Your guide to streaming in 2016: a year in Netflix Originals

1 Feb 2016

Some of the cast of Netflix flagship-show Orange is the New Black, returning to screens 17 June. Image: JoJo Whilden/Netflix

While Netflix has come under fire in recent months for not sharing its viewership figures – leading many to wonder if the subscription streaming site is as successful as it boasts – there is one area in which its reach is undeniable: Netflix Originals.

Netflix presents the biggest challenge facing terrestrial TV today (other than rampant piracy). The streaming giant saw a huge opportunity with the on-demand generation and snatched it, out the door and running before any of the networks even had their shoes on.

It was always useful – a place where vast troves of television, film and comedy, both vintage and new, could be found, legally – but it truly cemented its popularity when it started to offer original programming.

Netflix started off small, with House of Cards, Orange is the New Black (OitNB) and Hemlock Grove as its flagship programmes. The wild success of the first two shows – Hemlock Grove had its fans, but never seemed to achieve the widespread must-watch status of the others – paved the way for the cornucopia on offer now.

And it truly is a cornucopia. Netflix has ballooned from its original three Originals to a roster of shows that numbers in the 50s, or higher.

We’ve combed through the 2016 schedule of Netflix Originals and have pulled together a list of the shows you should be watching out for, from brand new offerings to returning favourites.

So here’s your handy guide to streaming dates. Binge at your leisure.

New to Netflix

Love – 19 February

Love is Netflix’s newest romantic comedy, and it comes pre-loaded with Hollywood weight. Created, written and executive produced by Judd Apatow (and starring the always funny Paul Rust and Lesley Arfin), Love is sure to live up to the success of movies like Knocked Up and shows like Girls.

The trailer introduces us to a show that’s very much in the modern vein – life, warts and all – but has a sweetness and humour that may make it stand out from all the other shows about millennials who don’t quite know what they’re doing.

Cooked – 19 February

Netflix: Cooked
Image via Netflix

This docu-series from author Michael Pollan and filmmaker Alex Gibney explores humankind’s relationship with cooking, and encourages us to return to the kitchen in order to restore balance to our lives.

The four-episode series examines how each of the four ‘elements’ – fire, water, air and earth – has been used throughout human history to turn raw ingredients into delicious dishes, and looks at cooking traditions from all over the world.

Fuller House – 26 February

To call Fuller House a Netflix Original may be a bit of a stretch, but we’ll let it ride on a technicality. A sequel to the immensely popular late-80s-early-90s sitcom Full House, Fuller House will bring the original cast back together (with the exception of the Olsen twins), and will centre on DJ Tanner-Fuller.

When DJ’s husband dies, she asks her sister and her best friend (and her best friend’s teenaged daughter) to move in and help her raise her three sons.

We’re still waiting on a full trailer, but the above teaser released last week introduces us to the chaos we can expect.

Flaked – 11 March

Netflix: Flaked
Image via Benjamin Cohen/Netflix

Flaked is Netflix’s second offering to feature funny-man Will Arnett, previously seen – or should that be heard? – as the lead in BoJack Horseman. Flaked, however, may be very much a horse of a different colour.

Still in the comedy vein, Flaked brings Arnett out from the voiceover booth and into a live-action serial. Releases from the Netflix production house indicate that this will be a love triangle with added shitebaggery and a heavy dose of darkness.

The Characters – 11 March

The Characters is a sketch comedy series with a difference, starring eight comedians who will each feature in a single episode of the show playing a wide array of characters.

With the exception of Lauren Lapkus (Orange is the New Black’s Fischer), the featured comedians – Lapkus, Kate Berlant, Dr Brown, Paul Downs, John Early, Tim Robinson, Natasha Rothwell and Henry Zebrowski – don’t ring any bells with me, but the trailer makes it look, at the very least, smirkworthy, with a few laugh out loud moments thrown in for good measure.

One to try, certainly.

