Streamy Awards 2023
Netflix’s strengths that none of its rival streamers can match include its size and global reach, which give the streaming giant the resources to release a staggering amount of new releases from one week to the next. Even knowing that, though, good luck keeping up with it all — particularly if you’re a busy professional like me or have a family and are thus pressed for time in the evenings or on the weekends.
If you’re short on time for whatever reason, this post is especially for you. We’ve rounded up a selection of Netflix series that all offer the same benefit: While they span myriad genres, they all have short enough seasons that you can easily binge them over the course of a day, or a weekend if you prefer. That means they’re perfect if you don’t have loads of free time to invest in a new series.
Short on time? These Netflix series are quick binges
These first three series to check out from the streaming giant include some relatively new titles in the US, and we’ll kick things off with a drama about the first female lawyer in Italy.
The Law According to Lidia Poet (6 episodes)
In the mood for a series that mixes history, gender politics, and a little mystery? The Law According to Lidia Poet is a 6-episode Netflix series that dramatizes the story of Italy’s first female lawyer and is set in Turin during the late 1800s. It also boasts a perfect 100% score from critics on Rotten Tomatoes.
In the show, the titular Lidia has just been handed a defeat by the Turin Court of Appeals, which declares her admission to the bar association unlawful.
Prevented from practicing law just because she’s a woman, Lidia secures a job at her brother’s law firm, helps defend criminal suspects, and prepares an appeal of the court’s ruling in her case. Additionally, Lidia fights to change the laws (written by men) that keep women like her from becoming lawyers.
A protagonist who constantly surprises her opponents with her intelligence, irony, and way with words, The Law According to Lidia Poet is a breezy watch that’s resonated with both critics and fans. It’s also just been renewed for a second season.
Physical 100 (9 episodes)
This next show, meanwhile, is a Korean reality series that got a boost from BTS member Jungkook, who talked up the show during a livestream and helped turn Physical 100 into even more of an international hit than it already was.
Thanks to JK, Physical 100 quickly became one of the most-watched Netflix series in the world It’s basically a competition involving strength-related challenges, all for a cash prize, and here’s the official Netflix synopsis: “One hundred contestants in top physical shape compete in a series of grueling challenges to claim the honor — and cash reward — as the last one standing.”
The challenges include seeing who can hang the longest from a bar suspended above a pool to Ssireum, which is a traditional form of Korean wrestling. The ultimate prize for the last man or woman standing? 300 million won, equal to about $250,000. This series, too, has been renewed for a second season.
From Scratch (8 episodes)
Tembi Locke’s 2019 memoir From Scratch begins by leaping forward in time, with a recounting of the author driving along a winding country road through a small Sicilian village in a rusted Fiat, her husband’s ashes in a small box tucked between her legs. “In Sicily,” she writes, “every story begins with a marriage or death.”
In Locke’s case, the story starts with both, though it certainly doesn’t end there. Her memoir about losing and finding love was adapted into the Netflix series From Scratch, starring Zoe Saldana as a young American named Amy Wheeler.
The show dramatizes Locke’s story about studying abroad in Italy years ago and falling in love with a Sicilian chef. It quickly rocketed all the way to the pinnacle of the Netflix Top 10 TV chart in the US when it was released, but be warned: This series is quite a tear-jerker.
“I feel like this series sends out a very beautiful message about the transition that happens after someone u love passes to the next life,” one viewer said about the series on Twitter. “I hope it never gets taken off Netflix.”
More Netflix series with short seasons to check out
These next Netflix series, meanwhile, go a little farther back and include some of the highest-profile releases to hit the streamer in recent months (as well as some hidden gems) — again, sticking with this idea of shows offering a small number of episodes that can be finished over the course of a weekend, at most.
These breezy, binge-able Netflix shows include everything from foreign-language dramas to compelling docuseries, fan-favorite thrillers, and much more.
- Wednesday (8 episodes): If you’re one of the few people on the planet who hasn’t tried this massive Netflix hit yet, this series is an Addams Family spinoff focused on the title character, Wednesday Addams.
