Below is a list of streaming Netflix programs that range from sharp and witty to carefree indulgence to damn, that's some heavy shit.
1. Shameless (UK)
The father is a drunken bastard with a 6 kids, who are essentially raising themselves (Mom left years ago). But don't let the heavy premise dissuade you; the show highlights the triumph of the human spirit and variations on what we define as "family...oh, and the need for a really good party.
Challenge: Find another actor who plays a drunk as well as David Threlfall (above). I don't know if its his impeccable acting ability (stage actor), or the make-up (which is done just right) or what...but he has embodied this part, that's for sure.
What a clever show gone wrong, then cancelled.
The premise of the show consists of a group of individuals with "enhanced abilities" like super-strength senses (Rachel can hear hearts beating), the ability to "push" (hypnotize), and rapid-fire reflexes.
My particular favorite is Gary (played to sweet perfection by Ryan Cartwright below) who is autistic and possesses the ability to read electromagnetic waves, intercepting cell phone calls, broadcasts and the like.
So what went wrong? The show turned too aggro with an annoying story line where they take on an "alpha" villain who threatens to end the world. Prior to this misstep, Alphas was clever and distinctly human, with flawed and unusual "super heroes."
3. North and South
Richard Armitage why can't I be in a romantic scene with you? Why?
This British serial drama produced by the BBC movie is the most romantic program on the list, for those of us amorously inclined (wink, wink).
The leads share a tangible chemistry between one another and the scene where they (finally!) kiss for the first time is positively knee melting. Based on a1855 Victorian novel by Elizabeth Gaskell.
4. Pretty Little Liars
Pretty Little Liars is pure candy, I admit, but who doesn't like candy? This show chronicles the privileged lives of 4 teens (who looked like this during their teen years?) as they uncover the mystery surrounding their friend's death. They're not particularly honest and at times ruthless, which makes the show that much more fun to watch. It's like Charmed but with meaner, snobbier witches.
Okay, you've probably seen Portlandia before...but have you really seen Portlandia, like all of it? When I saw it years ago, I found it a little smug and uptight. But I gave it a second chance and watched every episode (yes I do too have a social life...sometimes) and I'm glad I did.
Some of Portlandia skits definitely fall flat (like the animated segments where they play mice...bleh), but overall, what a razor-sharp team, creating pieces that take a well-needed potshot at the "hippie elite" culture.
Below, watch the wonder that is Kyle MacLachlan (who is also my boyfriend, don't you know). He is so adorable and wacky as the mayor of Portlandia.
6. Bleak House
This nuanced BBC series based on Charles Dickens most-esteemed novel reminds the viewer of the wonder of Dickens, who so deftly created such complex, interesting (and funny) characters.
Bleak House chronicles the life of Esther Summerson (played by the infinitely watchable Anna Maxwell Martin, above), an orphan who moves into Bleak House with her two cousins who quickly become wrapped up in a intractable legal battle.
(Hats off to Gillian Anderson steely performance as Lady Dedlock, below. I didn't think she had it in her.)
7. The Imposter
This documentary will have you saying, "No! Impossible!" But it is. And he did. And they did. Wow.
A 2012 documentary based on the 1997 case of the French deception artist Frédéric Bourdin, who impersonated Nicholas Barclay, a Texas boy who disappeared at the age of 13 in 1994.
8. I am Dina
Don't make her angry...just, don't.
Okay you may sue me for this suggestion. Or we'll be best friends for life. This movie is a little weird. Maybe a lot weird. But certainly original and very pretty.
And the lead? Man oh man, she is one wild and crazy bitch.
Dina (played by the insanely beautiful Maria Bonnevie) was responsible for the accidental death of her mother and her father is so bereft, he leaves the young Dina to fend for herself. She grows up in this feral-like manner, with only one true friend (a household servant).
One of the best scenes? Dina's miserably father slaps her in the face when she's fully grown (which he had done once before when Dina was a child) and she goes bah-listic on him. By the end of the scene, the viewer and the fictional father know, he will never, ever raise a hand to this woman again.
Shot beautifully in Norway, this movie takes you on an unusual journey that is surreal, touching and and at times, overreaching.
9. Paranormal Witness
Chock full of ghosts
My latest favorite? The "Ghostly Affair" episode, shot in the Arkansas home shown above. (But all of them will raise your hairs a little, trust me.)
10. Mrs. Brown
Queen Victoria (played by Dame Judi Dench) is deeply depressed after the death of her husband. Her rebellious and spirited servant John Brown slowly brings her back to life with genuine acts of kindness and affection.
It's a real treat to watch Billy Connolly act, since I wasn't familiar to much of his work prior to Mrs. Brown.
11. The Secret Circle
Another "Pringles" show like Pretty Little Liars (meaning it's no good for you but you'll eat it all anyway), The Secret Circle is a team of young adults with magical abilities, strengthened when they are together.
This show was eventually cancelled but I found the cast watchable and the plot line captivating enough. The real downfall of the show, unfortunately, is the lead, who doesn't quite have the kick-ass gravitas as Buffy or Xena.
Does this look like Jonathan Pryce to you?
This movie can border on the sleepy at times but its such a unique plot line that I stuck with it. Movies that show different types of love like are too few and far between, and this is one of them.
Famous Victorian painter (and member of the famous Bloomsbury group) Dora Carrington forms a non-traditional relationship with gay writer Lytton Strachey (played by the amazing Jonathan Pryce, who I could barely recognize in this role).
So there you are, Netflix viewer. Any suggestions to add? I'm shopping around for new shows.