men, the early 1960s were hell, and the men of Mad Men basked in it.
Mad Men follows mystery man Don Draper, the creative director for Sterling Cooper, his exploits, his brilliant work and his simmering home life. The first few seasons may seem to move at a glacial pace, where the beauty is in the detail. There are no murders, nearly no fights or swear words in this, but if you want schmoozing and boozing, this show is it. And the characters smoke every 2 minutes. It’s not until Season 4 that the 60s as we know it really kick off and the show picks up pace. Copywriter Peggy Olsen comes more into her own and the show further explores what it’s like to be a career-minded female in the latter part of the 1960s – it’s not pretty. Settle in for Mad Men because the more you watch it, the more you appreciate the dialogue and subtlety.
- 7 seasons, 13-14 Episodes per season, 45ish minutes an episode
Forget flying cars, Black Mirror presents a different kind of futuristic reality. Technically dubbed a ‘science fiction’ series, Black Mirror is more like a postmodern nightmare. Black Mirror is a British anthology series, meaning each episode is standalone. This means you can jump in at any episode and not have to worry about understanding characters or a long winded storyline. Set in an alternative present, Black Mirror usually depicts nightmarish scenarios and dark consequences of new technologies. Black Mirror has been quietly plodding away for four seasons now, but it wasn’t until season four that it started to pick up pace. Watch if you dare. And don’t be put off by the first episode of season one! That’s about as shocking as it gets.
- 4 seasons, 3-6 episodes a season, 50-70 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
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If conspiracies didn’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
Just before anything else is said, just know that this is a totally legitimate documentary that is 100% honest and truthful. Okay, not really. American Vandal is a Netflix Original mockumentary series that somewhat mimics or satirises the style of Making a Murderer. If you’ve seen ‘MaM’, you’ll know the way the episodes end, and how evidence is presented. American Vandal documents the aftermath of a high school prank, where the culprit has drawn phallic symbols all over teachers’ cars. One certain student is pinpointed as the suspect and is presumed guilty and expelled. Students then investigate the ‘crime’ and the piece-by-piece style of the show kicks off. Despite the satrifical nature of the show, American Vandal does subtly provide commentary about modern entertainment and highlights the clichéd style of those ‘whodunnit’ mysteries in the Netflix era.
- 1 season, 8 episodes, 35ish minutes an episode
Ever heard of the time ‘Minnesota Nice’? It’s a term used to describe those from the Midwest who are always generally polite, even when challenged or threatened, and who don’t say what they feel. Fargo has ‘Minnesota Nice’ written all over it, along with the rather quirky accents associated with the state. The show is split into three different anthologies, but each has subtle links to one another. It’s a crime drama, but with a hint of black comedy to lighten the mood. It’s grotesquely violent at times, too. There are some big name stars in the series, notably Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman in Season 1, while Patrick Wilson, Kirsten Dunst and Ted Danson appear for Season 2. And Ewan McGregor then plays two characters in Season 3. Arguably the strongest season of all is the first, but all are very well-written and addictive to watch.
Throughout each season there are at least three different storylines happening at once, that eventually become intertwined. Fargo is named after the Coen Brothers’ film of the same name, but does not share many similarities except for the black humour and namesake. It is, however, executive produced by the Coen Brothers. For unapologetic violence mixed with humour and quirkiness, Fargo cannot be missed.
- 3 ‘anthologies’, 10 episodes per anthology, 50ish minutes an episode
Yes, Season 8 is out but it’s unsaid how long it will take to get to Netflix. Shameless follows the lives of the Gallagher family and is set in the south side of Chicago. It’s where Barak Obama came from and it’s known to be a rough part of town. The Gallaghers are one big family, whose alcoholic father is more a hindrance than a help. The family is penniless and down on luck. Each episode generally follows a different family member – there are six children so there is a lot of depth to be found.
Shameless is a show based on a UK show of the same name, and has done well to stay largely faithful to the original. There are seven seasons on Netflix, and it’s the type of show that you either binge or take ages to watch – there is no ‘in between’. For someone looking for a seminal dramedy with a lot of ‘meat on the bone’ to binge, Shameless may be it.
- 7 seasons, 12 episodes per season, 55ish 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
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
How to watch data-free Netflix on your phone
Optus is currently one of the only telcos to still offer unmetered Netflix streaming on mobile phone plans. To get this deal, you’ll usually have to sign up to a postpaid plan over 24 months, costing you upwards of $40 a month. Most phone plans are available, but keep in mind you’ll usually have to bundle in a new mobile phone as well! Prepaid users don’t miss out either. While they don’t receive Netflix data-free, they do receive up to 10GB extra for streaming, which is a hefty amount. To get an Optus deal, see some of the plans listed below, bundled in with an iPhone X.
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.