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The 50 Best TV Series On Netflix, Ranked

By 01.07.15
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NBC


If you’re trying to figure out what to watch next on Netflix, here’s a great place to start with a look at the 50 Best TV series on the streaming service.

Broadchurch

BBC


50. Broadchurch (1 of 1 seasons) — A couple of years ago, Broadchurch was the most popular show of all time on social media in the United Kingdom, and for good reason: It was a terrific, dark and bleak whodunnit about the mystery behind the murder of a small boy in a quiet, seaside town in the UK. David Tennant was so great in it he reprised his role in the little seen and cancelled Fox adaptation of the show, Gracepoint. But it’s 2014 — you don’t need to watch the watered-down broadcast network remake. You can watch the original on Netflix.

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FX


49. Sons of Anarchy (6 of 7 seasons) — Seasons three to five were wildly inconsistent, but the first two seasons were some of the most intense and violent television you’ll ever watch (as was the sixth season). Described early on as The Sopranos with motorcycles, Sons is an intermittently great show, although it’s clusterf*ck of a final season (which hasn’t yet been added to Netflix) is why Sons appears so low on the list.

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FXX


48. The League (5 of 6 seasons) — A combination of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Curb Your Enthusiasm and fantasy football, it’s not as funny as Sunny, but it’s also not as misanthropic as Curb. It’s awkward humor that never feels uncomfortable, and features in a recurring role the best comedy character on television right now that’s not Ron Swanson: Jason Mantzoukas’ Rafi.

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ABC


47. Scandal (3 of 4 seasons) — Watching the first two seasons of Scandal, you can’t help but feel like the outlandish, bonkers plotlines will eventually stretch themselves too far, and that does happen, but not until season three. The first two seasons, however, are insane and wildly addictive, the exact kind of show that works best on a streaming service like Netflix, because it’s impossible not to want to plow through to find out what crazy plot twist will consume the show next.

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The CW


46. Arrow (2 of 3 seasons) — Arrow may not get the attention of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, but it is the best superhero TV series on the air right now. It’s a potent combination of dark but attractive characters, addictive serialized storylines and villains of the week, and an attractive cast buoyed by one of the coolest guys on television, Stephen Amell. Forty-four episodes may seem daunting, but they go down quickly and sweetly, like candy.

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IFC


45. Top of the Lake (1 of 1 seasons) — The six-episode Elisabeth Moss drama — which can best be described as a cross between Twin Peaks and The Killing — is an engrossing miniseries that follows the investigation of a missing girl and her f***ed up, drug-dealing incestuous family, who are accused of being behind the kidnapping. The Jane Campion series is slow-burning, but engrossing television, and features phenomenal performances all around, especially that of Moss.

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FOX


44. Fringe (5 of 5 seasons) — The first of several J.J. Abrams created series on this list, and yet another J.J. Abrams series that had terrific runs, and dismal ones. Fringe was brilliant, except when it wasn’t, and while it pushed the boundaries of sci-fi, it often overstepped its limits (SOUL MAGNETS). Still, even when the series wasn’t entirely up to snuff, John Noble was always around, and never failed to enliven each and every episode.

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USA


43. Psych (8 of 8 seasons) — Still another series that was absolutely brilliant for several seasons, and then ran out of steam. The comedy procedural works best when it’s riffing on other genres (and in particular, the 80s/early 90s), but the chemistry between Shawn and Gus never wears thin, even when the writing and the case work often does.

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FX


42. Damages (5 of 5 season) — Created by Todd Kessler — a writer on The Sopranos — the Glenn Close character is actually based on David Chase, and if the character is any indication, Chase was a monster to work for. Each season centers around one major case, and the quality of the show depends on the season (one and five are the best). That said, Glenn Close is ruthless, brutal, and brilliant throughout, and Rose Byrne is not bad either, plus the series fetched some of the best recurring characters you’re likely to see on television (including John Goodman, Chris Messina, and Timothy Olyphant, among many others).

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Showtime


41. Dexter (8 of 8 seasons)– Michael C. Hall is absolutely terrific as a blood spatter analyst for the Miami police department, who moonlights as a serial killer trying to keep his two lives separate. There’s a great opening season, a fantastic fourth season, and in between the two, a couple of decent ones. Do yourself a favor, however, and don’t bother with the final four seasons. It’s a testament to how good the first and fourth seasons were that it still gains a place upon this list, despite one of the worst final seasons in television history.

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NBC


40. Cheers (11 of 11 seasons) — One of television’s all-time best sitcoms, Cheers is one of the most relaxed, amusing, and warm sitcoms you could ever have the privilege of watching. It may feel a little dated now, especially if you’re not a fan of laugh tracks, but the warmth of the series is timeless.

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NBC


39. Quantum Leap (5 of 5 seasons) — The first season is kind of a bear to get through because the production values were so low, but once Quantum Leap finds its feet, it’s one of the most enjoyable sci-fi series you’ll ever watch. It’s certainly got an 80s quality to it, but it is comfort television at its best, even if the finale was on the disappointing side.

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FOX


38. Family Guy (12 of 13 seasons) — The Seth MacFarlane animated series is not exactly the kind of show you binge watch (there are 237 episodes, so far), but it’s hilarious background TV for while you’re doing the laundry, getting over a hangover, or trying to kill a few brain cells after work. But don’t lower your expectations too much: There’s also some sharp and biting social commentary in between all the dick jokes.

