The Best Streaming Shows to Watch
Altered Carbon (2018-20): Innovative series set in a future in which consciousness is digitized and stored, allowing people (with money, of course) to live forever by being “re-sleeved” into new bodies. 250 years after his death, a prisoner returns to life in a new body to solve a mind-bending murder to win his freedom. Stars Joel Kinnaman as the prisoner and Chris Conner as Poe, an artificial intelligence that takes the likeness of Edgar Allan Poe and runs the hotel that serves as Kovacs’ base of operations. First season only; second season is weak. (Netflix).
Better Call Saul (2015-2021: This “Breaking Bad” spin-off has created a life of its own as it follows the trials and tribulations of criminal lawyer Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) in the time before he established his strip-mall law office (as Saul Goodman) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The series also follows the criminal goings-on with fixer Mike Ehrmantraut and members of the Mexican cartel (Nacho Varga, Hector Salamanca and Gus Fring). (The AMC series streams on Amazon Prime).
Black Mirror (2011-2019): British dystopian science fiction anthology series full of intelligence, wit and social commentary. According to creator Charlie Brooker, “If technology is a drug – and it does feel like a drug – then what, precisely, are the side effects? This area – between delight and discomfort – is where Black Mirror, my new drama series, is set. The ‘black mirror’ of the title is the one you’ll find on every wall, on every desk, in the palm of every hand: the cold, shiny screen of a TV, a monitor, a smartphone.” (Netflix).
Bodyguard (2018): British thriller series follows David Budd (a brooding Richard Madden), a heroic but volatile war veteran now working as a Specialist Protection Officer for the Royalty and Specialist Protection Branch of London’s Metropolitan Police Service. When he is assigned to protect the ambitious and powerful Home Secretary Julia Montague, whose politics stand for everything he despises, Budd finds himself torn between his duty and beliefs. (Netflix).
Bordertown (2016-2019): Finnish series has quirky but brilliant police detective Kari Sorjonen using his incredible powers of deduction to solve despicable crimes all the while trying to keep his family together. He takes a new job in the Serious Crime Unit, in the city of Lappeenranta, near the border of Russia, and teams up with a Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) agent, Lena Jaakkola. The crimes are horrendous as would be expected in a Northern Noir series. (Netflix).
The Break (2016, 2019 — Belgium): Police detective Yoann Peeters moves from Brussels with his daughter, Camille, to his home town, where the body of a young African football player was pulled from the river. The death is originally thought to be a suicide, but Peeters suspects murder. In addition, there is corruption associated with gaining approval by farmers to sell their land to allow construction of a dam and reservoir … and Peeters has psychological issues of his own to solve. (Netflix).
The Bridge (Bron/Broen) (2011-2018): The Nordic Noir series begins when a woman is found murdered in the middle of the Oresund Bridge, right on the border between Sweden and Denmark. Police from both countries are called to the scene and what looks like one murder, turns out to be two. It’s a spectacular double murder: the bodies have been brutally cut in half at the waist and put together to form a single corpse. It’s also just the beginning of a wave of violence that plagues Denmark and Sweden. The detectives are an odd pair: Saga Norén from Sweden, who has poor social skills, and Martin Rohde from Denmark, a likable middle-aged man. (Amazon Prime).
Dark (2017-2020): A German science fiction time travel thriller series that follows the connections between four estranged families to unravel a sinister time travel conspiracy that spans several generations. Set In the fictional German town of Winden, the series “explores the existential implications of time, and its effect on human nature” as it centers on nuclear destruction, child abductions, murder, lust and infidelity. Mind-boggling in its connections — one literally needs a map to follow the characters. (Netflix).
Dead to Me (2019-2020): An oddball comedy series about the friendship that develops between Jen (Christina Applegate), a recently widowed real estate agent based in Laguna Beach, California, whose husband was killed in a hit-and-run accident, and Judy (Linda Cardellini), a messed-up young woman who is the hit-and-run driver. (Netflix).
