The 8 best and 8 worst Netflix Original series of 2017

Netflix is a content powerhouse. No longer just the service that Orange is the New Black and House of Cards built, with over 40 new original series premiering in 2017 alone, the streaming giant continues to solidify its hold over the online viewing ecosystem it helped create. 

With that in mind, we're looking over the most notable shows Netflix had to offer in 2017— but instead of picking through every original series released over the past 12 months, we've narrowed our scope a bit to focus on the releases that fell closest to either end of the spectrum. Without further ado, here are the best—and worst—Netflix original series that premiered in 2017. 

Best: Dear White People

Inspired by Justin Simien's movie of the same name, Dear White People focuses on the students of color who attend the mostly white Winchester University, with each episode telling uniquely layered stories. Every installment follows the various characters that make up Samantha White's (Logan Browning) social circle, exploring timely concepts of activism, racial bias, and social injustice along the way.

It might feel like work to turn on socially mindful television in these politically fraught times, but Dear White People hit the streaming platform with addictive drama to go with its worthy message—and built on its source material. "The movie was audacious, irreverent and feisty, with a feel for the tripwires of a supposedly postracial era. It also sometimes felt spread thin by trying to represent a broad range of experiences," noted the New York Times. "The series fleshes out its characters by using its extra time well and embracing the episodic structure of TV."

Dear White People's half-hour episode length made its first season extremely easy to binge, and Variety reports the series was renewed for another season in June. Stay woke, Netflix.

Worst: Santa Clarita Diet

With Santa Clarita Diet, the zombie genre makes its way into the humdrum world of everyday suburbia. Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant star as Sheila and Joel, a married couple in the real estate business doing their best to live the American dream. All goes awry, though, when Sheila contracts a virus—probably from her trendy green smoothie habit—and undergoes a transformation from soft-spoken housewife to loose cannon zombie.

Victor Fresco's series does a good job at introducing a unique take on an overdone subgenre. While it hardly cracks the surface on what this disease actually is, there's enough mystery to keep genre fans tuned in. Once you get past the shock value and gore, though, it relies a bit too much on the seemingly innocent married couple hiding a gruesome secret and growing body count.

"There are comedies that make a complicated tone or a wacky high concept seem effortless—and Santa Clarita Diet is not one of them," said The Hollywood Reporter. "The high exertion of getting mirth and metaphor from the morbid often leaves Fresco's cleverer dialogue buried and forces the stars to play the same strained beats over and over."

Best: Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return

When Netflix brought MST3K back to the masses, diehard fans were a little worried. Could the '90s cult hit retain its awesomeness with comedian Jonah Ray as the new Gizmonic employee imprisoned aboard the Satellite of Love? In a word: Yes.

"It will likely take longtime fans a few minutes to adjust to Ray and the new performers," admitted Wired, "but once they do, they'll find the latest MST3K host to be a likable mash-up of Hodgson's workaday wryness with Mike Nelson's gee-wiz good-guy vibe."

The 14-episode reboot updates the formula for today's audiences while keeping the fan favorites. Crow, Tom Servo, and Gypsy are all here, suffering through every big-screen clunker Ray is forced to watch. Added to the mix are Felecia Day, Patton Oswalt, and a kooky little rock band that helps to add some much-needed variety to the mix.

With Joel Hodgson moving behind the camera, where he's taken on writing and co-directing duties, MST3K: The Return proved to be a success. On November 23, Nerdist spread the news that the reboot will be returning with new episodes to Netflix in "the not-too-distant future." During a time of over-saturation, that's quite the accomplishment.

Worst: Ozark

With Ozark, Jason Bateman steps out of Michael Bluth's comedic shadow. But while his tortured portrayal of Marty Byrde—a money launderer for a Mexican drug cartel—is unlike anything we've seen from the Arrested Development actor, critical reactions were mixed when the series premiered over the summer.

