Skip the winter blues with these funny, upbeat, or escapist shows.

By Lauren Phillips
January 07, 2021

New year, new shows—sort of. We may (thankfully) have made it to the long-awaited 2021, but that doesn't mean we have to leave all the shows we loved last year in the past. There's something soothing about rewatching the best shows on Netflix any time of year, but especially during dark and dreary January, when comfort food and cozy clothes are essentials. And after all the great shows that came out on Netflix last year, there's plenty to watch.

From Bridgerton—if you haven't seen it yet, of course—to The Queen's Gambit, there were tons of great new shows on Netflix in 2020. Still, some of the best shows on Netflix were older, too, with several seasons to get lost in. (Die-hard binge-watchers will agree that some of the best shows are the longest-running ones.)

From new shows to older ones, we've rounded up the best shows to watch on Netflix right now, especially if you're looking for spirit-lifting shows to help ward off any winter (or pandemic) blues. Before you know it, it'll be time for the best romantic movies on Netflix; if you want to maintain the holiday spirit there are always the best Christmas movies on Netflix for cheer or Halloween movies on Netflix for some spooks and scares, but for now, dive deep into these great series (listed in no particular order) for romance, humor, light-hearted drama, and more.

The best shows on Netflix in January

1. Bridgerton

There's a tiny, itty-bitty chance you missed the launch of this long-anticipated TV series (and Netflix Original) from Shonda Rhimes' production company on Christmas Day. If you've managed to wait to watch the show (and not bought into the hype online), resist no further: Bridgerton is a must-watch this January. (And if you've already watched it, there are plenty of shows like Bridgerton to enjoy.) The series follows London's elite in the early 19th century as they seek love and marriage (not always together), political alliances, and gossip during the glittering social season. Think of it as an indulgent, escapist blend of Gossip Girl and Pride & Prejudice with something to appeal to everyone—and a delightful reimagining of how people of color operated in the era. With only eight episodes and plenty of cliff-hangers and drama to keep you hooked, you'll tear through the show in a matter of days.

2. Outlander

Based on a beloved, thoroughly researched book series that blends romance and historical action with just a hint of supernatural intrigue, this beautifully crafted TV series is supremely binge-worthy (particularly if you can't get enough of Bridgerton). The premise is deceptively simple: A 20th-century Englishwoman is magically transported to 1700s Scotland. Her fight to survive her new, dangerous surroundings puts her in the path of a striking young Scot, and the series follows their adventurous life together across centuries and countries. It's packed with roaring fires and warm cloaks, too, so you can even find some warm winter vibes in this show.

3. The Politician

Witty, wry, and incredibly cast, this tale of a boy in pursuit of his senior class presidency (and then the U.S. presidency, of course) will have you hooked by the end of the first episode. Whether it's the amazing scenery and costumes, the quick dialogue, or the actors—Ben Platt, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Zoey Deutch all play starring roles—everyone can find something to enjoy. With season two newly available as of June, too, there's even more to watch.

4. How to Get Away with Murder

More cautionary tale than how-to guide, this addictive series (also from Shonda Rhimes, for Bridgerton fans) follows a powerful lawyer and law professor and a select group of her students as they become entangled with various murders and crimes. Sometimes they're committing the crimes and sometimes they're defending the criminals in court—all six seasons of this series currently on Netflix keep viewers hooked.

5. Grace and Frankie

Two men of a certain age fall in love—with each other. Their respective wives, looking forward to the long years of retirement, find themselves thrown together unexpectedly: Their unlikely friendship and buddy comedy–esque shenanigans keep this adored show upbeat and fun to watch through all six seasons.

6. The Queen's Gambit

Though it's lamentably not based on a true story, this tale of a chess prodigy is enthralling and stunning all at once. Starring Anya Taylor-Joy—if you saw Emma, you'll recognize her—as a Kentucky girl with a rare talent, the seven-episode series follows her journey through the world of competitive chess as she faces heartbreak, loss, and her own struggle with addiction. Fair warning: You'll be itching to pull out the chess board by the time you finish.

7. Outer Banks

It may only be one season long (for now), but this fresh Netflix Original Series is supremely bingeable. It was in the top-10 ranking of the most popular movies and shows on Netflix (according to Netflix) for weeks after its release for good reason: The show follows a band of teenaged misfits treasure hunting, fishing, surfing, and occasionally dodging bullets in North Carolina's Outer Banks. If the action-packed drama and dynamic, charming characters don't get you, the beautiful coastal scenery and warm-weather vibes will.

8. Girlfriends

This popular mid-2000s comedy follows four ambitious women as they seek love, success, and more in Los Angeles. All close friends, these leading ladies face common challenges and pitfalls in the funniest ways possible, always supporting each other through them all. With the delightful Tracee Ellis Ross as one of the four stars and eight great seasons to watch, this is the uplifting comedy your January needs.

