It’s kind of hard to believe now, but when Netflix first announced that it was going to start producing original programming, the consensus was that it was a mistake.
Television critics, in fact, were virtually united in their dismissal of the streaming services plans.
We already had HBO and dozens of other cable channels doing “prestige television,” the logic went; where would Netflix find its place? Did we even really need another place for prestige television?
Dozens of Emmys later, Netflix’s gamble seems to have paid off. But they haven’t pulled the rabbit out of the hat every time, as this list clearly shows.
Here are Netflix’s original series’ ranked from worst to best.
#23 Fuller House
This remake/update of the late 80s and early 90s Friday night TGIF staple Full House probably didn’t need to happen, although it was sort of interesting to see how much everyone had changed over the years.
Or, in the case of John Stamos, didn’t change. Critical consensus has this as the weakest Netflix original by a wide margin. Yet, it is also the most watched show on the service with more than 14 million viewers in its first 30 days of release.
Not so long ago, a show about political corruption and gamesmanship starring Gerard Depardieu would have been, if not must-see TV, at least worthy of serious consideration.
Marseille, however, never really managed to gain a foothold with the viewers. The reviewer from Le Monde called it an “industrial accident,” but nevertheless, it’s getting a second season on Netflix in 2017.
#21 Hemlock Grove
This Eli Roth-produced horror series got Netflix some of its first awards love from the Emmys in 2013, but critics were mixed, at best, on this dark show about monsters, economic inequality, medical experiments and murder.
The Grove pulled a 41 on Metacritic and broadcast its final episode in October 2015.
This series is the brainchild of Will Arnett and Mitch Hurwitz, who were involved in the universally acclaimed Arrested Development.
The lukewarm reception of Flaked was somewhat surprising considering the people involved. At least until audiences got a look at it. Cool and strangely inert – one reviewer called it “a bad episode of Friends stretched out into four hours” – Flaked’s first season was released in March 2016. There’s no word of a second.
Sort of a modern update of Logan’s Run, this Canadian sci-fi drama centers around a town where an unknown disease has killed everyone over the age of 21.
As a result, the government has quarantined the town, and the survivors are on their own. Twists and drama follow. You can probably guess the rest.
#18 Marco Polo
Originally a Starz production, Netflix grabbed Marco Polo and gave it a ten-episode season after Starz’ deal to film in China fell through.
Critical reception was slightly below average, pulling in a 47 on Metacritic; some critics found it “bold” and “fun”, while others called it “stale” and “cheesy.” Maybe contemporary audiences aren’t interested in historical epics unless they involve Xena in a hot tub.
#17 The Ranch
The Ranch stars Ashton Kutcher as a failed pro football star who returns to his hometown, and his family’s ranch, after he learns about some financial trouble the family’s facing.
Critics indicated the show was “formulaic” and “predictable,” but viewers on Netflix gave the show a 4.5/5 rating. Apparently, they’re still feeling the Kutcher love.
#16 Grace and Frankie
This comedy-drama stars screen legends Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin as wives who become inadvertent friends when their husbands announce that they, the husbands, are in love and planning to get married.
A topical theme and an outstanding cast featuring Sam Waterston and Martin Sheen offsets the show’s tendency toward “sitcom cliché.”
A dark and complex sci-fi drama, Sense8 was the long-awaited collaboration between the Matrix Trilogy’s Wachowskis and Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski.
The dense, knotty show might have turned some viewers – and reviewers – off initially, but Netflix reports that most people who watch until Episode 3 end up watching the entire season — sometimes multiple times.
This complex drama/thriller examines the lives of the Rayburn family, who own a motel in Florida that’s about to celebrate its 45th year of operation, and features Kyle Chandler in his first major role since Friday Night Lights’ Coach Taylor.
Critics have had some problems with the show’s convoluted timeline, but several have called it the best Netflix original to date.
It’s an indication of how successful Netflix has been with its original properties that Daredevil is this low on the list. Released in the spring of 2015 to near-universal acclaim, Daredevil is Netflix’s first foray into the Marvel Universe.
