The Best TV of 2020 - Regardless of Release Date
Anyone who knows me will know that I watch a lot more film than TV. But, I've been trying to watch more TV when and where I can. I struggled to even find ten miniseries and TV shows since I don't watch nearly as much as the next binger, but here we are. These are the best things I saw on TV, streaming, etc. I need to emphasize that these are not the best shows/miniseries of 2020, although there are some shows that were released in 2020 on this list. I have included shows that were released possibly even decades ago - it's just the best stuff I saw no matter when it was released. Couple things before I get started: 1. I have not seen The Mandalorian Season 2. So, no whinging about the fact that it's not on my list. 2. No, I have not seen The Haunting of Bly Manor, so no complaining about that either. I hope you guys enjoy the list, and I do hope you'll check these out if you haven't already.
10. Living With Yourself
The (double) Paul Rudd comedy with a high concept Sci-Fi twist is hilarious, dramatic, and even heartfelt. Again, I have to stress it's incredibly hard for a show to make me laugh, and this did consistently throughout the show in its entirety. I had a blast with this one, so much that I even watched it again with my parents. Of course, I had the time to do that - as we all did this year. Paul Rudd gives a great, layered, and dynamic dual performance, which is to be commended as that is not nearly as easy as he makes it look. It's a Netflix original show which is well worth checking out if you don't mind getting a little weird.
Ozark is an interesting case with me. I had tried season one a couple years back, to no avail. I simply just could not get into it. But, my parents and I gave it another shot after the overwhelming positive reception it received for its third season. The third season which, admittedly, is where it finally finds its footing and does get a lot better as it goes along. After not being entirely impressed with the first season, or even the second, the third really gets the family in deep, and you're all the way in. This is not to say seasons one and two are not worth watching, because they are. It's just that the inevitable comparison to the superior Breaking Bad was always going to be made. The premise is similar, and it's hard not to make that parallel. All that being said, Ozark is a solid crime drama in its own right, and it will be fascinating to see where they take the series in its fourth, and seemingly final season after its shocking finish in the season three finale.
8. Killing Eve
I was very skeptical going into its third season when I learned that writer/producer Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag) was going to be leaving the show. She assured everyone that she was leaving it "in good hands" - but I knew better. Halfway through the season, I had noticed that it was not nearly as well-written as when she was aboard the writing team. But then, it was as if a switch was turned. It picked up steam and was off to the races. I was impressed with how well they did without the magic touch of Phoebe. Admittedly, it was still a weaker effort than previous seasons, but still entertaining and thrilling nonetheless. It's a show well worth the watch if you enjoy espionage thrillers even remotely as much as I do.
One of the most unique and original concepts for a show I've ever seen, Maniac is an absolute trip. With stellar and ranged performances from both Jonah Hill and Emma Stone, they carry this strange and intriguing look into the broken, the damaged, and the mentally ill. I have a soft spot for both actors, and am a huge fan of director/creator Cary Joji Fukunaga's work. The miniseries is incredibly well done in nearly every important, primary aspect of filmmaking imaginable. The miniseries is among some of the most imaginative concepts ever put to film or TV and must be seen to be believed. If you're willing to journey into the wild, surreal and absurdist world that is Maniac, this one may be for you - and it's only on Netflix.
Venture into the mind of intellectual Sci-Fi writer/director Alex Garland (Ex Machina, Annihilation) with the FX miniseries Devs. This miniseries covers themes of existentialism, determinism, and technology as it relates to power. This is a fascinating and utterly mind-bending series which will leave your brain hurting by its surreal and dreamlike conclusion. If you are a fan of Garland's other work, you will surely be intrigued by Devs. Admittedly, it does have its flaws where flat characterization and oftentimes line delivery are concerned. If you can overcome these flaws, you will be rewarded with thrilling and thought-provoking episodes and sequences. The production design and cinematography boasted by the show are jaw-dropping. The concepts of the show and the intriguing nature of the show beg to be seen and I would highly recommend it for fans of the showrunner and genre.
5. The Last Dance
Fans of the era will undoubtedly love this fantastically made docuseries about the dominance of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the 90s. Even for people who are not fans of the Bulls or even basketball for that matter will still find something to love about the man, the myth, the legend that is Michael Jordan. A deep dive into the dynamics of the team and the hall of famer's psyche during that time is fascinating and utterly enthralling. As someone who lived through this time period, but did not fully grasp the nearly incalculable impact nor the sheer scale of it all was truly something to behold. I was enamored by all the behind the scenes looks and the tidbits that passersby would likely not catch - especially as a kid who practically sleepwalked through that decade. This docuseries is simply a must-watch for all and can be caught on Netflix.