The Washington Post noted, "It's as if the creators raided television's medicine cabinet and made off with all the amphetamines meant for a year's worth of other crime shows." And that's the main issue with Ozark: we've seen this stuff done before, and done better. "It wants to unpack this intriguing rural community," pointed out The Atlantic, "but it also wants to be a drama about an unlikely criminal, like Breaking Bad, and a show about a boring marriage revived by a shared mission, like The Americans, and a fable about how everyone's trying to make a living the best way they know how, just like The Wire."

Strong performances from Laura Linney and Bateman—who steps as director for multiple episodes, as well—keep the series entertaining enough. So much so that Variety reports Netflix renewed Ozark for a second season just a month after its premiere.

Best: Big Mouth

Big Mouth is one of those Netflix series that came with little warning and, when it hit, the buzz spread quickly. The animated series revisits Nick Kroll's childhood—he and longtime friend Andrew Goldberg developed the show—in the form of a raunchy cartoon that tackles the struggles boys and girls go through once puberty hits.

Joining Kroll in the voice cast are John Mulaney, Jenny Slate, Jason Mantzoukas, Maya Rudolph, Fred Armisen, and Kristen Wiig, among others. This ensemble, along with the brutally honest writing, delivers an animated series unlike anything you've seen before. Big Mouth covers every uncomfortable and awkward pre-teen moment you can think of with a voice that is equal parts informative, disgusting, heartbreaking, and hilarious.

Joining BoJack Horseman in the realm of Netflix's highly-rated adult comedies, it earned praise from outlets like Indiewire, who deemed it "As searingly perceptive as it is unapologetically vulgar" and added that it "sets a high bar for truthful coming-of-age stories." Audiences evidently agreed: Kroll's series was renewed for another season less than a month after it premiered.

Worst: Girlboss

"Was Girlboss Netflix's first truly terrible show?" asked Vanity Fair. It's possible. The comedy inspired by Nasty Gal creator Sophia Amoruso's life was, according to The Guardian, "a tone deaf rallying cry to millennial narcissists." Talk about a troubled demographic.

Girlboss followed the life of a young, rebellious Amoruso (Britt Robertson), who turns selling vintage clothing online into a career. As rebellious as she is in the series, Amoruso was portrayed without any sense of likability; when your lead character is an awful person, it's a lot harder for the audience to connect with their story—and that's even with the addition of RuPaul Charles as the sassy neighbor.

When Netflix canceled the series, Amoruso took posted her feelings on Instagram—which she has since deleted. According to Refinery29, she wrote, "So that Netflix series about my life got canceled. While I'm proud of the work we did, I'm looking forward to controlling my narrative from here on out. It was a good show, and I was privileged to work with incredible talent, but living my life as a caricature was hard even if only for two months."

Best: Alias Grace

2017 has been a banner year for author Margaret Atwood. Hulu's adaptation of her 1985 novel The Handmaid's Tale earned huge praise and eight well-deserved Emmys; with Netflix's Alias Grace, the Atwood-aissance continues.

"Like the Hulu series, it features revelatory voice-over narration from its protagonist, lots of characters wearing bonnets, and constant reminders of the culturally endemic misogyny that keeps women silent and in subservient position," said Vulture. "In the same way that Handmaid's did, it also feels incredibly timely."

Like Atwood's 1996 novel, the series follows the tale of Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon), a poor servant in 19th century Canada who's accused of murder. The story unfolds in an intriguing mishmash of true crime entertainment and prestige period drama, and supporting performances by Anna Paquin, Zachary Levi, and David Cronenberg further add compelling layers to a period series that feels all too relevant.

Worst: Neo Yokio

Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig took a break from making music to bring his love of anime to Netflix. Neo Yokio is the series in question and, unfortunately for Koenig, it hit all the wrong notes when it premiered.

Jaden Smith stars as Kaz Kaan, a pink-haired demon slayer whose family once liberated the sprawling city—which feels like a cross between New York and Tokyo. It all gets confusing from there, as the point of the story becomes a weird mess. "Neo Yokio's emptiness goes far beyond its protagonist's melancholy nature," noted IGN. "it lacks needed in-between frames for smooth animation, it disregards dimension in its more grand scenes, and it feigns sincerity in any serious issue it tackles."

