Characters from various Netflix shows and movie franchises that are hate watched or watched out of curiosity when you've been burned before.

Stop Forcing Yourself To Watch These Undeserving Netflix Hits and Go For These Alternatives

Ever binge a show on Netflix because everyone was watching it (possibly sparring over), and you wanted to know what was going on? Been there. Sometimes the end result is just mild meh-ness that consumes our precious weekend. Other times, it’s straight-up hate-watching. On occasion, there’s a show that starts off fairly well but withers away season after season, making you wonder why you started it to begin with. We’re looking to help you break free. (And break the cycle of bad shows getting the attention over better programs.)

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Of course, Netflix isn’t the only streaming service where this happens, so check out our (HBO) MAX recommendations, as well. We’ll touch on the unduly popular shows and where their problems lie, and why the alternatives do it better. Let’s start with the worst of the worst—the show that reignited the conversation on hate-watching leading to a streamer greenlighting multiple seasons.

Don’t watch: Emily in Paris

Lily Collins wears a red beret as Emily in Emily in Paris

I watched the first season of Emily In Paris and decided that I didn’t need to watch any more of it. Good god. Where to begin. Emily in Paris is a nothingburger of a show. It’s a high school fanfiction that somehow lucked into a high-budget television show. It’s a hazy dream of Paris and Parisians that has no bearing on reality whatsoever—the sort of upper-class-white-girl-wish-fulfillment daydream project that would have done incredibly well in the early 2000s, maybe.

Lily Collins is a fun actress with a great wardrobe whose talents are wasted on a character you constantly want to throttle. We’re expected to root for Emily when she A) puts in the bare minimum while demanding the most out of everyone in her life, B) judges the shit out of a culture she all but lucked into, and oh yeah, C) steals her best friend’s boyfriend with little to no consequences.

Yes, this might seem like an easy one to hate-watch, because it’s just fluffy and mindless and you can watch it while folding the laundry or getting high. But in a time when writers are striking just to be able to pay rent, and fantastic projects are being cancelled because “taxes,” one has to wonder: Why in the Sam Hill does Emily in Paris have THREE SEASONS?

No. Nuh-uh. Put that junk on pause and watch one of these instead.

Watch: The Bold Type

Instead of watching Emily flop her way to success at her job, you should watch a show that celebrates hardworking young women living their dreams. The Bold Type follows three best friends, Kat, Sutton, and Jane, as they work in different departments at a fashion magazine. For five seasons, the show explores the group’s highs and lows when it comes to work, love, and everything in between.

While it doesn’t seem like anyone in Emily in Paris is a real-life person, the cast of The Bold Type is rich and diverse, from its leads to its background characters, and the show does a fantastic job exploring the world of New York City—and not using it as a constant punchline to make fun of the communities that live there. So, do yourself a favor and check out a show that does everything Emily in Paris couldn’t when it comes to highlighting successful women and showcasing a beautiful city.

Watch: Hello My Twenties!

While this doesn’t take place in Paris, Hello My Twenties! is perfect for the crowd that just wants to watch cute girls wear cute clothes and live in cute apartments, while also carrying a hefty amount of drama. It’s a K-Drama, after all. They take the “drama” part of it very seriously.

In this two-season series, a group of young women in their twenties (hello) go about living their lives in a share-house in Seoul. They all have wildly different personalities that clash periodically, but otherwise they foster an environment that’s incredibly sweet and fun to watch. The fashion is on-point (honestly inspired how I dressed for a good portion of college), the writing is punchy, and the acting is so good. It has thrown me for an emotional loop multiple times.

Plus, Seoul itself is a gorgeous, fascinating city, so you won’t miss out on aesthetically-pleasing cityscapes with this show.

Watch: Ratatouille

Don’t skip this! Hear me out! You didn’t watch Emily in Paris for an authentic Parisian experience. This isn’t that either, but you know Pixar did its research, so one up for that. If you’ve made it this far and know next to nothing about this piece of cinema, let me enlighten you. This story follows the friendship of a famous restaurant’s garbage boy, Alfredo, and the talented literal rat, Remy, that wants to work there. Even if you are very selective about animated films or Disney/Pixar films, this is not one to miss. It holds up incredibly well and captures that fish-out-of-water story in a more fun way.

