ENTERTAINMENT
09/03/2020 1:35 PM AEDT

From The Stranger To Love Is Blind: Netflix's 10 Best Originals Of 2020 (So Far)

These are the shows, films and documentaries that have had us talking - and watching - in the last few months.

We might not be far into 2020, but Netflix has already given us a veritable smorgasbord of new original series to keep us entertained in the first few months of the year.

So far, we’ve had A-list documentaries, cringe-heavy teen dramas and one of the most bizarre reality TV concepts we think we’ve ever heard of – and that’s without even delving into the decapitated alpaca and the cartoon horse contemplating his existence.

These are our top 10 picks of Netflix’s original offerings so far this year...

10. Messiah

Ursula Coyote/Netflix

Tell us about it: Messiah starts off with a simple premise, answering the question “what would happen if the second coming arrived in 2020?”, and taking viewers on a journey that ventured to all corners of the globe.

The 10-part series was gripping enough, and Mehdi Dehbi did a fine job playing the intriguing, enigmatic and occasionally frustrating Al-Masih, and had us second-guessing whether we could (or should) trust the character all at the same time.

We have to admit, though, we had high hopes for Messiah when we first saw the trailer and found out that it would be Netflix’s first big offering of the year, but we’re not sure they were entirely met.

Messiah is still worth checking out and forming your own opinion of, but while many shows benefit from a big ensemble cast, the lengthy list of characters in this thriller verged on confusing at times, and we think it could well have benefited from a few storylines and characters being cut completely.

Best time to watch: When you have the time to really give a new show your full attention.

9. Next In Fashion 

Adam Rose/Netflix

Tell us about it: In 2020, Netflix took some big strides in their original reality TV content, which included international editions of The Circle, the weird and wonderful dating show Love Is Blind (more on that later) and Next In Fashion.

Let’s be honest, the format isn’t exactly groundbreaking. The only major difference between this and Project Runway is that the designers work in pairs for the the first slog of the process, but Next In Fashion is almost comforting in its familiarity, and we were surprisingly taken in by Alexa Chung and Tan France as a presenting duo.

It’s also nice to see a competitive reality show where the contestants aren’t at each other’s throats (aside from a few minor squabbles, and a brief incident involving an iron rod and some facial stitches, that is) – plus, how could anyone not fall in love with Minju?

Best time to watch: When you need to watch something unchallenging, and maybe look at some nice dresses.

8. RuPaul’s Drag Race

Logo TV/World Of Wonder/VH1

Tell us about it: Listen, we get that we’re still extremely early on in the series, which is why Drag Race is so low down on our list, but all early signs point to season 12 being a particularly exciting offering from the long-running reality TV juggernaut.

The series opened with one of the strongest launch episodes in recent memory, kicking things off with both a fashion and music challenge, the latter of which was presided over by a very charming Nicki Minaj.

Plus, the queens themselves this year seem like an interesting bunch, with the two-part series debut allowing us to get to know the individual competitors more than in recent series.

After last year’s triple punch of series 11, All Stars 4 and Drag Race UK, we wondered whether we may have had our fill of Drag Race, but our first glimpse of this latest run has assured us that our appetite for the most fabulous show on telly is showing no signs of dying down.

Best time to watch: When you’re in need of some laughs, some surprises and, of course, some fabulousness.

7. The Stranger 

Netflix

Tell us about it: Netflix first branched out into ITV-esque mystery dramas in 2018 with Safe, but it’s that show’s successor The Stranger that really made waves upon its release this year.

Full of twists and turns, the crime thriller features a cast including Siobhan Finneran, Richard Armitage and Jennifer Saunders (in the Ab Fab star’s first “dramatic” role) and storylines involving decapitated alpacas, faked pregnancies and teenage drug misuse. And that’s literally just episode one.

The whole thing is over-the-top and verges on silly, particularly towards the end of the 10 episodes, but if borderline-ridiculous British dramas packed with plot twists that come so thick and fast they make your head spin are your thing, then The Stranger is definitely worth a stream.

Best time to watch: If you need a new drama to watch that’s equal parts British grit and extreme camp. 

6. Miss Americana

Netflix
Miss Americana

Tell us about it: As Taylor Swift’s star has continued to rise, the singer has made no secret of the fact she likes to be in control of the narrative surrounding her, so when it was announced that the she was to be the subject of a new docu-film, we weren’t surprised.

Miss Americana mostly focusses on the period after Taylor’s hit Reputation stadium tour, and the creation of her latest album Lover, but also touches on her journey from little-known country artist to one of the most famous (and polarising) women in the world.

If you’ve been put off by the chart-topping singer in recent years, Miss Americana might just change your mind about her, and there’s a lot to enjoy in the documentary for even the most casual fans.

