The Best TV Shows to Watch on Netflix

Updated on September 30, 2014

Series to Search

  • Arrested Development
  • House of Cards
  • The Tudors
  • Trailer Park Boys
  • Orange is the New Black
  • Sherlock

Too Many to Choose From

Netflix is the up-and-coming obsession of the twenty-first century, almost altogether replacing conventional means of watching television and movies. Whole series are available to watch with just the click of a button, and so many forms of media carry Netflix that it's almost impossible not to have a subscription, or know someone who does. I've been bitten by the Netflix bug myself, and it's a disease to which I willingly succumb on a nightly basis; some weekends, it's how I pass an entire afternoon.

Even though the movie selection may be somewhat lacking, the vast library of television shows that Netflix offers is endless. Though there are so many that you'd probably love, I picked the TV shows that one can basically only find on Netflix. Sure, there's Family Guy and How I Met Your Mother on there, but turn on any TV channel and you can catch the reruns. No, this list is for the things that aren't on TV in cycles of reruns or producing new episodes.

L to R: Gob, George Sr., Lindsay, Tobias, Michael, Lucille, George Michael, Maeby, Buster
L to R: Gob, George Sr., Lindsay, Tobias, Michael, Lucille, George Michael, Maeby, Buster
The Bluth family, in relation to Michael Bluth.
The Bluth family, in relation to Michael Bluth.

Season 4 Trailer

Arrested Development

4 seasons | Comedy

Meet the Bluth family, a well-off bunch whose recent financial troubles and illegal activity make for an interesting and comical series that focuses on Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) and his struggle to manage his parents, brothers and sisters, and son, all the while trying to maintain his sanity. If you thought your family was dysfunctional, wait until you meet the Bluths.

The Parents

  • George Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor) - When he's not thinking of ways to make money and preserve the family name, he's in prison for embezzlement and illegal financial activity.
  • Lucille (Jessica Walter) - As matriarch of the Bluth family, she supports her drinking problem with one-liners by pointing out her children's flaws.

The Children

  • Michael (Jason Bateman) - A widower with one son, he keeps the family together by moral means rather than illegal ones, always being the hero of the Bluths who helps the others get out of trouble.
  • Gob (Will Arnett) - Pronounced like Gob from the Bible (an intentional reference to the biblical character whom God frequently punished for seemingly no reason), George Oscar Bluth, AKA Gob, is an aspiring illusionist - not magician, as he corrects everyone vehemently - whose overall horrible ideas usually backfire.
  • Lindsay (Portia de Rossi) - Michael's twin sister, whose on-again-off-again marriage to Tobias Funke (David Cross) was just a means of rebellion, lives off attention and strives, but always fails, to win her mother's approval.
  • Buster (Tony Hale) - As the youngest Bluth child, he suffers from various psychological disorders, including but not limited to an unhealthily close relationship with his mother.

The Grandchildren

  • George Michael (Michael Cera) - Michael's son from his late wife, he follows all the rules and does anything someone tells him to, but his one desire of family togetherness is muddled because of his feelings for his cousin.
  • Maeby (Alia Shawcat) - daughter of Lindsay and Tobias, who, like her mother, acts out defiantly for attention, and also has no idea that her cousin is in love with her.

The show first aired in 2003 and its final season was released in 2013, after a six-year break in between the third and fourth seasons due to the cast's involvement in other projects. Since each episode is only a half-hour long (and Netflix has no commercials, so they're actually around 22 minutes) you can bang out a couple hour's worth without even realizing it.

Season 1 Trailer

House of Cards

2 Seasons | Political Drama

A series produced by Netflix, House of Cards follows the efforts of South Carolinian Congressman Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) in his attempt to exact revenge on the politicians who have betrayed him in his ultimate pursuit of the Oval Office. Frank's wife, Claire (Robin Wright), is equally cunning and dangerously ambitious like her husband, and together the couple systematically takes control of Washington, D.C., one piece of legislature and one politician at a time. With nothing stopping them from attaining their goals, including blackmail and murder, Frank and Claire have set out to be the most powerful forces in the political realm.

With plot twists and surprise events constantly, the show has a pretty regular turnover of characters, with only Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright as full-time series cast members. Others come and go, or, in some cases, get killed. The graphic nature, gripping plotlines, and dry humor is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat as you follow Frank and witness his Machiavellian approach to accomplishing his goals.

The show is based on the BBC mini-series, which was the first adaptation of the novel by Michael Dobbs. The first season was released by Netflix in 2013 and the second in 2014, with a third season scheduled to release in the near future. Since each episode is roughly an hour long, the show does take some time to finish - and you have to pay attention, because otherwise you'll be wondering why that guy got killed and that girl is sleeping with this guy.