The Ranch – 1 April

Netflix: The Ranch
Image via Greg Gayne/Netflix

The Ranch continues Netflix’s effort to bring more veritable stars to the network – eschewing its former practice of hiring mostly unknowns to populate its original content – with Ashton Kutcher and Sam Elliott taking leading roles, and Debra Winger and Danny Masterson rounding out the cast.

The comedy show sees Kutcher’s Colt returning home after a failed semi-pro football career to help run the family ranching business. No doubt fish-out-of-water scenarios will abound.

Marseille – 5 May

Netflix: Marseille
Image via David Koskas/Netflix

Expanding on Netflix’s recent forays into non-English-language programming, Marseille will be the first French-language series shot for and streamed on the site.

Being touted as the French House of Cards, Marseille follows the story of ambition, intrigue, power struggles and politics in the titular French city. Gérard Depardieu and a host of well-known French actors star.

Stranger Things – 15 July

Netflix: Stranger Things
Stranger Things star Winona Ryder. Image via Andrea Raffin/Shutterstock

A bit of a strange one, this, if you’ll excuse the obvious pun.

Set in 1980s Indiana, Stranger Things tells the story of the disappearance of a young boy, and the ensuing search. Far from a straight up-and-down detective thriller à la Broadchurch, though, this will involve top-secret government experiments, supernatural forces and – according to Netflix’s press guidance – “one very strange little girl”.

Winona Ryder stars.

The Get Down – 12 August

More Hollywood heavies here, as Baz Luhrmann brings us The Get Down, a gritty but colourful glimpse at the New York of the 1970s. Through the lives and music of a group of south Bronx kids, The Get Down plays out the story of how the down-on-its-heels city birthed hip-hop, punk and disco.

Luhrmann is well-versed in music, emotion and story, and the sizzle reel looks stellar – this is likely to be a great watch and a big hit.

The Crown – TBD

The Crown is Netflix’s most expensive series to date, with the budget coming in at a whopping $156m.

With any luck, that massive cash drop will pay off big. And it probably will. The Crown offers a lightly fictionalised account of the world’s most famous family (other than the Kardashians) – the Windsors – during the early part of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign, and tells the inside story of the intrigues, love lives and machinations going on behind the scenes.

Luke Cage – TBD

Netflix: Luke Cage
Luke Cage pictured in Jessica Jones. Image via Myles Aronowitz/Netflix

The latest Marvel offering to hit Netflix, Luke Cage is a spin-off of Jessica Jones. It features the titular Cage – one of Jessica Jones’ more likable characters, played by Mike Colter – in the early days of his transition from unbreakable bar owner to hero.

This is likely to follow the format laid out by Jessica Jones and Daredevil, with a down-to-earth realism that can be missing at times from Marvel’s other (more operatic/cinematic) creations.

Lady Dynamite – TBD

Netflix: Lady Dynamite's Maria Bamford
Lady Dynamite’s Maria Bamford. Image via Greg Harries/Flickr

Sadly not a peered version of the early-noughties one-hit wonder, Lady Dynamite shouldn’t necessarily be dismissed for that.

The series will be inspired by comedian Maria Bamford’s experiences, with “occasionally surreal” episodes telling the story of her attempts to get her life together.

One Day at a Time – TBD

Netflix: Norman Lear, creator of One Day at a Time
One Day at a Time creator Norman Lear pictured at Star Wars: The Force Awakens premiere. Image via Helga Esteb/Shutterstock

One Day at a Time is a reimagining of prolific sitcom developer Norman Lear’s late-70s show of the same name, shot now with an all-Latino cast.

It tells the story of a recently-separated mother, trying to raise her two teenagers with the dubious help of her old-school mom and her building manager.

This revival was dreamed up by Lear himself. Never having seen the original, we’re not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing…

The OA – TBD

Netflix: The OA's Brit Marling pictured with The East co-stars
The OA’s Brit Marling, pictured with The East co-stars Patricia Clarkson, Alexander Skarsgård and Ellen Page. Image via Helga Esteb/Shutterstock

Little is known about The OA, other than that it’s written by Brit Marling and Zal Batmnglij, and Marling will also star. Watch this space.

