By Namu Ju

2019’s been a big year for Netflix. With so many new shows introduced, promising shows cancelled, and established shows renewed for their final seasons; it can be difficult to keep up! Here are four shows that definitely won’t have you scrolling through your phone as they play.

The Good Place

Learning about The Good Place was the most valuable knowledge I got out of my grad school ethics seminar (just kidding, Professor Janowitz). Still, it’s more than just a philosophy primer—it’s a clever, complex, well-developed dystopian comedy that interrogates the idea of ‘a good person’ and whether it’s truly possible to become one.

Eleanor Shellstrop is the hilariously selfish and cruel protagonist who wakes in the afterlife to find herself mistakenly welcomed into The Good Place. The first season follows Eleanor’s attempts to become a better person with help from her assigned soulmate, university ethics professor Chidi Anagonye. Hiding her true identity among the infuriatingly good people in a land flowing with frozen yoghurt flavours, she finds that not everyone is who they seem and she must navigate disasters occurring seemingly due to her illegitimate presence.

The first season of The Good Place debuted in September 2016 and the fourth and final season premiered 26 September 2019. The show received critical acclaim for its writing, acting, originality, setting, and tone. It earned a Peabody Award in 2019 and two Hugo Awards.

Living With Yourself

There’s a saying that hell is meeting the person you could’ve been, and the surreal comedy Living With Yourself seems to play that out.

The charming Paul Rudd stars as the not-so-charming Miles Elliot who lives a listless, deteriorating existence of work and marriage. With his underwhelming job performance and unhappy wife in mind, Miles acts on his seemingly new-and-improved coworker’s referral for a ‘rejuvenating treatment’ at Top Happy Spa. Miles undergoes a DNA scrubbing and rejuvenation treatment, which turns out to be a cloning operation. He ends up waking up in a far-off grave while clone-Miles resumes his existence with love and success. The two Miles encounter each other to find that neither knows what’s happened or holds any malice for the other—they simply want to live Miles’ life.

Living With Yourself premiered 18 October 2019, so it’s too early to tell if Netflix will approve a second season. If they do, the show’s first season definitely ends with enough compelling material to carry it through.

Mindhunter

Am I the only one who’s found themselves in a Wiki black hole about serial killers and their victims? The answer has to be ‘no’— at least not after the premiere of Netflix’s darkly-captivating Mindhunter.

Based on retired FBI special agent John Douglas’s book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit, the crime thriller, set in the late ‘70s, depicts the early beginnings of the FBI’s embracing criminal psychology and profiling. The series follows young FBI Agents Holden Ford, Bill Tench, and psychologist Wendy Carr as they operate the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit in Quantico, Virginia. They interview imprisoned killers, and eventually coined the term ‘serial killer,’ to build psychological profiles that might help them solve ongoing cases. The drama is based on data collected from real-life interviews conducted by Douglas with several serial killers, including Edmund Kemper, David Berkowitz, John Wayne Gacy, and Charles Manson.

The first season of Mindhunter debuted in October 2017, and Netflix released the second season on 16 August 2019 but has yet to approve a third season.

BoJack Horseman

Don’t let the fact that BoJack Horseman is an animation based in a world where humans and anthropomorphic animals coexist stop you from all the depth this show has to offer. In fact, what makes BoJack so compelling is the award-winning show’s ability to tread the tightrope between whimsy and devastating gravity.

Based mainly in Hollywood, Los Angeles (later known as “Hollywoo” after the “D” in the Hollywood Sign is stolen in the name of love), the series explores deeply existential questions while addressing important social issues. Issues including addiction, depression, childhood trauma, racism, and sexism are all explored with hilarious and ruthless honesty. The sixth and final season begins with BoJack voluntarily checking into rehab, still haunted by his role in Sarah Lynn’s drug-related death, and poses the question: Now that BoJack genuinely desires to break his self-destructive cycle, will he really, actually, finally turn his life around? Can he?

After the first episode, the season’s scope naturally expands to push happy ending hopes for prominent characters Diane Nguyen, Mr Peanutbutter, Princess Carolyn, and Todd Chavez as well.

This final season is slated for release as two parts: Part I premiered 25 October2019, while Part 2 is set to premiere 31 January 2020. 

Good television is like any other art form—complex, nuanced, and reflective of the human experience. Netflix has done an incredible job pushing out creative, original shows, and the four listed above are just some highlights among an amazing roster.