Hidden TV gems on Netflix

Netflix is on top of the world with its original shows like Stranger Things, Ozark, and Mindhunter, but the streaming service also has a huge variety of shows that were never graced with the hype of those headliners. From canceled network shows to hidden Netflix originals, here are some of the TV gems on Netflix that you've probably never seen.

Awake (2012)

Possibly the best show you've never seen, Awake premiered on NBC in March 2012 and was slated for cancellation even before the first season finished airing, despite overwhelming critical praise. The series follows Michael Britten, a police officer whose reality fractures after a car accident. In one reality, his wife survives while his son dies. In the other, his son survives and his wife doesn't. Caught between these two realities, Britten struggles to understand what's happening and cope with two forms of grief (the death of his son and his wife) simultaneously.

As we mentioned, critics raved about Awake, singling out not only Jason Isaacs' performance as the protagonist but also the thoughtful, mind-bending way the twin realities were portrayed. And gods be good, the first season at least offered enough closure to keep fans happy. As Esquire put it, "Awake's finale feels like a season and series-ender, leaving diehards with a smidgen of closure and plenty of burning questions." It's definitely an ending you'll want to watch … and then Google to find out if you're right about everything, and then watch again.

Helix (2014-2015)

Most SyFy original shows aren't exactly begging for critical recognition, but Helix is one of those rare gems that couples good production value with an intriguing story. The show centers on a CDC official (yes, yes, yawn) who goes to the Arctic to investigate a deadly pathogen outbreak at a research station. That's the bare-bones beginning to a story that rapidly dives into a dark pool of horror, science fiction, and fantasy.

Executive-produced by Ronald D. Moore of Battlestar Galactica fame and starring Billy Campbell from The 4400, Helix was unfortunately canceled after its second season, but you can experience all the mystery and terror on Netflix.

Dead Set (2008)

Released as a five-episode miniseries in 2008, Dead Set is living proof that having kind of a goofy premise doesn't necessarily mean a bad show. Capitalizing on the immensely popular reality series Big Brother – which sees a group of people living in a house for the audience's viewing pleasure – Dead Set asks: What if a zombie apocalypse happened, and the people in the Big Brother house didn't know about it?

Despite its satirical basis, Dead Set plays for realism over laughs, introducing a horde of bloodthirsty zombies that give no quarter and take more than a few pounds of flesh. It's dark and brutal, but with surprisingly honest characters who you actually care about by the end of the show. With only five episodes, you won't lose a lot of time gambling on this hidden gem, and you're likely to wind up enjoying every grisly minute of it.

The Finder (2012)

This spinoff of Bones centers on an unlikely character: Walter Sherman, who appeared in the 19th episode of Season 6 of Bones and then promptly disappeared from the series. Apparently, somebody at Fox thought Geoff Stults' quirky Miami detective was compelling enough to build a whole new show around, so Bones creator Hart Hanson whipped up The Finder and stuck it on the airwaves … and it failed miserably. Bones fans hated it, and the rest of the world couldn't have cared less. Fox gave it the boot after just one season.

Which is a shame because The Finder is genuinely enjoyable. It doesn't aim to shock or exploit the detective genre; it just revels in its light-hearted, off-kilter style. Even the premise is ridiculous: Walter Sherman doesn't have any special skills, and he isn't a particularly good detective. He just … finds things. Don't expect any surprises from The Finder, but if you want something light to wind down with at the end of the day, give it a shot.

Hotel Beau Sejour (2017)

This Netflix original was instantly overshadowed by the streaming service's more high-profile shows, most likely because of the subtitles and distinct lack of marketing. But if the German-language Dark's positive reception is any indication, an international paranormal noir mystery as good as Hotel Beau Sejour still has a chance to find an audience.

The story centers on Kato, a teenager who was murdered and now finds herself caught between life and death as she tries to solve her own murder. Only five people are able to see and hear her, and one of them may hold the clue to her death. Richly layered and atmospheric, Hotel Beau Sejour is a spellbinding mystery that'll keep you guessing to the end.

