Two strangers are drawn to a mysterious pharmaceutical trial that will, they're assured, with no complications or side-effects whatsoever, solve all of their problems, permanently. Things do not go as planned.
These series cut across genres--superheroes, post-apocalyptic action, supernatural thrillers, and classic science fiction--but they should all come with a warning from the Surgeon General. Don't blame us when you mutter "one more episode" to yourself at 3 am.
Long gone are the days of the studios' monopoly on quality content. In 2020, Netflix will spend $17 billion on original content compared to $4 billion for HBO. And Netflix lavish spending is producing some quality shows--Netflix won 27 Primetime Emmys in 2019 versus 34 for HBO.
The ancient Greeks divided their plays into comedies and tragedies, but the smiling and frowning masks are more extremes of a spectrum than binary variables, and some of the best TV shows of the past two decades, like Fleabag, Atlanta, Succession, and Shameless, find humor in deep pain and poignancy in funny situations.
In his 2007 TED Talk, JJ Abrams discussed the "mystery box": a box of magic tricks he bought as a kid that he has yet to open, because the mystery is more exciting than the knowledge of what is inside. These shows follow people trying to open the mystery box, usually in a world of missing persons, time travel, and alternate realities.
The characters in these series experience reality differently than most people--they talk to the dead, see psychedelic visions, or are trapped in time, they may be suffering from mental illness or recovering from trauma, but also see things that others miss and probe deep existential issues.