L to R: Anne Boleyn, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Parr, Henry VIII, Catherine Howard, Jane Seymour, Catherine of Aragon. Not in chronological order.
L to R: Anne Boleyn, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Parr, Henry VIII, Catherine Howard, Jane Seymour, Catherine of Aragon. Not in chronological order.

Season 1 Trailer

The Tudors

4 Seasons | Historical Drama

This series is based upon the life of the famed King Henry VIII of England, who reigned from 1509-1547 and is most well-known for having six wives and establishing the Anglican Church. Jonathon Rhys Meyers plays the sexually charged and powerful king as we follow his thirty years on the throne and the dynamics at play in all six marriages and his relationships to the members of his court.

Originally airing on Showtime, the series is graphic in its depiction of romantic endeavors, lusty encounters, gruesome battles, and unfortunate beheadings. Since this isn't a spoiler for anyone (or shouldn't be, if you paid attention in high school history class), Henry's wives and their fates are as follows (arrows indicate their children):

  1. Catherine of Aragon (Maria Doyle Kennedy): divorced → Mary I (Bloody Mary)
  2. Anne Boleyn (Natalie Dormer): beheaded → Elizabeth I
  3. Jane Seymour (Annabelle Wallis/Anita Briem): died in childbirth → Edward VI
  4. Anne of Cleves (Joss Stone): annulment
  5. Catherine Howard (Tamzin Merchant): beheaded
  6. Catherine Parr (Joely Richardson): outlives him

You don't need to be a history buff to enjoy this series, even though it centers around the politics and historical happenings of the early sixteenth century. The cast is appealing and intriguing the way they interact with one another and bring the long-dead European figures to life. Delve into the mind of King Henry VIII as he handles the crown, the pope, and his wives. Don't get too attached to any characters - you never know who will make it out alive.

L to R: Julian, Bubbles and Ricky.
L to R: Julian, Bubbles and Ricky.

Season 8 Trailer

Trailer Park Boys

8 Seasons | Comedy Mockumentary

Because this series is based in Canada and it was aired on Canadian and European TV, they have no censorship restrictions on their entertainment. This show has a swear word every seven seconds, so if you're easily offended by graphic language, TPB probably isn't for you. The series focuses mainly on three boys whose main goal is always to save their trailer park, even if it means committing a crime or two. Or ten.

The Boys

  • Ricky (Robb Wells) - the powerhouse of the trio. If he's not high he's drunk, or he's a mixture of both. He constantly has the worst - not to mention, illegal - ideas that fail miserably and get him and his friends imprisoned. While he knows how to grow and sell weed, he's clumsy and mispronounces things all the time, like calling someone a "praying Atlantis" and telling people he's going to "hippotize them."
  • Bubbles (Mike Smith) - the beloved nearsighted one with a sore spot for kitties and pretty girls. While Ricky is committing crimes and trying to outsmart the legal enforcement, Bubbles tries to uphold his morals to get the job done. He lives in a shed and often uses puppets.
  • Julian (John Paul Tremblay) - the brawn, brains, and looks of the team. If Ricky wants to make money, Julian figures out how to do it; if Bubbles wants it done legally, Julian tries to make it happen. He owns Julian's Bar and Gym and is never seen without a rum and coke in his hand.

It's considered a mockumentary because it follows the fictional lives of three best friends who live in a trailer park in Nova Scotia and the constant shenanigans they get themselves into with alcohol, marijuana, stealing, and other random crimes that usually put them in jail. Similar to The Office and Modern Family, the camera crew following the cast around is part of the show itself, and the audience is fully aware that what they're watching isn't actually a documentary about living in a trailer park (or working at Dunder Mifflin, or being part of the Pritchett family). Their Canadian accents (to American ears, anyway) and dull-witted nature of the entire hilarious cast will have you laughing the entire series.

Though there are eight series of the show available on Netflix, there are multiple Trailer Park Boys movies that continue the hilarity of saving Sunnyvale Trailer Park. In addition, the show has been renewed for a ninth season, scheduled to be released in 2015.

The main cast of Orange is the New Black. In orange: Piper Chapman, the series' protagonist.
The main cast of Orange is the New Black. In orange: Piper Chapman, the series' protagonist.

Season 1 Trailer

Orange is the New Black

2 Seasons | Dramedy (Drama Comedy)

Like House of Cards, this series is a Netflix original, never before being aired on any other network or channel, and was so popular when it was released that a third season has already been announced.

When Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) is charged with drug possession and smuggling a decade after she actually committed the crime, she is sentenced to 15 months in prison, leaving her fiancé and trading her upscale lifestyle for tampon sandwiches and a prison-wife who calls her Dandelion. Her struggle to fit in and make friends at the women's prison seems impossible, until Chapman learns the tools of the trade and adapts to survive, even if it means breaking a few rules, or hearts.

