Ah, Netflix. The streaming service has reached a near-ubiquitous status in our current culture, finding its way into more than 200 million homes around the world and driving discussion about TV on a weekly basis. By now, it’s not a question of whether or not you have access to Netflix. It’s not even a question of if you’re going to watch Netflix. It’s merely a question of what you’re going to sample on the service this month.
In 2021, the query is growing all the more variable. Acquired staples like “The Office” and “The West Wing” are gone, forcing viewers to replace their perma-loop series, and the pandemic disrupted Netflix’s routine release of many favorite recurring originals. (When will we see “Ozark” Season 4? Not in April!) Netflix itself seems focused on new shows anyway, whether it’s the constant sampling of experimental content (like docuseries that interpret the dictionary or soothing sounds that double as mental health exercises) or the now-regular axe-drop on shows that have hit their third or fourth season.
So each month, IndieWire is going to help. Our long-running monthly list of the best new Netflix shows aims to sort through the heaping stack of content thrust upon subscribers and provide clarity into each buzzy series. Maybe it’s a new season, maybe it’s a new series; either way, we want to help shed a little light on how it came to be, who’s the target audience, and why you might be hearing about it in the weeks ahead. Each month, IndieWire will share whatever insights we have into each new show, all to better help you choose what to watch. So read on for this month’s Netflix’s picks, and be sure to scroll through to the bottom to see a full list of releases.
1. “The Crew” Season 1 (available February 15)
Why Would I Watch? If you’re a fan of Kevin James, then you’ll certainly want to make a pit stop for this comedy series. The former “King of Queens” and titular Kevin of “Kevin Can Wait” leads “The Crew,” a multi-cam sitcom centering on a NASCAR crew chief (played by James) and his dedicated crew, whose lives are thrown into disarray when their owner retires and puts his daughter, Catherine (Jillian Mueller), in charge. The young, intrepid new boss has lots of ideas on how to revolutionize the racing team, and it’s up to James to learn when to accept change for the better and buckle down on the tried and true ways of yesteryear.
Bonus Reason: NASCAR fans should know this is an officially licensed TV series, complete with two producers from the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. But the rest of “The Crew” is made up of James’ family favorites. Showrunner and writer Jeff Lowell is technically the outsider, coming from one of Netflix’s longest-running comedies, “The Ranch,” but director Andy Fickman (“Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2,” “Kevin Can Wait”), EP Jeff Sussman (“The King of Queens,” “Paul Blart”), and EP Todd Garner (“Paul Blart 2”) are all in the star’s circle of trust. So again, if you like James — or if you just enjoyed watching syndicated reruns of “King of Queens” while doing dishes — perhaps “The Crew” is the right fit for you.
2. “The Sinner” Season 3, “Jamie” (available February 6)
Why Would I Watch? Did you like “The Sinner” Season 1 (starring Jessica Biel) or “The Sinner” Season 2 (starring Carrie Coon)? Of course you did, they were good! So why not take a flier on Season 3, which continues Harry Ambrose’s detective story (played by Bill Pullman) as he pursues a new case involving Jamie Burns (the new season’s star, Matt Bomer).
Bonus Reason: OK, so maybe Jessica Biel isn’t your bag, and somehow you slept on another brilliant Carrie Coon performance. That’s OK! (I mean, it’s not OK. Biel didn’t do anything to you, and Coon is one of our finest thespians.) But you can still enjoy “The Sinner” Season 3 sans backstory. Derek Simonds’ anthology mystery starts a new case each year, and while you may have a few questions about Harry’s backstory (Pullman is the series’ one constant), they won’t get in the way of enjoying this twisty new tale.
Courtesy of Netflix
3. “Ginny & Georgia” Season 1 (available February 24)
Why Would I Watch? Have you been watching too much “Gilmore Girls”? Are you in need of a change, but can’t will yourself to leave the cozy mother-daughter story in Stars Hollow? Well, you’re in luck. Netflix has pumped out a brand new original series about Ginny (Antonia Gentry), a mature-for-her-age 15-year-old girl who moves to a small town in New England with her 30-year-old, not-mature-enough mom, Georgia (Brianne Howey). After bouncing around for years, the three-person family (including brother Austin) is hoping to settle down, but they’re not exactly ready to open an inn. “Ginny and Georgia” promises much higher stakes than the family squabbles and boy trouble that troubled Lorelai and Rory, as Georgia has the police on her back as soon as she gets settled. OK, so maybe this isn’t a cozy show, but hey, it’s got to try something different.
Bonus Reason: Scott Porter — aka Jason Street, aka Six, aka QB1 on “Friday Night Lights” — co-stars as Mayor Paul Randolph, who’s presumably the aforementioned New England town’s elected official and, based on the series’ trailer, a possible love interest for Georgia. For years now, Porter has been popping up as a delightful surprise in shows like “Harley Quinn,” “Archibald’s Next Big Thing,” and non-voiceover/in-person roles like “Why Women Kill,” “The To Do List,” and “The Good Wife,” so it’s about time he gets another rewarding series regular role, like he had on “Hart of Dixie.” Here’s hoping this is it.
4. “Good Girls” Season 3 (available February 16)
Why Would I Watch? Over three seasons, Jenna Bans’ NBC comedic thriller has garnered quite a fan base. Christina Hendricks, Retta, and Mae Whitman star as the eponymous and sardonic “Good Girls,” whose decision to rob a supermarket (as a Robin Hood sort of maneuver to strike back against bad men taking everything from them) quickly spirals out of control. The series limped out of the gate a bit when it debuted in 2018, but it’s since capitalized on its bold storytelling choices and found great uses for its uber-talented cast. If you’re in the mood for a light heist comedy mixed with good melodrama, this one will likely win you over.
