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The best Netflix original comedy series to help you survive this week
Great Netflix comedy series tend to fly under the radar, but we’re here to remedy that.
Netflix releases original content every week. The constant flood of new arrivals can seem overwhelming, especially when your watchlist is already over-populated with acclaimed titles you never find the time to view. Between buzzy series, compelling documentaries and Oscar-worthy movies, there’s so much original content available that bingeing it all would entail quitting your job and becoming a hermit. No wonder some hidden gems slip through the cracks, and when that relates to comedy, that’s a shame. With a few notable exceptions, comedy TV shows don’t receive as much hype as drama releases like Stranger Things, 13 Reasons Why or House of Cards, but you may be missing out.
True, Netflix original comedy shows are a mixed bag. However, for every flop (we’re looking at you, Real Rob), there are three other charming series that more than make up for it. The service is still experimenting with formats and genres, as it looks to satisfy even the toughest subscribers. As a result, regardless of what type of humour you fancy, it’s impossible not to find at least one title that appeals to you. From animated shows featuring a talking horse to a touching dramedy about life in prison, there’s something for everyone. To help you make sense of the madness, we’ve picked the best of the best.
1. BoJack Horseman
BoJack Horseman, although critically acclaimed, might be Netflix’s most underrated comedy series. It’s an animated show that centres on a has-been actor who happens to be a horse. Because you see, the series takes place in an alternate world where humans and anthropomorphic animals live side-by-side. In Season 1, BoJack, the protagonist, struggling to relaunch his career, is writing a memoir with the help of a ghostwriter.
Despite a rocky start, the show grows on you, mainly thanks to the clever dialogue and skilled voice work. After you watch the first few episodes, the series starts to throw all sorts of emotional punches your way. Despite its satirical tone and countless visual gags, BoJack Horseman is one of the most realistic depictions of depression ever portrayed on television. It also deals with trauma and self-destructive behaviour. Five seasons are available to binge, and it is as thought-provoking as it is hilarious.
- Will Arnett as Bojack Horseman
- Amy Sedaris as Princess Carolyn
- Alison Brie as Diane Nguyen
- Aaron Paul as Todd Chavez
2. Master of None
This acclaimed series won three Emmys and a Golden Globe, among other accolades. Master of None follows Dev, a millennial who navigates life in New York while trying to jump-start his career as an actor and elevate his dating life. The series has charm, heart and humour, which makes it stand out from the crowd in spite of the familiar premise.
Master of None tackles subjects from immigration to religion to sexism in an incredibly compelling way. Besides sharp observations about life, romance and culture, the show also offers a fantastic soundtrack and great performances by the entire cast. Master of None might not change your life, but it’s likely to help you become a better person. In the worst case scenario, it reminds you to treasure all the small joys that come your way. Two seasons are currently streaming on Netflix.
- Aziz Ansari as Dev
- Eric Wareheim as Arnold
- Lena Waithe as Denise
- Noël Wells as Rachel
3. One Day at a Time
A remake of the 70s sitcom with the same name, One Day at a Time revolves around a Cuban-American family. The show focuses on a single mum dealing with PTSD, her kids and her Cuban mother, all living under the same roof. Despite being a comedy, it tackles important issues such as immigration, sexism, mental illness and racism to name a few.
One Day at a Time is compulsive viewing due to its cleverness and touching nature. The series takes the formula of the classic family sitcom and elevates it to fit modern times. It’s familiar, yet incredibly refreshing, and you’re missing out by not tuning in. Two seasons are available to binge.
- Justina Machado as Penelope Alvarez
- Todd Grinnell as Schneider
- Isabella Gomez as Elena Alvarez
- Marcel Ruiz as Alex Alvarez
4. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
One of Netflix’s biggest comedy hits, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is quirky in all the right ways. When a woman is rescued from a doomsday cult and lands in New York, she must navigate a world she didn’t think even existed anymore. Determined to be seen as anything besides a victim, Kimmy puts on a happy face and quickly restarts her life. It’s a charming and endearing show that might not have worked without a brilliant performance from Ellie Kemper.
While the show’s originality makes you tune in, its heart makes you stick around. Despite its dark premise, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a hilarious, feel-good series. It’s a story about losing yourself in the big city and finding your way in the process, with a little help from your uniquely bizarre new friends. Four seasons are currently on Netflix.
- Ellie Kemper as Kimmy Schmidt
- Tituss Burgess as Titus Andromedon
- Carol Kane as Lillian Kaushtupper
- Jane Krakowski as Jacqueline White
5. Grace and Frankie
How often do we get to watch a show about older women living their best lives? When Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin portray those women, you know you’re in for a treat. Grace and Frankie follows two unlikely friends after their husbands announce that they are in love and plan to get married. The women are forced to live together and help each other cope with the surprising news.
