Too Hot To Handle
Too Hot To Handle is the ultimate mind-numbing reality watch. The show is Netflix’s third original reality show of the year, and the game is this: fifteen bathing suit-clad contestants living together in a villa must abstain from all physical contact with one another to keep their $100,000 cash prize fund intact. Each breach of the rules depletes the pot further, so it’s more like a celibacy support group, complete with self-discovery workshops. Spoiler alert: there is very little celibacy.
Dead to Me
Dead to Me's Season Two comes in just as powerfully as the first. With a bit of a role reversal, the series dives deeper into the darkly broken psyches of Jen (Christina Applegate) and Judy (Linda Cardellini), while never failing to infuse a bit of humor in the mix. Part buddy-comedy, part murder-drama, the series is probably the easiest five-hour binge you'll watch this year. Also, no spoilers, but the way that James Marsden mysteriously continues on as a main character is the biggest treat of the season. While Applegate and Cardellini anchor the series, it's the unnervingly suburban supporting cast that takes this series to a 10.
Never Have I Ever
The new teen dramedy from Mindy Kaling is the perfect distraction for right now. After her dad's sudden death and a brief period of paralysis, Devi (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) enters her sophomore year of high school struggling to navigate her family, friendships, and boys. Never Have I Ever touches on the complexities of grief, budding sexuality, and the Indian-American experience all in easily digestible half hour episodes. Be prepared to get immediately invested in this very fun and often moving journey through the madness that is adolescence.
Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness
If you haven’t yet succumbed to the Tiger King hype, now is the time. Netflix’s bizarre seven-part documentary series tackles big cat ownership in America as it follows Joe Exotic, a tiger breeder and private zookeeper in Oklahoma, through his various campaigns for office, polygamous marriages, music videos, and vicious feuds. With a cast of characters whose wild quirks and crimes must truly be seen to be believed, the show is as engrossing as it is flawed. At the very least, it’ll take your mind off the news cycle for a few hours.
Unorthodox is the story of a young Hasidic Jewish woman who flees from her life in Brooklyn, her community, and her arranged marriage to start anew in Berlin. The four-part series is based on Deborah Feldman's memoir Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots, and is Netflix’s first foray into Yiddish content. The show is a nuanced, thoughtful portrait of a community and what it means to be an individual within it. The cast's wonderful performances make it a gripping watch from start to finish.
Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez
Whether or not you’re into sports, Netflix’s documentary mini series, Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez, is a haunting portrait of the NFL star who became a convicted murderer. The documentary revisits the 2015 murder of Odin Lloyd for which Hernandez was found guilty, as well his trial for the 2012 double homicide of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado for which he was acquitted. But beyond the crimes, the documentary paints a picture of the man himself with new audio recordings of Hernandez’s phone calls from prison—to his lawyers, mother, and his young daughter. The docuseries also illuminates the extreme dangers of football to the brain and shines a light on what it means to be a closeted gay man in the NFL. A must watch.
Sex Education brings all of the same endearing characters and retro vibes to Season Two while also highlighting the very real issues associated with the show’s namesake. While Season One entertained us with many honest and uncomfortable stories of budding teen sexuality, this season got even more real and made even more of a statement by addressing things like female pleasure, consent, asexuality, anal sex and the epidemic of misinformation surrounding STDs. It’s somehow hilarious and touching and powerful all at the same time, making it an absolute must-watch for 2020.
If you like thrills, murders, and being confused, The Stranger is an engaging—albeit overly complicated—mystery, with many a spooky storyline to follow. Based on Harlan Coben’s novel of the same name, The Stranger mostly follows a—you guessed it—stranger, who goes around town revealing people’s secrets. The stranger’s motive varies—sometimes she blackmails people for money, others she tries to help by revealing truths. If you like crime and the occasional pop-up, The Stranger definitely won’t bore you.
Somehow, The Pharmacist manages to be about three different series in one. It starts out as a murder mystery documentary about the shooting of a 20-something white man attempting to buy crack cocaine. But Netflix’s limited docuseries wraps up the mystery around that murder by the end of Episode Two. From there, the series dives into how one pharmacist in New Orleans managed to blow the opioid crisis crippling his community wide open. A stirring portrait of the drug issues in our country right now, The Pharmacist is the rare limited series that manages to reinvent itself twice over by the time its six episodes wrap up.
The Circle, on paper, seems like a really, really terrible idea—a reality show centered on a group of seemingly loud, very online humans brought into an apartment complex, kept in isolation, and only allowed to communicate through a social media network called, you guessed it, The Circle. The trick is, you can also catfish your fellow competitors, adding an additional layer to the game. What starts out as a series akin to an MTV reality show revamp turns into a thoughtful competition series that highlights how good we can actually be to one another online. Judge the premise all you want, but if the proof of the adorable friendship between a bro with slicked back hair and an awkward nerd isn’t enough for you, then your cold heart is the problem here.
No one has ever wanted to be “on mat” more than they do after watching Cheer. Following the insanity behind competitive cheerleading (specifically the Navarro College cheerleading team based out of Navarro Community College in Corsicana, Texas), the series reveals just how grueling and extreme the sport of cheerleading can be. For a select group of athletes, Navarro represents the pinnacle of their craft, and they only have a limited amount of time to reach excellence. As insightful as it is compelling, Cheeris one of Netflix’s most alluring offerings this year. You’ll never question the power of a cheerleader again.
Love Is Blind
Netflix’s serialized reality dating show Love Is Blind is The Circle meets Married At First Sight—incredibly watchable in an I-want-to-tear-my-eyeballs-out sort of way. The show brings 30 Atlanta singles to a set specially built for ‘blind’ dating--the men and women live in separate quarters and go on dates in small pods where they are separated by a glass wall and can only hear each other speak. After ten days of dating, the participants must either get engaged to someone they have never laid eyes on or go home. If they do choose to get engaged, only then do they meet in person, and the three week countdown until their wedding begins! What could go wrong? It’s a whirlwind of drama, tension, and true madness, like any good reality dating show. Spoiler: very few happy endings come from dating this way, but a good bit of entertainment does. Why is it so enjoyable to watch other people mess their lives up?