You’ve marvelled at your own reflection in Black Mirror, mastered the Brummie accent alongside Peaky Blinders, brushed up on your crime history with Mindhunter, and took 80s fashion tips from Stranger Things. What next?
The Netflix library in Singapore may be scant compared to others, but there is no lack of quality choices. As cabin fever starts to set in, there is no better time to binge on great series to take your mind off reality. Here is a list of ten underrated shows that may point you to the right direction.
10. Happy! (2017 – 2019)
This one is for the Chev Chelios fans. The short-lived series Happy! can be best described as Crank fuelled by extra hallucinogens. Taking on the new death-proof role is Nick Sax (Christopher Meloni), a detective turned hitman with little regard for life.
That is until he meets Happy! (voiced by Patton Oswalt), a peppy blue unicorn that no one else can see. His new buddy duly informs him that he has a daughter to live for, and leads him on a violent trail after her insane kidnapper. Strange antics ensue.
9. Border (2014)
Episodes: 9 (and a special)
Detective Ango Ishikawa (Shun Oguri) sees dead people, and he is making the best of it on his assignments. But with one foot in the netherworld, he inadvertently begins to lean towards darker shades of morality.
Despite scoring low on originality points with its supernatural angle, the overarching plot in Border turns out just as compelling as its individual cases. With a charismatic leading man to boot, this Japanese drama is police procedural done right, making a strong case for pulling all nighters binge-watching.
8. Crazyhead (2016)
It is unclear how Crazyhead escaped our radar before its demise at the hands of Channel 4. In merely six episodes, Amy (Cara Theobold) and Raquel (Susan Wokoma) have sold me fully on their demon-hunting madness through their spunk and pure badassery.
Expect no less from writer Howard Overman, the man behind Misfits. Raquel’s hilarious one-liners come as a definite highlight, while the women’s tight-knit bond has us thoroughly invested in their wild exorcism adventures. Regretfully, there is no second season in the works, though Netflix’s involvement does spell a glimmer of hope.
7. Bloodride (2020)
Horror needs no frills as anthologies like Trick r’ Treat and Southbound have proven. Norwegian series Bloodride, with its varied collection of six spatter works, makes a case for the same. Short is sometimes better as the urban legends cut to the bloody chase and double down on impact.
Some are macabre and creepy. Others are laced with dark wit. The disparate tones never once feel distracting. Instead, creators Kjetil Indregard and Atle Knudsen get to show off their commendable versatility with every 30-minute spectacle, each a flaunt of their love for the genre.
4. The Alienist (2018 – ?)
It is no secret that I love morbid crime dramas, and The Alienist more than fits the bill. Filling the depressing void that Hannibal left behind, the series follows a charming trio – criminal psychologist Dr. Laszlo Kreizler (Daniel Brühl), journalist John Moore (Luke Evans) and police secretary (Dakota Fanning) – in their investigation of a serial murder.
Though slow in parts, this is a faithful rendition of Caleb Carr’s fiction, deeply rich in atmosphere and build-up. The 1896 settings also lend the series an excuse for fun appearances by historical figures, including the Teddy Roosevelt and J.P. Morgan. Get ready for Season 2 next year, thanks to TNT.
5. Jack Whitehall: Travels with My Father (2017 – ?)
Let’s take a break from the serious, and bring in the comedy. Jack Whitehall may be the name on the billboard, but it is his father Michael Whitehall who is the star. His irreverent wit shines in Travels with My Father, holding back none of his disdain for his son’s cluelessness or the general lack of amenities in foreign lands.
It is a barrel of laughs guaranteed as the pair travels between tourist traps and Jack’s strange areas of interests across South East Asia, Europe, and eventually America. This is not your typical travel show, though I sure wish it was.
4. Flowers (2016 – 2018)
Maurice (Julian Barratt) is on the verge of a suicide. His marriage with Deborah (Olivia Colman) is going poorly, while their children Donald (Daniel Rigby) and Amy (Sophia Di Martino) are just finding out how hard the world is to live in. Flowers is a deep dive into the dark world of depressive disorders and dysfunctional relationships, but don’t assume the worst from its heavy plot.
The quirky events play out with wonderful humour, most of which due to writer Will Sharpe’s sharp wit. He also plays Maurice’s lovable Japanese artist Shun, who delivers both hilarious monologues and an uplifting message at the end of the rope – that we all make a difference, even if we do not see it ourselves.
3. Dark (2017 – ?)
Young children begin to vanish in the town of Winden. When their families go on a search for them, they turn up a trove of family secrets and unexpected terrors. This isn’t Hawkins, Indiana. While comparisons to Stranger Things may be drawn to its set-up and nostalgic settings, little else bears similarities.
The intriguing start of German series Dark builds up to a very different end-point. It is a mind-bending conspiracy that jumps back and forth between timelines, hauling up more questions than answers at first. But patience will pay off in a masterfully crafted sci-fi masterpiece that explores unspoken grief and repressed guilt.
2. Giri/Haji (2019)
Tokyo detective Kenzo Mori (Takehiro Hira) travels to Soho in search of his estranged brother Yuto (Yosuke Kubozuka), whose alleged murder of a Yazuka family member ignites an all-out gang war. The incident sets the Yakuza on a collision course with the Met Police, embroiling others along the way.
In an endless sea of British crime dramas, Giri/Haji stands out by a mile. It is for one, an adventurous cultural exchange. Shuttling between Japan and the UK, the unique series takes its time to understand the minutiae of foreign traditions, respectful and never exploitative. (Full review here)
1. Sense8 (2015 – 2018)
Episodes: 24 (and a 2-hour finale)
Eight strangers in different parts of the world find themselves intrinsically connected, with the ability to communicate and share with one another across continents. This is the premise of Sense8, an elaborate effort that pulls varied cultures and backgrounds together in the most singular sci-fi story.
Netflix deserves props for splurging on the Wachowskis’ ambitious idea that may otherwise have never been made. The resultant work will go down as one of the most beautiful stories in TV history that both respects and celebrates humanity’s diversity and resilience – a message that we need to hear now, more than before.