Even without having to write descriptions for all of Netflix’s original content every month, it’s clear to most viewers that there is more new content than anyone could possibly keep up with. According to a recent study by Variety, Netflix released 54.6 per cent more original shows and movies in 2019 than they did in 2018, and this is more original content than the entire TV industry—broadcast, cable and everything else—released in 2005. To a certain extent, the surprising thing about the glut of TV content is not how much there is, but how little of it is actually bad. The U.S. television industry has developed an infrastructure that allows them to churn out certain types of shows—particularly serialized dramas and prestige comedies— with a certain basic level of quality, and international producers have become equally proficient, if less prolific.
The question, however, is whether shows can stand out from the crowd the way they did when there were fewer of them: a prestige comedy show like “BoJack Horseman,” ending its run this month, may have found it easier to get attention in 2014 when there was less content surrounding it. Netflix is trying to beat back the competition by introducing more new content in a month than some of their competitors may release in a year. But they will also need some flagship hits that will tempt people to sign up for their service. As the year goes on, we might want to keep an eye out for which shows Netflix tries to put extra promotional muscle behind, and which new offerings get more advertising or media coverage. That could be a clue as to what their strategies will be heading into a new decade.
Netflix in January: What you should watch
Dracula (Jan. 1)
In hindsight, we probably should have predicted that the success of Sherlock would lead that show’s creators, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, to come up with a series about another brooding icon of late 19th-century British literature. However, they’ve chosen to go in a different direction in one important respect: while Sherlock updated the world’s most famous detective to modern times, the creators decided not to do the same with the world’s most famous vampire: promotional videos and materials show Count Dracula in a more traditional costume-drama setting, though with more blood than costume dramas traditionally show. The actor playing the title role is Claes Bang, whose Danish accent may someday replace Bela Lugosi’s Hungarian accent as the stock “vampire” accent kids use to annoy their parents.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Part 3 (Jan. 24)
Writer-producer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has reinvented the Archie Comics franchise by taking an idea that only used to exist in parodies—edgy, violent takes on Archie—and actually doing it with the official backing of the company, in Riverdale and this Netflix exclusive, which continues to tell the story of a teenage witch in a way that makes Buffy the Vampire Slayer seem like… well, like an Archie comic. This season Sabrina will become queen of a dark realm (again) and try to rescue her boyfriend from literally burning in Hell. Unfortunately, though the show was originally developed as a time-slot companion for Riverdale and Netflix Canada also has episodes of that series, Aguirre-Sacasa says he hasn’t yet figured out how to make the two shows cross over.
BoJack Horseman, Season 6, Part B (Jan. 31)
This is the final batch of episodes for one of Netflix’s signature original productions, which Vox TV critic Emily VanDerWerff recently picked as one of the 21 most significant TV shows of the decade. It wasn’t the first anti-hero comedy with a preachy streak about a jerk who makes perpetually terrible life choices—it wasn’t even the first one to star a talking animal, though it probably was the first to star a horse—but it made the decision to deconstruct the modern anti-hero comedy by showing what impact his behaviour might have on the people around him, and not playing his personal misery purely for laughs. Successful TV shows often find a way to have their cake and eat it too in terms of who they appeal to, and “BoJack Horseman” managed to appeal to people who wanted another male anti-hero story, as well as people who were tired of them.
Uncut Gems (Jan. 31)
Every so often, Adam Sandler decides to take time out from his prolific schedule of making critically despised but popular comedies (often for Netflix) and remind the world that he can actually act. In the early 2000s it was Punch Drunk Love, and as this decade drew to a close, Sandler agreed to star in a dramatic film by indie directors Josh and Benny Safdie, with Scott Rudin as a producer and Martin Scorsese as an executive producer. Sandler plays Howard Ratner, a down-on-his luck New York jewelry store owner who thinks his life will get better thanks to a valuable diamond that has come into his possession, only to find that everything just keeps getting worse for over two hours. As a recent New York Times profile of Sandler explains, the directors wanted Sandler because “we wanted you to root for him to win”; his talent for playing lovably immature screw-ups is just as useful in a noirish crime drama as it is in one of his regular comedies. This glimpse of his acting ability may not win him an Oscar—though there has already been talk of it—but it will at least tide us over until he’s ready to make another serious movie in 2034.
Coming to Netflix on Jan. 1
In 2013, the film Bombay Talkies successfully revived a format that hadn’t been seen much since 1989’s New York Stories: the multi-director anthology film, where four successful directors contributed their own short segments. The four directors (Dibakar Banerjee, Zoya Akhtar, Anurag Kashyap, and Karan Johar, whose own Netflix series starts this month) reunited in 2018 for the Netflix release Lust Stories, and now the same filmmakers are back with this collection of short horror tales.