4. The Crown
It's important to note, I do not give a flying shit about the royal family. I'm fully aware that many anglophiles dedicate their daily lives to knowing the most up-to-date information about them, and it's impossible for me to care less about any of it. That said, I absolutely adore the Netflix series The Crown. This is a very fascinating look into the lives of the Queen, the princesses, all the "your majesties", and the power structure within. It's incredibly educational for me, as someone who is not entirely in the know about the many happenings and goings-on regarding the British government, nor the Crown throughout history. Seasons one and two are impeccably well done and portrayed by Claire Foy (Queen Elizabeth) and Vanessa Kirby (Princess Margaret). The supporting cast is all perfectly cast as well, and I am even enjoying the transition to the older cast in season three, albeit not as much. I'll likely come around to them, as they're all finely played, but I had grown accustomed to the previous cast. Personally, I feel they had portrayed them slightly better. The series is slowly paced, so that might be troublesome for certain audiences. But, if you're willing to take a chance on it, I would highly encourage doing so. And please do not scorn me for this, but I haven't quite made it to season four yet. But, I cannot wait to explore the life and the world inhabited by Princess Diana in the acclaimed fourth season!
3. The Queen's Gambit
It would take living under a rock to be unaware of this show's existence. The miniseries The Queen's Gambit took the quarantined world by storm with a perfectly timed release and confident marketing. Led by a mesmerizing Anya Taylor Joy performance and an assuredly well written adaptation by Scott Frank, The Queen's Gambit dives into the very uncinematic world of chess - but miraculously makes it thoroughly compelling for all audiences. The dramatic miniseries shattered many Netflix and general streaming records with high volume views in a short amount of time. This miniseries is excellent in its pristine depiction of the time period and impeccable pacing throughout. It's foolhardy of me to recommend this series, as you've likely already seen it. But, if not, definitely give it a look - you'll probably binge it in a day or two.
I was apprehensive about a Watchmen series adaptation, but boy was I wrong to ever be in doubt. This beautifully paced, dark, gritty, and unflinching modern update to the graphic novel as a miniseries was near-perfect in every conceivable way. The movie is entertaining and effective in its own ways, but the miniseries takes a long-form approach and improves it in a significant way. Adding timely themes and deep characterization, the series packs a serious punch and challenges the viewer to reflect on his or her own viewpoints and the unfortunate realities of today. Featuring one of the best episodes of television I've seen to date (there's also proof of me calling its Emmy wins on Facebook), the series boasts phenomenal filmmaking and powerful acting. The series as a whole culminates in an exciting, brain-testing, and eyebrow raising finale that will provoke thought and discussion for years to come. This amazing miniseries can be found on HBO.
1. The Sopranos
Rounding out the top ten is yet another iconic HBO series, The Sopranos. Yes, it took me this long to finish what is undeniably one of the best television series ever made, if not THE best. Please don't make fun of me, okay? Oddly enough, this was a series I started over five years ago, and finally got around to finishing thanks to quarantine. Don't ask me how it took this long; better late than never. In any case, I now see why The Sopranos is widely considered to be the best show on TV. This became abundantly clear to me as it was drawing to a close. The show is a masterclass in writing complex characters and writing interesting and compelling dialogue. It's not only a thoroughly engrossing crime drama, but it's also a very fascinating character study of one Tony Soprano, played to perfection by the late, great James Gandolfini. The counseling/therapy sessions between he and his psychiatrist played wonderfully by Lorraine Bracco. The Sopranos is aptly described as The Godfather, as made into a television series and updated to the times. The family dynamics are always interesting and this is another show which is compared to Breaking Bad due to its realism and crime aspects while trying to maintain a normal family life. The controversial ending was shocking to me, although I had been warned by encountering a slight spoiler (which is near impossible to avoid after all these years). I had a sort of knee-jerk reaction to it at first - but after deep reflection, I have since come around to it. It's a fitting ending, although maybe not satisfying at the time. The Sopranos is compulsory viewing for fans of the genre and TV enthusiasts (addicts) alike. It can be found on HBO (Max) and other platforms where HBO shows are shown on streaming.
Left to Right: Peaky Blinders, Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich, Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness
Well, how did I do?
Did I miss anything? Was I wrong about anything?
Let me know in the comments section what you think of my list!