River (2015)

Abi Morgan is a name to remember, if only for her 2015 British miniseries River, although Shame and The Iron Lady, which Morgan also wrote, are definitely worth watching as well. In River, Stellan Skarsgard stars as John River, a genius detective haunted by the voices in his head. Skarsgard gives some of his best work here as the erratic detective, and the story is as compelling as it is deeply moving. While this may look like another run-of-the-mill police procedural on the surface, a mere 10 minutes into the first episode will completely change your mind. Do yourself a favor and give it a watch.

A Young Doctor's Notebook (2012-2013)

With the double star power of Daniel Radcliffe and Mad Men's Jon Hamm, you'd think A Young Doctor's Notebook would have drawn a bigger audience. Unfortunately, it was just too disjointed. For starters, the series is based on a series of short stories by a 19th-century Russian playwright, which is fine, but most young Potterphiles aren't exactly salivating for Russian Revolution-era historical dramas.

On the other side of the lifeline, the series may have been too violent for the elderly demographic channel-surfing after a rousing episode of Pride & Prejudice. As a result, A Young Doctor's Notebook never quite found an audience, averaging 250,000 views across its eight episodes — high for the network (Sky Arts 1), but barely a ripple in the industry as a whole.

Finally, it's just kind of a bizarre show. The story is told across two timelines and follows an inexperienced doctor assigned to a remote hospital in Russia. Daniel Radcliffe plays the young version, with Jon Hamm as his older self — who pops into Radcliffe's timeline now and then as a hallucination to guide the young doctor through some doctory shenanigans, like amputating legs and getting addicted to painkillers. Also, it's a comedy. Wrap it all up, and there's really no defining characterization for A Young Doctor's Notebook. It's something you just have to try on for size. For the right type of person, it's a perfect fit.

Norsemen (2016-2017)

The days of on-the-nose parodies like Scary Movie and Hot Shots are mostly a thing of the past, but Norsemen manages to squeeze in a little extra fun. Directly riffing on the popular show Vikings, Norsemen takes roughly the same premise — a group of Vikings on a quest for power — and plays it like a Monty Python sketch.

It's obvious that nobody in the production pulled any punches. The score is as epic as anything in Game of Thrones (no matter how ridiculous the action it's covering) and the set design is as authentic as they come. In fact, Norsemen is so nice they filmed it twice — the cast and crew filmed each scene in both English and Norwegian back-to-back to draw in the English-speaking crowd, and the English version is what you can find on Netflix. No subtitles, just good old-fashioned hilarity.

Wanted (2016-2017)

If you can let your suspension of disbelief take hold for a few hours, there's no way you can't enjoy Wanted. This Australian crime caper aired in 2016 and became the highest-rated drama series on the continent, but its transition overseas hasn't garnered it nearly as much attention. Wanted follows two strangers who accidentally become fugitives after a corrupt cop frames them for murder.

Granted, there are plenty of flaws in Wanted, but none of them are big enough to kill the series, and the two leads, played by Rebecca Gibney and Geraldine Hakewill, have enough presence to carry the show by themselves. Both current seasons are available on Netflix, so queue it up and enjoy the ride.

Ash vs Evil Dead (2015-2016)

If you know the Evil Dead franchise, then Ash vs Evil Dead needs no introduction. But cult films spawn cult television shows, and unfortunately this serialized sequel never managed to gain a mainstream audience. Again, for the fans, it's all there: a goofy, blood-soaked romp through the minions of Hell, chainsaw-plus-boomstick antics, and catchphrases the likes of which only Bruce Campbell could pull off. On some days, it's better than antidepressants.

Fortunately, newcomers can enjoy Ash vs Evil Dead just as much as the Raimi roadies who've been with the franchise for decades. The show takes place directly after the events of Army of Darkness (plus 30 years or so), but all that history is summed up early on, kicking off a whole new story where all you need to know is that Ash is a jerk who's great at killing demons. Now that the series' first two seasons are on Netflix, you can finally settle in and let the boomstick do the talking.