Writer Michael Petroni (The Rite) created this new twist on the modern espionage drama: the setup is pretty familiar, with Michelle Monaghan as a CIA agent investigating a tricky situation in the Middle East, except the situation is caused by a mysterious miracle-working man (Mehdi Dehbi) who claims to be a new incarnation of Jesus.
Nisman: Death of a Prosecutor
Director Justin Webster created this documentary (also known as “The Prosecutor, the President and the Spy”) about Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor who investigated a deadly terrorist attack on a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires, accused his country’s president of a cover-up, and was found shot dead a few days later.
This new 10-episode drama series will try to make the world of competitive figure skating seem even more vicious than it is in real life, if that’s possible. Kaya Scodelario (replacing the originally announced Emma Roberts) plays the role of a skater trying to make a comeback; January Jones plays the role of her mother; and Toronto, where it was filmed, plays the role of wherever the story takes place.
This reality show tries to find a new spin on the “strangers living together” format: the strangers mostly aren’t allowed to meet in person, and instead vote each other off the show based on their social-media personas.
See introduction for details.
American Graffiti (1973)
Curious George (2006)
Definitely, Maybe (2008)
Drugs, Inc.: Season 6
Line of Duty: Season 5
Mamma Mia! (2008)
Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993)
Maze Runner: Death Cure (2018)
Saint Seiya: Season 4-5
The 15:17 to Paris (2018)
The Imitation Game (2014)
The Post (2017)
Vikings: Season 1-2
Coming to Netflix on Jan. 2
Sex, Explained: Limited Series
Netflix has done its own version of every genre, so why not the sex-education video? Janelle Monáe hosts this documentary series that aims to explain everything you wanted to know about sex (but may or may not have been afraid to ask).
Thieves of the Wood
This 10-episode Belgian historical drama (also known as The Flemish Bandits) stars Matteo Simoni as Jan de Lichte, an 18th-century Flemish outlaw who gained a cult following as a real-life Robin Hood .
Coming to Netflix on Jan. 3
All the Freckles in the World
The craze for period pieces continues in this film, from writer-director Yibran Asuad, which is set in Mexico City in the 1980s, even though the premise—a 13-year-old school boy gets a crush on the prettiest girl at his school—sounds like it could happen any time.
Gotham: Season 5
Coming to Netflix on Jan. 4
Go! Go! Cory Carson
Animated children’s series based on Vtech “Go! Go! Smart Wheels” line of toy cars (hence the name “Cory Carson”) with faces where their windshields would normally be.
Coming to Netflix on Jan. 7
Rust Valley Restorers: Season 1
Coming to Netflix on Jan. 8
Greg Whiteley, creator of Netflix’s college-football series Last Chance U, directed this new six-episode documentary series that tries to take a similarly in-depth look at the equally high-pressure world of competitive cheerleading, focusing on a Texas community college with a long track record of cheerleading championships.
Coming to Netflix on Jan. 10
AJ and the Queen
Michael Patrick King, one of the latest star creators to join the Netflix stable, previously created a very good single-camera comedy (The Comeback) and a very bad multi-camera comedy (2 Broke Girls). This comedy, starring and co-created by RuPaul, is single-camera, so it has a good chance of being good. RuPaul plays the drag queen of the title, driving around the U.S. in an RV, and ends up travelling with AJ, a wisecracking 11-year-old orphan. King’s 2 Broke Girls had a somewhat similar premise about a perpetually cash-strapped odd couple, but he’s likely to write much better wisecracks on Netflix than on CBS.
Giri / Haji
Making its international debut after it premiered on the BBC in October, this eight-episode series stars Takehiro Hira as a Japanese detective who travels to England in search of his brother, and winds up having to fight the crime gangs of both countries.
Harvey Girls Forever!: Season 4
A new season of the animated series that reimagines the girls of classic Harvey comics (Little Dot, Little Audrey and Little Lotta) in the design and storytelling style of modern kids’ TV.
The Inbestigators: Season 2
The Australian live-action kids’ comedy series, about four children who solve mostly non-criminal mysteries in their neighbourhood, returns for another season of twenty 15-minute episodes.
The team behind the medical-drama parody Childrens Hospital created this series, which takes a similar approach to the recent vogue for dark conspiracy thriller dramas: Childrens Hospital actors Rob Huebel and Erinn Hayes play two U.S. doctors in Brazil who discover a potentially deadly virus and an equally deadly conspiracy that may stop them from finding the cure.
