Eight Great Shows You Haven't Binge-Watched on Netflix Yet

Will Arnett in Running Wilde.
Will Arnett in Running Wilde.

Luther (Netflix Link)

Golden Globe winner and impossible-handsomeness standard-bearer Idris Elba is Detective Chief Inspector John Luther, a brilliant investigator with a complete inability to detach from the darkness of his work. In the pilot, he investigates chilling psychopath Alice Morgan, played by Ruth Wilson -- he knows, but cannot prove, that the young woman has viciously murdered her parents. Over the course of the series, she becomes both Moriarity and muse, fascinated by Luther's brilliance, inserting herself into his personal life and assisting with his police work. The Luther program is madness, often preposterous in its grimness and kind of torturous to watch; the first season packs a good 20 episodes' worth of completely deranged melodrama into only six. (Chris Packham)

Green Wing (Netflix Link)

It's hard to talk about Green Wing without mentioning Scrubs. Both are comedies set in hospitals that occasionally take surreal and ludicrous turns. The main difference between the two, however, is that Green Wing is funny. Very funny. While Scrubs makes groaningly desperate attempts toward M*A*S*H-ian sincerity and heart, the staff members at Green Wing's East Hampton Hospital Trust are too self-involved and morally bankrupt for this to be a problem. Green Wing only ran for two seasons -- as good British comedies are wont to do -- so you'll be able to watch the entire series during a single sick day. Just be glad they're not your doctors. (Nick Greene)

Burn Notice (Netflix Link)

Shot on a deceptively miniscule budget, the USA Network's Burn Notice is a smart, fast spy thriller that plays like an updated Rockford Files. Jeffrey Donovan is Michael Westen, a CIA agent abandoned and disavowed by the agency in the pilot episode, dumped in his hometown of Miami, and warned not to leave the city. He sets up shop as a spy-for-hire, assisted by beer-swilling colleague Bruce Campbell, his chain-smoking mom, and his ex-IRA ex-girlfriend, usually deploying espionage tactics in support of Miami's helpless and downtrodden. The show eschews improbable spy gadgetry and digital effects in favor of realistic intelligence techniques explained with understated irony by Donovan in voiceover. (Chris Packham)

Alias (Netflix Link)

Long before he savored/suffered the joy/misery of helming every important science-fantasy franchise/getting hit with every dumb lens-flare joke the Internet could cough up, J.J. Abrams crafted this tense, twisting, candy-coated double-agent adventure/romance, a show so thick with smart spies' betrayals and counter-betrayals that it feels, in its first season-and-a-half, like its own premise might explode at any moment. In fact, that premise does explode, and a series that starts out inspired settles -- midway through that second season -- into something less urgent but still plenty agreeable. But the first 35 eps are best: goofy doubles, oh-hell-no cliffhangers, too-good-for-TV fights, DaVinci Code silliness about a magic Renaissance inventor, killer performances from Ron Rifkin, Victor Garber, Lena Olin, and apple-pie-sweet ass-kicker Jennifer Garner, who is Abrams' Felicity times ScarJo's Black Widow. Bonus: A surprisingly likable -- and under-used -- Bradley Cooper. (Alan Scherstuhl)

Running Wilde (Netflix Link)

Fans awaiting the return of the Cheney-era Arrested Development in May will mostly adore Mitch Hurwitz's Running Wilde, a short-lived Fox series starring Will Arnett and David Cross. Arnett is Steven Wilde, a self-centered billionaire who attempts to change and redeem himself to impress his high-school sweetheart Emmy (Keri Russell). Besides the cast, it shares other traits with its predecessor, including voiceover narration and densely scripted episodes, but it also introduces Peter Serofinowicz as Steven's stentorian best friend, Fa'ad. It's hard to avoid swearing and superlatives when discussing how Serofinowicz is fucking comedy goddamn dynamite, so suffice to say that over the course of 13 episodes, he delivers one of the most brilliantly sustained comic performances in the last decade of U.S. television. (Chris Packham)

Sherlock (Netflix Link)

Can we blame The Hobbit for there being only 12 hours so far of Steven Moffat's superb, suspenseful Conan Doyle makeover? With his Watson (Martin Freeman) on a Middle Earth slog, and his Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) voicing Peter Jackson's dragon, the work these actors will be best remembered for has languished on hold. Cumberbatch's Sherlock is an antsy, plugged-in, Byronic nightmare, given to impossible rudeness and even more impossible feats of deduction. (These are depicted with such kinetic camera work that the BBC probably has to send a bloke round to the palace to be sure the Queen doesn't get seasick.) Watson is a shell-shocked vet of the Middle Eastern wars, an exasperated fellow who, like Sherlock, only comes fully to life when chasing down a mystery. Elements of the original stories are masterfully remixed, and episode six — the last — builds to something we can't quite call a cliffhanger, because a cliffhangers involve still somehow hanging. Lay down some tarp for when your mind gets blown. (Alan Scherstuhl)

Dollhouse (Netflix Link)

From Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Serenity, the film that concluded the unfairly abbreviated Firefly series, Joss Whedon's superheroic ability to bring stories home with shattering finales qualifies him as an Avenger. Dollhouse, his 2009 cyberpunk psycho-thriller, was similarly curtailed after two seasons, but with enough advance warning for Whedon to craft a surprising -- and unexpectedly huge -- ending. An evil corporation operates a global network of "Dollhouses," bases from which technicians program the bodies of "actives" with new personalities and memories for the bidding of wealthy clients. So, slaves, basically. And yes, Whedon explores all the implications therein, from his own humane and feminist perspective. Eliza Dushku is Echo, an active slowly recovering her past memories between missions. In true Whedon form, the series arcs from twisty action-espionage to terrifying global apocalypse, with sharp characterizations and occasional laffs. (Chris Packham)

The Sarah Silverman Program (Netflix Link)

Sarah Silverman's persona exerts such gravity that the excellent writers and ensemble cast in her orbit can go unnoticed. Did you know that The Sarah Silverman Program was co-created with Community's Dan Harmon? Or that Comedy Central fired him from the show way before firing Dan Harmon from awesomely funny shows was cool? Way less mainstream than Community, TSSP featured transgressive storylines and a willingness to shock -- charmingly, sweetly -- in an era when the network was more interested in racist puppetry than smashing icons. Like Community, the show is informed by a heightened and absurd reality, as much Harmon's influence as Silverman's. The show surrounded its star with big names from the last decade of alternative comedy, including Paul F. Tompkins, Patton Oswalt, Zach Galifianakis, Brian Posehn, Steve Agee, Tig Notaro and many others. (Chris Packham)

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