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ABC


37. Alias (5 of 5 seasons) — Before Lost but after Felicity, J.J. Abrams gave us the action-packed conspiracy theory drama Alias, which he initially described as an ass-kicking Felicity (it was nothing like that). Jennifer Garner was fantastic in the lead, and the storylines were immensely compelling… for a while. The first two seasons are outstanding, the second two season were pretty good, and the final season was a big bowl of butt. Throughout, however, Garner’s costume changes were always worth tuning in for.

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CBS


36. How I Met Your Mother (9 of 9 seasons) — Another up-and-down series that started off as a cute sitcom with a semi-interesting premise that hit its stride for about five seasons, and struggled through its later seasons once the premise had completely run its course and the narrating character became a completely insufferable douche. Still, even in the later seasons, How I Met Your Mother has enough moments to keep you chugging along, even if it’s often only background noise. That series finale, on the other hand, oof. They did not stick the landing.

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IFC


35. Portlandia (3 of 4 seasons) — It helps if you’ve lived in and/or been to Portland, and like most sketch comedy, Portlandia is wildly hit and miss, but the hits are often huge, and the misses are easy enough to fast-forward through. It’s clever and strangely understated for sketch comedy, and although it works best as a send-up of Portland, the absurdist comedy is still effective outside of the northwest.

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Fox


34. New Girl (3 of 4 seasons) — After a shaky start that focused too much on Zooey Deschanel and her quirks, the series found its stride in the middle of the first season, as it turned into an ensemble comedy and, by the second season, blossomed into one of the best sitcoms on television. It’s faltered some in its third season before recovering some in the current fourth season, but that second season is one of the best-ever years of comedy. Thanks to Schmidt and Nick, it’s also one of the most GIFable shows around.

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FXX


33. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (9 of 9 seasons) — Take the misanthropy of Seinfeld and triple it, then triple it again, and you’ve basically set the tone for It’s Always Sunny, the wildly brilliant sitcom from FX (now FXX) that seems to be fueled by insanely hilarious minds that have been warped by paint huffing. When the series is on — and it often is — nothing on television is funnier, raunchier, and more awesomely offensive.

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ABC


32. Lost (6 of 6 season) — If you like mysteries and lots and lots of questions, but don’t care about satisfying answers to those questions, Lost is basically the best drama of all time. For much of its run, it was the best thing going on network television: suspenseful and completely engrossing. Unfortunately, there’s that ending, that kind of undid much of the series’ greatness. Bygones. It’s still an outstanding journey, even if the destination is not up to the standards of the rest of the series.

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NBC


31. Parenthood (4 of 5 seasons)– It helps if you’re a parent to relate to some of the plotlines, but even if you’re not, Friday Night Light’s showrunner Jason Katims brings the same brand of naturalistic, heartfelt drama he displayed in Friday Night Lights to the tender and frequently emotional Parenthood. Great ensemble, although the show is often given to sentiment, which is good or bad, depending on who you are.

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ABC


30. The Wonder Years (6 of 6 seasons) — The only reason why the coming-of-age series set in the 60s — and one of my all-time favorite shows — did not make the top 25 is because much of the wonder has been taken out of the series on Netflix, as it’s missing many of the original songs (including the theme song) due to licensing issues. The music was a huge part of the show, although the absence of the original songs doesn’t completely diminish the power of the series, which tackles not only the relationship between Kevin Arnold and Winnie Cooper, but heavier issues like the Vietnam War, and the cultural clashes between conservative 60s parents and their more liberal, hippie offspring. The series finale is still one of television’s best all-time episodes.

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Fox


29. Raising Hope (4 of 4 seasons) — Greg Garcia’s sitcom began as a hilarious, and often spot-on comedic exploration of a lower, lower middle class family raising a child together, but over the course of the series, as it improved, its focus shifted more toward the show’s two best assets, Martha Plimpton and Garret Dillahunt, the latter of whom is the most unexpectedly hilarious guy in TV. Raising Hope is clever, heartfelt, and creative in incredibly surprising ways.

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Netflix


28. House of Cards (2 of 2 seasons) — Netflix’s first major foray into original programming was worth every cent of its $100 million production budget, featuring searing performances, a droll sense of humor, slick writing, engrossing plotlines, and Kevin Spacey chewing the face off the scenery. The first season is phenomenal, though the second is very fat around the middle and begins to wane near the end.

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AMC


27. The Walking Dead (4 of 5 seasons) — Currently, the highest rated scripted series on cable television, The Walking Dead is an up-and-down series. When it’s good, it’s phenomenal; when it’s not, it can be a boring slog (especially in the earlier half of the series, when Frank Darabont was showrunner). Greg Nicotero does fantastic FX work, and the series is particularly compelling because no one — no matter how high they are listed in the credits — is safe from the zombie apocalypse, and the showrunners seem to relish in killing off cast members. Some of the binge-watching value, however, is lost because it’s so difficult to avoid being spoiled to plot points of one of the most talked about series on TV.

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FX


26. Terriers (1 of 1 seasons) — Not that it doesn’t already get mentioned enough around here, it always bears repeating: Terriers is terrific, a funny, engrossing, and entertaining private eye drama starring Donal Logue that never should’ve been cancelled. In a just world, Terriers is now entering its fifth season. But even in this unjust world, season one should not be missed.

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