Header images courtesy of Netflix
Originally published by Inés Fung. Last updated by Annette Chan.
Staying off the streets seems like a sound idea at the moment, and what better opportunity to hole yourself up at home, order takeout, and get locked into a new series? Sometimes “getting locked in” means cancelling plans for the whole weekend, and that’s okay. Whether you’re a true crime buff, a soap opera fanatic, or simply looking to “Netflix and chill,” there’s a show out there for everyone. Here are our top picks for highly binge-able shows on Netflix Hong Kong right now that’ll help kill the boredom.
Set 34 years after the events of Karate Kid, Cobra Kai follows Johnny Lawrence—the original film’s antagonist—whose life has been a series of failures following his defeat at the All Valley tournament.
After stepping in to defend his young neighbour in a fight, Lawrence begrudgingly begins to teach the teen karate and reopens the Cobra Kai dojo. Before long, he’s reignited his rivalry with his old nemesis, Daniel LaRusso, and mayhem breaks out between them and their respective children.
There’s plenty to love about Cobra Kai: great fight scenes, a nostalgia-inducing soundtrack, and—because Netflix acquired the title from Youtube Premium—there are already two full seasons just waiting to be binged. Don’t worry if you haven’t seen the original film; between cultural osmosis and well-placed flashbacks, the series is very easy to follow, even for newbies to the franchise.
Tuca & Bertie may share an artist with everyone’s favourite “very famous TV show” about an alcoholic washed-up actor of a horse, but you’ll walk away (read: get up from the couch or out of bed) feeling refreshed and hopeful instead. The animated series follows the lives of Tuca and Bertie, two 30-year-old bird-women who are best friends and neighbours, as they navigate adult anxieties and their sometimes frenzied friendship.
It’s a whimsical and vibrant exploration of life that represents both women and complex universal issues well without relying on clichés. Each episode is about 25 minutes long, and its first (and to date, only) season is just 10 manageable episodes, making it the perfect foray into adult animation.
The Politician is a deliciously campy and satirical dramedy following the story of Payton Hobart, an ambitious and wealthy high school student from Santa Barbara whose single-minded aim in life is to one day become the President of the United States. Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk of Glee and American Horror Story fame, you know you’re in for a wild ride full of hilariously witty characters, OTT and glamorous costuming, and a story that shouldn’t make sense—but somehow does.
However, The Politician isn’t all laughs and political commentary: It can swing from sharp irony to tender moments regarding identity, mental health, and sexuality in just one scene, thanks to the large ensemble cast’s stellar performances. There are also some fantastic musical moments peppered through the 30-minute to hour-long episodes, and the entire first season is presented in an easily digestible eight-episode format, making it the perfect lazy afternoon viewing. A follow-up season was released just this summer so you can continue the binge across the weekend.
Following the success of Chef’s Table and Chef’s Table: France, Netflix’s wildly popular food documentary has returned with a new spin-off that celebrates the art of barbecue. And it is portrayed as an art form—from whole hog barbecue in South Carolina to ancient Mayan-style pulled pork in Mexico, the series treats every subject with the same reverence that has become characteristic of the Chef’s Table format.
With only four episodes in the season, and each of those episodes clocking in at around 45 minutes, it’s the perfect bite-sized weekend binge—just make sure you’re not hungry when you start it.
If you’ve ever wondered what happens after we die, The Good Place is the show for you. It explores a version of the afterlife through the lens of five main characters: Eleanor, a selfish pharmaceutical salesperson; Chidi, an ethics and moral philosophy professor; Tahani, a condescending socialite; Jason, a kind but childish and petty criminal and amateur DJ; and their guide and afterlife architect, Michael.
As the series goes on, the ragtag group of unlikely friends try to become better people via ethics lessons and cause hijinks both in the mortal and deceased worlds. They’re also accompanied by Janet, an entity designed to contain all knowledge with the ability to conjure up anything they needed (where’s our own Janet when we get an uncontrollable craving for fettuccine chicken alfredo at 3 am?).
