The Crown (S1-4)
Ranking as one of Netflix’s finest original series to date, The Crown is a glossy but grown-up retelling of Queen Elizabeth II’s early years. Over £100 million was invested in this extravaganza, starring Claire Foy and Matt Smith (and later Olivia Coleman and Tobias Menzies), and that all adds up to a swanky amount of period detail.
Even those of a staunchly republican bent might find themselves sucked in to the two full seasons, which chart a series of major national events as well as delve deeply into the personal lives of the royal family, and the pressures they face as the public personifications of an entire country.
BoJack Horseman (S1-6)
A Netflix exclusive, this animated series features Arrested Development’s Will Arnett as the titular Horseman, a, er, “horse man” who enjoyed success while in a popular 1990s sitcom but now lives in a haze of booze and self-loathing as a washed-up former star.
Set in a skewed version of Hollywood in which humans live alongside anthropomorphic animals, BoJack Horseman features a strong cast (Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul plays BoJack’s best friend Todd) and strong writing, and there are now five seasons plus two specials available: perfect for binging.
Breaking Bad (S1-5)
What, did you think we'd forgotten? Breaking Bad has been praised to the heavens by critics and those members of the public who clap their hands over their ears and shriek "spoilers!" when you start talking about it. Of course we were going to put it in this list.
Bryan Cranston's Walter White is one of the great characters of modern fiction; a mild-mannered chemistry teacher whose cancer diagnosis prompts him to turn his skills to creating crystal meth – with the help of his former student Jesse. Series creator Vince Gilligan claims that he pitched the show as being the story of "a man who transforms himself from Mr Chips into Scarface." And where the early episodes play up White's hilariously incompetent attempts to enter the drugs trade, as the series progresses he develops into a genuinely chilling character.
Watch it. Now. If only so that you don't have to keep clapping your hands over your ears and shrieking "spoilers!" whenever anyone mentions it.
Russian Doll (S1)
The brainchild of Natasha Lyonne, Amy Poehler and Leslye Headland, this Netflix original series is like Groundhog Day by way of Girls: an acerbic, substance-abusing but ultimately lovable New Yorker (Lyonne) finds herself living the same day over and over, repeatedly dying accidental deaths only to wake up once again in a bathroom at her 36th birthday party. Has she smoked something dodgy, lost her mind – or is something more profound at work?
Funny, outrageous and inventive, this is precisely the type of series that cuts through the piles of cookie cutter filler now accumulating on streaming services – a reminder of those halcyon days when every Netflix-made series was a banger. At just eight half-hour episodes, it’s also refreshingly brisk; you won’t need to live the same day over and over just to get it finished…
Orange Is the New Black (S1-7)
Arguably Netflix’s second-best original series after House of Cards, this is a prison show that goes its own way: less brutal than Oz, less daft than Prison Break and more compelling than Prisoner Cell Block H, it’s a fish-out-of-water drama (based on a true story) in which a white, middle-class Brooklynite ends up in a low-security women’s jail for a crime committed almost a decade previous.
A character-driven show that uses Lost-style flashbacks to explore the pre-prison lives of the cast, Orange Is the New Black proved such a hit that it spawned a full seven seasons.
"Created, written and executive produced by Judd Apatow" is a phrase that's a lot more exciting to some people than to others, but if you're even slightly drawn to his particular brand of mumbly, honest, relationship-based humour, you'll almost certainly enjoy this Netflix Original comedy drama.
Love is a story of two useless, directionless, loveless people at opposite ends of the loser spectrum, who stumble into each other's lives and begin a relationship that doesn’t seem particularly healthy for either of them. This isn't laugh-a-minute stuff, but spending time with the substance-abusing Mickey (Community's Gillian Jacobs) and pushover Gus (Paul Rust) is an occasionally painfully awkward, occasionally guffaw-inducing pleasure.
It’s perhaps not a TV show for everyone, but the progression in the characters’ relationships over its three seasons makes it an ultimately rewarding, always entertaining watch.
Better Call Saul (S1-5)
Everyone's favourite sleazy-yet-likeable lawyer Saul Goodman (well, Jimmy McGill) returns to Netflix, in a series (now in fact four series, with a fifth on the way) that throws us back seven years before the explosive events of Breaking Bad.
Bob Odenkirk slips into his cheap suit with remarkable ease, and his superb performance allows his character's desperation, tenacity and humour to seep through the screen and grab our attention with both hands.
It's always fun to root for the underdog, and from the very first episode you're right there alongside Goodman, wanting him to fight to the top - all while being aware of the dark things to come. Yet another belting Netflix Original.