This series is also graphic, like others on this list, in portraying the true nature of the life of a female inmate. Sleazy cops, traitorous friends, and steamy lesbian scenes color this intimately descriptive show; with each episode, we see Chapman slowly assimilate into the rest of the inmates and get the backstory of each of their crimes and lives outside of prison. Not everyone is as they seem and their lies catch up to them, some more violently than others.

By the middle of the first season, you already know the inmates to avoid and befriend, and others are still shrouded in mystery. Secrets are the only means of staying alive, but never think you know everything that's going on. In prison, everyone has something to hide.

Seasons 1 and 2 Trailer


3 Seasons | Mystery/Crime Drama

We all know Sir Arthur Canon Doyle's beloved masterpiece and the character who has inspired so many adaptations since its creation in the late nineteenth century. The BBC's production, Sherlock, is the modern portrayal of the detective known for his amazing ability at deductive reasoning. Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman) maneuver through contemporary London to solve crimes similar to the ones from the original stories, all the while solving the ultimate mystery of the elusive and deadly James Moriarty (Andrew Scott). Classic characters like Sherlock's sporadic love interest Irene Adler (Lara Pulver) and older brother and high-ranking political figure Mycroft (Mark Gatiss) also make frequent appearances in the series, fleshing out the character development of Holmes himself.

Each season has no more than 5 episodes, if even that, but each episode is over an hour long and even more thrilling than the last. This quick-witted, endlessly intelligent, self-described "high-functioning sociopath" version of Holmes will have you laughing, continuously guessing, and probably questioning your own intelligence as you try to solve the crimes right alongside the most famous detective of all time.

Questions & Answers


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      • profile image


        3 years ago

        Do you get the walking dead

      • Ally Lewis profile imageAUTHOR

        Ally Lewis 

        4 years ago from Pittsburgh, PA

        Will do! Thanks! :)

      • Christian813 profile image

        Christian Álvarez 

        4 years ago from Tamaulipas, México

        Do it some day and then tell me what you think!

      • Ally Lewis profile imageAUTHOR

        Ally Lewis 

        4 years ago from Pittsburgh, PA

        Justin those are good too! I watched the first season of AHS and just couldn't get into it further than that to keep watching, but I know so many people who love it. Breaking bad, too.

        Tricia the no commercials is my favorite feature of Netflix! But then you end up watching an entire season of a TV show in one sitting without even realizing it... :)

        Christian no I've never seen Blackout but I'll have to check it out. I'm always looking for new things to watch. I love Andrew Scott! I'll definitely put it on my list.

      • Christian813 profile image

        Christian Álvarez 

        4 years ago from Tamaulipas, México

        All in the palm of my hand. Netflix is the best and comfortable option. Had you seen Blackout? it's a great serie too! it's just 3 chapters but really cool. Andrew Scott it's there (Moriarty's Sherlock) and you can't imagine what kind of character is!

      • Tricia Deed profile image

        Tricia Deed 

        4 years ago from Orlando, Florida

        Netflix is great in the sense that you can watch what you prefer at a time which is more convenient. No commercials which means less time watching television.

      • ThatJustinStewart profile image

        Justin Stewart 

        4 years ago from North Carolina

        Let's not forget American Horror Story and Breaking Bad :]

      • Ally Lewis profile imageAUTHOR

        Ally Lewis 

        4 years ago from Pittsburgh, PA

        Haha yeah some of them are only if you like that certain type of humor or if the plot or genre is interesting to you in the first place. I can't wait until the third season of House of Cards. I'm hooked.

      • Mark Tulin profile image

        Mark Tulin 

        4 years ago from Santa Barbara, California

        Tudors was good. Orange is the New Black was watchable but a little overrated. Can't get into Arrested Development. But House of Cards is absolutely mesmerizing.

      • Ally Lewis profile imageAUTHOR

        Ally Lewis 

        4 years ago from Pittsburgh, PA

        I'm glad you found this helpful! Did you like the shows you tried?? And I'll have to check out Damages, it sounds interesting. Thanks!

      • Mark Tulin profile image

        Mark Tulin 

        4 years ago from Santa Barbara, California

        I am a Netflix fan so I was happy you did this blog. You inspired me to watch a couple of shows that I didn't try yet like Sherlock and the Trailer Park Boys. One show that I recently found was Damages with Glen Close. It's a must see show as well. Not as good as House of Cards, but in the same ballpark.

      • Ally Lewis profile imageAUTHOR

        Ally Lewis 

        4 years ago from Pittsburgh, PA

        It's $8 a month and there are also thousands of movies in their library that you can stream on almost anything electronic. They also offer free trial subscriptions that allow you to look through their selection to see if you want to sign up!

      • profile image


        4 years ago

        I'm guessing when you say you need a subscription to watch these shows it means you have to pay at least a monthly fee. If so, no matter how good the show sounds, it wouldn't be worth it for me because I don't watch that much television.


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