Scrolling through endless made-for-TV movies and series that should have never have got the green light in search for something decent to get stuck into on Netflix can feel like a never-ending and often fruitless task.
But in amongst all of that stuff, there are bona fide hidden gems to be discovered.
Just because these shows didn’t make it onto the Most Watched lists doesn’t mean they’re not worth your time of day. On the contrary, recommend these to your mates and they’ll think you’re a Netflix connoisseur.
A subtitled Danish dramedy isn’t the easiest of sells, but bear with me, because you’re about to discover your favourite new show (honest).
The titular character (played by the charismatic Mille Dienssen) is a teacher and mum to three grown-up children who plays very much by her own rules – with varying degrees of success. The kids love her at school. Not all of her colleagues respect her (it doesn’t help that she’s rubbing belly buttons with the headmaster), and it’s her personal life where things get really sticky (no pun intended).
Over the course of five series we follow Rita as she goes from one disaster to another trying to avoid confronting her “stuff”. It’s all incredibly relatable, extremely funny (who knew Danish and British humour was so alike?), boundary-pushing and often, very touching. Not only will you be rooting for Rita all the way, you’ll also want to be her mate.
Speaking of which, her best friend Hjørdis is an absolute delight – and proved so popular that she got her very own spin-off series. I got through all five seasons in a week and honestly feel bereft that Rita and co are no longer part of my daily life. Joyous stuff. (Matt Bagwell, Head Of Entertainment)
The Midnight Gospel
The best way to describe The Midnight Gospel would be hallucinogens mixed with Rugrats or Rocko’s Modern Life. The visuals and worlds in which main character Clancy Gilroy visits through his “unlicensed multiverse simulator” are really what I would imagine an acid trip to be like.
I originally watched it on a whim thinking it would be some cartoon escapism after a long day, and instead I was surprised about the show’s ponderings on life, existence, love, spirituality and more. It’s kind of what I would imagine Rick & Morty might be if they suddenly became introspective and holistic (don’t come at me R&M fans, I just don’t like it).
It was only recently that I looked into the writing and production credits and found that the discussions are recordings from co-creator Duncan Trussell’s podcast. Actual interviews from facing death with Anne Lamott, meditation and enlightenment learnt in prison from Damien Echols (one of the ‘West Memphis Three’) and legalisation of drugs with Drew Pinsky – deep intellectual chats wrapped up in an incredible world of cartoon fantasy. (Jayson Mansaray, Video Producer)
Not only does Special break new ground in terms of representation of disabled people (its lead actor, Ryan O’Connell, also created the show and wrote the whole first series), its attitude to other themes like sex work and body positivity also feel totally fresh.
What definitely helps is that it’s also laugh-out-loud funny and beautifully shot – and with each episode clocking in at around 15 minutes, you can fly through the whole thing in an afternoon. (Daniel Welsh, Entertainment Reporter)
Dark is a German sci-fi thriller that finished a three season run this summer. I binged the first season (admittedly, in one night) back in 2017 and loved it but totally forgot about it until the last two seasons popped up on Netflix (a TV binger’s dream!).
You think you are going to be watching a crime show but then get thrown right into time travel, alternate universes and the most complicated family tree imaginable.
If you can overlook English translation voiceovers and a few questionable special effects, I’d highly recommend this show. It was super engaging and suspenseful with no shortage of plot twists. (Samara Mackereth, Head Of Video)
Been So Long
Been So Long is exactly what I didn’t know I needed one lazy Sunday afternoon and definitely a hidden gem, perhaps because of its low ratings on the streaming site. But don’t let that, or the fact it’s a “modern musical” put you off. It’s gritty, funny, refreshing and stars the brilliant Michaela Coel (filmed in between Chewing Gum and I May Destroy You) and the talented Arinzé Kene, who you may recognise from Youngers.
I do love musicals, so I am biased, but the soundtrack was fresh and uplifting, the story passionate and gripping and the acting fantastic. I mean Michael Coel is in it, come on.
Just like people “discovered” Crashing and the first series of Fleabag after the success of its second season, I think it should be time for people to “discover” this film, after the boom of I May Destroy You. (Becky Barnes, Audience Editor)
If, like me, you still mourn the loss of Changing Rooms (I still think about that poor woman’s collection of teapots getting smashed at the hands of Linda Barker’s malfunctioning shelving unit regularly), then may I introduce The Apartment?
It’s a reality competition series that usually sees amateur designers makeover various rooms in an apartment, which are then judged by a panel that includes Changing Rooms alum Lawrence Llwellyn Bowen.
There’s only one series currently available on Netflix, which is a celebrity edition that originally aired back in 2015, but the fact they are not experienced designers – thus creating some truly monstrous rooms – only adds to its addictiveness. (Ash Percival, Entertainment Editor)
Insatiable is a about a teenager called Patty Bladell (Debby Ryan) who has always been bullied for her size, but after shedding the pounds one summer and becoming a pageant queen, she goes back to school seeking revenge on the people who bullied her.
The show is such a great watch because it takes the best bits of a comedy, thriller, drama, murder mystery and romance, and packs them all into one show.
It really does take you on an emotional rollercoaster because the lead character, Patty, is so unpredictable with her actions. From first look, it seems like a one of those generic high school dramas but when you actually watch it, it definitely doesn’t end up where you expect it to. (Anisah Vasta, Editorial Intern)