This is a movie that grows with you and is a must revisit every so often. There’s a reason it inspired a whole TikTok musical and was alluded to in Everything Everywhere All at Once. Not that it takes up much of the run-time, but Camille sings “Le Festin,” too. It’s one of the best original songs in an animated film ever.

Don’t watch: Never Have I Ever

A close up of Devi in Never Have I Ever

In the midst of the pandemic when everyone was stuck inside with nothing to do but watch TV, a lot of shows rose to prominence, but not all of them had staying power. Mindy Kaling’s teen series Never Have I Ever did.

The show follows Devi, an Indian American teenager who’s starting her sophomore year of high school. The first season follows Devi as she tries to gain popularity and a boyfriend. After the show became a massive hit, Netflix granted Kaling and her team three more seasons that explore the rest of Devi’s high school career. The series follows her through friend fights, break-ups, first kisses, jealous feelings, and everything in between. It’s a super cute, slice-of-life show that mostly does a great job at depicting how hard it is to juggle school, family, and friends as a teenager.

However, while this show wasn’t necessarily hate-watched, it did decline in quality over its four seasons. While the first season was incredibly compelling and realistic, the following seasons devolved into a bit of mess, and not in a fun way. While Devi starts out as a slightly annoying and naive teen (which makes sense with her age), she never really matures in the way she should as she gets older. The show also starts some plot lines and never finishes them, which leaves some of the seasons feeling a bit hollow. 

Never Have I Ever is not the worst show on Netflix. However, it is disappointing to see a once-promising show slowly lose its shine right until the end.

Watch: Sex Education

Though a bit more risqué than Never Have I Ever, Sex Education is a better alternative because it handles its teen-centric issues way better and in more meaningful ways. The show follows the students at Moordale Secondary School as they deal with issues of sex, love, money, and identity. The series begins when a student named Otis teams up with another student named Maeve to create a therapy clinic at their school, using Otis’ mom’s notes as a sex therapist.

Unlike Never Have I Ever, this show takes a more realistic approach to the issues teenagers face on a daily basis. It works hard to make the teens seem like real kids and never sugarcoats anything they’re going through, even if it’s an incredibly hard topic. But don’t be fooled; while Sex Education deals with more serious topics, it still has funny moments that feel organic in the plot. 

If you’re looking for a teen-centered show that doesn’t talk down to you, I’d suggest checking out Sex Education. 

Watch: Dear White People

This show is a lot more serious than Never Have I Ever. There are events in the second season that made me sob for the first time for a show in years. However, there are a lot of moments of levity and laughter. After all, resilience and finding joy is part of the Black culture. Another major difference is that Dear White People plays with genre a lot. Episodes and arcs will lean heavily into romance, mystery, and—in the final season—musicals. And for that last part, like Never Have I Ever, the last season of this show is very divisive, not even for what did or didn’t happen but because it was a musical season. While the show dabbled in surrealism throughout, this was a curve ball of a finale.

Creator Justin Simien has his finger on the pulse of culture at large, allowing him to address many issues against the backdrop of Black students at a white institution. Many shows have tried, and failed miserably, to do what this one does. My guess is other series’ aim is trying to be as palatable as possible. This is not that. Nothing feels off limits, and everything is more than it seems. And everything (and also everybody) is freaking gorgeous and feels cinematic. The writing of this is just as bold as the trailer and original film—which is not required viewing to enjoy this.

Watch: The Half of It

Although the tone of this film isn’t as comedic as Never Have I Ever, it’s still an appropriate alternative because it handles the story of an alienated Asian teen girl in a very earnest, grounded way. In this movie, Ellie Chu, the sole Asian girl at her school (and town, pretty much), leads a pretty lonely life, yet pines for Aster Flores, a pretty, popular classmate. To make some extra money, Ellie has a side-hustle writing papers for her peers. One day, a football player named Paul Munsky approaches her with a massive task: to write love letters to Aster in order to win her over for his sake.

