Among the many docuseries on Netflix, those that focus on true crime stories, such as "The Staircase," are popular. (Illustration by Kira Widjaja, Rhode Island School of Design)
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Among the many docuseries on Netflix, those that focus on true crime stories, such as "The Staircase," are popular. (Illustration by Kira Widjaja, Rhode Island School of Design)

You’ve just found your next new binge-watch.

Since streaming platforms have taken over cable and satellite TV, binge watching has become oh-so-easy and docuseries have become genre of choice. A docuseries, short for documentary series, is essentially a real-life story told in recurring episodes. Thanks to Netflix, viewers do not have to wait for new episodes to air. By releasing all the episodes in a series at once, Netflix allows for prime bingeing.

The human-interest stories of these docuseries captivate viewers because they can find some relation to the tale being told. Many of these stories have taken years and even decades in the making, so that there is a satisfying ending. Crime, food and many other sub-genres of the Netflix docuseries will have you craving more information on topics that you had no idea interested you.

Here are the top four docuseries to watch on Netflix.

1. Making a Murderer (2015)

One of the first crime docuseries that gained popularity on Netflix was “Making a Murderer.” The story centers around Steven Avery, a Wisconsin native that has been in and out of the courtroom for the sexual assault of Penny Beernsten in 1985 and murder of Teresa Halbach in 2005.

After 18 years in prison, new DNA evidence came to light and exonerated Avery in 2003 for the sexual assault and attempted murder of Beernsten. However, Avery was only able to live a normal life for two more years before he was arrested and charged with first-degree murder of photographer Halbach. Much of the docuseries covers the trial and aftermath of the Halbach case, unraveling the questionable actions police took when investigating Halbach’s death.

The first two episodes of “Making a Murderer” are pretty bland because they focus a lot on Avery’s past conviction of Beernsten and his life before the Halbach case. Similar to reading the first couple of pages in a novel, the opening of this docuseries covers all of Avery’s history, which are not the most exciting episodes to watch. Nevertheless, the show begins to snowball into an unbelievable crime story about police corruption, forced confessions and planted evidence.

2. Chef’s Table (2015)

After watching this culinary docuseries, you’ll never think of food the same way again. Each episode of “Chef’s Table” highlights one chef and their rise into the culinary world from places all over the world. Many different kinds of cuisine are discussed, and every chef has a different story to tell. Most of the chefs’ restaurants (or stores) are small and hidden from the popular areas but are some of the greatest places to eat from around the world.

In addition, these chefs aren’t just good cooks. What many of these stories focus on is elevating a regular dish to create something new. With a chef’s innovation, there are always critics of the dish and the numerous struggles that each person had to overcome are discussed in every episode. The lessons that these chefs have learned by overcoming their struggles are lessons that any person can relate to and apply it to their life in some way, shape or form.

“Chef’s Table” is a culinary masterpiece. Each story will captivate you from start to finish because of the chef’s stories and the beauty in all the dishes. The food is always too pretty to eat, and every chef’s focus is on the food as well as the experience diners have while eating it. Until you watch this docuseries, you won’t be able to truly appreciate the food chefs make.

3. The Toys That Made Us (2017)

“The Toys That Made Us” will inform you about the biggest toys that hit the market throughout history. With only eight episodes over two seasons, this blink-and-you-might-miss-it docuseries will open up your eyes into the competitive toy market. From Barbie to LEGO, “The Toys That Made Us” reveals how these toys became world–famous as well as the difficulties the toy brands faced in achieving that success.

Depending on your interest, you might choose to only watch episodes of toys that you played with as a child. Luckily, each episode is its own standalone toy story, so you can hop around different episodes and not miss anything from previous episodes.

Although not a binge-worthy docuseries like a lot of the true crime stories on Netflix, “The Toys That Made Us” packs in so much information that will turn you into a toy expert after watching this series. Not only is the toy’s history discussed, but the business and social influences that the toys had to adapt to are highlighted. Patents, lawsuits, sales and target markets shed to light the difficulty in keeping a toy brand on top and the ease of being a forgotten toy in future generations.

4. The Staircase (2018)

In this gripping and thought–provoking crime docuseries, American novelist Michael Peterson is accused of murdering his wife, Kathleen Peterson, in 2001. Found dead at the bottom of a staircase, Peterson called 911 and told the authorities that she had fallen down the stairs. Through further investigation by the police, Peterson was immediately placed under arrest and faced a jury trial for her unexplained death.

Unlike “Making a Murderer,” “The Staircase” leaves you wanting more from the very beginning. The first episode drops you right into Kathleen’s death and investigation while revealing snippets of Peterson’s suspicious history. Every episode is littered with conflicting evidence and Peterson’s hidden secrets, making viewers question whether or not Michael Peterson murdered his wife.

As the trial evolves, both the prosecution and the defense have shakier arguments that never give a concrete explanation of the events that led to Kathleen’s death. This docuseries is beautifully played out, so you don’t miss a beat and can uncover your own explanation to the story.

Writer Profile

Alexandra Fabugais-Inaba

Rutgers University
Journalism and Exercise Science

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