Aside from the poor animation quality, the subpar voice acting from each member of the cast—from Smith to Jude Law to even Susan Sarandon—feels completely phoned in. Most importantly, the anime lacks any semblance of satire that'd help tie the story together. Or, as IGN so succintly put it: "Neo Yokio is humorless."

Best: American Vandal

Acting as a satire to true crime shows like Making a Murderer, The Jinx, and even Serial, American Vandal takes the familiar hard-hitting narrative back to high school, where immature humor is heightened to unexpected—and delightful—levels.  

"It's as engrossing as the series it set out to satirize and moving in ways you would not expect," said the Los Angeles Times. And that's quite the feat, given that the basis for the eight-episode investigation revolves around the mysterious lewd graffiti that appeared on 27 faculty cars parked in the school's parking lot.

Jimmy Tatro's performance as jock Dylan Maxwell is an immediate highlight, and not only does the program brilliantly capture the true crime docuseries phenomenon, it does so in a relatable manner that attracts teen viewers as well as adults. According to Entertainment Weekly, Netflix ordered a second season of American Vandal in October, so the investigation has only just begun.

Worst: Gypsy

Gypsy's story followed Jean Holloway (Naomi Watts), a therapist who grows bored of her suburban life and begins pursuing intimate relationships with the patients she was supposed to cure.

Marketed as a sexy psychological thriller, it felt as if Gypsy was trying to tap into the voyeuristic sensibility that made Fifty Shades of Grey a hit. Instead, the series barely mustered up a worthwhile simmer to keep audiences engaged. "Gypsy comes out a flavourless hodgepodge, with nothing about Watts's character's crisis even faintly convincing," sniffed The Daily Telegraph. Added Variety, "It strands a capable cast in a diffuse, predictable drama that seems less necessary with every minute that ticks by."

Gypsy was nixed almost as soon as it arrived. As reported by Deadline, the show was canceled in August after just one season.

Best: Mindhunter

David Fincher brings his signature tone to Netflix with Mindhunter, a serial killer series that feels completely on brand for the Zodiac director. Part true crime thriller and part 1977 period drama, the series explores the mission of two FBI agents—played by Jonathan Groff (Glee, Frozen) and Holt McCallany (Fight Club, Lights Out)—who end up creating the modern day process of profiling serial killers.  

Presented in Fincher's signature style, Mindhunter works as a slow burn that eventually makes its way underneath your skin. Unnerving, compelling, horrific … these are just a few ways to describe the series, which follows the unraveling of its two leads as they dig deeper into the psychological inner workings of America's most dangerous criminals.

It's "an extraordinary crime show that reinvents procedurals," said Collider. Taking into account that the streaming platform doesn't have many examples from the genre on its originals roster, SpoilerTV surprised no one when they reported Netflix ordered a second season of Mindhunter before the first batch of episodes even premiered. Talk about a no-brainer.

Worst: Friends from College

Friends from College is an uncomfortable comedy that follows a group of forty-something friends who reunite to relive their glory days. With a cast that includes Colby Smulders, Keegan Michael Key, Fred Savage, and Billy Eichner, one would think the program would deliver its fair share of laughs; unfortunately, the cringe factor is the only thing that builds as the episodic story progresses.

The main issue with Friends from College is that each character—from Key's affair-having author Ethan to Savage's self-absorbed gay architect Max—is a horrible person lacking any redeemable qualities whatsoever. It's hard for an audience to connect with the heroes of the story when they all prove to be jerks.

"The show is, to be clear, awkward—it meanders through strange plotlines and spends an excruciating amount of time on ridiculous capers," said The Atlantic, "and its characters almost seem to be competing to out-awful each other." Still, it seems that Netflix will be keeping the show around for at least one more season: Deadline reports Friends from College was renewed in August.

Best: One Day at a Time

Of the four sitcoms currently on Netflix's roster, the reboot of One Day at a Time is by far the best. Retooling Norman Lear's classic series into a story relevant for modern day audiences may have been a challenge, but they definitely pulled it off.