This very easily could have turned out to be yet another “Ha ha Asian jokes,” “Jocks are stupid” kind of movie. Instead, it flipped viewer expectations in multiple ways and created one of the most heartfelt teen movies out on streaming now. I did not expect to cry at this movie, and yet, by the ending credits, my adult self was reaching for a hanky.

Don’t watch: Ginny & Georgia

A close up of Georgia standing next to Ginny

Seemingly following in the footsteps of Gilmore Girls but with a twist, Ginny & Georgia follows the Miller family—Georgia, Ginny, and Austin—as they move to the town of Wellsbury, Massachusetts and try to escape the dangers of their past. The show focuses on the relationship between Georgia and Ginny as they go through mother/daughter-related issues that divide them for a while, before they make up in the end.

However, the show has been through a few controversies since it first debuted in 2021. The first one came after the show made a distasteful joke when Ginny, tired of Georgia prying into her personal life, said, “What do you care? You go through men faster than Taylor Swift.” Swift herself responded to the show, calling the joke sexist and lazy. Another controversy that came from the show was its seeming unwillingness to address Ginny’s Black identity. Ginny is mixed race and experiences many, many micro-aggressions from her peers, but she never confronts the insults or jokes. No one is asking a teenager to constantly defend her identity. However, it is a bit odd that her Blackness is basically erased from the show in any meaningful way.

It’s these controversies that have soured Ginny & Georgia for a lot of Netflix viewers. However, the show is returning for a third season, so only time will tell if they can correct their mistakes.

Watch: Teenage Bounty Hunters

Pivoting from a mother-daughter duo to a sibling one, Teenager Bounty Hunters was a show that was gone way too soon. The show followed fraternal twin sisters Sterling and Blair who, after accidentally denting their father’s pickup truck, become bounty hunters to pay for the repairs without their parents’ knowledge.

The show also deals with serious issues such as homophobia, serious crimes, and typical teenage issues. However, it handles these situations with a lot more tact than Ginny & Georgia. Plus, though the show does deal with some serious issues, it doesn’t take itself too seriously and allows its characters to have fun in their roles and relationships. It never talks down to its audience and tries to make sure its viewers are having fun while watching the show.

Unfortunately, Teenage Bounty Hunters was canceled after its first season, so we’ll never get to see these characters and their compelling stories again.

Watch: Schitt’s Creek

When it comes to relocating to a new city for a fresh start, nobody does it better (or, at least, as entertainingly) than the Rose family. In Schitt’s Creek, this affluent family—consisting of Johnny, Moira, and their adult children David and Alexis—is forced to move to a town they bought as a joke, once Johnny’s business is declared bankrupt. The town of Schitt’s Creek is, on the surface, up its own analogy: It’s in the middle of nowhere, populated with small-town folks who are not at all what the Roses are used to.

Yet as the show goes on, the Roses begin to acclimate and assimilate into the life and times of the sleepy little town they start to regard as home. While yes, the snark is abundant, this is ultimately such a loving, tender show about making home and community wherever you go. It’s really rewarding to see all of the main characters go through actual character growth as the series goes on.

Don’t watch: The Witcher

Jaskier and Geralt the Witcher Netflix

This might look like a strange entry because this show is very popular. Additionally, The Witcher probably the widest audience of anything else on this list. However, it came out of the gate dividing fans of the franchise (allegedly including its leading actor) and hasn’t really recovered since. Things are looking to get worse as star Henry Cavill is leaving after season three, to be replaced by Liam Hemsworth.

