By Dhiraj Kumar
The explosion of the OTT (over the top) platform in the last few years with the entry of Netflix in India in 2016 triggered an avalanche of multiple players to enter this booming market. The streaming platform does not use the traditional cable, satellite, or television channels but a simple high-speed WIFI connection at home would be ample to enjoy the universe of world-class programs in the comfort of your home.
US-based OTT and production company Netflix was the first to bring its globally popular shows in India, followed by Amazon Prime, Alt Balaji, Disney-Hotstar, SonyLiv, Apple TV, Zee5, ErosNow, MX Player, and many others. Here’s a list of the best shows and films on Netflix for you to binge-watch this weekend.
The story from down under was one of the most-watched shows in Australia from 2016 to 2018. The protagonists, supermarket teller Lola Buckley and accountant Chelsea Babbage get involved unexpectedly in a wild chase across Australia, New Zealand, and Thailand to absolve themselves of a crime that was thrust upon them. It all starts at a bus stop when they are kidnapped in the boot of a car as they were a witness to a shootout. A ruthless businessman chases them to erase a footprint of a crime, he committed thirty years ago. Feisty Lola and prim Chelsea improvise in dangerous situations as they run along in this crime drama series spread across three seasons.
The Dig (2021)
Inspired from a true story of the Sutton-Hoo treasures in the mounds of Woodbridge, Suffolk in England, The Dig tells us a fascinating archaeological story from the year 1939. Edith Pretty, a British landowner appoints a local self-taught archaeologist-excavator Basil Brown to inspect and dig strange mounds in a specific tract of land in her large estate. Though reluctant in the start, Basil Brown gets down to dig the knolls only to unravel the secret remains of a 6th-century ship and artifacts of the Anglo-Saxon period. The find fetches interest of the British museum which takes over the dig and relegates Basil Brown to the side-lines as a worker. Together they excavate the remains which turn out to be one of the most significant archaeological discoveries in England. Though Basil Brown did not get any credit for his discovery then, today his name features prominently next to Edith Pretty in the British Museum.
Designated Survivor (2016-2019)
Storylines around the White House and the American president follow similar paths leading POTUS to save the world from some danger but not Designated Survivor. This thriller series turns the story on its head when the entire Government of the United States vanishes into thin air in a premeditated bomb explosion during the State of the Union address at the US Capitol building. One man, Tom Kirkman (played by Kiefer Sutherland) who is the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development is kept at a safe location as the designated survivor. In the commotion that follows, a shocked Tom is instantly sworn in as President. The three-season thriller series unlocks Tom who restores the entire government and the faith of the American people, but not before he develops his political skills and loses his life partner on the way. Designated Survivor is an edge-of-the-seat show that busts dangerous conspiracies against Tom Kirkman and the USA, culminating into an ultimate whodunnit.
The Last Czars (2019)
A docudrama depicting the tragic life of a Russian Czar is a brilliant portrayal of the Romanov Dynasty. The series tracks the tumultuous reign of the Russian Czar Nicholas II from his anointment in 1894 to his murder in 1918. The six-episode tragic drama exposes the fragile governance of Nicholas II and his wife’s Czarina blind faith in the evil Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin. Though there are minor errors in the historical depiction of the times of the czars, the series is a crash course into one of Russia’s most turbulent regimes.
If you want to forget your life’s worries and replace that with some magic, then Merlin is the show for you. This is the story of the mythical boy-magician Merlin who is the faithful servant to Prince Arthur Pendragon of Camelot. In a kingdom of iron-fisted king Uther Pendragon where the practice of sorcery of the old religion is outlawed, Merlin practices magic under the tutelage of court physician Gaius to save the king’s son, Prince Arthur from the dangers of paranormal forces. Arthur is dismissive of his servant, blissfully unaware that Merlin was the biggest sorcerer of all ages. Each time Merlin is stuck, he summons a fire-spitting great dragon Kilgharrah below the castle’s secret basement to rescue him, but the dragon savior extracts his wishes for advice. This fascinating five-season adventure series has Colin Morgan as the perfect Merlin who infuses just the right amount of magic in his performance making this show a must-watch.
