'Tis the season to be hung over from mulled wine and peppermint schnapps, spiked egg nog and New Year's Eve Champagne. Or, if not, you're likely winding down from feasts, sugar highs and family madness (good or bad). Your post-holiday cure? Netflix streaming. And specifically, these five binge-worthy shows that will help you welcome in the New Year with renewed cheer.
"Marvel's Jessica Jones"
You might recognize Krysten Ritter from her leading role in the short-lived ABC series "Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23," an oddball comedy about a psychotic but charming scam artist. It's an entertaining show, but Ritter's new project as Marvel superhero Jessica Jones is much more satisfying. The series begins with Jones as a retired superhero turned private investigator whose dark past still plagues her. It plays heavy on hardboiled, noir tropes: Jones sipping Bourbon in late night bars or sneaking out from a one-night stand as a lonely saxophone plays in the background. If you can embrace the tongue-in-cheek clichés, you'll realize everything else is anything but predictable. (It beats the hell out of its snooze-worthy counterpart, "Daredevil.") Ritter's performance is refreshing as a weird and complicated antihero who relies on wit and sexuality, without reverting to male-gaze ideals.
"W/ Bob & David"
I really missed HBO's "Mr. Show" after it ended its run17 years ago. Bob Odenkirk and David Cross have gone on to do other worthwhile projects ("Arrested Development," "Breaking Bad") but this new Netflix series reunites them in a sketch-comedy format. Addressing how much time has passed, the first episode begins with Bob and David stepping out of a time machine. They think they've just traveled from the past, but it turns out the port-a-potty-looking device is a "real-time" machineas in, they've been hanging out, growing old and pooping in a box for the last 17 years. The four hilarious half-hour episodes touch on light topics and heavy—including slavery, which unfortunately highlights the only misstep of the show: how glaringly all-white the show's core cast still is.
- “Master of None”
"Master of None"
Get past the first two episodes and you'll find this Aziz Ansari vehicle has struck the right balance between sweet and laugh-out-loud funny. The series focuses on an actor working in New York City and fully inhabits the world of millennials. The cast is fantastically diverse, with main characters being people of color. It also handles situation comedy masterfully, by embracing social disasters in a way that feels true to life rather than cynical or stereotypical. "Master of None" is what a Judd Apatow story line would look like in better, more nuanced hands.
"Jane the Virgin"
Like "Ugly Betty" before it, "Jane the Virgin" features Latino culture and quirky, likable characters. "Jane the Virgin" begins with the title character accidentally getting artificially inseminated. She's a virgin ready to embark on a future with her boyfriend, but now everything has changed. Who is the father? Who is Jane's father? What secret is the boyfriend hiding? This is a smart comedy wrapped in the trappings of a trashy telenovela. The show employs a narrator and endless cliffhanger moments, but like "Jessica Jones" it offers enough dimension to hook even the snobbiest viewers.
Let's go backway back. With so many new shows on Netflix (and Amazon and elsewhere) it's easy to overlook the pioneers that led to the Golden Age of television. "West Wing" is one of the best, with its fast-paced dialogue and idealistic—though no less complicated—look at politics in Washington, D.C. Even if you've seen it before, Aaron Sorkin's masterpiece is a totally binge-worthy show to revisit—if for no other reason than to escape our real political climate.