The response to its second season wasn’t quite as euphoric, but it was still received very well by both critics and viewers.
Love boasts not only Judd Apatow and Paul Rust on its development team, but also Community standout Gillian Jacobs as its lead.
It’s a “down-to-earth” look at dating in the modern world, which means there are some scenes of severe, perhaps uncomfortable awkwardness, which might explain its 3-star review on Netflix.
#11 Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp
The follow-up to the beloved 2001 cult classic Wet Hot American Summer, WHAS: First Day of Camp is probably the sort of thing that wouldn’t much appeal to people who either didn’t see the original movie or didn’t like it if they did.
Those who did would likely not be disappointed, since, for starters, Christopher Meloni’s character finally got to be honest about his love for his refrigerator.
#10 BoJack Horseman
BoJack Horseman is the story of a drunken, washed-up 80s sitcom actor who also happens to be half-horse, half-man. It starts to makes sense when you realize that this is a world in which, in Hollywood, at least, humanoid animals are common.
Word is that, once you get to about the eighth episode of season one, it becomes something pretty extraordinary.
#9 F is for Family
It was co-created by caustic stand-up comedian Bill Burr, and it’s called F is for Family, so that automatically probably turned off some viewers. Those that stuck around, however, were rewarded with a show that, while bracing in its vulgarity, showed a great deal of heart.
Considering that it’s set in 1973, it’s also an interesting window into how things were more than four decades ago.
#8 W/Bob and David
Before Bob Odenkirk hit it big on Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, and before David Cross became Tobias Funke on Arrested Development, there was Mr. Show, their classic sketch show on HBO.
This was a short return to those days for Bob & David, and though it might not have been quite what it was in the old days, it was still welcome and unexpected.
#7 House of Cards
This was Netflix’ first big shot across the bow of cable: a prestige series starring Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright and a slew of great character actors, whose first episode was directed by David Fincher.
The fact that it garnered the acclaim that it did – including multiple Emmys for its first season – had a lot to do with Netflix becoming a legitimate home for prestige programming. It’s apparently not as good as it used to be, though.
Narcos is basically the Pablo Escobar Story, which has been told a number of times, but never with this sort of clarity and detail.
Some critics thought it made Escobar “frighteningly sympathetic,” but on the whole the consensus is that it’s a painfully accurate depiction of the kingpin’s rise and fall.
#5 The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
As great as 30 Rock generally was, it was the definition of a critical smash; its ratings were usually mediocre at best.
So it’s maybe not so surprising that NBC ultimately passed on Tina Fey’s next show, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, a quirky, unconventional show about a woman acclimating to present-day Manhattan after fifteen years being held as a prisoner in a bunker.
#4 Jessica Jones
The second of Netflix’s dives into the Marvel Universe, Jessica Jones not only returns Krysten Ritter to television after the cancellation of Don’t Trust the B— in Apt. 23, but also proves that Netflix knows what it’s doing when it comes to Marvel properties.
Critical consensus has been uniformly positive, and anyone who sincerely dislikes it is probably not interested in the Marvel Universe anyway.
#3 Orange Is the New Black
If House of Cards proved that Netflix could play with the big boys of cable, Orange is the New Black proved that it was playing an entirely different game, and winning.
Universally acclaimed and a legitimate cultural phenomenon, OITNB is probably truly unwatchable only to those people who believe Piper deserves her sentence.
#2 Lady Dynamite
Lady Dynamite is a show centered around the life and comedy of the brilliant and quirky alternative comic Maria Bamford. The show is explicit, confusing, and exceptionally honest, and has inspired ecstatic critical acclaim.
If Netflix’s viewership numbers are low, it’s understandable – Lady Dynamite is unlike anything else on TV – but it’s also a shame.
#1 Master of None
Aziz Ansari made his name as Tom Haverford on Parks and Recreation, but he’s made his presence as an auteur known as Master of None.
Tom Haverford was sometimes a difficult character to embrace, but Aziz isn’t him, and this show proves it as it walks through the pitfalls of modern single life.