My top Netflix picks for 2023

Some time back, I kind of gave up on doing Netflix nose dives on the blog, mainly because it’s really hard not to do spoilers on second or third seasons for a show, particularly if you haven’t already seen the first season. So I’ve mostly stuck to posting mini reviews on Twitter under Netflix Impressions, and I plan on continuing that. Meanwhile over on BlueSky, I’ve tended to post my thoughts between episodes, and once X implodes, I’ll probably combine the non-spoiler episode impressions with the overall season impressions.

I started thinking that I could do something to help promote the shows I really loved this year by doing a list. Again, in this way, I avoid spoiling anything for you, but I might also be helping you find something outside your normal viewing habits, which Netflix’s algorithm can hide if you haven’t liked anything similar.

Note that this is not everything I watched in the year, or even that I liked, but it is the shows that left a strong impression. So with disclaimer out of the way, here’s my favorite Netflix shows and movies of 2023…

Bee and PuppyCat
This one is going to be a divisive pick for some of you, because there’s some hurdles to overcome. First is the voice acting, which feels phoned in at times. Even in the best of times, everyone sounds somewhat bored during what should be emotional moments. Then there’s the very abstract nature of a lot of episodes that can be kind of off-putting if you were coming in expecting something at the level of Adventure Time or Stephen Universe.

BUT…but for me, the questions raised in the first few episodes were so interesting that I jumped over all the hurdles to see if they got answered. And they do, finally, and the ending is open enough to lead to another series, while also being a satisfying enough conclusion that I’m okay if nothing else comes of the setting and its characters. If you’re willing to overlook its flaws, this is a weird and wonderful series about temp labor employees picking up jobs all over the universe while also running from a mysterious cosmic enemy. Weird? Absolutely, but also delightful in so many ways.

Will Arnett headlines probably the most brilliant improv setup in recent memory. Will plays homicide detective Terry Seattle, and every week, he get partnered up with a guest star. Everyone but the guest star knows the plot, and the guest star is improvising their role. At the end, they have to guess who the killer is, and whether they win or lose, almost every episode is pure bliss. The best episode for me is with Marshawn Lynch, but I’ve rewatched them all several times because everyone is clearly having so much fun with the premise. I’m hopeful a second season gets made, and if it is, I can’t wait to see who else they can rope in to play Terry’s partners.

Lockwood and Co.
Based on a YA book series following three ghost hunters as they compete against a much larger company to identify and capture ghosts. In this setting, there was a spiritual apocalypse that killed a lot of people, but exactly what happened and how is mostly hand-waved away in favor of following the more intimate stories of Anthony, Lucy, and George as they struggle to find work and keep the lights on.

Though the series wasn’t renewed for a second season, the eight episodes are divided into two four episode arcs that provide enough closure to feel satisfying. Plus, if you really need to know more after watching the series, you can always get the books, which is what hubby chose to do.

The Law According to Lidia Poët
Set sometime around 1883, this drama follows its titular character on a fantastic reinvention of the real life person who became Italy’s first woman attorney. The show starts with her being disbarred from practicing law and being forced to work with her brother to solve cases. At first, Enrico Poët come off as somewhat antagonistic, but within a few episodes, it becomes clear how much he loves his sister, even as she continually vexes him by pushing back against the role society wants to foist on her.

Lidia is also aided by her brother-in-law, a journalist named Jacopo Barberis. With his connections and her brother’s legal degree, Lidia champions the cases of people that the courts had prejudicially decided were guilty. It’s one part legal drama, one part mystery, and one part historical thriller, and it rocks. Filming wrapped up in October for season 2, so it should hit Netflix early next year. I already feel confident that it will have a place on next year’s list.

Technically, this show started quite a while back, but this year saw what is likely the fifth and final season. I can’t think of too many shows where so many characters evolved in such satisfying ways. Just the transformation of Director Ton from monstrous boss to being Restsuko’s biggest fan was an incredible journey, but add in Haida, Fenneko, Washimi, Director Gori, Tadano, and Tsunoda, and it becomes a show that keeps giving new reasons to go “aaaawwww.” Hell, even the members of the idol band all get the chance to develop beyond just being background props. All of these developments are done with a ton of humor and heart.

If you haven’t joined the Restsuko fan club, you need to give it a chance. It’s hilarious, a little soul crushing at times in the early going, but it all builds to the most satisfying conclusion for everyone, tying all those loose ends in pretty, happy bows.

