When it comes to tackling a snow day, there are two types of people: the ones who bundle up and rush outside to make snowmen, throw snowballs and sled down the slightest hills; and the ones who stay in their sweats and burrow under blankets on the couch to binge-watch TV shows.
This guide is for that second group, of which I am a proud member.
So if you’re looking to Netflix and chill on this wintry day (and we mean “chill” in the purest, most innocent sense of the word), dig in.
(Note: This isn’t meant to be an all-time greats list, but a look at some of the best fairly recent shows we think you’ll want to check out.)
What’s the latest?
▪ “Grace and Frankie” – On Friday (Jan. 19), we get the fourth season of the Netflix comedy starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Sam Waterston and Martin Sheen. Season 4 adds Lisa Kudrow to the cast.
▪ “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman” – David Letterman’s long-anticipated return to television happened Jan. 12, when the first installment of his six-episode talk show series landed on Netflix. The hour-long first episode features an in-depth interview with former President Barack Obama, and a shorter but no-less-powerful talk with U.S. Rep. John Lewis. Letterman and Lewis talk as the two walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., where Lewis led a civil rights march in 1965. This is a must see. (A new episode will air each month, with upcoming guests Tina Fey, Jay-Z, George Clooney, Malala Yousafzai and Howard Stern.)
▪ “Somebody Feed Phil” and “I’ll Have What Phil’s Having” – If you’re not a big fan of Phil Rosenthal, I bet it’s because you haven’t seen him in action. Sure, everyone knows his work; he’s the creator of “Everybody Loves Raymond.” But he’s also the star of “Exporting Raymond,” a fantastic documentary about his struggles to take that popular sitcom to Russia. You see that and you think, “This guy should have his own show.” Well, a few years later, he got that show on PBS – a wonderful James Beard Award-winning food show called “I’ll Have What Phil’s Having.” The series followed Rosenthal as he ate his way across the world – Tokyo, Paris, Hong Kong, Barcelona, Italy and Los Angeles. Every bit as interesting as the food is Rosenthal’s charming interactions with the people he meets in every city. And let’s not forget the hilarious Skype sessions with his parents at the end of each episode. The show was a little expensive for public television, so Netflix acquired it and renamed it, and thank you so much, Netflix. For this series, which landed Jan. 12, Rosenthal visits Tel Aviv, Lisbon, Saigon, Mexico City, New Orleans and Bangkok. All six episodes are available now. Bonus: “Exporting Raymond” is also on Netflix. It’s incredible. Watch all of this!
▪ “The Polka King” – Also landing on Netflix on Jan. 12 was this movie inspired by a true story, featuring Jack Black as Pennsylvania polka legend Jan Lewan. Unfortunately, Lewan’s get-rich-quick scheme landed him in jail, shocking his fans. Jenny Slate plays his wife, Marla, and Jason Schwartzman plays his sidekick, Mickey. North Carolina native JB Smoove also stars.
▪ “Katt Williams: Great America” – A new Katt Williams comedy special landed on Netflix this week.
▪ “Dave Chappelle: Equanimity” and “The Bird Revelation” – Chappelle’s two latest comedy specials released on New Year’s Eve and everybody loves Chappelle, right? Well ... let’s just say Chappelle is never without controversy. He has been criticized for his anti-LGBT material in his latest work, and in “Bird,” he calls a woman who was sexually harrassed by fellow comedian Louis CK a “brittle spirit.” Um. Chappelle has two other Netflix specials that were released earlier in 2017: “The Age of Spin: Dave Chappelle Live at the Hollywood Palladium” and “Deep in the Heart of Texas: Dave Chappelle Live at Austin City Limits.”
▪ “The Last Post” – If you love British dramas, this six-episode Amazon original series, about the final days of Great Britain as a colonial power, was created by Peter Moffat, who wrote BBC’s “Criminal Justice,” the basis for HBO’s great mini-series “The Night Of.”
▪ “The Crown” – Speaking of great British dramas, the second season of “The Crown” landed on Netflix in December, and I think it’s even better than the first season (even if there’s *almost* no Winston Churchill this time). A bonus: Episode 6 of Season 2 has a significant Billy Graham storyline.
▪ “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” – This Amazon original, which landed in late November, is all the rage right now. It stars Rachel Brosnahan as a woman in 1950s Manhattan who embarks on the unlikely career of stand-up comedy after her husband asks for a divorce. It’s from “Gilmore Girls” and “Bunheads” creator Amy Sherman-Palladino.
While the kids are outside playing
These are great, but you’ll definitely need to wait until the kids are not around.
▪ “Godless” – You have to watch “Godless” on Netflix. Even if you think you don’t like westerns, watch it. It’s like every western and like no other western, all at the same time. Jeff Daniels, Michelle Dockery, Merritt Wever, Jack O’Connell and Sam Waterston. Do it. (Recommended for coming down off your western high: “Longmire,” also on Netflix.)
▪ “Mindhunter” – This fantastic Netflix series is based on two FBI agents who essentially created the behavioral science unit that studies serial killers. The performances are all great, but you won’t soon forget Cameron Britton as serial killer Ed Kemper. David Fincher (“Zodiac,” “Fight Club,” “Gone Girl”) is the executive producer (and showrunner) and directed several episodes.