The most significant issues have come from how far it strays from its source material, to the point where it loses its magic and what makes it different from other high fantasy adaptions. This comes to a head by the end of season two and into its first spinoff. Outside of the flattening of fantasy, the other big difference (from the game and books to the show) is protagonist Geralt’s personality. Show-Geralt is a moody grump. That new personality is kind of played as a joke in opposition to a quippy side character (usually Jaskier). However, in all other adaptations, he is reflective and very open to talking about his feelings/thoughts. Last fall, it didn’t help that a former producer said that people running the show didn’t like the source material and alleged people actively made fun of author Andrzej Sapkowski’s work.

Like many of our “don’t watch” shows, watch it if you want, but if you are frustrated with elements of it—especially its lack of respect for the source material (and I’m not talking about multi-racial casting)—then some of these shows might be a better use of your time.

Watch: Dragon Age: Absolution

The supposed “video game adaptation curse” got nowhere near this adaptation! Dragon Age: Absolution knocked it out of the park, and I say this as a diehard fan of this franchise. After such a long time of waiting to hear any news about the next game, admittedly, I had low expectations for how this spinoff show would play out.

BOY, did I underestimate this team. Absolution was compelling and animated gorgeously, and it fleshed out the world of Thedas in ways I didn’t even know I was looking for! Yes, it might be a little hard to follow for those who are unfamiliar with the world of Dragon Age, but it still provides a tightly-written and compelling fantasy story that’ll get the gears of your own imagination turning.

Watch: Castlevania

It’s still my personal opinion that Netflix’s Castlevania is the best video game adaptation out there, and I say this having never played a single Castlevania game. This show doesn’t require prior knowledge of the franchise beforehand; it just plops you down and kicks your ass out the door, into a series full of adventure, beautiful visuals, captivating writing, and yes, a hefty amount of gore.

Are there times that the show feels a little excessive in its artistic sensibilities? Sure, yeah, it’s extra. But that’s part of why it’s also so delightful to watch. Castlevania kept me hooked from start to finish, and made me want more of it after the fact—thankfully, we do have a squeakquel coming out soon!

Watch: Merlin

Can you tell by now that it’s just been me, Madeline, writing this whole section? I will shill for Merlin until the day I die. I say this being a diehard lover of Arthurian literature and admitting that Merlin got almost everything wrong. It’s just that good.

In this series, the titular wizard is not a bearded old man, but instead a young, cocky warlock who finds himself unwittingly in service to the equally young-and-cocky Arthur Pendragon. What begins as a relationship built on antagonism and annoyances eventually grows into a dear companionship, both between the men and the Knights of the Round Table. It’s such a charming, whimsical show, even with its dated visuals. (in fact, I think that adds to the charm!)

Don’t watch: Wednesday

Wednesday. (L to R) Moosa Mostafa as Eugene Otinger, Jenna Ortega as Wednesday Addams, Naomi j Ogawa as Yoko Tanaka, Joy Sunday as Bianca Barclay in episode 103 of Wednesday.

Despite my many issues with Tim Burton, I went into Netflix’s Wednesday hoping for the best, and with a pinch of optimism. People change, and the inclusion of Jenna Ortega and Luis Guzmán signaled respect for the Latine roots of the Addams Family. However, when the show finally came around, it was riddled with issues. Every Black character (he broke a record with this one) was antagonistic or a stand-in for the colonization of the Americas. A subplot allegory for forced conversion was mishandled. Show-stopping costuming and great performances couldn’t fix tonal inconsistency in the teen melodrama and another “weirdos” oppression story.

Behind the scenes didn’t fare much better. I’m not talking about Ortega’s role in changing the dialogue of her character (which has been way overblown), but her continuing to shoot a big scene with COVID-19. Since the show ended, multiple women accused a leading love interest of sexual assault. Luckily, Burton doesn’t own the “It’s not a phase, mom!” aesthetic or German Expressionism. There’s lots of similarly styled art doing exciting work and pushing boundaries. And lots of that can be found on Netflix.

Watch: Wendell & Wild

While Ortega is now a household name, initially, Tim Burton’s recognizable style was a major draw and fit for a take on The Addams Family. If The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of your favorite Tim Burton films, then Wendell & Wild is for you. In addition to the stop-motion element, both stories were directed and headed by Henry Selick. Burton wrote a hearty outline for TNBC and produced sketches for a base, but Selick led the film. Due to filming Batman Returns and his impatience with the medium, Burton was on set for about a week over the several years of building and filming.

