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The Best Non-Netflix Shows on Netflix

It’s no secret that as a content producer, Netflix Originals have contributed heavily to the peak TV era. In fact, earlier this year the streaming behemoth announced a focus on originals to bank new subscribers. But that is far from all the platform does. In fact, in the sea of series on the service, there are more than a few licensed gems. Beloved classic series such as “Friends” and “Frasier” have seen second lives (and picked up quite a few new fans who were too young or — gasp — perhaps not even born yet at all when the shows were on originally), and more modern cult shows (think “Episodes,” “Schitt’s Creek”) have also had a chance to grow their reach.

Here, Variety selects some of the best non-Netflix series streaming on Netflix.

Breaking Bad
Original network: AMC
Vince Gilligan’s meth-maker drama featured an antihero at the center of its story, but one that was deeply, and often uncomfortably, relatable. Walter White (Bryan Cranston) was a husband, teacher and father when the series first started, wanting to do right by his family when he learned he had cancer. In order to put money aside for them, he recrutied a promising young student (Aaron Paul) to get into the drug trade. And from there, two very, very different worlds began to blend. Full of tour-de-force performances and stellar writing, it’s no wonder this series spawned a spinoff drama and followup movie. It may have had one of the best series finales of all time, but it’s a world from which it has been hard to walk away.
— Danielle Turchiano, senior features editor, TV

Episodes
Original network: Showtime
Though it received some Emmy nominations during its 2011-17 run, the Showtime series remains criminally underappreciated. A scathing but accurate satire of a British couple who set out to adapt their show for Hollywood, there are plenty of great supporting characters and laugh out-loud moments. And Matt LeBlanc has never been better playing…well, Matt LeBlanc (albeit a spoiled, arrogant version of himself.)
— Jenelle Riley, deputy awards and features editor, Variety Focus

“Frasier”
Original network: NBC
Though the show may not be long for this platform ­— it leaves Netflix at the end of the year — it’s worth curling up with 11 seasons of Frasier and Niles Crane’s antics. The series was at its best when leaning into its farcical elements, layering on misunderstandings and “Noises Off”-style entrances and exits to underscore the Crane brothers’ silliness. Not to mention: listening to Kelsey Grammer’s voice with a belly full of turkey is a great way to fall asleep.
— Elaine Low, senior TV writer

The Good Place
Original network: NBC
It’s fair to assume that this existential little gem will end up on Peacock, but for now, you can catch up on the first three seasons of “The Good Place” on Netflix. A near-perfect ensemble, including Kristen Bell and Ted Danson, plays a group of surprisingly charming misfits attempting to navigate, well, the titular “Good Place” after they die. If you haven’t watched the first season, we won’t spoil the twist, but trust us — it gets more complicated.
— Alex Stedman, senior news editor, online

The Great British Bake Off
Original network: BBC
Binge on a baking show after Thanksgiving overindulgence, why not? The calorie-free “British Bake Off” illustrates how reality TV can showcase massively talented competitors that conduct themselves with grace, humor and humanity. With an eye for an all-ages audience, hosts Noel Fielding (whose colorful shirts and sweaters are delightful) and Sandi Toksvig indulge in puns and almost-dad-level jokes, and the producers and editors do a great job of not only showcasing the bakers’ skills but also their backstories and personalities. And everyone is so nice!
— Carole Horst, managing editor, Variety Focus

Parks and Recreation
Original network: NBC
Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) is a character to pure for our cynical times. The small town former parks and recreation employee-turned-politician always had a can-do attitude and upbeat demeanor, inspiring positivity and friendship from all around her. But this show is about so much more than just Leslie: She is surrounded by a cast of characters who are wholly unique. Whether they were throwing a harvest festival, participating in a middle-of-the-night telethon or listening to their townspeople complain about ridiculous things (“I found a sandwich in one of your parks, and I want to know why it didn’t have mayonnaise”), spending half-an-hour a week with these players just wasn’t enough, so thankfully their stories are available to binge.
— Danielle Turchiano, senior features editor, TV

“Pee-Wee’s Playhouse”
Original network: CBS
Mekka lekka hi mekka hiney ho! All five seasons of “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” are available for a good binge session with Paul Reubens’ signature character, and his friends, including Miss Yvonne, Cowboy Curtis, Captain Carl and Mrs. Steve. (Happy hunting for early appearances of future stars including Laurence Fishburne, Natasha Lyonne and Phil Hartman.) It’s still a marvel that a show this alternately psychedelic and sweet aired for five seasons on CBS’ Saturday morning lineup starting in 1986. The secret word in Pee-wee’s world is always “fun.”
— Cynthia Littleton, business editor

Pose
Original network: FX
No attention to detail is spared in Steven Canals’ period drama about black and brown queer and transgender individuals living in New York City amidst the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the late-1980s and 1990s. But even when that detail is harrowing — such as watching Pray Tell (Billy Porter) receive his diagnosis in the first season or Blanca (MJ Rodriguez) fall ill in the second — the throughline of love and life is never lost. Led by Pray and Blanca, the characters have created a family for themselves after many of their biological ones tossed them out, and that kind of coming together, even when competiting in the ballroom scene, is inspiring. And speaking of the ballroom scene, there have never been more beautiful costumes than the ones created for this space. The artistry abounds in every corner of this show.
— Danielle Turchiano, senior features editor, TV

“Schitt’s Creek”
Original network: CBC (in Canada), Pop TV (in the U.S.)
Eugene Levy and Dan Levy co-created this clever Canadian comedy about a wealthy family who loses everything and slinks away to the only asset that couldn’t be seized (because no one wanted it), the tiny, titular town. The original premise is the definition of “fish out of water,” but as the show has gone on, the larger-than-life Rose family has fit in quite nicely with the quirky characters of the town, finding themselves, as well as strong relationships, and becoming better people in the process. It’s the perfect blend of humor and heart.
— Danielle Turchiano, senior features editor, TV

Star Trek: The Next Generation
Original network: Syndicated via Paramount and CBS
Star Trek: The Next Generation” remains a standout in the “Star Trek” canon thanks to its stellar cast, top-notch writing and its recently-remastered visual quality. Fans of the series would also be wise to brush up considering that Patrick Stewart is reprising the role of Jean-Luc Picard in limited series for CBS All Access, which launches in January.
— Joe Otterson, TV writer

The West Wing
Original network: NBC
There surely can’t be many young folks out there who mistake the Aaron Sorkin, NBC classic for a Netflix original, but “The West Wing” is definitely worth exploring, especially given recent political events. After all, “The West Wing” walked so “House of Cards” could run. Come for the razor sharp Sorkinian dialogue, stay for the bevvy of knockout performances from the likes of Martin Sheen, Bradley Whitford, Rob Lowe and Allison Janney.
— Will Thorne, TV writer

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