The show follows Penelope Alvarez (Justina Machado), a divorced working-class mother doing her best to balance her career while raising three teens. Diverse and hilarious, One Day at a Time tackles important cultural issues in a manner similar to NBC's short-lived Carmichael Show. A fresh take means some necessary upgrades were implemented, including the decision to make the story's central family of Cuban descent. The show also took Schneider—the building's scenery-chewing landlord—and turned him into a character that's less of a cartoon, but still just as funny. Tying the whole thing together is West Side Story's own Rita Moreno. 

"Suffice to say that this is the sort of series that makes difficult things seem easy," said Vulture's Matt Zoller Seitz. "So easy that you often don't realize how artful it is until you think back on it."

Worst: Disjointed

Taking a brief look through Chuck Lorre's IMDb page, it's easy to see why he's looked at as a genius in the sitcom world. From Roseanne to The Big Bang Theory, the man has brought some classic comedies to the small screen. Unfortunately for Lorre, "classic" probably isn't a word that will be used to describe his newest series, Disjointed.

The three-camera sitcom stars Kathy Bates, which is reason enough to tune in. Here, Bates plays Ruth Whitefeather Feldman, the activist owner of a popular L.A. medical marijuana dispensary. But if you're expecting an edgy performance akin to anything she's done in recent years, be prepared to be disappointed in Disjointed

Vulture might have put it best by calling Disjointed "a CBS sitcom that smoked a little weed, wandered away from its home network, stumbled onto Netflix, then looked around and said, 'Cool, I'm on Netflix now.'" And much like The Ranch—Lorre's other Netflix sitcom—Disjointed takes advantage of the lack of censors and cusses to its heart's content.

Bates' presence can't save Disjointed from its one-dimensional characters, lowbrow humor, and odd in-show commercials. The New York Times called it "one buzzkill of a pot comedy." The series quickly cemented itself as the worst-reviewed series of the summer, and the season ended on a cliffhanger—but at this point, it's unclear whether Netflix will bring the show back for seconds.

Best: A Series of Unfortunate Events

In 2004, Nickelodeon adapted the first of Daniel Handler's (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket) popular Series of Unfortunate Events novels. Jim Carrey starred in the film, which was intended to kick off its own franchise; unfortunately, those plans were scrapped, but more than a decade later, the Baudelaire orphans face Count Olaf once more in Netflix's spot-on TV adaptation.

A Series of Unfortunate Events follows Violet (Malina Weissman), Klaus (Louis Hynes), and Sunny Baudelaire (Presley Smith) who unexpectedly become orphans after their parents die in a fire. Enter Count Olaf, who does his best to act as their would-be guardian with the end goal of acquiring the Baudelaire fortune. Aside from Neil Patrick Harris' delightful performance as Olaf, the series stays true to the gothic tone of the books. Paying close attention to the original subject matter—dipping into the major plot points from the first four installments in the series—this new take on the Lemony Snicket story was an instant hit.

It's "a weird, hyper-aware, bleak bit of fun," said The Atlantic, and Netflix apparently agrees: Variety reports the streamer renewed the series for a third season in April, just one month after it ordered up Season 2.

Worst: Marvel's Iron Fist

Up until Iron Fist hit the small screen, Netflix was riding high on Marvel buzz. The first seasons of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage gave audiences everything they'd been wanting from Marvel TV shows—and then Danny Rand entered the picture.

When Finn Jones was announced as the actor to play Rand in Marvel's Iron Fist, reactions were mixed. Aside from the claims of race appropriation—Danny Rand is a privileged white man in the comics, too—Jones' personality and on-screen charisma was underwhelming. He needed to bring the heat, yet his performance ended up coming off lukewarm at best.

Combine that with a slow pace and less than stellar fight scenes, and Iron Fist's 19 percent rating at Rotten Tomatoes isn't surprising. The addition of Jessica Henwick's Colleen Wing and Rosario Dawson's Claire Temple does help to bring pep to the drowsy series, but it isn't enough to make the Marvel series a must-watch. As IGN put it, "Iron Fist is the worst part of Iron Fist." That's just unfortunate.