▪ “Peaky Blinders” – This show has been called the British “Boardwalk Empire” and the latest season (there are four in all) was recently released on Netflix.
▪ “The Handmaid’s Tale” – It won all the awards and you’ve been meaning to watch it. What better time? It’s on Hulu.
When the kids come back inside
▪ “Trolls: The Beat Goes On” – This new series picks up where the recent “Trolls” movie left off, following the adventures of Poppy, Branch and all of Troll Village. It features Skylar Astin and Amanda Leighton as the voices of Branch and Poppy, and it has new original songs. Look for that on Friday (Jan. 19).
▪ “Bill Nye Saves the World” – This brand new series (released Dec. 29 on Netflix) features Bill Nye the Science Guy debunking anti-science myths with the help of celebrity guests.
▪ “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” – Didn’t think this would be my thing, but it’s incredible. It’s based on a series of children’s books, but some of the scenes are a little scary and Neil Patrick Harris is absolutely menacing (but hilarious) as the villainous Count Olaf, so this would be best for older kids. But it’s also totally enjoyable for adults, too. Season 1 released early in 2017. Season 2 is set for a March premiere on Netflix, so catch up now.
▪ “Stranger Things” – Both seasons of this show are great for older kids (the second installment premiered on Netflix in the fall), but it might be a little scary for small kids. If your kids aren’t too little, it’s a good one to watch as a family, as parents will dig the ’80s nostalgia. Plus, it’s created by Durham’s Duffer Brothers, and they loaded Season 2 with lots of local references.
▪ “Danger Mouse” – For the smaller kids, this Netflix reboot of the ’80s series following secret agent Danger Mouse and his hamster sidekick has quite a following. It’s known for its cleverness, often playing off sci-fi and James Bond tropes.
Need a laugh?
▪ “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” – Not new, but always worth watching if you haven’t. Titus Andromedon is a gift to our undeserving world. Netflix has three seasons streaming now and a fourth season is in the works.
▪ “One Day at a Time” – This is a fantastic Netflix reboot of the mid-70s through mid-80s sitcom, this time featuring a Cuban American family and still tackling issues of the day with heart and humor.
▪ “Catastrophe” – I guess you’d call this a dark comedy (it’s funny, but boy are there some heavy moments). It’s about an American man (Rob Delaney) who has a fling with an English woman (Sharon Horgan) during a business trip to London and she gets pregnant. He quits his job and moves to London to live with her (they knew each other for one week) and raise the child. It’s not sitcom-y or romantic, it just feels very real. Sometimes uncomfortably real. Bonus: Carrie Fisher plays Rob’s mother. There are three seasons on Amazon, with a fourth expected to premiere in the spring.
▪ “Bojack Horseman” – If you’re into animated comedy, people really seem to love this series. It stars Will Arnett as the voice of the title character, a washed-up TV star (he’s also a horse) who writes a tell-all memoir to try to make a comeback. It also features Amy Sedaris, Alison Brie, Paul F. Tompkins and Aaron Paul. It deals with topics like depression, trauma, addiction, and self-destructive behavior in a humorous way. It’s animated, but not for kids.
Readers weigh in
I heard from readers about their favorite streaming shows, so I’ve included some of those here. (Note: Our list is only for original streaming shows, not shows that aired on broadcast or cable networks first. That’s a whole different can of worms, and maybe we’ll tackle that soon.)
▪ “Black Mirror” – Think of this as a contemporary, darker “Twilight Zone.” Each season is a series of standalone episodes connected by an overall theme of anxiety over modern technology. Like so many of our favorites, it’s British. It’s also probably best consumed an episode or two at a time, to avoid putting yourself in an apprehensive state. It’s heavy stuff. The series features well-known actors from both the U.K. and U.S. – Bryce Dallas Howard, Jesse Plemons, Cherry Jones and Gugu Mbatha-Raw are just a few of the stars featured. The fourth season just released on Netflix.
▪ “Ozark” – In this crime thriller – think “Breaking Bad” meets “Justified” – Jason Bateman is a financial planner who moves his family from Chicago to the Ozarks after a money laundering scheme goes wrong and he ends up at the brutal mercy of a drug cartel. Or two. Laura Linney stars as his wife. There’s only one season on Netflix, but it has been renewed.
▪ “Punisher” – Marvel fans will enjoy this series created for Netflix (it debuted there in November). The series follows the Frank Castle character, a vigilante who uses extreme methods to fight crime. Jon Bernthal, who played the character in “Daredevil,” stars. Also for Marvel fans, “Jessica Jones” is a must-watch.
▪ “Broadchurch” – This acclaimed British crime series originated on ITV in Great Britain, but for Americans, it’s essentially the same as a Netflix original. The show, set in the small seaside town of Broadchurch, stars David Tennant and only has three seasons. The first involves the murder of an 11-year-old boy and the second deals primarily with the murder trial. For the third and final season, the plot jumps ahead three years in time to investigate a brutal rape.