When it comes to a lighthearted viewing experience – consistent chuckles and just enough tenderness — Netflix is chock-full of options. If you’re looking for a show you can watch over and over again — laughing at the same jokes viewing after viewing — we’ve got you covered.
‘One Day at a Time
The Netflix original sitcom One Day at a Time — a modern reimagining of Norman Lear’s 1975 series of the same name — follows Nurse Penelope (Justina Machado) as she juggles her work and family life. Starring Rita Moreno as the fabulous grandmother with endless wisdom and a tendency to break into dance, the show is heartfelt and buoyant.
One Day at a Time is about finding happiness in the face of strife. It’s about sticking together. It’s about growing up. With a diverse cast of characters and relevant sociocultural commentary on the LGBTQ+ experience, capitalism, and racism in America, the show has a lot to say but always retains its comic center. While certain episodes may lead to the waterworks, the show transitions seamlessly between pulling at the heartstrings and tapping on the funny bone — always guaranteeing a chuckle after a weep.
Starring funnyman Gabriel Iglesias as a high school history teacher in an underfunded public school, Mr. Iglesias boasts several quippy one-liners and adult-themed plotlines despite its majority youthful cast — all of whom are equally endearing.
Each student boasts a memorable defining character quirk that, though resulting in a bit of two-dimensionality, underscores the show’s cutesy appeal. There’s the Stanford-bound social justice warrior, the himbo who’s in love with her, the girl who yearns to find her voice, the kid who’s probably smoking pot between classes, and don’t forget about the faculty!
Sherri Shepherd’s spotlight-stealing Principal Paula Madison is a hoot. Just give her a leading role in the school play, and she’ll approve any scholastic wishes you may have. Then there’s Christopher McDonald’s Coach Dixon, who’s got an alcohol problem and a suspicious amount of restless energy (but he puts Adderal in his coffee). There’s also the teacher who doesn’t really teach and the pretty redhead who’s led a life of privilege. She does yoga and complains about her long legs, but her thoughtful nature and love for love are endearing qualities that keep her in our good graces.
‘Grace and Frankie’
Starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin as enemies-turned-besties and Sam Waterston and Martin Sheen as their ex-husbands who divorce them to be together, Grace and Frankie is filled to the brim with unpredictable hysterics. The two ladies create a vibrator for those with arthritis. They create a toilet that rises up to help those with weak knees. They argue all the time, but they love one another.
Grace (Fonda) is a businesswoman. She’s the lady in a pantsuit with perfectly-quaffed hair and a martini in one hand. She’s got a polished stride and a polished nail. Frankie is the eccentric. She’s the artist with outlandish ideas that just may work. She’s got wild curls going every which way and a quirky fashion sense. And, somehow, these women from completely opposite walks of life with perspectives that couldn’t be more different, find common ground. They become soul mates, and no man will ever separate them. Tomlin and Fonda’s comedic timing is impeccable, as is their knack for the more heartwrenching scenes. These actresses are living legends, which the writers use to their advantage.
‘Never Have I Ever’
Devi Vishwakumar yearns to be popular. She wants to date the hottest guy in school, and she is on a mission to transform her life and the lives of her two besties — Eleanor and Fabiola.
Over the course of the show, Devi finds herself managing love triangles, fighting with her mom, and drowning in escapades with her besties, yet she also discovers what really matters in life. She matures. She finds herself and, along the way, discovers her confidence. It’s a feel-good show perfect for the entire family. From the mind of Mindy Kaling, the show is (unsurprisingly) uber-relatable, laugh-out-loud funny, and socially reflective.
Heartstopper is a tale as old as time with a refreshing LGBTQ+ twist — the jock has feelings for the social outcast (and vice versa). Can the two work? Will Nick’s rugby buddies make fun of him — not just for being queer, but for being with Charlie (the curly-haired and endearingly dweeby guy)? Can Nick and Charlie work when Charlie is out of the closet, and Nick is not? It’s an adorable story of young romance that melts your heart with each passing episode.
The little animated effects around the lead characters — like butterflies swarming around them when they first meet — only augment the show’s serendipitous quality. Staring at each other from across the schoolyard, saying “hi” with a slight smile as if it’s the only word in the dictionary, going out of their comfort zones to impress the other. Heartstopper has all the ingredients for a charming teen dramedy, but it manages to strike an otherwise common chord with a surprising degree of sensitivity and originality.
‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt takes the gold regarding quirky and endearing characters. So, let’s recount. There’s the resilient and contagiously joyful Kimmy, whose optimism knows no bounds. We’ve got the loyal and vulnerable Titus (with self-centered tendencies and a hilarious dramatic flair). The privileged yet evolving Jacqueline. And, of course, the eccentric and unconventional Lilian — whose unapologetic attitude provides endless laughs.
The show is celebrated for its rapid-fire jokes and uplifting message, as it tackles themes like resiliency and empowerment with a light-hearted tone. Satirizing fame, wealth, social media obsession, the consequences of technology, and more, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt jumps seamlessly between utter irreverence and heartwarming reflection, as the main characters take on this big bad world as a united front (sometimes).
Family Reunion follows a close-knit family struggling to transition from life in Seattle to Georgia — where they live with extended family. With Loretta Devine as Grandma M’Dear and Tia Mowry as Momma Cocoa, the show is filled with heart and humor. It’s also unafraid to tackle topics ranging from police brutality and racial tensions in the South to colorism and class differences. The show spotlights this small family, yet uses their experiences to reflect on communities of color at large.
Most of the time we’re treated to humorous sibling rivalry, some parent-child strife, and marriage difficulties. The show may not be filled with laugh-out-loud moments, but it will definitely make you chuckle, and it’s bound to warm your heart. Don’t test M’Dear. She knows best. Don’t challenge Cocoa. And kids, grow up (but not too fast)!