Last year was one of the biggest ever for Netflix, but 2016 looks to be even bigger, with tons of new shows, returning favorites, and even a crop of exclusive feature films. It could be overwhelming, so let us be your guide. Strap in and check out what’s to come from Netflix in 2016. (For another look at Netflix’s original series specifically, see our previous guide.)
1) Chelsea Does (Jan. 23)
E! staple/comedian Chelsea Handler has two shows hitting Netflix in 2016, but first up is Chelsea Does, an unusual departure from her usual fare. In the new documentary series, Handler dives deep into four subjects that fascinate her: marriage, racism, Silicon Valley, and drugs. She should just combine all of those and investigate the wedding of a racist, drug-addicted Silicon Valley tycoon. I’d watch the shit out of that. Look for appearances by Willie Nelson, Al Sharpton, and a creepy, interrupting robot head.
2) Love (Feb. 19)
What happens when you combine Judd Apatow, Britta from Community, and a remake of a Greek soap opera? We’ll find out next month with Love, which stars Community’s Gillian Jacobs and Paul Rust (who co-created the show with Apatow and Lesley Arfin) in a “down-to-earth look at dating” that follows “the awkwardly hilarious beginnings of Gus and Mickey’s relationship, as they navigate the good and bad, the exhilarations and humiliations on their way to Love.” Having Apatow in the stable can only be a good thing for Netflix, and the Netflix head honchos obviously like what they’ve seen: They’ve already ordered two seasons of the show, with the 10-episode first season arriving just in time for everyone’s post-Valentine’s Day bout of romantic repression.
3) Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny (Feb. 26)
Netflix continues its trend of resurrecting things you’d never expect with this sequel to Ang Lee’s Academy Award-winning 2000 martial arts epic. Legendary Chinese martial arts choreographer/director Yuen Woo-ping is at the helm for the sequel, working from a script by John Fusco, who previously created Netflix’s Marco Polo series. The cast includes Donnie Yen and Michelle Yeoh in “a story of lost love, young love, a legendary sword, and one last opportunity at redemption.” Netflix is seriously ramping up its feature film slate in 2016, and Sword of Destiny is leading the charge.
4) Fuller House (Feb. 26)
Speaking of unlikely resurrections, now we come to Netflix’s sequel/reboot to a beloved family sitcom that has been off the air for two decades. Cut it out, it’s Fuller House, the Full House follow-up somebody somewhere probably demanded, maybe, I guess. I’ll concede I’m not the target audience here, but Full House fans should be excited since nearly the entire original cast is returning for more adventures of the Tanner family (the Olsen twins opted out, apparently). It’s probably too much to hope that one of the episodes will feature Bob Saget delivering one of his notoriously filthy stand-up sets, but one can dream. Thirteen episodes of TGIF silliness will be available for streaming next month.
5) Marseille (March 2016)
Netflix has been dipping its toes into the waters of international productions from the start of its original programming push, beginning with the underrated Norwegian/American series Lillyhammer. This March it’ll be bringing us the French drama Marseilles, starring Gérard Depardieu. He’ll play Rober Taro, for 25 years the mayor of that scenic coastal city, now squaring off against a former protége (Benoit Magimel) in an upcoming election. His role is unsurprisingly drawing comparisons to Kevin Spacey in House of Cards, as well as Kelsey Grammar’s role in the short-lived Starz series Boss. The first season will run eight episodes.
6) Pee-wee’s Big Holiday (March 2016)
Paul Reubens’ gleeful manchild returns to the spotlight after a long absence with this year’s Netflix film. In Pee-wee’s Big Holiday, “A fateful meeting with a mysterious stranger inspires Pee-wee Herman to take his first-ever holiday in this epic story of friendship and destiny.” Big Holiday marks Judd Apatow’s second Netflix project of 2016 (he’s producing the flick with Reubens). The cast also includes two True Blood veterans, Tara Buck and Joe Manganiello, which is a weirdly specific coincidence. In the meantime, feed your Pee-wee cravings with Big Adventure, Big-Top Pee-wee, and Pee-wee’s Playhouse on streaming.
7) Special Correspondents (April 29)
Netflix’s third original film of 2016 stars is a remake of a 2009 French comedy from writer/director Ricky Gervais, who also co-stars alongside Eric Bana, Vera Farmiga, Kelly Macdonald, Kevin Pollak, Benjamin Bratt, and America Ferrera. Bana plays an arrogant New York radio journalist whose career is on shaky ground. He tries to revitalize things by faking “front-line war reports”—all while hiding out above a Spanish restaurant in Manhattan. Gervais plays his technician, who helps maintain the ruse.