The stellar cast adds to the show’s appeal. Besides Fonda and Tomlin, we have Sam Waterston and Martin Sheen in supporting roles. They have great chemistry, and it’s evident from the first episode that everyone’s having a lot of fun portraying these wacky characters. The series isn’t without flaws, but it’s highly entertaining and emotionally complex, and when it focuses on character-driven storytelling, it’s almost perfect. Four seasons are available to binge.
- Lily Tomlin as Frankie Bergstein
- Jane Fonda as Grace Hanson
- Sam Waterston as Sol Bergstein
- Martin Sheen as Robert Hanson
6. Dear White People
Based on the movie with the same name, Dear White People follows a group of black students who face social injustice at a predominantly white school. Besides the finale, each episode in season 1 focuses on a particular character. It’s a rich, witty comedy that gives you lots of things to ponder upon and also makes you giggle. The series explores life on campus through the eyes of mostly black students, but who are rarely at the centre of the narrative.
Despite its satirical nature, the show makes storytelling its primary focus, so viewers get a chance to connect with the characters and understand what they are experiencing. All in all, Dear White People is relevant and required viewing. You can stream two seasons right now.
- Logan Browning as Samantha White
- Brandon P Bell as Troy Fairbanks
- DeRon Horton as Lionel Higgins
- Antoinette Robertson as Colandrea ‘Coco’ Conners
7. Lady Dynamite
Lady Dynamite won’t be everybody’s cup of tea. It’s goofy, it’s weird, and it deals with some heavy subject material. The show follows stand-up comedian Maria Bamford as she’s trying to rebuild her life after spending six months in recovery for bipolar disorder. Viewers also see flashbacks that provide insight into Bamford’s backstory.
The show mainly focuses on Bamford’s real-life experiences. It gives us a unique perspective of someone navigating personal and professional relationships while dealing with mental illness. More importantly, the show manages to keep things funny, which is a true feat. Two seasons are available to binge on Netflix.
- Maria Bamford as Herself
- Fred Melamed as Bruce Ben-Bacharach
- Mary Kay Place as Marilyn Bamford
- Ana Gasteyer as Karen Grisham
8. Orange Is the New Black
Although it leans more towards the dramatic, this Netflix hit is still perceived as a comedy-drama. It’s also one of the most-watched original shows the streaming service has ever made, even surpassing House of Cards. That’s probably thanks to the talented ensemble cast and excellent writing.
Orange is the New Black revolves around Piper, a woman in her 30s who is sentenced to 15 months in Litchfield Penitentiary, a minimum-security women’s federal prison. However, especially from Season 2 onwards, the series shifts focus from Piper and gives Litchfield’s other, more compelling inmates their time in the spotlight. Overall, the show is a balanced mix of dark humour and grit, giving viewers an unfiltered look at life in prison. Six seasons are currently streaming.
- Taylor Schilling as Piper Chapman
- Kate Mulgrew as Galina ‘Red’ Reznikov
- Uzo Aduba as Suzanne ‘Crazy Eyes’ Warren
- Danielle Brooks as Tasha ‘Taystee’ Jefferson
This unconventional rom-com is a down-to-earth look at dating and explores male and female perspectives on romantic relationships through the damaged main characters, Gus and Mickey. It’s a sweet comedy, but nothing close to sappy, as it’s cynical enough to appeal to the grumpiest of viewers.
Depending on the episode, you find yourself rooting either for or against Gus and Mickey’s relationship. The two are an unlikely pair, and both of them are reluctant when it comes to intimacy, love and everything else that comes with a serious relationship. Three seasons are currently on Netflix.
- Gillian Jacobs as Mickey Dobbs
- Paul Rust as Gus Cruikshank
- Claudia O’Doherty as Bertie Bauer
- Mike Mitchell as Randy Monahan
Set in Los Angeles in the 80s, GLOW revolves around the fictionalisation of characters and gimmicks on the 1980s syndicated women’s professional wrestling circuit, the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. At first sight, the series is primarily about a group of scrappy women learning how to wrestle, but GLOW is so much more. It’s a story about women in all their messed-up glory, and it takes the time to give everyone in the diverse cast a chance to shine.
GLOW is less about wrestling than it is about sisterhood and unlikely friendships between women, and not to be overlooked, Alison Brie gives the perfect performance as central character Ruth. Two seasons are currently on Netflix.
- Alison Brie as Ruth Wilder
- Betty Gilpin as Debbie Eagan
- Sydelle Noel as Cherry Bang
- Britt Baron as Justine Biagi
TV on Netflix New Zealand
Need a new show to binge watch? Here’s a full list of shows on Netflix New Zealand.
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