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The two leads of Young Royals gaze at each other in a club with blue light
Photograph: Supplied/Netflix

The best TV shows to watch on Netflix

From fictional royals to scary monsters, these are a few of our fave binge-worthy shows you need in your life right now

Written by
Stephen A Russell
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Since Netflix made its way down to Australia, bringing the popular phrase "Netflix and chill" with it, millions of us have done exactly that on our sofas, with or without the attendant NSFW meaning. It’s a huuuuge part of our daily lives and has come a long way since the company used to deliver DVDs by post back in the US. But the sheer scale of Netflix's constantly updated digital library can be overwhelming.

To that end, we’ve pulled together some of our favourite suggestions, from new additions to old favourites, so you can jump straight to prime viewing time without all the um-ing and ah-ing.

Looking for other options? We've also got the best TV shows on Binge and the best TV shows on Stan.

The Netflix shows you need to know

Ok, so you might not think that now is the time to binge a post-virus apocalyptic show while we’re mired in the midst of a global crisis and rolling lockdowns, but trust us on this one. Based on the quirky comic book by Jeff Lemire, this sweet (it’s there in the name) show stars Beautiful Boy’s Christian Convery as a mutated lad who’s half-human, half-deer in a world that’s totally not OK with that. Determined to track down his mum after the death of his dad, you should pack tissues for this road trip.

Given how ridic the news cycle gets every time one of the young UK royals even so much as sneezes, the Republican case for freeing Australia from the British monarchy seems hamstrung. But you know what the soap opera of that British mob lacks? A good queer angle. That's why we’re so here for this Swedish show that pursues the romance between boarding school buddies Prince Wilhelm and working-class lad and biker Simon.

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Speaking of our unseemly obsession with the soap opera of the British royals, the man who wrote Helen Mirren’s Oscar-winning turn as The Queen delivered Netflix its most prestigious show in this decades-spanning drama. So far Claire Foy and Olivia Coleman have both had a turn as Queen Elizabeth II, with Imelda Staunton about to step into her ermine slippers. But all anyone really cares about now is Aussie Elizabeth Debicki as Diana, which will lead us neatly to a re-do of the plot of The Queen. Circle of life/death.

While the title of this show might sound like we’re going for a trifecta of regal streaming, the queen in question is actually the one found on a chessboard. Well, also The Witch star Anya Taylor-Joy who plays an orphaned child prodigy who masters chess on the international stage but also battles with addiction behind the scenes. The fashion alone is fabulous.

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Ok, one more. Set in Regency London and based on Julia Quinn’s romance novels, Bridgerton writes people of colour into the highest echelon of society. This includes Golda Rosheuvel as Queen Charlotte, whom history debate may very well have been Britain's first POC queen. We might have to wait a while for season two, but the joy of Netflix is the unlimited re-watch factor, so we can just binge the first all over again. And why not with such lush costume work, production values and, frankly, cast members to enjoy in this period romp. 

If you’ve ever had the opportunity to catch Canadian comedian Mae Martin on one of their trips down under, then you’ll know she has an endearing charm and a refreshingly candid approach to navigating sobriety after escaping the grip of addiction. Now you get to see that in loosely adapted dramatic form, in two seasons of raw emotion and off-kilter comedy in Feel Good. Martin plays a stand-up comedian of the same name, opposite an also brilliant Charlotte Ritchie. Plus look out for the ever-awesome Lisa Kudrow as Martin’s mum.  

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The fourth and final season of this dramedy about Sam (Keir Gilchrist), a teenage boy on the autism spectrum flying the nest, is all the more fun for focusing on him moving out of home and in with his stoner bestie Zahid (Nik Dodani), all the while diving headlong into college life. And we are never not gonna be into a show that casts Jennifer Jason Leigh as his mum. It’s a perfectly uncynical antidote to grey days if you need a solid run of sunshine.

If you haven’t delved into this renowned comedy show from father and son team Dan and Eugene Levy yet and you’re wondering what all the fuss is about, then our first answer to you is Catherine O’Hara. Carving out a fabulous array of bonkers mums across the decades – including in Beetlejuice and Home Alone – the mangled pronunciations and dramatic wigs of Moira Rose are the absolute pinnacle here in Schitt's Creek. But the whole cast, including the Levys, are magnificent in this sweet-hearted and chaotic good show about a rich family forced to relocate to Hicksville when busted for tax evasion. 

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If you’re big into the brain munchers and were left hungry by Zack Snyder’s zombie heist flick Army of the Dead then pin your hopes on this four-part animated series. Featuring an assault on the White House (not led by Trump supporters) it foregrounds the popular computer game characters Leon S. Kennedy (voiced by Nick Apostolides) and Claire Redfield (Stephanie Panisello). Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness is set between the fourth and fifth outings of the popular Milla Jovovich-fronted franchise (though there's no sign of her involvement here). 

Obvs the Aussie original is impeccable, and especially the sublime Jacki Weaver as the matriarch of a Melbourne crime family. Hers are some tough shoes to step into, but Ellen Barkin does a remarkable job as Janine ‘Smurf’ Cody in this American TV series re-do. Even better, you’ve got five full seasons to sink your teeth into if watching dysfunctional families tear each other and everyone else apart is your thing.

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If you’re big into scary movies and also upcycled '80s vibes, then the goofy adventures of a bunch of plucky kids pitted against the otherworldly evil of alternate dimension the Upside Down is so gonna be your bag. It’s the show that made a star of Millie Bobby Brown, not to mention propelling David Harbour into the MCU with Black Widow. There are three seasons to swing through, and plenty of spectacular needle drops on the soundtrack, too.

The second season of comedian, actor and show runner Mindy Kaling’s hit loosely based on her childhood in Boston casts Canadian actress of Tamil descent Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as Devi, the analogue of herself. It’s a cute coming-of-ager that looks at dating, parental drama and high school hurdles. It’s peak comfort viewing and has a fabulous cast including, randomly, infamously sweary former tennis pro John McEnroe.

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A surprising hit for 2021 was this thrilling fantasy based on books by Israeli-American author Leigh Bardugo. The first season follows Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li), a young orphaned soldier as she realises she may have more magic in her bones than she ever believed. While Alina’s storyline is great, it’s the dazzling sidekicks we were more interested in, including Ben Barnes as General Kirigan and Kit Young as Jesper Fahey. The show has been picked up for season two so sit tight.

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