I noted in a post earlier this week that 2023 has been something of a mixed bag for Netflix, which released as many duds this year (Agent Elvis, Fubar, and That ’90s Show) as it did breakout hits (Beef, The Night Agent, and Squid Game: The Challenge). Another way you can get a sense of that same thing about the streamer’s content right now comes in the form of popularity charts — specifically, via the latest analysis of the top TV shows from Rotten Tomatoes.
You’ll find this week’s Top 5 TV series based on Rotten Tomatoes data listed below, and one thing that should be glaringly obvious right away is that Netflix doesn’t have a single entry on the list. Perhaps things will improve for the streaming giant with 2024 right around the corner, but for now, we’ll take a closer look at its rivals’ shows that are particularly crushing it at the moment — starting with a new hit on Disney+.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians (Season 1)
First up on this week’s list of the most popular TV shows across all of streaming is Disney+’s adaptation of the fantasy novel series by author Rick Riordan.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians, which currently has a near-perfect 96% rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, had a strong debut in recent days. According to Variety, the eight-episode series pulled in 13.3 million viewers in its first six days of streaming availability, enough to make it one of the strongest debuts of any Disney+ or Hulu show this year.
From the official Disney+ synopsis of the show: “Percy Jackson is on a dangerous quest. Outrunning monsters and outwitting gods, he must journey across America to return Zeus’ master bolt and stop an all-out war.
“After losing his mother, Percy is sheltered at Camp Half-Blood, a sanctuary for demigod children. He must prove himself and confront his origins once he discovers he, too, is a demigod, and will take off into the perils of pursuing enemies in search of the Underworld. With the help of his quest mates Annabeth and Grover, Percy’s journey will lead him closer to the answers he seeks: How to fit into a world where he feels out of place, if he’ll ever see his mother again, and if he can ever find out who he’s destined to be.”
Reacher (Season 2)
Heading into December, meanwhile, Prime Video’s Reacher was the most-anticipated of the month’s TV shows, according to Rotten Tomatoes.
Season 2 of the show, which is based on novelist Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series of thrillers, draws specifically from Bad Luck and Trouble — the 11th book in the series. The title character is a veteran military police investigator, and in the show’s new season, he gets a coded message that members of his former US Army unit (the 110th MP Special Investigations) are being killed off one by one.
“Pulled from his drifter lifestyle,” Prime Video’s official summary explains, “Reacher reunites with three of his former teammates turned chosen family to investigate, including Frances Neagley (Maria Sten); Karla Dixon (Serinda Swan), a forensic accountant for whom Reacher has long had a soft spot; and fast-talking, switchblade-wielding family man David O’Donnell (Shaun Sipos).
“Together, they begin to connect the dots in a mystery where the stakes get higher at every turn, and that brings about questions of who has betrayed them — and who will die next.”
What If…? (Season 2)
Another Disney+ hit on the current list of top TV shows, Marvel’s What If …? features The Watcher guiding viewers through a multiverse with alternate storylines, introducing both new and familiar faces from throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Per Disney: “The series questions, revisits and twists classic Marvel cinematic moments with an incredible voice cast that includes a host of stars who reprise their iconic roles.”
My colleague Chris Smith has described the new season of the show as the most fun the MCU has been all year. “The best part of What If…? is that you don’t need a larger story for the episodes to work,” he writes. “The Multiverse Saga is that larger story. Each episode comes from a different reality. It can be loosely connected to other What If…? episodes, or it can be a completely distinct one. You don’t even need to be an MCU fan for these episodes to work. And you can watch them in any order.”
Dr. Death (Season 2)
Season 2 of Peacock’s hit drama Dr. Death unravels the wild story of Paolo Macchiarini, at one time a world-renowned thoracic surgeon who boasted an enviable roster of celebrity patients.
If you watched the recently released three-part Netflix docuseries Bad Surgeon: Love Under the Knife, the same story was told there. Basically, Macchiarini pioneered a groundbreaking transplant operation involving the world’s first plastic organs, which not only made him fabulously wealthy but also brought him plaudits from top scientists and doctors. His VIP patients reportedly included Pope Francis, President Obama, and Hillary Clinton, and he also worked for a time at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, which awards the Nobel Prize in medicine.
Macchiarini’s seemingly perfect veneer, however, obscured a chilling truth: He’d carved a path to riches and notoriety while also leaving a trail of dead patients in his wake.
A Murder at the End of the World
Finally, we come to FX’s buzzy new series from creative partners Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij.
The seven-episode A Murder at the End of the World stars Emma Corrin as Darby Hart, a tech-savvy, amateur sleuth who’s written a book that’s turned her into a “Gen Z Sherlock Holmes.” Things start to pick up when the story moves to a retreat in Iceland convened by a reclusive and Elon Musk-like billionaire, played by Clive Owen. The handpicked guests include Darby, along with eight other individuals with varying talents and areas of expertise.
Continues FX about its new hit show: “When one of the other guests is found dead, Darby must use all of her skills to prove it was murder against a tide of competing interests and before the killer takes another life.”