The Best Series On Netflix UK To Enliven The Senses
Updated: Aug 1, 2018
The sheer quality of modern TV productions means watching Netflix can be an highly involving experience. Dive beneath the big Netflix series, and you’ll find a deep pool of unusual series and cutting-edge films designed to evoke a reaction. Many of these are not only a feast for the eyes but if you eliminate distractions can have the power to engage all the different senses.
So we set up our big screen, turned down the lights, turned off our electronic devices and went in search of the best on Netflix UK to tickle each of our individual senses - Sight, Sound, Smell, Taste and Touch.
Here are our recommendations.
Sight: The best Netflix series for visual spectacle.
With big budgets being spent, visual spectacle is not difficult to find on TV. Netflix can transport you to the future in Star Trek Discovery, into history with Frontier, and into the 80s with Stranger Things.
But to fuzzle your visual cortex, none of these series come close to Tales By Light; a series all about the beauty of the image. Each episodes accompanies a prominent photographer as they tour of the landscapes, animals and festivals which inspire the art of photography and take memorable and incredible images for publications like Time Magazine and National Geographic. Many of the stunning scenes in Tales By Light unfold like moving photographs themselves, taking us beyond looking at the subject to looking at the image itself with its colours, composition, shades and hues. The deepest darkest blue of the ocean, the stark white of an ice pact, the wild colour explosion of paint being thrown at a temple festival.
It is ironic for a series which looks to promote traditional still photography, that the videography of Tales By Light is so effective at capturing the beauty and emotion of every subject featured.
Sound : the best Netflix series to put the volume up.
Netflix has a whole category dedicated to music documentaries so the greatest thrill for your ears will probably be determined by your taste in tunes. However stepping out of your usual genres to appreciate something completely different can have great rewards.
For us it was the oscar nominated Netflix documentary What Happened, Miss Simone?; a biopic of legendary blues and jazz singer Nina Simone. Narrated using recordings from previous interviews, Nina’s unusual speaking voice intersects with never-before-heard music to tell a raw and engaging life story. The crackle and muffle of old recordings only adds to the atmosphere and is a stark reminder of how modern production and great speakers lets modern music slide so easily into our ears. In contrast, the gravel, baritone and offbeat timing of Nina Simone’s vocals is a very different listening experience.
If you don’t want to watch a music documentary, but want a masterclass on how sound can build tension and atmosphere then Manhunt: Unabomber is a great example. As each episode builds, so does the uncomfortable twisting of the soundtrack right up to almost unbearable dissonance before each credit roles. This story of broken personalities embraces in the sensory discomfort of its viewers.
Smell : the best Netflix series to tickle the nose hairs
Getting the sensation of smell from the small screen is a challenge. If only there was a series on Netflix about a Detective who solves crime literally using his nose. Well in the era where every personal quirk is an excuse for a new detective series, we have The Sniffer - a Russian language, Ukrainian production which is thankfully aware of its own silliness. For something more cerebral there is a whole documentary dedicated to the impact our sense of smell has on our lives called Empire of Scents which makes fascinating viewing.
However, both of these options were a little bit too on the nose for us - pun intended. We are looking for programmes which evoke the senses, rather than tell us about them. Looking a little wider we discovered the Netflix series Fire Chasers. Focused on the brave firefighters taking on raging Californian wildfires, the series often places the viewer right in the centre of the burning and suffocating action - close enough to pretty much smell the smoke. When the ground around us was on fire, we were convinced we had left something burning in the kitchen.
Taste : the best Netflix series to tingle the taste buds
The food porn craze has definitely made its way onto Netflix with a wide array of programmes dedicated to professional cuisine which is beautifully shot. Yet if your goal is to really imagine those flavours sitting on your tongue then nothing beats Zumbo’s Just Desserts for outright sensory indulgence.
This super colourful, Willy Wonka inspired dessert making competition is centred around the incredible creations of Adriano Zumbo - pastry chef extraordinaire. Each episode, contestants play around with the most intense and wild of flavours to produce outrageous sweets. Expect dark chilli chocolate, salted caramels, tangy passion fruit, raspberry syrups, tart lemon hits, sweet meringue and cream. So much cream. The two contestants who fail to impress the judges are pitched into a duel to recreate one of Zumbo’s own immense desserts. To give you a taste, in episode two they have to create a dessert, within a dessert, within a dessert, within a dessert, encased in meringue, smothered in Chantilly cream, and topped with bright macaroons.
Load the fridge before viewing.
Touch : the best Netflix series to create a physical reaction
Getting a true sensation of touch and feel from a TV programme is a big ask. Netflix horror such as American Horror Story and Deathnote may raise the hairs on your arms and send the odd shudder down your spine. Also on Netflix is Limitless, a film spin-off series which does a smart job of visualising the impact of NZT - a designer drug which magnifies every single sense to transform a lovable average joe into a genius. There is also some quiet sensual satisfaction to be found in Between The Folds - a documentary about the very neat art of paper-folding.
However our favourite pick for inspiring a vivid sense of feeling was a short, single run documentary called Under An Arctic Sky. Directed by renowned photographer and explorer Chris Burkard, the film follows six Californian surfers as they travel through whipping winds and arctic blizzards to find the best winter surf on the remote coast of Iceland. Against the backdrop of snowy mountains and -15 degree air temperatures, this foolhardy group strip down to bare skin, don wetsuits and jump into the freezing ice-laden waters with their boards.
With a beautifully balanced blend of intimate close-ups and soaring icy vistas, Under An Arctic Sky will make your skin tingle and body shudder with an empathetic chill. As you get to understand their boundless passion for surfing, equally evocative is the sheer thrill and happiness which unfolds across their faces at first site of a perfect off-shore break. By the final scenes of our surfers ripping across the top of waves as the Northern Lights flicker above, your heart will be soaring.
Those are our suggestions, got your own suggestions? Please post them in the comments below.