Selick’s first film since Coraline, Wendell & Wild, is an original story co-written with Jordan Peele and Clay McLeod Chapman. It follows orphan and juvenile delinquent Kat (Lyric Ross) as she’s presented with the opportunity to bring her parents back to life by two devilish creatures—Wendell (Keegan-Michael Key) and Wild (Peele). Other overlapping stories involve a private company encroaching on a town, a nun with a secret (Angela Bassett), a priest with a different secret (James Hong), and a fellow student (Sam Zelaya) also looking to be true to himself.

Like Wednesday, there’s a high-stakes mystery at the story’s center that involves generations of greed. This film doesn’t fully stick the landing to me, but I still love it and would love to see more of this town in animated shorts or something similar.

Watch: the Fear Street trilogy

What’s better than one queer-centric horror movie? A whole trilogy! The Fear Street trilogy takes place over three films: Fear Street Part One: 1994, Fear Street Part Two: 1978, and Fear Street Part Three: 1666. Though the films take place in different decades, the plot follows the same group of teenagers as they try to break the murderous curse on their small town. 

Much like Wednesday, the Fear Street trilogy deals with murder, witches, and spells being based on a group of people. However, unlike Burton’s series, this movie series does a fantastic job at exploring what it means to be an oppressed minority when it comes to your identity and where you live. The town in Fear Street is oppressed by the witch’s curse plaguing it, and the two female main characters are oppressed due to society not accepting their romantic relationship. These storylines are handled with extreme care and never feel like they’re overdoing or trivializing it. 

The Fear Street trilogy is an excellent example of how you can tackle serious issues in a horror film without it feeling too pandering. 

Watch: A Series of Unfortunate Events

Many people didn’t give A Series of Unfortunate Events much of a chance because Neil Patrick Harris played it differently from Jim Carrey’s verison in the 2004 film. While I think Carrey’s performance overall was better (because it was terrifying), the show was an absolute delight. Also, many of the supporting characters rivaled previous iterations. This is a feat when talking about Billy Connolly, Jude Law, Meryl Streep, and more.

Not only did the series fix the sins of the film (a.k.a. combining the first three books into a single movie), but it expanded into the V.F.D. plot. This allowed them to bring in fan-favorite characters (including the Snickets) much sooner. It also gave a sense of adventure to the Baudelaire parents’ lives rather than hearing it secondhand.

The only thing Wednesday has firmly over this show is its CGI. Despite the elaborate sets, this has too many things going on to safely shoot everything. In the earlier parts of the show, the effects aren’t great, but they do get better. If you want something fun, dark, and a little uncanny, this black comedy is probably a much better use of your time.

(featured image: Netflix, remixed by Alyssa Shotwell)

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Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.
Madeline Carpou
Madeline (she/her) is a staff writer with a focus on AANHPI and mixed-race representation. She enjoys covering a wide variety of topics, but her primary beats are music and gaming. Her journey into digital media began in college, primarily regarding audio: in 2018, she started producing her own music, which helped her secure a radio show and co-produce a local history podcast through 2019 and 2020. After graduating from UC Santa Cruz summa cum laude, her focus shifted to digital writing, where she's happy to say her History degree has certainly come in handy! When she's not working, she enjoys taking long walks, playing the guitar, and writing her own little stories (which may or may not ever see the light of day).
Kayla Harrington
Kayla Harrington (she/her) is a staff writer who has been working in digital media since 2017, starting at Mashable before moving to BuzzFeed and now here at The Mary Sue. She specializes in Marvel (Wanda Maximoff did nothing wrong!), pop culture, and politics. When she's not writing or lurking on TikTok, you can find Kayla reading the many unread books on her shelves or cuddling with one of her four pets. She's also a world class chef (according to her wife) and loves to try any recipe she can find.