Deadwind (Karppi) (2018 — Finland): When Sofia Karppi, a detective in her 30’s who is trying to get over her husband’s death, discovers the body of a young woman on a construction site, she triggers a chain of events that threatens to destroy her life again. A highly thrilling series that mixes crime investigation and personal drama. (Netflix).
The Expanse (2015-2021): A gritty, almost noirish sci-fi series set hundreds of years in the future when the solar system has been colonized — and exploited — by the Earth. The three largest powers are the United Nations of Earth and Luna, the Martian Congressional Republic on Mars (dependent on Earth for resources, including air), and the Outer Planets Alliance (OPA), a loose confederation of the asteroid belt and the moons of Jupiter and Saturn whose people are the working class for the rest of the system. “The Expanse” has received critical acclaim, getting praise for its visuals, character development and political narrative; it’s totally immersive, absorbing and edge-of-your seat good story-telling. The first three seasons aired on SyFy; seasons four, five and the sixth (unaired and final season) were picked up by Amazon.
Fleabag (2016, 2019): A thoroughly delightful British black comedy television series created and written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, based on her one-woman show first performed in 2013. It’s a hilarious and poignant window into the mind of a dry-witted, sexual, grief-riddled woman trying to make sense of the world. Winner of numerous Emmys and British Academy awards. (Amazon Prime).
The Flight Attendant (2020): Frenetic comedy series about footloose flight attendant Cassandra Bowden (Kaley Cuoco) who wakes in her hotel room in Bangkok, hungover from the night before and with a dead man next to her. Afraid to call the police, she continues her morning as if nothing happened; in New York she is met by FBI agents who question her about her recent layover in Bangkok. Still unable to piece the night together, she begins to investigate the murder herself, uncovering a corporate conspiracy, a murder-for-hire organization, and a money laundering scheme — all the while having conversations with the dead man. (HBO Max).
Frozen Dead (Glacé) (2017 — France): A horrific discovery in a small town nestled high in the French Pyrenees begins to unravel a dark mystery that has been hidden for years. On an unforgiving winter morning, a group of workers discover the headless body of a horse, hanging suspended from the edge of a frozen cliff. The grisly find leads investigator Martin Servaz to links to the suicides of three teenage girls at a summer camp 15 years earlier and into a twisted dance with a serial killer in this six-episode icy thriller. (Netflix).
Glitch (2015, 2017 — Australia): A police officer in the fictional country town of Yoorana, Victoria, finds his life turned upside down when six recently deceased residents — including his first wife — return from the dead in perfect health. They are determined to find out who they are and what has happened to them while the cop struggles to keep the case hidden from his colleagues, his family, and the world, with the help of a local doctor. The seven people are all linked in some way, and the search begins for someone who knows the truth about how and why they have returned. (Netflix).
Jessica Jones (2015, 2018-2019) :Ever since her short-lived stint as a superhero ended in tragedy, Jessica Jones has been rebuilding her personal life and career as a hot-tempered, sardonic private detective in Hell’s Kitchen, New York City. Plagued by self-loathing and a wicked case of PTSD, Jessica battles demons from within and without, using her extraordinary abilities as an unlikely champion for those in need. Especially if they’re willing to cut her a check. Stars Krysten Ritter as the eponymous lead. (Netflix).
The Killing (Forbrydelsen) (2007, 2009, 2012 — Denmark): A Danish police procedural set in the Copenhagen main police department that revolves around Detective Inspector Sarah Lund and her team, with each season following a different murder case day-by-day and a one-hour episode covering twenty-four hours of the investigation. The series is noted for its plot twists, season-long storylines, dark tone and for giving equal emphasis to the story of the murdered victim’s family alongside the police investigation. It has also been singled out for the photography of its Danish setting, and for the acting ability of its cast. (Amazon Prime but not currently available). A successful American version, starring Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman, is available on Amazon Prime.
