Cord Cutters? Is that still a thing? Back in 2019 when I started doing these for Ghettoblaster that was such a new buzzy term, now it’s just how people watch TV. But since all of my choices below are available on apps outside of a normal cable plan and vary between films and series, I’m sticking with this term (for now). The fact that I couldn’t think of any new way to describe this list of OTT Content may have also played a factor in the naming. I took 2021 off, so I return with an inflated Top 15 instead of the normal Top 10. I tried hard to balance comedy and drama, streaming platforms and creative formats, etc on this list.
If you’ve found this article and want some context before reading further, my name is Uncommon Nasa. I’m a rapper and producer and I run Uncommon Records, I’m a proud member of Guillotine Crowns and White Horse and in 2023 and I’ll release a full-length that I produced for Guilty Simpson. My favorite show of all time is The Twilight Zone and my favorite shows in recent years are Russian Doll, Black Mirror, Mr. Robot, and Devs. Now that you know what you are in for, I will begin. – Uncommon Nasa
#15 – Sheng Wang: Sweet and Juicy (Netflix)
I watched a lot of Netflix stand-up this year so I knew I needed stand-up represented in this list. The first special that came to mind was Sheng Wang’s. I had no idea who he was, found the auto-play Netflix preview funny and watched. His vibes equally remind me of friends from the West Coast and the East Coast, I actually have no idea where he’s from and doesn’t care. His delivery is really fresh and different, but also natural to who he seems to be.
#14 – The Dropout (HULU)
Another category that I needed to represent in this expanded Top 15 is the “guilty pleasure”. It’s very strange to see a biopic in an episodic format, because you know there isn’t going to be a Season 2 since it’s biographical. It was kind of addicting to watch this shit show called Theranos come apart for the deep voiced legend that is Elizabeth Holmes. Amanda Seyfried’s performance is pretty dead on in the fact that it’s as dramatic as it is hilarious, which is my impression of her real life subject. If you want to get caught up on the Theranos story first, both of the documentaries on the subject (HBO & PBS) are also really good.
#13 – Woke (HULU)
Yes, this show may have the worst name in the history of progressive comedy. Yes, this show at times struggles at what it wants to be, taking strange animated detours where the main character talks to trash cans and sharpies for no apparent reason. BUT, buried inside something that is a little convoluted is a core four cast that are really captivating and relatable. Lamorne Morris, Blake Anderson (from Workaholics fame), T-Murph and Sasheer Zamata (who I remembered well from SNL) are the base of this series and make it worth watching. This series examines the lines between activism and populism, sincerity and performativeness as it relates to grass roots action, allyship and corporate DEI initiatives. Somehow this all creates comedy that is relatable. The sequence where the mains discuss the differences in how they approach showers and their relationships with washcloths is something I have personally experienced in real life. There are lots of other references that are deeply felt by writers that have clearly been part of or adjacent to BLM and other recent activist movements. Nothing about the show seems forced, except maybe those animated characters.
#12 – Moonknight (Disney Plus)
This list wouldn’t be complete without hitting on at least one super hero/action series right? Particularly if it stars one of the best actors working today in Oscar Isaac. This is, by far, my favorite of any Marvel series or exclusive that’s hit Disney Plus. It’s exciting enough for hardcore Marvel and MCU fans, but also not tied to enough lore to keep you from watching it if you don’t know Spiderman from Batman. It hits a bit of a headwind towards the end that I found jarring, but the journey to get there was really artful and beautiful, especially for a Marvel product.
#11 – Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan (Netlix)
This is a 4 episode anthology anime series about a fictional manga artist telling the stories of the real life research missions he participated in for his own fictional stories. Each story is extremely strange and on some level disturbing. If you like Anime that is really out there, this is for you. I watched it with the dub and the dub acting was very good.
#10 – Windfall (Netflix)
A well-acted, well-shot, well-directed, well-scored film. An escalating thriller that is based heavily on dialog in a semi-bottle episode setting. A great cast that includes Jesse Plemons continuing to add to his list of great performances. If that sounds like something great, it’s because it is.
#9 – This Fool (HULU)
This Fool really took me back to my times in Los Angeles, most of which were spent with Gajah (R.I.P.), other mutual friends, and some of his own homies I met for the first time. The number of times I heard the term “This Fool” out there, said in passing, long before this series came out were in the hundreds. When this show came out with that title I had a feeling it’d be funny and real and it was both of those things. There are some real laugh-out-loud moments in all the episodes. I’m looking forward to a Season 2.
#8 – Mike Judge’s Beavis and Butthead (Paramount Plus)
Beavis and Butthead’s return kicked off in 2022 with the new feature-length, Beavis and Butthead Do the Universe, but it was kind of just fine to me. When the series returned, they got back to the episodic format they were suited for and somehow created something fresh with an old formula. If you were worried B & B would get too modern, don’t. Episodes focused on them getting stuck on a roof, trapped in a box, and poisoning themselves – just like in the 90s. The main difference now is that the animation looks better and I think they may be even funnier now. If this preview doesn’t sell you on it, nothing will.