Extraordinary Attorney Woo
A Korean legal show following an autistic attorney with an obsession for whales seemed like a tough sell for me, but with just one episode, I was hooked and watching two and three episodes per night. In two seasons, it manages to tackle a lot of tough issues, and that it manages to walk a tightrope between humor and drama is a testament to the writers.

Credit should also be given to every member of the cast, many of whom start out with biased assumptions about their newest attorney, only to learn how wrong they are, and to ultimately become her allies. It’s the kind of show that gets more satisfying the longer you watch it, and the only regret I have at the end is that there won’t be a third season.

Jeff Garlin and Natasha Lyonne play detectives on a murder mystery that starts with Steven Weber confessing to being the killer of the show. Think of a modern day Columbo, only with more jokes. (Many of them quite raunchy thanks to Lyonne.) It’s a fun movie that feels like a pilot episode to a longer series, and as I said on Twitter at the time, if Netflix decided to go all in for a full season, I would be coming along for the ride.

Uncle From Another World
Like a reverse Isekai anime, a man wakes from a long coma with only his nephew Takafumi still caring enough to watch over him. It turns out that the whole time he was in a coma, he was living in a fantasy world, and he has the magical powers to prove it.

Thanks to one of his spells, he’s able to show parts of his journey to his nephew and Sumika, Takafumi’s best friend. A gaming obsessed nerd, Uncle is oblivious to the harem building around him, and also just as oblivious to how dangerous he becomes as he accumulates power in the fantasy world. It’s a great premise that only gets better with new characters being introduced in both the fantasy setting and the real world. Another show where I’m keenly waiting for the second season to drop.

Two Korean boxers take jobs working for a kindly loan shark who is trying to track down the head of a scam loan company taking advantage of business owners and the homeless. The conflict between these two forces gets violent and bloody, and it was refreshing to see a villain who is so calculating and believable that when he first outlined his plot for his underling, hubby and I both went, “Wow, that’s actually a really good plan.” It’s also nice to watch a show that gets in to lay out the story, and then closes out without the need for any cliffhangers or concerns about whether a sequel will be greenlit. (And with Netflix, any longer series is at risk of getting cancel-hammered.)
The Wandering Earth
Without seeing a trailer, just the premise of one of China’s most ambitious sci-fi movies was intriguing. With the sun dying, the countries of the world united to build massive rockets to brake the Earth’s rotation, launch it out of orbit, and then fly out of the solar system with the aid of a very risky slingshot maneuver around Jupiter. Roll those words in your head and imagine what that should look like. Then watch the film and see how much bigger and cooler the idea becomes. It’s one part action and one part disaster film, and this combination mixed with awe inspiring special effects, a fantastic cast and a stellar soundtrack make this probably one of the most memorable films I’ve seen this year. The best part? This is PART ONE, and there’s a second film coming soon. Eeeeeee!
The Fall of the House of Usher
The last entry for this year is also the most surprising for me. Based on the trailer, I had zero faith that this idea could work. Instead, the first episode hooked me in with just a few loose ends, questions that I had to get answers for. By the second episode, I was in love, and that continued to the end because every episode is itself a loose adaptation of one of Poe’s stories.
The characters are compelling even as many of them prove just how villainous they can be, and each death of an Usher family member is appropriately horrific, yet oddly satisfying in several cases. Plus, having finally seen the last season of Major Crimes, it was nice to see Mary McDonnell role reverse from hero to reviled monster. Granted, the first episode is a little slow at first, so it might lose some of you before it gets to the good stuff. If so, fair enough. But I think if you stick with it to the second episode, you’ll find it rewards your patience.
So there you have it. As I said at the start, there was a lot of other shows I watched, and many that I liked. But these were the ones that left an impression and had me thinking about them long after we finished them.
On a final note, we’re looking at getting Prime Video this year, but we’re keeping Netflix. I have yet to decide if I’ll combine both steaming service offerings into a single list of recommendations or if I’ll make separate lists. I might also make more frequent posts like this during the year to promote the stuff I’m loving, so hopefully they won’t get cancel-hammed like so many shows that I loved and wanted to see finish properly. (Not that I’m bitter or anything.)
(I’m lying, and I’m totally bitter over every cancelled good show like October Faction, The Neighbor, God’s Favorite Idiot, Cobra Kai, and Diablero.)