Marcella (2017-2020): Despite marriage woes, a tragic loss, memory blackouts and her struggles as a mom, a London detective (Anna Friel) excels at what she does best: catching killers. Marcella Backland, a former London detective, returns to work to investigate an open case from 11 years earlier involving an unidentified serial killer who appears to have become active again. Marcella also has to deal with a hectic home life, where her husband has made the decision to leave her and, at first, send their two children to a boarding school; but later on (in the second season) he uses Marcella’s mental disorder as a means to take full custody. Billed as British “Nordic”-noir: it’s directed and produced by Swedish screenwriter Hans Rosenfeldt, creator of “The Bridge.” (Netflix).
Missing (Saknad) (2017 — Sweden) Police superintendent Maja Silver (Helena Bergström) goes back to her old hometown in the Swedish Bible belt to see her daughter, when a terrible discovery — the body of a dead young woman found on the side of a road — paralyzes the small community. (MHz Choice).
Ozark (2017-2021) The Byrdes (Jason Bateman, Laura Linney) and their teenage kids, Charlotte and Jonah, are, for all intents and purposes, an ordinary family with ordinary lives in the lazy lake region of the Missouri Ozarks. Except that Marty and Wendy serve as the top money launderer for the second largest drug cartel in Mexico. But they also must contend with local criminals, including the Langmore and Snell families, and later the Kansas City Mafia. Co-star Julia Garner is terrific as “hillbilly” girl Ruth Langmore who works with the Byrdes. Winner of a host of Emmys. (Netflix).
Perry Mason (2020): Set in 1932 Los Angeles, the series focuses on the origin story of famed defense lawyer Perry Mason (Matthew Rhys), based on characters from Erle Stanley Gardner’s novels. Living check-to-check as a low-rent private investigator, Mason is haunted by his wartime experiences in France and suffering the effects of a broken marriage. LA is booming while the rest of the country recovers from the Great Depression — but a kidnapping gone very wrong leads to Mason exposing a fractured city as he uncovers the truth of the crime. Corruption, scandal and religious infidelity all play out on the gritty streets of LA. There’s plenty of twists and turns in this absorbing series, has been renewed for a second season. (HBO Max).
The Queen’s Gambit (2020): Set during the Cold War era, orphaned chess prodigy Beth Harmon struggles with addiction in a quest to become the greatest chess player in the world. Netflix released the series in October 2020 and it became Netflix’s most-watched scripted miniseries. It’s also received critical acclaim for Anya Taylor-Joy’s performance as Beth Harmon, as well as for cinematography and production values. (Netflix)
The Rain (2018-2020 — Denmark) The world as we know it has come to an end, due to a rain-carried virus that wiped out nearly everybody in Scandinavia. Six years after that event, two Danish siblings emerge from the safety of the bunker where they have been staying. After discovering all remnants of civilization gone, they join a group of fellow young survivors, and together they head out on a danger-filled quest throughout the abandoned land in search of signs of life. The survivors think they have been set free from societal rules of the past, but they quickly find that even in a post-apocalyptic world there is love, jealousy and other coming-of-age dilemmas that young people have always faced. Top-notch post-apocalypse survivalist drama, though the third and last season falters. (Netflix).
Russian Doll (2019): The comedy-drama series follows Nadia Vulvokov (Natasha Lyonne), a cynical game developer, who repeatedly dies and relives the same night in an ongoing time loop and tries to solve it, leading to her finding a man, Alan Zaveri, in the same situation (portrayed by Charlie Barnett). Renewed for a second season. (Netflix).
Secret City (2016, 2019 — Australia): A relentless muckraker pushes for truth and transparency in Australia’s corridors of political power, despite threats to her life and career. Beneath the placid facade of Canberra, amidst rising tension between China and the United States, journalist Harriet Dunkley (Anna Torv) forces her way closer to the truth, uncovering a secret city of interlocked conspiracies which will threaten her career and her life and endanger the freedom of every Australian. (Netflix).