8) The Crown (2016)
Peter Morgan earned an Oscar nomination in 2006 for his script exploring of the life of Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen, and this year he’ll turn back the clock to explore her earlier years in The Crown. Described as a “gripping, decades-spanning inside story of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the Prime Ministers who shaped Britain’s post-war destiny,” The Crown stars Claire Foy (Wolf Hall) as Elizabeth; Doctor Who’s Matt Smith as her husband, Philip Mountbatten, Duke of Edinburgh; and John Lithgow as Sir Winston Churchill. The first season will run 10 episodes.
9) Flaked (2016)
Netflix must be great to work with, because the streaming network not only consistently attracts top-tier talent, but that talent often sticks around for other projects. Case in point: Flaked, which reunites Will Arnett (BoJack Horseman) with Arrested Development maestro Mitch Hurwitz for a comedy about a self-help guru doing his “honest best to stay one step ahead of his own lies.” Arnett does smarm better than just about anybody, so getting to see him play a selfish self-help huckster should be a treat and a half. The first season will run eight episodes.
10) Frontier (2016)
Game of Thrones’ Jason Momoa stars in this six-episode adventure drama from San Andreas director Brad Peyton. Told from multiple perspectives, Frontier will examine the violence and power struggles of the 18th century fur trade, including clashes between settlers and Native Americans. Done right, it could be Deadwood with more hatchet fights. If you’re only familiar with Momoa from Game of Thrones, you can see more of his acting chops in the two-season SundanceTV series The Red Road, available to stream on Netflix Instant.
11) The Get Down (2016)
Baz Luhrman (Moulin Rouge) and Shawn Ryan (The Shield) are two talents I never would have expected to collaborate, but that’s exactly what’s happening on The Get Down, and the show sounds just as bizarre and fascinating as that pairing would suggest. Set in 1970s New York, The Get Down is a musical drama described as “a mythic saga of how New York at the brink of bankruptcy gave birth to hip-hop, punk, and disco.” Honestly, you had me at “created by Baz Luhrman and Shawn Ryan,” but this has the potential to be truly amazing, and it’s great to see Netflix continuing to take chances. Season 1 will comprise 13 episodes, and anybody who name-checks Cop Rock gets a black eye from yours truly.
12) Jadotville (2016)
Starring Fifty Shades of Grey’s Jamie Dornan, Jadotville is a war drama based on the real-life 1961 siege of Jadotville in the Central African nation of Congo. A group of around 150 Irish U.N. troops had been stationed in the mining town of Jadotville to help protect the citizens from local unrest, but they soon found themselves pitted against some 3,000 Congolese troops, as well as French and Belgian mercenaries under the employ of the mining companies. Fun fact: Jadotville was written by the same guy who penned the 1996 Steven Seagal/Keenen Ivory Wayans joint The Glimmer Man. Here’s hoping for a Seagal cameo.
13) Lady Dynamite (2016)
The time-honored tradition of “professional funny person stars in a show loosely based on their own life” continues with Maria Bamford’s Lady Dynamite, a mockumentary-style series from—yet again—Arrested Development’s Mitch Hurwitz. Hurwitz co-wrote the show with South Park’s Pam Brady, and will involve “occasionally surreal episodes, refracted across multiple periods inspired by the actor/comedian’s life, [telling] the story of a woman who loses—and then finds—her shit.” Confirmed guest stars include Sarah Silverman, Patton Oswalt, Mira Sorvino, and Tig Notaro. In the meantime, go watch Bamford perform standup to her parents—and only her parents—in The Special Special Special.
14) Marvel’s Luke Cage (2016)
Marvel’s collaboration with Netflix is two for two after the amazing Daredevil and the arguably even better Jessica Jones. Next on deck is Luke Cage, introduced in Jessica Jones and preparing to take the spotlight in his own series later this year as we continue down the road toward the eventual Defenders miniseries. Mike Colter returns in the lead role as Luke, a former convict who uses his unbreakable skin and super-strength to help clean up the streets of Hell’s Kitchen. Veteran actress Alfre Woodard (12 Years a Slave) is signed on for all 13 episodes, and Rosario Dawson’s Claire “Night Nurse” Temple will continue her trend of appearing in all the Netflix/Marvel shows so far. We wouldn’t be surprised if Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) put in an appearance as well. The show is said to force Luke to “confront his past and fight a battle for the heart of his city.”
