tv shows on Netflix: real emotions, self-consistent worlds, happenings?
July 15, 2016 8:20 AM   Subscribe

Can you direct me to shows on Netflix that are sort of character sketches with really good acting as well as where intense stuff like, I don't know, murder, peril, sexual assault still happen? Examples within.

(A) A bunch of the "netflix" originals have been surprisingly good, people being people, with reasonable realism and lots of extraneous detail and red herrings that nevertheless contribute to tone:

Happy Valley

(B) Right on the edge:

The Killing - they are trying but the acting is just *slightly* wooden, try-hard, off. This is just barely watchable.

(C) Examples of what I'm NOT looking for:

Broadchurch - Fake, wooden, try-hard, made-for-tv feel.


What are more examples of (A) on Netflix? It doesn't have to be cop shows, and it can be uneven. I would even put stuff like Orphan Black (not on Netflix) in the "yes" category. It's campy and wooden at times, but it's complex, gripping, reasonably self-consistent world where characters often have believable emotional reactions to what's happening around them. Anime could work, too, though it rarely reaches this level. Perhaps Psycho-Pass achieves this.

Last but not least, it can't be a baddy- or crime-of-the-week show! The "A" plot has to be the main plot from beginning to end.
posted by zeek321 to Media & Arts (43 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
I have really been enjoying Halt and Catch Fire.
posted by poppunkcat at 8:35 AM on July 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Would Veronica Mars fit the bill, or did you specify Netflix originals because you only want newer stuff?
posted by telegraph at 8:39 AM on July 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Jessica Jones.
posted by PussKillian at 8:42 AM on July 15, 2016 [10 favorites]

posted by dpx.mfx at 8:44 AM on July 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

Madam Secretary just landed on Netflix. It's not a Netflix original, though. It's has story arcs, but I guess it could be more "story of the week."
posted by chaostician at 8:44 AM on July 15, 2016

The Fall. Though I liked Broadchurch, so ymmv.
posted by supercres at 8:45 AM on July 15, 2016 [11 favorites]

I'm not sure if you're only looking for Netflix originals, but if not: Hinterland.
posted by neushoorn at 8:47 AM on July 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

The Wire.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:52 AM on July 15, 2016

Jessica Jones. It's a superhero based show, in the Marvel universe.. but it's handled surprisingly well - no one in costumed outfits saving the day. Basis is a Private Investigator with some serious PTSD dealing with her abuser's return.

It also deserves a ton of points for having multiple complex Strong Female Characters.
posted by INFJ at 8:53 AM on July 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

Seconding Jessica Jones and Bloodline. Bloodline in particular starts out pretty slow, but I loved the character building.
posted by lilac girl at 8:55 AM on July 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: (not just Netflix originals)
posted by zeek321 at 9:04 AM on July 15, 2016

I know it's not really realistic, but you can't beat Deadwood for grit and character building.
posted by suelac at 9:04 AM on July 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: (I loved Veronica Mars.)
posted by zeek321 at 9:05 AM on July 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

The Office
posted by balmore at 9:05 AM on July 15, 2016

We are halfway through Humans and enjoying it a lot. More comparable to Orphan Black than your other examples, I'd say. Have you seen Top of the Lake yet?
posted by LKWorking at 9:06 AM on July 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: (not just newer stuff)
posted by zeek321 at 9:10 AM on July 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Luther (UK with Idris Elba, main character acting is great, rest is pretty solid)

Daredevil has good character sketches and action (murder/mayhem) and while episodic has a connecting thread. I don't think it hits the realism/believable very well. (Jessica Jones is more believable.)
posted by typecloud at 9:27 AM on July 15, 2016

On the off chance you've been living under a rock (which is no problem, rocks are fine!), definitely Breaking Bad. And oh my goodness, The Affair for sure.
posted by telegraph at 9:35 AM on July 15, 2016

not a Netflix ORIGINAL (NBC) but available on Netflix: Aquarius. A period (late '60s) LAPD detective/cop show starring David Duchovny who plays a detective who is stumbling into the Charles Manson goings-on (very fictionalized).

I also liked Foyle's War (Acorn), available on Netflix. several series of this have been done. WWII (and later post-war) shenanigans involving an inspector and his colleagues in a small coastal town. As you might expect, the war is a main character, even though it's off-screen. I like how they explore moral ambiguities like war profiteering, mistreatment of foreigners (be they people who were in Britain before the war, accused spies, POWs, or what-have-you), conscientious objectors, conflicts between Americans and the British, etc. Foyle is intensely loyal, has a son in the RAF, and doesn't want to learn German any time soon, but yet is also pretty devoted to the rule of law. Something we could do with a reminder of...
posted by randomkeystrike at 9:37 AM on July 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

It is DVD only, looks like, but I really liked Life On Mars and Ashes To Ashes (both UK).
posted by oflinkey at 9:48 AM on July 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

