Netflix continued to crush the original programming game in 2016, and looking back, it's clear that the streaming service has officially become one of the best destinations for great TV. In fact, Netflix premiered about 50 shows in 2016, but one you should check out that you may have missed is Chewing Gum, a comedy about a sexually repressed woman in her mid-20s who decides to find her own way after years of religion-inspired piety. This quirky series joined the streaming service in November 2016, but even after a couple of months, it hasn't yet achieved the kind of hype awarded to series like Stranger Things, even though it's certainly deserving. (Oh, and by the way, there's a reason why I didn't choose that sci-fi phenomenon: if you haven't seen it already, I don't think there's anything I can say to convince you.)
Chewing Gum is a lesser-known Netflix property that really represented the state of TV in 2016. Because with all of the past year's good and ills, one thing that was pretty unambiguously great was the television landscape. And Chewing Gum exemplifies quite a few of the year's trends in a great way.
Many of Netflix's best entries in 2016 were actually series that got their start in the UK. Crashing, by playwright and Fleabag creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge, may have been a bit light, but it was undeniably charming. And Netflix acquired Black Mirror last year, delivering a super-sized, slightly more optimistic season of the dark tech thriller. Those are just two examples of the many co-productions Netflix was part of last year, including Chewing Gum, which first premiered on the UK's E4 in October 2015.
The classic, three-camera series just isn't what discerning TV fanatics want anymore. Even network television is turning to rebooting the careers of stars like Kevin James and Matt LeBlanc in order to make that formula a hit. Meanwhile, Netflix is making more unique comedies that mix in inappropriate humor (there is a whole Chewing Gum subplot about, uh, used sex toys) and, occasionally, a little bit of drama. Another brand new comedy that followed this unconventional trend was Lady Dynamite, which managed to adapt Maria Bamford's idiosyncratic standup comedy into a wildly funny sitcom.
POC Stars & Creators
On and off Netflix, it felt like 2016's best new shows also brought a long overdue increase in people of color both in front of and behind the camera. From Luke Cage to The Get Down, Netflix was willing to produce series that just five years ago, many networks may have considered risky. But after years of producing series like Orange Is the New Black and Master of None, the streaming service clearly sees the value of shows that have better racial representation on screen and off.
Chewing Gum already managed to net major awards — creator and star Michaela Coel won the BAFTAs (basically, the British Oscars) for Best Female Comedy Performance and Breakthrough Talent.
Women still make up a minority of TV roles, especially as creators and writers, but Chewing Gum is helping to right that imbalance, and it's hardly the only Netflix series doing so. Jessica Jones, Orange is the New Black, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Gilmore Girls and more all have female showrunners.
Even though Chewing Gum is not exclusively produced for Netflix and therefore must factor in ratings, its future wasn't as certain as other streaming series. Thankfully, Chewing Gum was already renewed for a second season that will air this month and hopefully, will be on Netflix for American fans soon.