The Crown (2016-2020)
Netflix drew numerous Indians to subscribe to its platform on the global popularity of The Crown with its launch in 2016. Based on the life and times of Queen Elizabeth II of the Windsor dynasty who is currently on the throne as the Queen of England, the series accounts the journey of her life through significant chapters in world history. The four seasons chart her reign from before her coronation in 1952 to her trauma of the purported separation of Charles and Princess Diana in the 1990s. The makers had envisioned to depict each phase of Elizabeth’s life to be played by an actor from that relevant age group, to bring authenticity to their performance. Hence the young Elizabeth was played brilliantly by Claire Foy in seasons 1 -2 and the older Elizabeth is currently being played by a dazzling Olivia Colman in seasons 3-4. Though critics have often pointed out historical inaccuracies in the show, the genius of creator and writer Peter Morgan makes this series a cannot be missed program on all OTT.
Ratched is an American psychological thriller drama series that debuted on Netflix in September 2020. Netflix introduced the show as “Ratched is a suspenseful drama series that tells the origin story of asylum nurse Mildred Ratched”. Mildred joins the Lucia State Hospital under Dr. Richard Hanover with a hidden motive. Her secret plan is to get her foster brother Edmund to break free from the hospital prison where he is being held in captivity for killing four priests. She conspires against Richard and head nurse Betsy Bucket, implicating them, and then takes control of the hospital. Sarah Paulson who plays the ruthless Mildred Ratched essays the brutal character with an equally chilling performance.
House of Cards (2013-2018)
If you are interested in the exposed belly of the ruthless American political landscape, then the magnificent House of Cards is the show for you. The series is based on the fictional characters of the malevolent husband-wife duo Frank and Claire Underwood. Bruised on being denied the position of the Secretary of State under President Garrett Walker, Frank is relegated to be appointed the Majority Whip to push the President’s agenda in Congress. Licking his wounds, he unleashes his wrath on each individual who comes in his way to attain the ultimate prize- The Presidency. Sadistic Frank and a shrewd Claire cleverly navigate their way to the top of the heap while they manipulate dangerous situations and hapless people to secure the Presidency of the United States for both. This dark, edge-of-the-seat thriller is a delicious six-season web series that can be devoured in a binge!
The Assassination of Gianni Versace- American Crime Story (2018)
The second season of the American Crime Story is based on the brutal assassination of world-famous designer Gianni Versace by a mentally disturbed serial killer Andrew Cunanan. Early morning on July the 15th, 1997 Versace who had just returned from his ritualistic visit to a magazine and coffee shop is killed on the point-blank range by Andrew on the steps of his famous Versace residence, the Miami Beach House. The story takes the viewer into the deranged mind and incidents that shape Andrew’s erratic behavior, leading to the series of horrible murders he commits before killing Versace. Shot in the actual Miami Beach House of Versace with special permission, the series gets as close to reality as it can. Special mention of the precise casting of the actors who fit perfectly into their roles of Versace, played by Edgar Ramirez and Andrew enacted by Darren Criss in the award-winning show.
The Staircase (2018)
A limited series based on the investigation into the horrific death of Kathleen Peterson in the staircase of their house in North Carolina, USA. Her husband, novelist Michael Peterson and she spend a quiet evening by the swimming pool on the 9th of December 2001. Kathleen leaves the pool area to retire for the day. She gets into the house to finish a few chores and then to call it a day. When Michael enters the house after some time, he discovers his wife at the bottom end of the staircase in the drawing-room in a pool of blood. He tries to revive her and frantically calls the emergency number 911. Police charge Michael on suspicion of murdering his wife. The Staircase series takes us through the arguments of the defense and prosecution in the courtroom, analysing the various facets of the investigation into the accidental death or murder of Kathleen Peterson. It’s a sad story.
(Dhiraj Kumar is an author and writer. He had been associated with Sridevi for over a decade. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @authordhiraj)