Returning favourites

House of Cards – 4 March

Netflix’s flagship political thriller returns this spring for its fourth season, bringing Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright and all of the attendant power hunger and manipulation back to our screens.

Netflix continues to bet big on its first big hitter – House of Cards beat OITNB to air by six months – with a fifth-season renewal announced earlier last week.

Daredevil – 18 March

Daredevil was one of Netflix’s biggest hits of 2015. I’ve yet to meet someone whose seen it and wasn’t a fan.

The series – which follows blind lawyer Matt Murdock as he fights crime in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen – returns for its second season this March and, if it reaches even a fraction of the heights of the first, will be well worth watching.

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – 15 April

Netflix: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Image via Eric Liebowitz/Netflix

I never expected to like The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Going in, I anticipated the writing of latter-seasons-of-30Rock Tina Fey, not MeanGirls Tina Fey. So I was pleasantly surprised when it was laugh-out-loud funny, and even more surprised when I realised I was happy to hear it had been picked up for a second and third season.

No trailer or teaser has been released yet, but expect more madcap happenings as Kimmy readjusts to life on the outside. Of the bunker.

Grace and Frankie – 6 May

Netflix: Grace and Frankie
Image via Melissa Moseley/Netflix

Grace and Frankie is a comedy with an all-star cast, albeit an ageing one – but then, that’s the point.

Following the titular Grace and Frankie (played by Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, respectively), the comedy series tells the story of two 70-something women completely untethered when their husbands (Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston) suddenly announce they’ve been in love with each other for decades, and are getting married.

At times hilarious and at other times really quite heartbreaking, Grace and Frankie is a sweet look at love, life and moving on. The series returns for its second season this summer, and has already been renewed for a third.

Orange is the New Black – 17 June

I can’t imagine there’s anyone left who needs the Orange is the New Black blurb, but just in case: OITNB tells the story of Piper Chapman, a wealthy woman in her 30s who is imprisoned for a crime she committed in her youth. The show follows Chapman as she adjusts to life in the clink, and introduces us to the colourful inmates and guards.

The show has achieved cult status, which shows no signs of slackening off as it enters it fourth season, in spite of a lukewarm reception for the third. This will be hugely watched.

BoJack Horseman – TBD

Netflix: BoJack Horseman
Image via Netflix

Very much a fan favourite, BoJack Horseman is an animated comedy featuring the voice work of Will Arnett, Aaron Paul, Amy Sedaris and Alison Brie, half of whom voice anthropomorphised animals.

Hilarious and dark, BoJack returns this year for a third season.

Sense8 – TBD

Netflix: Sense8
Image via Murray Close/Netflix

Arguably Netflix’s most Marmite show, Sense8 tells the sci-fi-heavy story of eight people whose lives – and minds – become interconnected after they all experience a violent vision. The show follows the characters as they grow used to their new abilities, and as they band together to fight the shadowy organisation that seeks to kill them.

Sense8 returns for its second season later this year.

Jessica Jones – TBD

Netflix: Jessica Jones
Image via Myles Aronowitz/Netflix

Netflix’s other current Marvel show, Jessica Jones, went even darker than Daredevil, gaining significant acclaim for its gritty depiction of the fallout from rape and prolonged mental abuse.

Of course, that’s not the central plot, which deals with a truly evil supervillain and the superhero-cum-private-eye who is the only one who can stop him. Heavy on sass and tension, Jessica Jones certainly deserves this second season.

Marco Polo – TBD

Netflix: Marco Polo
Image via Phil Bray/Netflix

A delayed return here, with the first season of Marco Polo first streaming way back in 2014, and nothing since but a Christmas special streamed on 26 December last year.

It depicts the early years of Marco Polo’s time in the court of Kublai Khan.

Updated on 2 February at 10.35am to include The Characters, which was overlooked the first time around.

Kirsty Tobin was careers editor at Silicon Republic