There were remarkable anime shows to choose from, exceptional docu. series and also the OG crime sagas added to the mix to make it all come together in a consummate way for Netflix in 2023
2023 has been a super exciting year for streaming and particularly so for Netflix, which has sprung back into great form through the year with an eclectic roster. The past 12 months saw the giant of the industry take some much-needed creative risks and also cushion them with its staple content, but all in all, a bird's eye view of 2023 for Netflix certainly reveals several bright spots.
For TV or the long-format storytelling format that the web has now come to have full control over, the year has been incredibly fruitful and Netflix has stepped up to the occasion with great flair and inventiveness. It seemed almost imperative, also cathartic, given the stiff competition that was offered by the likes of Apple TV+ in the recent past and instead of caving in, the streamer simply dug deeper to pull out its best. And by the looks of it, 2024 will be the same if not better.
But for 2023, there were remarkable anime shows to choose from, a few exceptional limited documentary series and also the OG crime sagas added to the mix to make it all come together in a consummate way. A few old and well-known suspects, too, returned - like The Crown, Lupin, Stranger Things etc. - and as we slowly muster the courage to draw the curtain on another curtain year, the possible idea would be to revisit some of the gems that Netflix India offered us this year. We are pleased to share that this 'Top 10' list of ours includes not one but multiple Indian entries and that's the perfect cherry on the top.
Here are OTTplay's picks for the best ten shows or series on Netflix in 2023:
"Danny Cho is a contractor currently desperate for work whereas Amy Lau has a near-ideal life with a successful career, a husband and a child. However, they both strive for "meaning" in their own ways and when the two strangers get involved in a road rage incident, things quickly slip out of control and before you know it, they are looking at a long-lasting feud!"
'Beef' is what comedies ought to be about. While almost every little detail in the show carries that original and quirky comedic touch, the emotion guiding both the humour and the narrative is starkly intense and heart-rending. And it doesn't hold back. Be it the dark humour that it is laced with or the simmering anger of the characters that often transitions into relentlessness and even absurdity at times, there is something very enduring about the show. Also, it is a social satire that never overpowers the entertainment value.
Both Steven Yeun and Ali Wong are spectacular while playing their respective parts and together, they ooze a kind of effervescence that makes for great TV. It also helps that the writing, blending elements of thriller, black-comedy, tragedy and other genres, is fully aware of what the show is all about.
"When an NRI groom-to-be is found dead on the outskirts of a town in Punjab, two police officers must employ all their wits and wisdom to find the killer. As they slowly lower themselves into this rabbit hole, their own existential quests come to the fore to cloud their judgment but to also make them more blunt and grittier than ever before."
There are very few shows around us that have begun as clear-cut thrillers or genre exponents but have gradually metamorphosized into something deeper and bigger. 'Kohrra', created by Sudip Sharma, is a police procedural at first glance and as much as the limited series boasts the beats or the conventions of the subgenre, there is something very melancholic and unsettling about the way it presents itself to us.
It isn't that the showrunners and the writers (Gunjit Chopra, Sudip Sharma and Diggi Sisodia, with Randeep Jha directing the entire show) are trying to subvert our expectations more than required, but it is more to do with just how well connected they personally are to the physical terrain of the place. As much as the characters navigate the story, the essence of Punjab plays such an important role in 'Kohrra' that you are drawn into its sad world without any questions. After a point, the plot ceases to matter to us and not many shows out there are capable of doing that.
"It is the Edo Period (17th Century) in Japan and Mizu, a half-white, half-Japanese swordsmaster, has set out on her quest for vengeance. No one recognizes her, nor do they know how she trained to be so good with the sword. But what they will soon know is the wrath of her anger as she goes in search of those four white men to kill them."
Netflix's tryst with animation hasn't been one to rave about in the past, but 2023 has been categorically different in that aspect. Blue Eye Samurai is among the multiple anime shows that emerged on the platform this year and while each of them is worthy of a mention in this list, there is something very "well-rounded" about this particular show. First, there's a really compelling story at its heart that is both modern but also very respectful of the 'samurai anime' conventions and settings.
In the same vein, there's exquisite animation work (technically, 'Blue Eye Samurai' is not an anime because it was executed in France and not Japan) that accentuates the uniqueness of the series with verve.
On top of all this, there's a neo-noir(ish) tone to the show that is felt in its sound design, the dialogues and just the way the story progresses at its own mesmeric pace. Even if you aren't quite the anime junkie like me, 'Blue Eye Samurai' is an absolutely riveting watch.
Check out OTTplay's review of 'Blue Eye Samurai' here: A riveting samurai saga set in post-Feudal Edo-era Japan
"When Usher siblings Roderick and Madeline, the two-punch heads of a corrupt pharmaceutical company, are served with a legal notice for malpractice, little do they know that their ploy against them is deadlier and more sinister than they can imagine. Things then take a dark turn when Roderick's children start dying one after the other and deeply buried secrets emerge slowly."
Edgar Allan Poe's famous short story is given an allegorical edge in Mike Flanagan's horror miniseries 'The Fall of the House of Usher'. In a sense, the show is almost as though Succession, a supremely endeared show on its own, is viewed through a supernatural lens but what separates it from anything else you have come across thus far is just how unrelenting it is, especially while subjecting you to chaos. Needless to say, this isn't for the faint-hearted.