#7 – Reservation Dogs (FX on HULU)
Reservation Dogs hit a new stride with Season 2 this year. Season 1 was terrific, but Season 2 allowed the writers and actors to stretch out characters into more depth. The format for Season 2 allowed each of the main characters and even some supporting characters to have break out episodes that focused solely on them, while keeping in step with an overall arch that followed one storyline. The show is heavy (even though there are some really humorous moments) and It does an excellent job of earning empathy from its audience. I’ve learned more about Rez life and modern First Nation culture than I ever would have without it.
#6 – Alice In Borderland (Netflix)
Yes, this show is better than Squid Game. I just wanted to clarify that from the very beginning. Squid Game focuses on a linear theme where the under class is exploited by the 1 percent while Alice In Borderland runs from any such moral under pinning. AiB leaves a lot more up to the viewer to decide and is a lot less preachy in its approach. AiB focuses more about the bonds of friendship and how that intercedes with survival instincts. The two are comparable since the setting for both is that average people are forced into a set of life and death ‘games’. Season 2 debuts on December 22nd, so I haven’t seen it yet, but based on Season 1, I know it will be amazing and perhaps answer some of the cliffhangers it left for us. I was able to enjoy the dub version of the series, although the dubbing was a bit dry at times. If you are more prone to watch with subs, you may want to start from the beginning in that way for this one.
#5 – 1899 (Netflix)
Continuing with shows that leave a lot to the imagination of the viewer, it’s 1899. It’s another series that I’m not going to go into deep detail for since you are best to watch it knowing less rather than more. If you were to watch the subs on this, I understand that it’s to translate everyone on the show speaking their own native languages traveling on the ship at that time period. That includes German, French, English, Spanish, Mandarin, and more. To be honest, I’m not quite clear how that affects the way you digest the series as the viewer, but obviously, it becomes more clear that the characters don’t really understand each other beyond humanistically as they speak to each other. My mind is still blown that after watching the series most of the characters didn’t actually know what they were saying to each other, but were still able to work in tandem. All of this is a bit heady, even for me, so I just popped on the dubs and watched it as a straightforward program where everyone spoke in English. The dedication to have so many actors speaking in their native tongue was incredible and if you do watch 1899, I’d definitely suggest watching the Making Of 1899 which is also on Netflix. The series is a masterpiece visually and sonically. The scoring, soundtrack, and sound effects production is some of the best of all time. Above all else, 1899 is cerebral as fuck and I really appreciated watching something that took my full concentration in order to enjoy.
#4 – The Bear (FX on HULU)
The Bear is a gritty story about an accomplished chef that inherits his brother’s famous sandwich shop in Chicago after he dies. There isn’t any glamour to this series and there is nothing fantastical about it. It’s just as it sounds, the struggle between passion and compassion and how it plays out in a kitchen full of ambitious people. This is another dialog-driven series and the writing really shines. I’m not sure where they are going to go with a Season 2, but I’m certainly invested in all of the realistic characters that have been created here. My wife worked in professional kitchens for almost a decade and since she signs off on its authenticity, its authenticity cannot be denied. This is great filmmaking in a series format.
#3 – The Handmaid’s Tale (HULU)
Yes, this series has been on the air since 2017, but I didn’t watch one episode of it until 2022. I came down with that thing everyone’s been talking about since the end of 2019 and began viewing The Handmaid’s Tale from episode one all the way up to the end of the latest season that came out this year. Anyone that has seen this show probably is mouth ajar to the idea of binging this series in this manner as it is absolutely brutal and jarring at times. Several events were predicted and warned against by this series and it should be shown to anyone that thinks your rights are guaranteed and the United States is predetermined to exist forever. The series manages to look at our disturbing present, while commenting on our disturbing past as a nation, but never feels preachy to me. I may be late to the party, but I’m appreciative to have been here before last call next year for its announced final season.
#2 – Demon Slayer – Entertainment District Arc (HULU)
There is no greater hater on this planet than the anime fan that shits on Demon Slayer. Demon Slayer is simply the greatest on-going anime series I’ve ever seen. The animation is groundbreaking, flawless and beautiful. The storylines are powerful, emotional and relatable. The overall style is as if a writer that really dug the first season of Yu-Gi-Oh grew up watching Shaw Brothers movies and peppered in demonic powers for good measure with the most modern tools of animation at their finger tips. The formulaic cycle of getting the audience to empathize with characters that were presented as pure evil only after the evil has been quelled is simply genius. The point that this drives home can apply to the way we see each other in real life, we are all human, we all make mistakes and we all deserve some level of mercy. If you haven’t seen the series, start from Season 1, but Entertainment District and Mugen Train form Season 2 and take the series even further on its historic path.
#1 – Russian Doll (Netflix)
What can I say? This is one of my favorite series of all time. I had no idea where they were going to go after such a perfect Season 1, but Season 2 dramatically over performed what my expectations were. The series has marched along artistically in similar step to my own musical output. I’ve touched on mortality on my album Halfway, as RD did in Season 1. My natural next step was to create Only Child which focused more on heredity and legacy. That’s exactly what RD did in their Season 2. For this reason and many others, Russian Doll connects to so much of my personal identity as a New Yorker with a similar background as the main character. I hope it connects with you in some way as well.