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 movies and TV series 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.
These first three series to check out include some relatively new titles in the US, and we’ll kick things off with a drama about the first female lawyer in Italy, starring Matilda De Angelis (who’s fast becoming my favorite Italian actress).
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 six-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.
With its 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 been renewed for a second season.
The Diplomat (8 episodes)
Netflix’s The Diplomat is the kind of series that’s so effortless in the way it’ll fill the West Wing-sized hole in your heart. Which makes sense, given that showrunner Debora Cahn was formerly a writer and producer on The West Wing, and she brings much of the same sensibilities and dynamic to this new series, in which Keri Russell stars as Kate Wyler, a newly appointed American diplomat to the UK.
Wyler isn’t exactly thrilled with the new posting at first. She was excited to be initially headed to the Middle East — where she could be involved in substantive work as opposed to the more ceremonial duties that await in the UK. She dives right in and delicately walks the line, posing for a British Vogue photo shoot while also getting down to brass tacks to solve a crisis that threatens to derail the US-UK “special relationship.”
Lots of hallway walk-and-talks, suspense, and likable characters — not to mention great cliffhangers at the end of each episode that make you want to keep going — make this one an easy series to recommend. Russell is also particularly great here, with her perpetually strained face and messy hair conveying an urgency to just get on with it and do a job without worrying about trivialities. She plays the role with a coiled intensity and periodic outbursts of frustration at how frustratingly inept the people around (and above) her can be. My favorite series I’ve ever seen her in is The Americans, but The Diplomat is a very close second.
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. 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 X. “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 into the company’s library 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.
Short Netflix docuseries
- The Pharmacist (4 episodes): The hit 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.
- Gunther’s Millions (4 episodes): That old saying about truth being stranger than fiction? Someone obviously came up with it to refer to a 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.
- Madoff: The Monster of Wall Street (4 episodes): Another limited series, this one chronicling the rise and fall of disgraced financier Bernie Madoff.
- Spy Ops (8 episodes): This docuseries features interviews with officers, operatives, and spies, including representatives of agencies like the CIA and MI6, and shares insider stories about spycraft, coups carried out by secret agents, and various and sundry Cold War espionage campaigns.
Short Netflix crime dramas
- 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 Brothers Sun (8 episodes): The first great Netflix series of 2024, The Brothers Sun is a saga about a Taiwanese crime family that’s jam-packed with great fight scenes and also sprinkled with universal family dynamics.
- Who Is Erin Carter? (7 episodes): If you’re looking for a pulse-pounding crime thriller, this is the short Netflix series for you. At the center of the story is Erin Carter, a British teacher living in Spain who gets caught up in a supermarket robbery and ends up handling herself much better than an ordinary teacher should — in addition to one of the robbers recognizing her from her secret past life.
Short historical and foreign dramas
- Women at War (8 episodes): This limited series follows four women grappling with the devastating consequences of World War I on the homefront.
- The Playlist (6 episodes): A Swedish dramatization of the rise of Spotify.
- The Billion Dollar Code (4 episodes): This German release is a 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.
- 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.”
- 1899 (8 episodes): Netflix canceled this series after one 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.
- 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.
- Queen Charlotte (6 episodes): A 2023 Emmy nominee, this spinoff of Netflix’s wildly successful Bridgerton drama, one of its biggest shows of all time, follows a young Queen Charlotte as she navigates the many demands of royal life following her marriage to King George.
Comedies, tearjerkers, and 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 (it’s also getting a DVD release).
- Carol & The End of the World (10 episodes): Created by Dan Guterman, a writer for Community and Rick and Morty, this series is about a woman who starts off feeling adrift a few months before an oncoming apocalypse. What do you do when you know the end is nigh? Oddly enough, Carol & The End of the World comes off surprisingly heartwarming and far more contemplative than Netflix’s usual fare.
- Dash & Lily (8 episodes): This one is for the lovebirds out there. Dash & Lily is one of the sweetest Netflix romances you’ll come across, featuring uber-cynic Dash and perpetually bubbly Lily — both of whom fall in love before meeting by swapping messages and dares in a notebook that they each leave for the other all over New York City.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 one, is a woman stuck in a surreal time loop as she keeps dying and reliving her 36th birthday party.
- 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.”
- 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.”