Bonus Reason: Mae Whitman. Mae Whitman is the bonus reason, because Mae Whitman is an excellent actor. The former “Parenthood” star just keeps getting better, bringing her deep emotional chops from the Jason Katims’ tearjerker, innate comic timing, and formidable levels of sass to a character she can spin in any damn direction she pleases. And that’s a valuable skillset for a show that likes to pivot in new directions. Enjoy.
Courtesy of Netflix
5. “Behind Her Eyes” (available February 17)
Why Would I Watch? “Behind Her Eyes” sounds like a fairly typical set-up, if a bit outdated. Louise (Simona Brown) is a single mother working as a secretary who has an affair with her married boss, David (Tom Bateman). Soon enough, she’s drawn to his wife, Adele (Eve Hewson), and the two become friends. But there’s far more going on than a simple workplace affair. Louise has vivid, colorful dreams that lead Adele to tell her she’s special, just like her, and the more Louise comes to learn about each member of the couple, the more their marriage reveals itself to be something… different. Based on the 2017 novel by Sarah Pinborough, “Behind Her Eyes” aims to put its own stamp on the love triangle as erotic thriller.
Bonus Reason: I’ll be honest: At first, the only reason this title stood out to me was because I thought it was another remake of “The Secret in Their Eyes.” For those unfamiliar (or with less vivid memories), “The Secret in Their Eyes” was first a 2009 Argentinian crime drama from director Juan José Campanella, which uses a time-hopping story structure to examine a 25-year-old rape and murder case, as remembered by two investigators. After winning the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, the story (based on Eduardo Sacheri’s novel “The Question in Their Eyes”), was remade starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nicole Kidman, and Julia Roberts, in a 2015 movie that promptly bombed. What does this have to do with “Behind Her Eyes”? Nothing. I just wanted to be honest. This is mainly a confession of my own shoddy, unreliable memory, but, you know, it could also work as a backup of sorts: If “Behind Her Eyes” isn’t your jam, seek out “The Secret in Their Eyes” instead. The remake is streaming on Netflix, though I would highly advise you seek out the original instead.
6. “Firefly Lane” Season 1 (available February 3)
Why Would I Watch? If you are the long-suffering Katherine Heigl fan, waiting for her to find a new hit series and thus return to your home on a regular basis, then… this… is… it? “Firefly Lane” quickly climbed to the No. 1 program on Netflix during its first week of release, proving there’s either an insatiable appetite for more Dr. Izzie, more dramas about female friendship, or more Sarah Chalke! Hey, she was on “Scrubs”! People liked “Scrubs,” and people liked her in it. What a one-two punch of former ABC TV stars this turned out to be. My goodness. Anyway, “Firefly Lane” is a time-jumping soap about best friends forever, and what obstacles get in the way of their childhood dreams and lifelong friendships. If that’s what you’re in the mood for — and apparently, many of you are — then go nuts.
Bonus Reason: I mean, it’s gotta be the cast? One or the other, maybe both. As IndieWire’s Kristen Lopez writes in her spoiler-free review:
“Firefly Lane” is determined to wring tears and laughter out of you, and it does. It’s just that more often than not, it does so unintentionally and for all the wrong reasons. But you can’t lay the show’s problems at the feet of its heroines, who are all varying ranges of great. Chalke and Heigl make the series far more entertaining than it has any right to be.
7. “Bates Motel” Seasons 1-5 (available until February 19)
Why Would I Watch? Because it’s leaving! While Netflix saw many of its big-ticket acquisitions depart the platform last month, February still has a few series dropping off the service, and “Bates Motel” is definitely the best of the bunch. (Though horror film fans may want to check out “The Gift” before it’s gone.) A&E’s scripted original series “Bates Motel” does the unthinkable: It expands on Alfred Hitchcock’s classic, going so far as to reimagine the Marion Crane story in “Psycho,” and succeeds at every turn. Thanks to the best kind of scenery-chewing performances from Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore, as well as tight, tense scripts from showrunner Kerry Ehrin, “Bates Motel” is a twisty delight for all five seasons. Watch it however you can before it’s gone, even if it means skipping showers (which, you know, you may want to do anyway).
Bonus Reason: Oof, I mean, what’s left to say about a show that’s been off the air for a few years and regularly praised? I guess If you’re looking for a TV show based on a classic horror movie, “Bates Motel” is a sure-thing. Its three Emmy nominations, intense cult following, and plenty of critics’ endorsements all speak to its guaranteed quality. The new CBS drama “Clarice” — based on Thomas Harris’ classic character and picking up shortly after “The Silence of the Lambs” — well, it can’t exactly promise the same. So if you have to choose one, go with “Bates Motel.” There are more episodes available anyway.
The Rest of February’s Incoming TV
“Love Daily” Season 1 (available February 1)
“My Dead Ex” Season 1 (available February 1)
“The Unsetting” Season 1 (available February 1)
“Zac and Mira” Seasons 1 and 2 (available February 1)
“Kid Cosmic” Season 1 (available February 2)
“Mighty Express” Season 2 (available February 2)
“Tiffany Haddish Presents: They Ready” Season 2 (available February 2)
“Hache” Season 2 (available February 5)
“Invisible City” Season 1 (available February 5)
“iCarly” Seasons 1 and 2 (available February 8)
“Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel” (available February 10)
“Capitani” Season 1 (available February 11)
“Buried by the Bernards” (available February 12)
“Nadiya Bakes” (available February 12)
“Behind Her Eyes” (available February 17)
“MeatEater” Season 9, Part 2 (available February 17)
“Tribes of Europa” Season 1 (available February 19)
“Two Sentence Horror Stories” Season 2 (available February 24)