9. Sister, Sister

Newly arrived on Netflix at last in September, Sister, Sister is a '90s family sitcom following two twins separated at birth—played by Tia and Tamera Mowry—who are reunited after 14 years apart. With their adopted parents in tow, they create their own happy family, though lifestyle and personality clashes keep the show interesting, entertaining, and funny for all six seasons.

10. Good Girls

Come for the big-name stars—Christina Hendricks, Retta, and Mae Whitman as the titular good girls—and stay for the drama, action, and comedy, which seem to come in equal measure through all two seasons currently available on Netflix. (Season three of this top Netflix show finished airing in 2020.) You'll laugh, you'll feel the pain of being a middle-class mom with a pinched income, and you'll be shocked at the criminal antics these women get into.

11. Imposters

Thrilling, dark, and subtly hilarious, this series starts with a young bride running off with her new husband's fortune—and then follows the con-woman's victims as they band together to track her down. Viewers get to see both sides of the story here, and before you know it, you won't be sure who to root for.

12. Arrested Development

What's a wealthy family to do when they lose everything? In this sharp comedy, they try to win it all back: The show follows the most capable sibling as he tries, again and again, to restore his family's company and wealth, even as his incorrigible mother and dysfunctional siblings seem to thwart him at every turn, intentionally or not.

13. Supergirl

Following Superman's well-meaning cousin, this show (with five seasons currently available on Netflix) is the story of how the beloved Supergirl becomes her own hero. Pop-ins from Superman, the Flash, and other DC heroes help tie the show into the CW's comic book-to-TV universe; even if you don't follow the other shows, this one is an upbeat pick the whole family (especially older kids) will enjoy.

14. Virgin River

With the small-town intrigue of Gilmore Girls, the medical mystery of Grey's Anatomy, and the romantic tension of all your favorite banter-filled rom-coms, this series is perfectly formulated to be binge-worthy. Even better, it takes place in a wintry northern California town—and season two is newly released, so there's even more to enjoy, especially if you're seeking an easy show to watch.

15. Schitt's Creek

A heartfelt (and now Emmy-winning) riches-to-rags story, this comedy follows the Rose family as they're forced out of their lives of the rich and famous and into a middle-of-nowhere (and unfortunately named) town filled with unusual characters. They try to rebuild their old lives and find themselves building new ones instead. Schitt's Creek made history in 2020 by sweeping comedy categories at the Emmys, and the final season (season 6) launched on Netflix last year. If you haven't watched this wonderfully funny show yet, now is the time.

16. Dawson's Creek

Packed with top names of the early 2000s and now—think James Van Der Beek, Katie Holmes, Michelle Williams, and Busy Philipps, to name a few—this soapy drama follows a group of teens exploring love, sex, adolescence, and more in a small town. While its subject matter may have been scandalous for 1998 (when the show premiered), fans of Gossip Girl or Riverdale might find it a little tame—but still supremely fun to watch and bingeable. Brand new to Netflix for the first time in the U.S. last November, this six-season series is a great distracting pick for your January viewing.

17. Jeopardy

What is the longest-running game show on TV? Few people don't already know and love this knowledge game show, but its relatively recent arrival to Netflix makes Jeopardy bingeable for the first time. Turn it into a family-friendly game by playing along with the contestants; everyone will learn a little and be entertained a lot.

18. Community

This beloved 2010s comedy about a group of students at a community college is one of the best TV shows to binge-watch. With six hilarious seasons (and the first few being the best, of course), smart gags, witty humor, and more, it'll keep you entertained for days. It may even inspire a few indoor, at-home activities: blanket fort, anyone?

19. The Crown

Since the release of seasons three and four, The Crown—one of the best Netflix Original Series, and the winner of many awards over the years—is officially binge-worthy for those who think the best shows on Netflix are the long-running ones. Follow four decades (so far) in the life of Great Britain's Queen Elizabeth, with plenty of royal intrigue and familial conflict to keep you hooked. With the much-anticipated season four (featuring Princess Di!) released in November, there's plenty for fans new and old to watch.

20. New Girl

For a good show on Netflix that will put you in a great mood with every episode, turn to this playful, upbeat comedy, which follows the titular girl as she moves in with three quirky men. Their seven seasons of shenanigans will keep you entertained for hours—a close-to-perfect way to spend your time indoors, if you ask us.

21. Sherlock

With a dedicated fanbase and plenty of acclaim, this modern adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's beloved Sherlock Holmes stories is teeming with mystery, clues, and dry humor. The British series, set in modern London, has wit and dark intrigue in equal measure, with 13 long episodes—an hour and a half each, on average—to keep you entertained for days. The mysteries are plenty intriguing, but the fact that the titular character is almost always wearing a frock coat makes this a great thing to watch this month to help get you in the cold-weather mood.