The Bridge (Swedish/Danish original). We watched it on CDN Netflix, so I'm assuming it's available in the US.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:09 AM on July 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

Seconding Foyle's War. It really should be required watching for everyone who has a vote in this upcoming election. Incredibly nuanced and realistic.
posted by peacheater at 10:12 AM on July 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Maybe The Honourable Woman, which was a British miniseries starring Maggie Gyllenhaal? It's a little soapy, but affecting and well-acted enough, I think, and benefits from being only 9 episodes long. At least the conflicts of interest felt like real ones, to me.
posted by vunder at 10:33 AM on July 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Fringe, if you like sci-fi. The pilot is pretty meh, but it gets much better from there, and hits its stride mi-first season. There is generally a bad of the week, technically, especially in the first season, but it all ties in to the major storyline of the entire series. The producers also wanted five seasons and got them, so the series finishes where they wanted to.
posted by Jaclyn at 10:38 AM on July 15, 2016

I'll put in a plug for the original Swedish version of Wallander.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:45 AM on July 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

(It has a crime of the week but there is also a full character or plot arc in each season. The last season's arc is especially great.)
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:46 AM on July 15, 2016

Being Mary Jane.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 11:06 AM on July 15, 2016

posted by zdravo at 11:10 AM on July 15, 2016

Line of Duty, Scott & Bailey, MI-5.
posted by ereshkigal45 at 11:10 AM on July 15, 2016

Sense 8. If you like the Wachowskis' work, you will love this.

Btw, I loved River, and recommend it highly to anyone else reading this thread.
posted by merejane at 11:31 AM on July 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty sure you'll like Southcliffe.

One story, normal looking people, no supernatural stuff, baroque drama, or cartoonish bad (or good) guys.

As search terms, maybe look for Scandanavian noir and the more recent British series in that style.

Off the top of my head, maybe Dicte, Hinterland, and even possibly Red Road. Those were all at least OK, if maybe a little too contrived sometimes. And yeah, Bloodlines was pretty good too.

And since you're OK with Orphan Black, you might like Hit & Miss.
posted by ernielundquist at 11:39 AM on July 15, 2016

Damages! Where even the plotline is an unreliable narrator!
posted by foxfirefey at 11:50 AM on July 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

I really loved Enlightened (should be on netflix). The acting and characterization is phenomenal, but I'm not sure if it fits your criteria for intense stuff.
posted by threesquare at 1:03 PM on July 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Seconding the original Wallander.
Mr. Robot
Blue Murder
posted by esoterrica at 2:14 PM on July 15, 2016

The Americans.
posted by Gotanda at 4:40 PM on July 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

"Justified".....def worth a look.
posted by Ginesthoi at 5:02 PM on July 15, 2016 [5 favorites]

Also nthing "bloodline".
posted by Ginesthoi at 5:04 PM on July 15, 2016

This one is a little out there, but if you don't mind campy young adult shows, then Pretty Little Liars can't be beat for being batshit insane and quite addictive. Seasons 1-6 on Netflix, S07 airing now! So crazy!
posted by danabanana at 5:38 PM on July 15, 2016

The Sopranos.
posted by Threeve at 7:58 PM on July 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

nthing Top of The Lake, I mean Jane Campion! and it is definitely moody, atmospheric, great acting. (Holly Hunter!)

I am not in the US, so don't know about your netflix so because I like the type of show you describe I throw these out and hope to catch some that work for your netflix:

Also atmospheric:

The Fall (super creepy)
Kenneth Branaugh's UK version of Wallander is fantastic. The landscape sets the tone.
Prime Suspect (Helen Mirren!)

Slightly lighter fare, but also good:
Field of Blood (great characters, set in a newsroom which I love)

If you are ok with subtitles, I liked all three of these Danish shows:
The Bridge
Follow the Money

Long shot and subtitled:
From Quebec, the series Fortier is fantastic. Great characters and a plot that makes use of the ensemble of top notch quebec talent, features special unit to deal with disturbing crime, at times extraordinarily funny, and worth a re-watch because it gets better each time.
posted by chapps at 10:00 PM on July 16, 2016

(The Bridge has been re-done in the states, no idea if it is as good as the original (which is great and holy moly characters!!!)
posted by chapps at 10:02 PM on July 16, 2016

Justified. And, long shot, but Outageous Fortune from nz is good and funny.
posted by Sebmojo at 1:10 AM on July 17, 2016

I'm hesitantly recommending Bojack Horseman- Season one is a three Act play, with the first 4 episodes worldbuilding, the next 4 really ramping up the emotions, and the last 4 having genuine Feels. Its a weird show sometimes though.

Season two, however, felt like a much more scattershot and inconsistent turducken- at this point, I would not recommend it.... but season 3 is out in 5 days, so we will see.
posted by Jacen at 4:41 PM on July 17, 2016

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