Key scenes include Taylor discussing her struggles with an eating disorder for the first time, touching on her relationship with actor Joe Alwyn and, perhaps most notably, the lead-up to her first political social media post, and the rows it caused among her team.

Best time to watch: When you’re feeling curious about one of the most popular singers of a generation.

5. I Am Not Okay With This

Netflix

Tell us about it: First off, it’s a fantasy teen drama set in a small town, so it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of Stranger Things, but it’s also from the same team as The End Of The F***ing World (they’re actually both based on graphic novels by the same writer), so will appeal to fans of that too.

The show reunites young actors Sophia Lillis and Wyatt Oleff, last seen together in IT: Chapter Two, with the former taking centre stage as Sydney Novak, a teenager who discovers she has telekinetic powers.

As Sydney struggles with both her new-found abilities and regular teenage life, the show becomes a mix of Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina and Carrie.

Don’t go thinking that this seemingly endless list of comparisons means I Am Not Okay With This doesn’t stand on its own too feet, though, as the show is more daring than most of its predecessors, and ventures to places that other teen dramas wouldn’t even consider.

Best time to watch: If you’re in the mood for a coming-of-age thriller in the vain of Stranger Things and IT. 

4. Love Is Blind

Netflix

Tell us about it: We still can’t quite believe this show even happened, in all honesty. One of Netflix’s most ambitious originals to date, Love Is Blind saw them venture into the world of dating shows, with a group of singles meeting through “pods”, without actually being able to see one another.

Kind of a The-Circle-meets-Love-Island situation, right?

Well... not quite.

You see, the contestants are only allowed to meet one another once they become engaged, which happens at an alarmingly fast rate. From there, they have a few weeks to spend time together one-on-one, before walking down the aisle. Once hitched, they then have to work out if they want to spend the rest of their lives with someone they’ve only just met.

Totally deranged yet completely addictive, Love Is Blind is impossible to look away from, and makes for compulsive viewing as the couples plan their big days, meet each other’s families and, of course, discover more about each other as the days rolled on.

Best time to watch: When you’ve got a hankering for some trashy TV that you just can’t ignore anymore.

3. Bojack Horseman

Netflix

Tell us about it: We were a little bit gutted when it was announced that Netflix was pulling the plug on Bojack Horseman at the end of its sixth series, but at the very least, we knew that if the show was going to give us one final run, it wasn’t going to be one we’d forget in a hurry.

The first batch of episodes debuted towards the end of 2019, while the final eight arrived on 31 January. Naturally, we’d devoured the lot by 2 February. 

During its six years on Netflix, Bojack Horseman had taken us to some pretty dark places, but while the first half of its final series suggested there may be redemption for the titular character, the second half truly pulled the rug from under us.

While the whole thing is worthy of praise, we have to single out the penultimate episode, The View From Halfway Down, for being particularly strong. Taking place entirely in Bojack’s imagination, he is reunited with dead figures from his past, complete with a deeply unsettling musical reprise, some stunning animation and a truly chilling poetry reading from Will Arnett.

It has to be said, we still think Bojack had a lot of life left in it, but if it had to go out in the way it did, we applaud the way it was done.

Best time to watch: When you’re feeling in a strong frame of mind and are somewhere comfortable. This final series is dark and we do not recommend if you’re already feeling a bit fragile.

2. Sex Education

Netflix

Tell us about it: We loved the first series of Sex Education, but we loooved the second series, which built on everything that made the initial run so popular, and added a few extra bits too.

Ncuti Gatwa is still on fine form as Eric, with Otis’ right-hand man caught in a love triangle for most of the series, while Maeve’s back story is explored further with the introduction of more of Emma Mackey’s character’s family.

And while sex has always taken more of a back seat in the hit teen drama than its name would suggest, we still have to hand it to the Sex Education team for the way they handled taboo issues and lesser-known sexual themes in season two, including everything from sexual assault and internalised homophobia to asexuality and anal douching.

All in all, another great season, and we can’t wait to see what mortifying adventures they take Otis on next year.

Best time to watch: Any time, really, but if you needed a bit of cheering up, this would probably do the job.

1. Cheer

Netflix
Cheer

Tell us about it: We never anticipated that a six-part documentary about college cheerleading would be our top pick of 2020, but that was before we watched Cheer.

Netflix has proved and time and time again that they’re not afraid to explore unusual areas when it comes to their documentaries (2019′s Don’t Fuck With Cats and Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened) being two such examples.

In Cheer, they lift the lid on a world few of us knew even the first thing about: the ultra-competitive world of college cheerleading - and the weird and wonderful characters who inhabit it as they strive to try and “make mat”.

Among our favourites are the fabulous La’Darius, underdog tumbler Lexi, always ‘on’ Jerry and, of course, the perfectionist coach Monica.

Best time to watch: When you feel like becoming totally engrossed in something completely new to you.