Anime series about an inept hitman.
Titans: Season 2
Netflix has the Canadian rights to this superhero series (airing on the DC Universe streaming service in the U.S.) which tries to pull off a dark and gritty style while still retaining a lot of the stories and characters of the hit 1980s New Teen Titans comic.
You know those sitcom episodes where people have to spend the night in a supposedly haunted house? This is the reality-show version of that, with French comedians forced to live together in haunted houses and see who gets scared away first.
Coming to Netflix on Jan. 13
The Healing Powers of Dude
Live-action family series, created by Erica Spates and Sam Littenberg-Weisberg, about Noah (Jace Chapman), a young boy struggling with social anxiety disorder, and Dude, an emotional support dog who becomes his best friend.
Coming to Netflix on Jan. 14
Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts
DreamWorks animation has contributed quite a few animated series to Netflix; this one tries to find the family fun in apocalyptic destruction, focusing on Kipo (Karen Fukuhara) a plucky girl who emerges from an underground shelter to find that the Earth is now full of mutated creatures and abandoned cars.
Coming to Netflix on Jan. 15
Grace and Frankie: Season 6
Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin’s odd-couple comedy will soon become the longest-running Netflix original of all time. This is the next-to-last season, and when it ends after season 7, it will have 94 episodes—a tribute to the star power of the leads; even Netflix can’t cancel Jane Fonda after three seasons.
Quien a hierro mata
Luis Tosar stars in this thriller, directed by Paco Plaza, as a man who leads a quiet life working in a nursing home, until a crime boss is placed in his care and turns his quiet life upside down.
Leaving Jan. 15
Helix: Seasons 1-2
Coming to Netflix on Jan. 16
Anime, based on the video games, about kids who must travel from our world to a world of wizardry to save the life of someone they love.
Coming to Netflix on Jan. 17
Billed as Netflix’s first original series from the Netherlands, this eight-episode horror series is about college students who join an old and exclusive student club that turns out to be evil—even by the usual standards of exclusive student clubs.
Hip-Hop Evolution: Season 4
Proving once again that no one knows U.S. pop culture better than Canadians, Netflix continues to bring us the successful Canadian-made documentary series about the history of hip-hop music.
Sex Education: Season 2
Laurie Nunn’s comedy series about teenagers who open up their own amateur sex clinic at their school (with Gillian Anderson as the sex-therapist mother of one of the kids) was reportedly one of Netflix’s biggest hits of early 2019; this season the characters deal with their own personal sexual issues as well as larger problems like a sexually-transmitted disease outbreak.
Tyler Perry’s A Fall from Grace
One of the most successful filmmaker-entrepreneurs in America, Tyler Perry makes his Netflix debut with a drama film starring Crystal Fox as a woman who enters into a hasty marriage that causes her life to fall apart. The cast also includes Phylicia Rashad, Cicely Tyson and, of course, Perry himself.
Vivir dos veces
Oscar Martinez stars as a man who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, and sets out to find a woman he once loved and lost while he can still recognize her.
Wer kann, der kann!
Netflix has already launched French, Mexican and Spanish versions of its hit bake-off show Nailed It! This is the German version.
Leaving Jan. 17
Short Term 12
Coming to Netflix on Jan. 20
Family Reunion: Part 2
Another batch of episodes of the multi-cam sitcom, whose cast includes Tia Mowry (Sister, Sister) and Richard Roundtree (Shaft), about a family that relocates from the big city to the smaller Georgia town where their grandparents live.
Good Time (2017)
Tiny House Nation: Volume 2
Coming to Netflix on Jan. 21
Fortune Feimster: Sweet & Salty
Netflix’s first stand-up special of the year features Fortune Feimster, an alumnus of the Groundlings and Last Comic Standing.
Word Party: Season 4
Educational kids’ series from the Jim Henson company, where talking animals teach children to expand their vocabularies.
God’s Own Country (2017)
Coming to Netflix on Jan. 22
Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak
In case we weren’t already paranoid about getting the flu this winter, Netflix has a new six-episode documentary series all about the flu virus, how it mutates and spreads in spite of our attempts to fight it, and the people who are working to prevent the next deadly pandemic.
Coming to Netflix on Jan. 23
The Ghost Bride
Directors Ho Yu-Hang and Quek Shio-Chuan made this six-episode drama series, based on the novel by Yangsze Choo, about a young woman in 1890s Malaysia who enters into the real-life practice of a “ghost marriage” to a dead man, only to find that the metaphorical term may actually be literal in this case.
