Netflix has always been secretive when it comes to the viewing figures for its shows. This, I surmise, is a pre-emptive defence against criticism in the case that any of their original content flops, if their shows fail to meet their hype. Although we do not have viewing figures or ‘ratings’ of the series released on the streaming service, Netflix has in fact released data on what they describe as their ‘binge racers.’ Truly, binging has become a large part of our culture in manner of ways and for a long time instant gratification has changed the way we consume visual media. According to Netflix in 2017, 8.4 million binge racers watched an entire series within 24 hours. Here we list the ten most binge-raced shows on Netflix by a UK audience, and wonder whether their consumption is due to a quality of content that is insatiably moreish, or whether many a viewer has fallen asleep before the ‘are you still watching’ message flashes on their screen. Regardless, the future of television seems not to be television, but online…
10 – The Ranch
The Ranch stars Ashton Kutcher as the Cole Bennet, a former high school and college American football star, who returns to his hometown of Garrison, Colorado. Often crude, the redneck comedy chronicles the lives of hard-drinking and conservative ranchers, yet is still humanising, despite its less than idealised cast of characters.
9 – Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt represents the opposite side of the comedic spectrum; zany and sardonic, the Tina Fey created-show has a diverse cast of characters and takes itself much less seriously. Where The Ranch is traditional and comforting (in the same vein as Roseanne or Cheers), Kimmy Schmidt veers away from realism, but towards hilarious absurdity.
8 – Trailer Park Boys
Another comedy, Trailer Park Boys is a continuation of a 1991 film of the same name. The mockumentary focuses on the misadventures of a group of trailer park residents, many ex-convicts, each highly idiosyncratic. Loaded with recurring gags, quirky but endearing characters, Trailer Park Boys is one of Netflix’ most dynamic new comedies.
7 – F is for Family
By now you’d probably have ascertained that comedy is seemingly prime consumable content for the binge-racer. F is for Family is an animated comedy, and to the uninitiated may seem to be another Simpsons or Family Guy clone. However, the show, chronicling the life of baggage handler, Frank Murphy, his wife, (voiced by Star Wars’ Laura Dern) Sue, and their three children, is also a commentary on suburban America. You’ll find a surprising amount of depth in F is for Family, its depiction of small town malaise and existential depression.
6 – Luther
The first non-comedy on the list, Luther is a British crime drama starring Idris Elba as the titular DCI John Luther. The Golden Globe show needs no introduction to British audiences, first aired to much acclaim on the BBC. However, what may be a surprise that Luther is the only procedural crime-drama on this list, with viewers seemingly growing tired of the former Netflix binge-watching juggernaut, Sherlock.
5 – Orange is the New Black
The fact that the fifth season of Orange is the New Black leaked prior to its Netflix release did not do much to affect its viewer response. Following a diverse cast of characters, and set in a women’s federal prison, the US phenomenon has been lauded for its representation of women of colour, progressive attitudes towards inmates and sharp writing.
4 – Santa Clarita Diet
One of the most recent shows to follow the recent zombie trend is Netflix’ Santa Clarita Diet. Starring Drew Barrymore and Timothy Oliphant as Sheila and Joel Hammond, the horror-comedy takes a satirical approach to the zombie phenomena, detailing the obstacles that the couple face when Sheila undergoes a medical transformation into a zombie and begins to crave human flesh.
3 – The Seven Deadly Sins
A Netflix exclusive in the UK, The Seven Deadly Sins is perhaps a surprising third place. Yet, to the anime initiated, the show stands out as an outstanding example of the genre. The show navigates the expected tropes of a supernatural anime, but is unconventional in its commitment to character development, crisp animation and dynamic musical score. Specifically, the anime follows Elizabeth Liones, a deposed princess, who is on a mission to find the Seven Deadly Sins, a group of Knights who are wanted for betraying the kingdom.
2 – Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life
A sequel to Gilmore Girls, A Year in the Life is a Netflix original production that follows the original cast across four series, each taking place throughout a season of the year. The fervour in which fans enjoyed the Netflix show is significant, given the stakes that were at play. To many, Gilmore Girls was a cult classic, more than just a show about fast-talking, pop culture-loving mother and daughter but a programme with a level of heart rarely seen in a comedy-drama. The mother-daughter relationship that made the original series both aspirational and relatable, is undoubtedly still the heart of the long awaited sequel, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.
1 – Marvel’s The Defenders
The most binge-raced programme of 2017 is Marvel’s The Defenders, an entry that is unsurprising given the success of the shows that preceded it. Specifically, the superhero show brings together the stars of Netflix’s original Marvel shows: Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist, which on the most part, have been very highly regarded. However, viewer response does not seem to match critical reception, with The Defenders criticised for its shallow antagonists, poor writing and overcrowded cast of characters. Or perhaps such ardent binge watching was an attempt to see whether the show was truly as disappointing as the critics had made out? Regardless, I’m sure that poor reviews of The Defenders will do little to damage the Marvel Machine.
Each of the shows on this list are available now on Netflix UK to binge-race, to watch intermittently, or to stick on with earphones during your morning train journey.