It’s sincere, heartwarming, and creative in its exploration of often complicated philosophical and moral dilemmas. You can’t help but emerge as a more optimistic and insightful person after indulging in all four seasons (shaped into 13 22-minute episodes that are no problem to the seasoned binge-watcher).
Giri/Haji premiered on BBC last October to great critical acclaim, and now you, too, can consume this compelling thriller in one go to see what the hype is about. Critics have deemed it a “breath of fresh air,” and we’re inclined to agree.
Set in both Tokyo and London, you’ll hear both Japanese and English spoken fluidly as the show flits between being a family drama, yakuza thriller, and offbeat cop comedy. Bound by family duty, weary Japanese detective Kenzo Mori heads to London alone to find his mysterious younger brother Yuto, who’s presumed dead after his involvement in the murder of a prominent Yakuza member. He finds a tentative alliance in Sarah Weitzmann, an uptight Metropolitan Police officer who finds her morality challenged, and Rodney Yamaguchi, a half-Japanese sex worker whose cutting one-liners provide much-needed comic relief in the tense show.
We love how the show carefully balances the main plot filled with twists and turns while maintaining emotional depth, and for showcasing a side of Tokyo that isn’t the neon-soaked cyberpunk cityscape most Western media adores. Sink your teeth into this eight-episode series that’ll have you begging for more without being overwhelmed by the amount of ground covered.
The Chef Show is just so… wholesome. The jolly Jon Favreau teams up with Chef Roy Choi, who consulted on his 2014 movie Chef (often lauded as a realistic view into the world of chefs and professional kitchens) to travel around the world and celebrate their mutual passion: food. They gather their friends, as well as people of different cultures, to experiment with their favourite recipes and techniques (the Cubanos, grilled cheeses, and beignets that were featured in Chef make an appearance in the first season of the show).
There’s absolutely no forced drama, bad editing, or “clever” humour to be found. The respect that Jon Favreau has for cooking and his friend Roy shines through in all its sincerity, and Roy is a great mentor to both Jon and us, the audience. Watching The Chef Show feels real—like you’re just watching your own friends (if your friends included actor Tom Holland and famous chefs like David Chang) muck about in the kitchen and hang out over drinks.
Nature documentaries are a dime a dozen, but six-parter docuseries Night on Earth stands out in the sea of stunning nature footage because of its utilisation of innovative tech to produce simply otherworldly visuals of the animal world after dark. Wildlife watching has never been so compelling. The trippy usage of moonlight-sensitive and heat-tracking cameras fill our screens with the likes of cactus flowers blooming at night, glowing scorpions killing and mating (not simultaneously, don’t worry), and monkeys peering into the trees. Night on Earth taps into the very human curiosity of observing the unknown and delivers on that promise with beautiful shots and silky smooth narration by actress Samira Wiley of Orange Is The New Black fame.
We’re big fans of Vox’s YouTube series that Explained is based on, an unbiased and accessible look into topics like cryptocurrency, how the internet works, the design of suburbs, and more, so when we heard that Vox and Netflix had teamed up to produce a new show, we were understandably excited.
Explained builds on the successful model of dissecting topical subjects that aren’t usually on the news cycle in well-curated 20-minute episodes, paired with colourful graphics, catchy music, and celebrity narration. The series helps us stay informed while keeping us entertained, and usually inspires a rabbit hole of research done on the enthralling issues of designer DNA, extraterrestrial life, cults, and plant-based meat. There are two additional spin-off series, too, focused on the human brain and human sexuality. We can’t recommend this enough.
Last but not least, we recommend Pandemic, a new docuseries centred around the global battle against influenza and the frontline efforts to prevent the next viral outbreak. Pandemic explains to us several things in a no-nonsense manner: how new viruses emerge, how people around the world monitor for them, what frontline doctors face in trying to treat them, what it looks like to try to stop an outbreak, and the basic things that people can do to themselves stay healthy.
We appreciate that it shows the raw dedication of frontline medical professionals as well as behind-the-scenes cure and vaccine developers in not just the US, but Mexico, India, and the Congo. As we battle our own viral health crisis, never has a show been released at such appropriate timing, but it may provide some small solace knowing that we will get through this, as we have gotten through much worse before.