Based on the IDW comic book series, this new show is about a dysfunctional family consisting of two semi-retired monster hunters and their kids, who don’t know all the secrets of their parents’ past.
SAINT SEIYA: Knights of the Zodiac: Season 1 / Part 2
Continuing the latest adaptation of Masami Kurumada’s 1980s manga about modern-day fighters empowered by the gods of Greek mythology.
The Queen (2006)
Coming to Netflix on Jan. 24
Original film about a family coping after one of their number goes to prison.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Part 3 — NETFLIX ORIGINAL
See introduction for details.
The Ranch: The Final Season
I’ll be honest with you, I thought the last batch of The Ranch episodes was the final season. It’s hard to tell with Netflix. What I said last time still goes: this is a traditional studio-audience sitcom played like a drama and lit like a film noir, and while the combination isn’t exactly successful, it’s another interesting experiment from the king of strangely experimental mainstream TV, Don Reo (Blossom, The John Larroquette Show, Wizards and Warriors).
Rise of Empires: Ottoman
Six-episode Turkish series (also known as Ottoman Rising) that tells the story of the Ottoman Empire, partly as a documentary and partly through re-enactments performed by actors.
You Cannot Hide (No te puedes esconder)
Telemundo produced this 10-episode series, shot on location in Spain and Mexico, about a single mother with a secret and the hitman assigned to kill her.
Coming to Netflix on Jan. 25
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Coming to Netflix on Jan. 26
Vir Das: For India
The comic and actor, who has already released two Netflix comedy specials, stars in this documentary show introducing viewers to the history and culture of India.
Coming to Netflix on Jan. 28
Alex Fernández: El mejor comediante del mundo
Fernández made his Netflix comedy debut in 2017 with “El especial de Alex Fernández, el Especial,” and now he returns to Netflix for a second, very modestly titled stand-up special.
Coming to Netflix on Jan. 29
David Oelhoffen (Far From Men) wrote and directed this thriller with the classic setup of a cop (Reda Kateb) and his childhood friend turned criminal (Matthias Schoenaerts). Netflix picked up the rights after it premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2018.
Next In Fashion
Another fashion-based reality competition, with Tan France and Alexa Chung as the hosts and a $250,000 (USD) grand prize for the best new fashion designer.
Night on Earth
The producers of such documentaries as “Blue Planet” return with another nature documentary series, focusing on what the natural world is up to when it’s usually too dark for us to see it.
A thriller about a murder that somehow goes un-surveilled “in a future where each citizen is monitored 24/7 by a drone.” I thought that was the present.
Coming to Netflix on Jan. 30
Ainori Love Wagon: African Journey
The latest season of the long-running Japanese reality show about young people trying to find love (and sometimes humiliatingly declaring their love to people who don’t want them) on a bus tour of foreign countries. The countries this time are in Africa; the bus is still pink.
Richard Armitage stars in a conspiracy-thriller limited series based on Harlan Coben’s novel.
Coming to Netflix on Jan. 31
A young disabled woman (Mei Kayama) tries to find her own way in life, which includes applying for a job drawing pornographic manga. Winner of the Audience Award at the Berlin International Film Festival.
Bojack Horseman: Season 6 (Part B)
See introduction for details.
Diablero: Season 2
Eight more episodes of the horror-comedy series about demon fighters.
I AM A KILLER: Season 2
Ten more episodes of this true-crime documentary series, where convicted murderers on death row tell their own stories about how they wound up killing someone.
Netflix’s third Italian series, shot at the recently refurbished Cinecittà studios in Rome, is another supernatural period piece: a young woman in the 17th century is accused of witchcraft, and since the trailer gives the impression that witchcraft actually exists in this universe, it seems like a fair accusation.
No, not that “Ragnarok.” Disney owns that one. This is a Norwegian series, from the country that brought you the actual myths, about a weather crisis that seems to herald a real-life Ragnarok.
See introduction for details.
Star Trek Beyond (2016)
Leaving Jan. 31
Little Women (1994)
Spartacus: Blood and Sand
Spartacus: Gods of the Arena
Spartacus: War of the Damned
Horrible Bosses (2011)
Release date TBA
What the Love! with Karan Johar
“Kjo” is one of India’s most prolific filmmakers, and has also had success in acting, talk-show hosting, and competition-show judging. Now he’s going to add a new sideline in fixing other people’s lives: in this new reality show, a sort of The Apprentice for romance, Johar takes lonely dateless people under his wing and teaches them to look and act like people who are worthy of being loved.