Updated: Jan 5, 2021
Netflix streamers are insatiable, gluttonous, and constantly in need of a new series to watch. Thankfully, the dedicated creative staff at Netflix continues to churn out original content that rarely disappoints. This can sometimes result in the time-old conflict of having too many choices: beginning a new series is a serious commitment. You can’t just click on any old show! We’re left toggling between “Popular on Netflix” and “Trending Now”, consciously avoiding scrolling over to “Watch It Again” and clicking on Michael Scott’s face for the fifth time.
Luckily, we’re here to help. If you’re not ready to commit to an entire six season sitcom or critically acclaimed series, check out these one-season Netflix originals that premiered in 2020 - they’re worth the watch.
Never Have I Ever
Never have I ever deeply connected with a Hollywood depiction of the woes of teenage-hood while laughing hysterically - until now. If you haven’t heard of this show or it’s associated Tik Tok challenge yet, boy are you missing out! Never Have I Ever is a quirky, colorful, and refreshingly relatable depiction of a teenage girl, her family, and her friends as they navigate high school drama and trauma. Created by seasoned comedic legend Mindy Kaling and starring up-and-coming Canadian actress (and icon in the making) Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, this show is another piece of dramedy (drama-comedy) gold from Netflix. Not only has the show been praised for its hilarious hot take on the familiar coming-of-age narrative, critics and fans alike have applauded its shattering of Asian stereotypes as a turning point for South Asian representation in the media.
The series’ first season revolves around protagonist Devi, a 15-year-old overachieving harpist, as she begins her sophomore year of high school. Following a traumatic freshman year plagued by the death of her father, Devi needs the support of her friends and family more than ever, yet they often are the ones she pushes away the most.
The show is filled with honest and relatable moments: we see the most human parts of our teenage years in arguments between Devi and her mom, when Devi daydreams about her crush, as she struggles to be the friend she wants to be, and every time she shoves her trauma and innermost feelings aside to blindly pursue the high school experience she thinks she should have. Devi wants what most of us wanted in high school: to be “cool,” to outshine our classroom rivalries, to go to parties and drink sh*tty beer, and to makeout with the hottest guy in school. Does she actually get to do any of these things? Is she the hero all of us AP nerds didn’t know we needed? Guess you’ll have to watch to find out!
Although this drama set in post-WWII Hollywood is far from a realistic depiction of what that time in history was actually like, the cast performances - love a Darren Criss moment - and plotlines make for a binge-worthy mini-series. Many have criticized the show for blending “history with fantasy” and for failing to seize the perfect opportunity to dissect the persistent prejudice, exploitation, abuse, and deep-seated corruption that festers in Hollywood, especially in light of the #MeToo movement. All that aside, there is still much to love, especially if you like dramas that draw you into fictionalized worlds.
Hollywood centers around a loosely connected group of young women and men who are willing to do whatever it takes to “make it” in Hollywood, whether as actors, directors, or writers. While some characters take little issue with pushing morality aside to get what they want, others consider fighting for what they believe in essential to their success. This juxtaposition of moral opposition both between characters and within each character themselves highlights the very human struggle of choosing between right, wrong, and our own selfish desires.
In an intoxifying swirl of sex, cigarettes, and booze, Hollywood whisks viewers through stories of executives abusing their power, racial injustice, sexual exploitation, and chasing dreams no matter the cost. Many familiar faces bring this somewhat factually grounded story to life: Jim Parsons (known to many as Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory) gives a bone-chilling performance as predatory talent agent Henry Wilson, Darren Criss (beloved Blaine from Glee) shines as a brave and inspired champion of diversity and inclusion, Dylan McDermott drips with sleazy charisma as “gas station” operator Scotty, and even Queen Latifah makes an important appearance later in the series.
This revisionist-history-esque story of stardom, told by a star-studded cast, is filled with moral conflict and personal struggle. Watch Hollywood to indulge in a fictionalized version of the underbelly of Hollywood and to find out if any of the characters achieve success unplagued by moral deviance.
Locke & Key
Netflix describes this newcomer as a “mind-bending” and “witty” fantasy teen drama - and that’s a pretty fair description. Though classified as a drama, Locke & Key is more of a mysterious, fantastical story centering around a magical house nestled in a small New England town. If you’re a fan of Stranger Things, this is basically a knock-off, present day version with a slightly less dangerous and more supernatural mystery to uncover. Despite mixed reception from fans of the comic book which Locke & Key is based on, both fans and critics seemed to enjoy this spooky show.
Following the murder of their father, the three Locke kids and their mother head to the late Mr. Locke’s childhood home, popularly known as Keyhouse. There are plenty of premonitions and rumors around town about Keyhouse, but very little answers. As they explore the house and adjust to their new lives, they discover mysterious, magical keys that unlock wondrous doors; though not all of these doors should have been opened.
There are very few people who know about the existence and power of these keys, but those who do will stop at nothing to get their hands on them. The kids use and lose the keys, all while seeing the world as they’d never imagined it, running from evil, and searching for truth.
Locke & Key has already been renewed for a second season, so watch season one now and get excited for what’s to come!
I am Not Okay With This
Another coming-of-age story? You know what, I am okay with it. Disclaimer: this is another highschool dramedy/show based on a comic book that begins immediately following the death of the main character’s dad. Is it just me, or do 80% of shows about teenagers have at least one dead parent? Nonetheless, I Am Not Okay With This is a biting, cynical show brimming with teen angst, a prolific use of the f-bomb, and unexpected telekinesis.
Main character Syd, a 17-year-old girl who is pissed off at the world, is in the throes of figuring out life without her dad when all of a sudden, she starts to develop telekinetic abilities. As if practically raising her little brother, exploring her sexuality, and dealing with the general sh*ttiness of highschool wasn’t enough to deal with already!
In the middle of nowhere in Pennsylvania, she feels completely alone and misunderstood; she’s unable to open up to her best and only friend yet finds an unlikely new friend in her baby-blue-suit-wearing neighbor. Between driving around in a broken old car, attending lame high school events, and listening to funky music, they try to figure out who they are and piece together what exactly is happening to them.
If I had to sum up the aesthetic of this show into a few short words, I would say: microwave burritos, thigh zits, and vinyl. In the midst of all of the mystery, tragedy, and frustration, you’ll find yourself falling for the main characters and laughing out loud along the way. If you’re looking for a suspenseful show to simultaneously laugh and scream into the void over, I Am Not Okay With This is definitely for you.
Written by Kayla Jimenez
Edited by Jake Zall & Nick Mandala