The Best Shows To Watch On Netflix In October 2020

Netflix has new episodes of David Letterman's interview series and a new show called "The Queen's Gambit."

The new shows on Netflix:

Premise: In this interview series, David Letterman pairs one-on-one hangouts with sit-down interviews featuring A-list stars. Unlike the brief conversations he’s had on his late night show for decades, in this Netflix show, Letterman tries to dive deep into emotional and otherwise intimate territory.

“My Next Guest” has earned two Emmy nominations so far.

Netflix descriptors: “Witty” and “intimate”

Opening words for "My Next Guest Needs No Introduction" on Netflix.
Opening words for "My Next Guest Needs No Introduction" on Netflix.

How it starts: A disclaimer about filming before the pandemic, paired with a joke:

This episode was recorded prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.

My irritating personality is timeless.

-Dave

Notable cast: The third season features David Letterman interviewing Dave Chappelle, Robert Downey Jr., Kim Kardashian West and Lizzo

Runtime: The third season runs four episodes of roughly 50 minutes.

Bonus: Here’s a clip from the Kim Kardashian West interview about when she was robbed in 2016.

“The Queen’s Gambit” (Netflix Original)

Premise: In this drama based on a 1983 novel of the same name, a young orphan in Kentucky named Beth bounces from home to home while her voracious lessons in the game of chess remain a constant. Despite it being rare for women to compete in chess tournaments during the 1960s, Beth ignores these ostracizing forces and emerges as one of the best players in the world. She battles personal demons by using copious amounts of drugs and alcohol while rising through the ranks of global chess masters.

Setting: 1960s Kentucky with travels to other global locations

Netflix descriptors: “Cerebral,” “intimate” and “emotional”

The opening scene of "The Queen's Gambit" on Netflix.
The opening scene of "The Queen's Gambit" on Netflix.

How it starts: An unseen attendant knocks on a door and speaks French, repeatedly saying, “Mademoiselle?”

The camera cuts to a tub where a woman emerges from the water gasping for air. “I’m coming,” she responds. “Jesus.”

She gets out of the tub, wearing a now drenched dress. She knocks over and stumbles into empty glass bottles.

Notable cast: Bill Camp and Anya Taylor-Joy

Runtime: The first season runs seven episodes of roughly 60 minutes.

Bonus: Here’s an explanation of the famous chess move the show (and the original novel) takes its name from:

Netflix also debuted a new German-language show in the sword-fighting genre. Watch the trailer below.

“Barbarians” (Netflix Original)

Shows from earlier in the month:

“Grand Army” (Netflix Original)

Premise: In this teenage drama with adult themes, a group of high schoolers in Brooklyn balance their studies with having to grow up fast, given the city lifestyle. The show focuses on students from different socioeconomic backgrounds who co-mingle in the pressure cooker of high school.

The show swings big on social issues and provides a grittier, occasionally more melodramatic version of the classic teen ensemble formats of shows like “Degrassi” and “Skins.”

Setting: A Brooklyn high school

Netflix descriptors: “Gritty” and “emotional”

"Grand Army" on Netflix.
"Grand Army" on Netflix.

How it starts: The show opens with establishing shots of the inside of a high school, with close-ups of trash and profane graffiti written in marker. The camera then cuts to a close-up of a locker as a fist smashes into it along to the beat of people singing Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow” in a gym locker room.

After a few seconds of this, a teenager in gym clothes heads toward a bathroom stall. In the stall, she helps her grimacing friend remove a used condom from her body. After celebrating the removal together, the person who removed it leaves the stall holding the condom, celebrates with the rest of the locker room and then tosses it at a group of people, laughing.

Runtime: Nine episodes of roughly 55 minutes

Bonus: Visual artist Dr. Fahamu Pecou painted the characters of “Grand Army.” In a YouTube feature with Netflix, he spoke about his work and figuring out the visual manifestations of these teenage characters.

Premise: In this horror series loosely based on Henry James’ 1898 novella “The Turn of the Screw,” a woman takes care of a wealthy man’s niece and nephew living at an old countryside manor. The woman begins to experience paranormal activity at the house but doesn’t want to abandon the children. As the paranormal activity increases, the woman tries to figure out what’s going on.

“The Haunting of Bly Manor” is the second installment in Netflix’s “The Haunting” horror anthology series. Victoria Pedretti stars in both, but as different characters.

Setting: Essex, England

Netflix descriptors: “Ominous,” “scary” and “emotional”

The opening scene of "The Haunting of Bly Manor" on Netflix.
The opening scene of "The Haunting of Bly Manor" on Netflix.

How it starts: The camera pans over ornate paintings of different characters in the show. The camera lingers on each portrait until the character’s eyes disappear under wads of skin. This trick is definitely supposed to be creepy, but inste looks like the portraits just got the Photoshop SmartFix tool to smudge the face’s surrounding skin over the eyes.

Notable cast: Oliver Jackson-Cohen, T’Nia Miller, Victoria Pedretti and Henry Thomas

Runtime: Nine episodes of roughly 55 minutes

Bonus: Here’s the trailer for the first installment of “The Haunting” series, “The Haunting of Hill House.”