Flanagan's previous collaborators Carla Gugino, Bruce Greenwood and Rahul Kohli shine as cast members with Mary McDonnell, Henry Thomas, Kate Siegel and others, too, play pivotal parts in the eight-episode series. If you love horror that has a super interesting spin to it, this one's definitely for you.
"Retracing the harrowing 'Uphaar Cinema' fire incident that occurred in 1997, the show chronicles the excruciating yet deeply resilient journey of Neelam and Shekhar Krishnamoorthy, the parents who lost their children in that tragedy. It's about the fight for justice that has almost carried for two decades and the tenacity that they show to get to that point, while having to battle grief of the highest order."
While the theatrical viewing in 2023 was largely centred around the big-ticket or the larger-than-life experiences, one saw the web becoming the home to the low-register voices. That isn't to say that 'Trial By Fire', a seven-episode saga created by Prashant Nair and Kevin Luperchio, is not overwhelming or is rather subdued, but that the essence of the show lies in its muted doggedness. It's one of those rare shows that traces the lives of many at once but addresses problems that are deeply personal.
Rajshri Deshpande, as Neelam Krishnamoorthy, delivers a career-defining performance and Abhay Deol as her on-screen husband Shekhar proves that his penchant to keep trying something new hasn't waned over the years. 'Trial By Fire' could be a tough and demanding watch because it deals with extreme catharsis, but it's a journey that you will not forget very easily.
"A deep dive into the world of professional wrestling as we take a look at the bizarre behind-the-scenes activity that takes place behind the grand facade. From individual hardships and the emotional baggage that the wrestlers carry to the choreography and the art that they employ to make this form of 'sportainment' tick for fans and everything in between, 'Wrestlers' is everything you want to know about pro-wrestling."
Ohio Valley Wrestling or OVW has been the training ground for some of the modern-day greats like Dave Bautista, Brock Lesnar and John Cena, but the present isn't as glorious for the league as its past was. 'Wrestlers', the seven-part show, offers us a vibrant array of perspectives into the highs and lows of this unique profession and also reveals the human and flawed side of the individuals who are its exponents.
'Wrestlers' is a must-watch for all those countless fans of the sport and also for those who aren't, mainly because it isn't a sports documentary as much as it is an endearing portrait of the human spirit. As much as OVW becomes the point of focus, the docu. series discusses larger points about endurance and the showmanship that pro wrestling is and has been for many years.
"As a deadly and secretive disease breaks out on the Andaman & Nicobar Islands in the year 2027, the journeys of individuals from various rungs of life collide. From frantic efforts to find a remedy for the epidemic to tales of love and despair, the show explores shades of myriad kinds."
'Kaala Paani', created by Sameer Saxena, could well be described as the dark horse of this list mainly because of the courage and the conviction it exudes. It's a survival drama that takes several topical factors including the coronavirus pandemic into account and weaves a narrative that is metaphorical and rich in nuances. Sure, one might find that it gets a tad predictable at points but there's no denying that it's an incredibly compelling watch.
The cast, comprising Mona Singh, Ashutosh Gowariker, Amey Wagh, Radhika Mehrotra, Chinmay Mandlekar and others, is impressive and so is the writing of the collective of Biswapati Sarkar, Nimisha Misra, Sandeep Saket and Amit Golani.
"Kate Wyler posed with two nearly impossible tasks. One of defusing an international and forging strategic alliances as the United States ambassador to the United Kingdom. The other, of dealing with her deteriorating marriage with a fellow diplomat. Neither of the two is going to be a walk in the park."
The enduring political drama has been lent a racy edge in 'The Diplomat' with Keri Russell leading the way. With a compelling plot that is centred around major geopolitical crises and an array an extremely exciting characters, the show explores the strange yet alluring world of international diplomacy with a great eye for detail.
If you are someone who loves the good ol' political thriller that brims with slickness, then 'The Diplomat' is a must-watch. Keri Russell is top form, the writing is super engaging and the edge-of-the-seat thrills are non-stop.
"Assane Diop is in hiding following the showdown with Hubert Pellegrini in Season 2 of the show. Despite his absence and status as a wanted man in Paris, he is somewhat of a folk hero among the local public. However, things aren't as rosy or convenient for his wife Claire and their son Raoul who are subjected to a lot of scrutiny and harassment - can Assane or 'Lupin' pull off his best stunt to date and mend relationships with his loved ones."
It is a rare scenario that the third season of a show makes the cut in a list of this kind but it only goes to suggest just how well 'Lupin' has evolved with time. For those who have watched the first two parts or seasons of the French show, Season 3 will prove to be a fitting piece of the puzzle in the enigmatic life of the gentleman thief. And for those who haven't watched the show yet, this is the cue to drop everything else and get started.
'Lupin Season 3' is as exciting as the previous two seasons but what is more impactful is the manner in which the mastermind's personal life is handled. Without dropping the ball, the new narrative navigates all aspects with a lot of precision to deliver another extremely "binge-worthy" show this year.
"A dead body is found in London, in 2023, but strangely, the same event occurs at the same location in three different years - 1890, 1941 and 2053. What then ensues is a mind-bending investigation with four different detectives investigating the case in four different periods."
'Bodies' is another great exemplification of just how diverse Netflix's content has been through the year. Billed as a crime investigative drama, the eight-part series is also as much a science-fiction odyssey that handholds us back and forth in time. The experience is unlike any other in recent times and while there are strong echoes of 'Dark' in this one, it still sets itself apart through the way the narrative unfolds.