15) Mascots (2016)
Christopher Guest has already explored quirky subcultures such as rock music (This Is Spinal Tap), dog shows (Best in Show) and folk music (A Mighty Wind). In 2016, he’s delving into yet another weird corner of our world with Mascots, which is set in the world of, you guessed it, competitive professional mascots. More specifically, it tracks the fierce competition of the “8th World Mascot Association championships,” the winner of which will take home the prestigious “Gold Fluffy Award.” The cast includes Parker Posey, Jennifer Coolidge, Jane Lynch, John Michael Higgins, Fred Willard, and Harry Shearer.
16) The OA (2016)
Not to be confused with The OC, The OA is a mysterious new Netflix project from indie darlings Britt Marling and Zal Batmanglij. The two previously collaborated on the headtrip that was 2011’s Sound of My Voice, in which Marling played a cult leader who may or may not be from the future. Netflix is keeping mum about the concept behind The OA, but it should be fascinating to see what Marling and Batmanglij have concocted this time around.
17) The Ranch (2016)
Given their tendency for latter-day revivals, Netflix may eventually get around to sequelizing That ’70s Show, but in the meantime fans will get a miniature reunion when The Ranch pairs that series’ stars Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson. The duo will play brothers who run a Colorado ranch together, butting heads after Kutcher’s character ends a stint as a semi-pro football player and returns home to help manage the family business. The multi-camera comedy was created by Two and a Half Men showrunners Don Reo and Jim Patterson, and 24’s Elisha Cuthbert has also joined the cast. Interestingly, the first season is set to run 20 episodes, but the plan is allegedly release it in two batches at different points during the year.
18) A Series of Unfortunate Events (2016)
Daniel Handler’s beloved series of children’s novels had the unfortunate fate of being adapted into a franchise non-starter back in 2004, but thankfully it’s getting another shot courtesy of Netflix. The streaming net is producing a new series based on Handler’s children’s books (written under his pen name of “Lemony Snicket”) about a three orphans who are thrown through… well, a series of unfortunate events after the deaths of their parents. The books are delightfully dark and funny, and the movie itself actually wasn’t half bad, even if it failed to spawn a sequel. Hopefully the Netflix incarnation will prove to be a series of fortunate events—at least when it comes to longevity.
19) Stranger Things (2016)
Fox’s Wayward Pines was a surprise mind-bending hit last summer, and now the creators of that series—Matt Duffer and Ross Duffer—are headed to Netflix with Stranger Things. Set in the 1980s in Montauk, New York, Stranger Things is a mystery/drama centering on the disappearance of a young boy from Montauk. Reports suggest there are some sort of supernatural elements involved, and it’s described overall as “a love letter to the ’80s classics that captivated a generation,” It’s only appropriate, then, that the cast is headed by Winona Ryder, who put her own stamp on the ’80s in the form of Beetlejuice and Heathers, as the mother of the vanished kid.
20) 3% (2016)
Continuing its international forays, Netflix’s upcoming 3% is a Portuguese-language sci-fi drama shot in Brazil. It unfolds in a dystopian world where society has become sharply divided between “progress and devastation,” but where some small number of the unfortunates on the “devastation” side—around 3 percent—are given the chance to relocate into the greener pastures of “progress.” Exactly what all that means or how it all works remains to be seen. Maybe a talent show? Director César Charlone, who handled cinematography on 2002’s City of God, told Variety, “Ultimately, the series questions the dynamics of society that imposes constant selection processes we all have to go through, whether we like it or not.” The series actually began life as a pilot back in 2011, which you can still watch on YouTube; the first episode is below.
21) War Machine (2016)
Based on Michael Hastings’ bestselling book The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan, War Machine is one of Netflix’s biggest theatrical acquisitions yet. War Machine was written and directed by David Michôd (The Rover), who describes it as a satirical comedy exploring “the sprawling, complex, cumbersome and crazy machinery of modern war and the many lives it touches.” Brad Pitt stars as a four-star general (based on the real-life Gen. Stanley McChrystal) struggling to win an unwinnable war in Afghanistan. Netflix COO Ted Sarandos called War Machine, “a rip-roaring, behind-the-facade tale of modern war decision-makers, from the corridors of power to the distant regions of America’s ambitions.”
Illustration by Max Fleishman