2018’s Best Netflix specials and shows

Have an evening free? The Peak has compiled the best things that came to your computer screen last year

Image courtesy of Cosmopolitan

By: Kitty Cheung, Kate Olivares, and Winona Young

Hard Knock Wife

Ali Wong’s Hard Knock Wife is a comedy special that delivers feminist punches to sexist conceptions about motherhood and gender roles. As this Asian-American comedian goofs around on stage whilst pregnant with her second child, her maternal satire is fiercely dynamic, sexual, and glorious. Hard Knock Wife is the second Netflix comedy special Wong performed while pregnant, after 2016’s Baby Cobra.

Wong’s charismatic energy seems inexhaustible as she performs exaggerated facial expressions and over-the-top silly sexual pantomimes. Her jokes critique the double-standard of being a female comedian starting a family, advocate on behalf of mothers for maternity leave, and take splendid pride in the role of female breadwinner, earning more than her Harvard-educated husband.

The irony and feminist critique within Wong’s set make her a socially aware and intelligent comedian. Her cleverly observant wit and unapologetically brash persona, decked out in a cheetah-print dress, allow her to sparkle onstage — just like all moms. – KC

Dark Tourist

A travel show like no other, Dark Tourist is precisely the kind of fresh take on the travel genre that Netflix expertly made. Hosted by David Farrier, a renowned journalist with the driest humour possible, he tours the oddest and most bizarre corners of the globe.

Farrier rides through radiation-ridden ghost towns in Kazakhstan, goes on serial killer and murder tours in the heart of America, does a six-hour border-crossing simulation in Mexico, and so much more. What’s wonderful about Farrier as a host is that in the face of these bizarre terrors, he remains unflinching if a little too impulsive to satisfy his (and our) dark curiosity.

Each place is unique and too interesting to pass up, which makes it easy to binge the show in a whole sitting — Farrier’s travels range from campy to quirky to downright disturbing. Offbeat and fascinating in the best ways, Dark Tourist stands as one of Netflix’s most unique and exciting additions of 2018. – WY

Bandersnatch

This year, Netflix released its first interactive film — Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. Its interesting format involves a choose-your-own-adventure style, where the audience is given the power to choose options which dictate the protagonist’s path.

The plot follows a 1980s computer programmer who tries to create a video game based off of a book. As Black Mirror fans would expect, writer Charlie Brooker adds that familiarly fucked-up, spit-in-your milk twist to the story. With Bandersnatch, however, this film has multiple twists within different storylines. Since its interactive format makes it possible to choose different paths that alter the narrative, the audience can go back and explore the multiple endings.

Whether you’re a newcomer to the disturbing sci-fi storytelling of Black Mirror or a diehard fan, watch this during a spoopy Netflix party with friends — together, you can chose the fate of the programmer, or else you can cuddle up in solitude and protect yourself in blanket armour for this compelling film addition to the Black Mirror anthology. – KC

Nanette

Provocative and blisteringly vulnerable, Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette is 2018’s comedy special to watch.

Perhaps labelling it a comedy special is misleading. She takes the stand-up format and the expectations that come with a big glossy stage and a Netflix audience, and subverts the genre by talking about how this artform is slowly destroying her from the inside out. Her self-deprecating wit, a trademark style that led to her success, continually hinders her mental health and acceptance of her sexuality, violence, and childhood turmoil. Gadsby goes further by confronting the audience with the comfort of structural ignorance. She delivers a devastating blow when she tells an upsetting anecdote, mentioning how she would usually add the punchline at this moment to relieve the tension. Instead, she says, “This tension? It’s yours. I’m not helping you anymore.”

In a rare feat for a comedy show, its excellence isn’t measured in laughs, but through the agonizing quiet. – KO

Queer Eye

Can you believe (that of course Queer Eye is included)? We can! Originally entitled Queer Eye for the Straight Guy in the early 2000s, it quickly became clear this reboot was one show we didn’t know we wanted but desperately needed. With 2018 being — for the lack of a better word — a clusterfuck, Queer Eye stood as the universal form of comforting chicken soup in a TV show.

Armed with hair products, tucked shirts, avocado recipes, and more, the Fab Five have come to make over several “heroes” both inside and out. Heartwarming in every way and more, what distinguishes Queer Eye as a home/self-makeover show is the true and earnest care they put into helping their subjects. They are encouraging, without being cruel; they root for the hero (and everyone else for that matter) to improve themselves but only to a realistic degree, which is about as wholesome as reality TV could ever get. Love yourself and go love the Fab Five. – WY