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These are the most popular Netflix shows right now — 3 to stream and 2 to skip

 Depp v Heard
Depp v Heard

The Netflix top 5 is an ever-changing ranking of the shows that are currently generating the most interest on the streaming service and a great place to start when looking for some of the best Netflix shows and you might even find a new favorite series in the process.

However, a show finding its way into the streamer’s most-watched list is no firm guarantee of its quality. Even claiming the coveted No.1 doesn’t necessarily mean a show is worth your time. Plenty of mediocre, or downright disappointing, shows have made the list over the years. And that’s why we’re here to take a closer look at the current Netflix top 5 and determine which are worth streaming, and which can be skipped. (Note, this article is based on the Netflix most-watched list as of Tuesday, August 22 at 7 a.m. E.T.).

Before diving into this list, remember these judgments are subjective, and to give you an understanding of the general consensus we’ve also included the Rotten Tomatoes score for each show. With that cleared up, here are the top 5 most popular shows on Netflix right now.

No. 1: Depp v. Heard

Last summer the defamation case between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard verged on inescapable. Daily updates dominated the news cycle and social media reveled in the salacious details as the former married couple aired their dirty laundry in a live-streamed courtroom. Naturally, a glossy docuseries hastily entered production, and just over a year after the case's conclusion, Depp v. Heard is now the No.1 show on Netflix.

The trailer pitches a three-part series that goes beyond the headlines in an attempt to examine what has been called the first-ever “Trial by TikTok”, but the series has courted controversy since its announcement, and its release on Netflix has brought with it a wave of fresh criticism. Frankly, the social media firestorm surrounding the Deep v. Heard saga was exhausting to live through the first time, which makes the prospect of revisiting the trial via a three-hour documentary far from appealing.

Our verdict: Skip it
Genre: True crime
Rotten Tomatoes: 29%
Stream it on Netflix

No. 2: Painkiller

Following in the wake of Hulu’s 2021 hit Dopesick, Netflix’s Painkiller also focuses on the opioid crisis that continues to run rife through the United States to this very day. Based on a series of New Yorker articles, the six-episode show weaves together a startling picture of the crisis from multiple angles focusing on the perpetrators, the victims and tireless investigators desperately seeking to expose the truth.

The slickly produced drama features Uzo Aduba, West Duchovny, Taylor Kitsch and Matthew Broderick in leading roles. However, its release on Netflix hasn’t been entirely pain-free. While the aforementioned Hulu original enjoyed a strong critical reception, Painkiller hasn’t been quite as successful. In fact, the Rotten Tomatoes critical consensus describes it as “a tonally confused bit of muckraking”, and its poor audience score of 58% doesn’t inspire much confidence either.

Our verdict: Skip it
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes: 48%
Stream it on Netflix

No.3: The Chosen One

The Chosen One is a Spanish-language fantasy series based on the comic-book American Jesus by Mark Millar and Peter Gross. It follows Jodie, a preteen living in Baja California, who discovers he has biblical powers such as being able to turn water into wine and even raise the dead. While local Evangelicals want Jodie to use his newfound powers to spread faith, he's more interested in impressing his crush and standing up to his bullies. However, a confrontation with a sinister force is coming and Jodie may not be ready for it.

Blending elements of horror and a classic coming-of-age story, The Chosen One is a good mix of inspirations with a compelling central story at its core. The premise will hook you, and you might find yourself binging the entire six-episode run in no time at all. There aren’t too many critical writeups on this one yet, but early reviews have been strong and the show has also debuted with a solid, if not spectacular, audience score.

Our verdict: Stream it
Genre: Supernatural
Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Stream it on Netflix

No. 4: The Upshaws

The latest batch of The Upshaws landed on Netflix last week, and clearly, the service’s subscribers are still enjoying this sitcom that follows a working-class family living in Indiana. Starring Wanda Sykes, Mike Epps, Kim Fields and Diamond Lyons, The Upshaws packs a gentle tone and likable characters, which is a blueprint sitcoms have followed to great effect for decades.

There’s no escaping the fact The Upshaws feels reminiscent of the shows that dominated network television 20 years ago, but it’s an overall enjoyable throwback and makes for very wholesome entertainment. This is the perfect Netflix show to throw on when you’re looking to switch off for a little bit, or when you want some background noise while you complete other pressing tasks. Not essential viewing, but you won't regret your time spent with this raucous family.

Our verdict: Stream it
Genre: Sitcom
Rotten Tomatoes: 67%
Stream it on Netflix

No. 5: Ballers

Ballers isn’t a Netflix original show, and it actually concluded back in 2019, but it’s still making a splash thanks to the power of streaming. The HBO series ran for five seasons, and more than 45 episodes, and it's now available to watch in its entirety on Netflix. Plenty of subscribers are taking up that offer as Ballers ranks at No.5 in the streamer’s most-watched list ahead of new releases like The Lincoln Lawyer season 2 and At Home with the Furys.

The sports-themed comedy drama stars Dwayne Johnson as Spencer Strasmore, a former NFL player and now a hotshot financial manager looking to grow his reputation by managing some of the league's biggest talents. But while he’s used to dominating on the field, Strasmore discovers that navigating business backrooms might be even more challenging than winning a Super Bowl. The HBO show earned strong reviews throughout its run so it’s unsurprising that it’s found its way into the Netflix top 5 even without the buzz of new episodes to draw attention.

Our verdict: Stream it
Genre: Comedy-drama
Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
Stream it on Netflix

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