Spiral (Engrenages) (2005-2021 — France): The acclaimed Parisian cop thriller about the lawyers, judges, prosecutors and detectives at the heart of the French judicial system. Though it follows several plot lines and sub-stories, at its center is Captain Laure Berthaud and her crime squad and the crimes they must solve as they go up against bureaucratic nonsense and corruption. “Spiral” has been an export success, with sales to broadcasters in more than 70 countries. (MHz Choice).
Stranger Things (2016-2021): An amalgamation of pre-teen angst, extra-dimensional monsters, the supernatural, top-secret government experiments, Soviet skullduggery, and a very strange young girl with extrasensory powers. Set in the 1980s in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, the first season focuses on the investigation into the disappearance of a young boy amid supernatural events occurring around the town, including the appearance of a girl with psychokinetic abilities. The second season focuses on Will’s side effects from being in the Upside Down with its entities crawling into the real world. The third season focuses on the kids as they continue their battle against the Upside Down entities. The series stars an ensemble cast including Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Noah Schnapp, Sadie Sink, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Joe Keery, Cara Buono and Dacre Montgomery. A fourth season is in the works. (Netflix).
The Tunnel (2013-2018): British crime drama — from the makers of the “Broadchurch” series. When a prominent French politician is found dead in the middle of the Channel Tunnel, straddling the border between the UK and France, detectives Karl Roebuck, played by Stephen Dillane and Elise Wassermann, played by Clémence Poésy, are sent to investigate on behalf of their respective countries. The case takes a surreal turn when a shocking discovery is made at the crime scene, forcing the French and British police into an uneasy partnership. Based on the original hit Swedish series “The Bridge.” (Amazon Prime).
The Umbrella Academy (2019-2020): On the same day in 1989, forty-three infants are inexplicably born to random, unconnected women who showed no signs of pregnancy the day before. Seven are adopted by Sir Reginald Hargreeves, a billionaire industrialist, who creates The Umbrella Academy and prepares his “children” to save the world. But not everything went according to plan. In their teenage years, the family fractured and the team disbanded. Now, the six surviving thirty-something members reunite upon the news of Hargreeve’s passing. Luther, Diego, Allison, Klaus, Vanya and Number Five work together to solve a mystery surrounding their father’s death. But the estranged family once again begins to come apart due to their divergent personalities and abilities, not to mention the imminent threat of a global apocalypse. Far-fetched but amazingly enjoyable. Renewed for a third season. (Netflix).
Wallander (2005-2013 — Sweden) The original Nordic Noir series. Kurt Wallander (Krister Henriksson) is a Swedish police inspector created by Swedish crime writer Henning Mankell (1948 – 2015) and the series is set in and around the town of Ystad, 35 miles south-east of the city of Malmö, in the southern province of Scania. The series explores all the many sins of humankind: sins of oppression and greed, of lust and murder, of degradation and exploitation. Wallander is middle-aged, just coming off a heart attack, and in need of replenishing his soul. During the course of some 30 plus episodes we watch Wallander age in his job, have bouts of memory loss, and get closer and closer to retirement. (Amazon Prime and MHz Choice). “Young Wallander” is a new Netflix police procedural (in English) that serves as a prequel to “Wallander” though it’s set in Sweden (actually Vilnius, Lithuania, standing in for Malmö) in modern times. The series was renewed for a second season.
Westworld (2016-2021): The dystopian science fiction series begins in Westworld, a technologically advanced Wild-West-themed amusement park populated by android “hosts.” The park caters to high-paying “guests” who may indulge their wildest fantasies within the park without fear of retaliation from the hosts, who are prevented by their programming from harming humans. But some of the hosts develop individual consciousness, and the seeds for a revolution are set into motion. In the second season, the hosts overthrow their human programmers; in the third season, the series’ plot expands to the real world, in the mid-21st century, where people’s lives are driven and controlled by a powerful artificial intelligence named Rehoboam. Based on the 1973 feature film directorial debut by Michael Crichton. The series is highlighted by a great ensemble cast: Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Ed Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Tessa Thompson, Anthony Hopkins, Luke Hemsworth, James Marsden and, in the third season, Vincent Cassel. A fourth season is underway. (HBO Max).