Netflix: Hidden Gems?

By Emma Johnson-Ferguson  

It may seem obvious to those of us who cough up monthly for our fix of TV and trashy films that Netflix is worth every penny. Yet upon adding up the monthly cost, it can be painful to see how much an addiction to Riverdale costs us on an annual basis. The number, eye-watering for those of us on a student budget, is enough to make even the staunchest film-fan question our loyalty to the streaming service. After all, a whole slew of movies that I love aren’t on the platform, along with most of my favourite TV shows. Is it really worth it? 

An easy way to answer this is to look at the alternatives; finding your weekly fix of TV on a dodgy online website may save you a few pennies, but you’re not 14 anymore. Is it really worth jeopardising your laptop’s security for an hour of poor quality screen time? Not to mention the inevitable buffering; Netflix’s ‘continue watching’ button seems more and more appealing…  

The other option is investing in another streaming service. Only joking; everyone knows the only platform worth the money is Netflix. Not only does it have a gargantuan inventory, its ever-multiplying original series are only getting better and better.  

That being said, the clear exception to this rule of course is Prime Video. It houses a great collection of films and TV, and creates its own originals too. Students even get 6 months for free. What’s not to love? Since it comes with Amazon Prime, it does seem to be a better bargain than Netflix (if you can handle missing out on the hype that surrounds Netflix that has never managed to transfer to Amazon’s own streaming service). Indeed, the amount of people who seem unaware of the amount of free TV lurking in Amazon’s next-day-delivery package is astounding. Arguably lacking quite the offering Netflix does, here are a couple underexposed gems that should prove Prime’s worthiness as Netflix’s only real competitor:

 

American Gods

Only one season in, this show has already caught the attention of critics. Revolving around a war between the Old Gods and the New, it includes a slew of stars, including Ricky Whittle, Emily Browning and Ian McShane. It’s perfect for those who prefer shows less obvious than most; it’ll be a few episodes until you feel like you have a handle on what’s going on. After that, the striking cinematography, mythology, morally objectionable protagonists (or are they antagonists?) and ever-growing confusion will have you hooked.  

The 100

The 100: Set a century after nuclear apocalypse, this show focuses on 100 juvenile delinquents who are sent to the ground from humanity’s Ark in space, to see if the Earth is survivable. Not to be discounted because of its ‘teen drama’ label, this dystopian offering provides characters who are constantly on the verge of losing the audience’s allegiance as they make impossible decisions. Armed with a cast that can act far too well for the CW network, the characters face dilemmas in the struggle to survive that get braver and more creative each season. From racism, xenophobia and tyranny, to artificial intelligence and medical rights, this show never gets boring, continuing to entertain in an intelligent and highly addictive way.  

Once you’ve watched these however, the inevitable migration back to Netflix is perhaps unavoidable. As is the endless scroll to find something new to watch. Despite having thousands (millions?) of hours of television, it is often impossible to find something new. So here’s what you should be watching once you’ve seemingly watched everything else half-decent: 

Sense8

Perhaps not underexposed, this show does not get nearly enough praise. Its eight protagonists come from five continents, speak seven languages and represent much of the LGBTQ+ spectrum. Oh, and they are psychically linked, meaning they can communicate and interact across said continents. Incredibly cleverly filmed, acted and edited, this show makes history in the way its story is filmed on location across the world. Looking at politics, family, sexuality and religion, this wildly sci-fi show remains grounded by its continual focus on human identity and relationships.  

Anne With an E

Anne With an E: Based on the Anne of Green Gables books, this show is far less cheesy than its trailer leads you to believe. Meticulously historically accurate in its sets and costumes, this show makes a star out of Amybeth McNulty who plays its eponymous heroine, whose portrayal is both endearing and infuriating (just like Anne from the books). With a lot of it being shot beautifully on location, this show is a feast for the eyes as well as providing a heart-warming 6 hours that leave you unable to look away.  

Chef’s Table

A non-fiction recommendation, this show goes behind the scenes in world-famous restaurants to explore the history, family and inspirations of the people who made them so renowned. Each episodes varies, with the show exploring a huge variety of cuisines, nationalities and traditions. These include Massimo Bottura, who is revolutionising traditional Italian recipes, to Patagonian Francis Mallmann whose Michelin star cooking is just at home in the rugged landscapes of the Patagonian Islands as it is in France’s best eateries. Perfect to have on in the background, this show is the documentary series you never knew you wanted.

Whilst that should be enough to be getting on with, should you still be uninspired, BBC’s relationship with Netflix is a never-ending contribution to procrastinators everywhere. From Poldark and Peaky Blinders to Call the Midwife and Doctor Foster, type BBC into the search bar and say goodbye to the next few days of your life. Speaking of, 2016’s War and Peace just got added – time to re-watch!  

Photograph: Jenny Cestnik via Flickr

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