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7 New Netflix Shows to Binge in January, and the Best Reasons to Watch

"The Punisher" and "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" hit Netflix — for the last time? — while a few new original series hope to check-in for extended stays.

Black Earth Rising Netflix John Goodman and Michaela Coel

John Goodman and Michaela Coel in “Black Earth Rising”

Des Willie/BBC/Netflix

1. “Black Earth Rising” (available January 25)

Why Should I Watch? Hugo Blick, the creator behind “The Honourable Woman,” brings Netflix a co-production with BBC Two about a London-based legal investigator whose past comes back to haunt her. Kate Ashby (Michaela Coel) was born in Rwanda and orphaned by genocide, and now her adoptive mother is taking on a case prosecuting an African militia leader. Though Kate is now working for an American barrister (John Goodman), she wants answers for what happened to her birth family, and the new case might offer fresh insights. “Black Earth Rising” is a female-led conspiracy thriller which has already earned strong marks from British critics across the pond, so there’s reason to believe this Netflix original can build a strong following Stateside as well.

Bonus Reason: The last time John Goodman did a drama, we got “Atomic Blonde.” The time before that, it was “Patriots Day.” Before that? “10 Cloverfield Lane.” All three are certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and rated well on Metacritic, which means Goodman is on a dramatic hot streak, creatively. Will it cross over to TV? Early signs point to yes, but Goodman is always a bonus, no matter the series.

2. “Grace and Frankie” Season 5 (available January 18)

Grace And Frankie

Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda in “Grace And Frankie”

Ali Goldstein / Netflix

Why Should I Watch? It’s “Grace and Frankie.” It’s Grace and Frankie. It’s Grace and Frankie. If you haven’t discovered the charms of Marta Kauffman and Howard J. Morris’ comedy-drama hybrid, starring the incomparable Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda, then you’ve got quite the amazing binge ahead of you. For those wise Netflix subscribers who’ve caught up, Season 5 picks up with the eponymous leads in search of a new home after ditching the retirement community and discovering their beloved beach house has already sold. Most plot details are under wraps, but here’s hoping Peter Gallagher returns as Grace’s wealthy, supportive man-friend.

Bonus Reason: Sneak attack! By now, plenty of critics, fans, and filmmakers have yelled at you to go see “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” so consider this one more surprise plug pegged to Lily Tomlin’s excellent vocal performance as Aunt May. The character may have been animated, but it’s now impossible to see anyone else as Peter Parker’s adult guide. Tomlin is perfect casting, which makes sense given the film is, well, pretty much perfect.

3. “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” Season 4, Part 2 (available January 25)


Ellie Kemper in “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”

Eric Liebowitz/Netflix

Why Should I Watch? It’s coming to an end — kind of. Tina Fey and Robert Carlock’s “30 Rock” follow-up has earned a slew of Emmy nominations, plenty of rave reviews from critics, and helped launch Netflix’s original series as TV to be taken seriously. Now, after the first half of Season 4 dropped in May, the final episodes are set to premiere… even if there may still be a movie on the way, as well. If you’re caught up, there’s a daunting cliffhanger from Episode 6 that will be answered in these final six entries, and if you’re not, know Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) is still trying to find her way and find herself among friends in New York City.

Bonus Reason: After parodying “Lemonade,” true crime TV shows, and Netflix itself, the final set of episodes includes one entirely dedicated to a delightfully random target: “Sliding Doors.” Inspired by Gwyneth Paltrow’s 1998 movie — about how one woman’s life can change if she makes or misses a train ride — the episode looks at how each character’s life may have changed if Kimmy had never been kidnapped. Also, if you’re unfamiliar with the film, it’s streaming on Netflix — because of course it is.

4. “Carmen Sandiego” (available January 18)

"Carmen Sandiego" Netflix 2019

“Carmen Sandiego”


Why Should I Watch? Netflix is putting a slightly different spin on Carmen Sandiego. In the animated educational comedy, the elusive woman in red isn’t a criminal in need of capturing — not exactly. This Carmen is more of a Robin Hood type, so while she’s still a master thief, she’s only stealing from bad people and giving back to their victims. In other words, Carmen is the hero now, instead of the villain, even if American law enforcement still sees her as a high-brow robber.

Bonus Reason: Netflix ordered 20 episodes of this, so the streaming giant is obviously bullish on the series’ prospects. With Gina Rodriguez (“Jane the Virgin”) and Finn Wolfhard (“Stranger Things”) leading the voice cast and stylish, shaded animation, there’s reason to believe this could be a treat for more than just kids.

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