Also: Netflix surprise added the sixth season of “Schitt’s Creek” early on Oct. 3. The sixth season won nine Emmys at the September awards show. Here’s the trailer for that season...

“Emily in Paris” (Netflix Original)

Premise: In this dramatic comedy, a woman (Lily Collins) living in Chicago gets an opportunity to move to Paris for a year. This move means having a long-distance relationship with her Chicago Cubs-loving boyfriend and deciding whether to resist the temptations of French men.

Her job in France involves helping a marketing firm understand American sensibilities, which her French coworkers mercilessly look down upon. (As a Chicagoan, I must include this link to The Chicago Tribune, which tracked the times the show makes fun of Chicago and defended the city against a few of the barbs.)

Darren Star created the show. Star also created “Younger,” “Sex and the City” and “Beverly Hills, 90210,” along with other hits.

Setting: Chicago and Paris

Netflix descriptors: “Campy,” “quirky” and “romantic”

The opening scene from "Emily in Paris" on Netflix.
The opening scene from "Emily in Paris" on Netflix.

How it starts: Establishing shots of Chicago’s downtown play over a dance song. A final ground-level establishing shot shows the Lakefront Trail, with runners moving along the path next to Lake Michigan, and downtown in the background. The camera cuts closer to the protagonist, breathing heavily while running in a bulky, yellow plaid coat and holding a smartphone.

She tells her phone, “Run complete.”

“Well done, Emily,” the phone responds. Running metrics appear on the screen. The voice continues, “5.3 miles. 41 minutes. Eighteen seconds faster than yesterday. Good effort.” (That’s an under-8-minute-mile pace, which is super fast for a random morning run, even on the super-flat Lakefront Trail.) Emily smiles.

Notable cast: Lily Collins

Runtime: 10 episodes of roughly 30 minutes

Bonus: Vogue Paris, which seems like a publication that’s particularly well-suited to promoting the show, interviewed cast members and the creator about differences between Parisian and American culture.

“Song Exploder” (Netflix Original)

Premise: In this docu-series, famous songwriters explain how particular songs came together. The show balances interviews with shots of the writers making music. The series is an adaptation of a popular podcast created by Hrishikesh Hirway, who also hosts the show.

Netflix descriptors: “Understated,” “inspiring” and “investigative”

The opening scene of "Song Exploder" on Netflix.
The opening scene of "Song Exploder" on Netflix.

How it starts: The camera holds a close-up on Alicia Keys’ hand resting on a piano. She’s singing/humming and playing the piano. The singing trails off, and she lifts her hand from the piano. “Very good,” she says to herself.

Musical guests: Alicia Keys, Lin-Manuel Miranda, R.E.M. and Ty Dolla $ign

Runtime: Four episodes of roughly 25 minutes

Bonus: Hirway spoke to Dropbox about creating the podcast. Obviously, the video is kind of an advertisement for Dropbox, but the conversation does a succinct job explaining the “Song Exploder” origins.

All the shows that joined Netflix this month:

Oct. 1

  • “Bom Dia, Verônica / Good Morning, Verônica” (Netflix Original)
  • “Carmen Sandiego” (Season 3, Netflix Family)
  • “Oktoberfest: Beer & Blood” (Netflix Original)
  • “The Worst Witch” (Season 4, Netflix Family)
  • “Bakugan: Armored Alliance” (Season 2)
  • “Code Lyoko” (Seasons 1-4)
  • “Evil” (Season 1)
  • “Familiar Wife” (Season 1)
  • “The Parkers” (Seasons 1-5)
  • “The Unicorn” (Season 1)
  • “You Cannot Hide” (Season 1)

Oct. 2

  • “Emily in Paris” (Netflix Original)
  • “Song Exploder” (Netflix Original)

Oct. 3

  • “Schitt’s Creek” (Season 6)

Oct. 7

  • “To the Lake” (Netflix Original)

Oct. 9

  • “Deaf U” (Netflix Original)
  • “Fast & Furious Spy Racers” (Season 2: Rio, Netflix Family)
  • “The Haunting of Bly Manor” (Netflix Original)

Oct. 12

  • “Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts” (Season 3, Netflix Family)

Oct. 15

  • “Half & Half” (Seasons 1-4)
  • “One on One” (Seasons 1-5)
  • “Power Rangers Beast Morphers” (Season 2, Part 1)
  • “Social Distance” (Netflix Original)

Oct. 16

  • “Alguien tiene que morir / Someone Has to Die” (Netflix Original)
  • “Dream Home Makeover” (Netflix Original)
  • “Grand Army” (Netflix Original)
  • “La Révolution” (Netflix Original)

Oct. 19

  • “Unsolved Mysteries” (Volume 2, Netflix Documentary)

Oct. 20

  • “The Magic School Bus Rides Again: The Frizz Connection” (Netflix Family)

Oct. 21

  • “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman” (Season 3, Netflix Original)

Oct. 23

  • “Barbarians” (Netflix Original)
  • “Move” (Netflix Original)
  • “Perdida” (Netflix Original)
  • “The Queen’s Gambit” (Netflix Original)