- Women at War (8 episodes): This limited series follows four women grappling with the devastating consequences of World War I on the homefront.
- Narco-Saints (6 episodes): This Korean crime series is about a businessman who joins a secret government mission to capture a Korean drug lord in South America.
- The Playlist (6 episodes): A dramatization of the rise of Spotify.
- The Billion Dollar Code (4 episodes): Limited series dramatizing events that led to the launch of Google Earth, centered around a high-stakes patent battle between Google and a tiny, scrappy startup. Halt and Catch Fire fans? This one is definitely for you.
- Madoff: The Monster of Wall Street (4 episodes): Limited series chronicling the rise and fall of the late disgraced financier Bernie Madoff.
- The Queen’s Gambit (7 episodes): Based on the 1983 novel of the same name, this Netflix limited series — which tells the story of an orphan who develops an aptitude for chess and goes on to become a champion — is so good, it reinvigorated demand for the game and led to a wave of chess set-buying around the world.
- Spycraft (8 episodes): This docuseries goes deep on how secret agents do their job using their very particular set of skills and tools of the trade.
- The Pharmacist (4 episodes): The hit new Netflix series Painkiller had me chasing down this one. Directed by Julia Willoughby Nason and Jenner Furst, this limited series documents how one man channeled his grief after the loss of his son into a crusade against the power players behind the opioid epidemic.
- Snow Girl (6 episodes): If you’re in the mood for mystery and don’t mind subtitles, this Spanish-language drama is about a journalist who sets out to find a mission girl in one of the oldest cities in the world.
- Beef (10 episodes): One of the best Netflix series not only of 2023 but potentially ever (I’m not exaggerating), this drama from A24 stars Ali Wong and Steven Yeun as two Angelinos who get entangled in a road rage encounter — which is really, for us the viewers — an entry point into the despair and anger swirling around in each of them.
- The Empress (6 episodes): Think of this German-language Netflix series, based on the true story of Austria’s Empress Sisi, as a sort of German spin on The Crown.
- Lupin (10 episodes across 2 seasons): Per Netflix: “Inspired by the adventures of Arsène Lupin, gentleman thief Assane Diop sets out to avenge his father for an injustice inflicted by a wealthy family.”
- Russian Doll (15 episodes across 2 seasons): Natasha Lyonne is the showrunner and star of this Emmy-winning series, in which she portrays Nadia — who, in Season 1, is a woman stuck in a surreal time loop as she keeps dying and reliving her 36th birthday party.
- 1899 (8 episodes): Netflix canceled this series after 1 season, but it’s well worth your time, regardless. From the makers of Netflix’s Dark, this show follows an immigrant ship from Europe bound for New York City … and the bizarre mysteries that it encounters along the way.
- Lost Ollie (4 episodes): This Netflix limited series didn’t get near the attention it deserved when it debuted in August of 2022. An overly simplistic way to describe it is as a kind of Toy Story for adults — or, at least, for more mature viewers. This series was inspired by the book Ollie’s Odyssey by author and illustrator William Joyce, and Netflix summarizes it as, basically, “an epic adventure about a lost toy who braves the many dangers of childhood as he searches the countryside to reunite with the boy who lost him.”
- Gunther’s Millions (4 episodes): That old saying about truth being stranger than fiction? Someone obviously came up with it to refer to Netflix series like this one, in which we meet a dog with a trust fund and his owner living a luxe life with a cult-like entourage.
- Maid (10 episodes): This series, inspired by Stephanie Land’s New York Times bestselling memoir Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, And A Mother’s Will To Survive, follows the story of “Alex,” played by Margaret Qualley. She’s “a single mother who turns to house-cleaning to — barely — make ends meet as she escapes an abusive relationship and overcomes homelessness to create a better life for her daughter, Maddy,” the official Netflix synopsis explains. This series, it continues, “is a raw and inspiring exploration of a mother’s resilience.”