In a year where every second film was delayed, pushed back to 2021 or thrown onto streaming platforms, TV seemed to thrive! A myriad great new and returning series’ hit our TV screens to provide us with a much needed escape from the outside world. From 26 shows, I’ve gone and selected the best 10 of the year (with some honourable mentions) for some viewing recommendations.
Just missing out on the top 10 list are a few shows that should still be highlighted for their awesome seasons. HBO’s The Outsider is a gripping mystery thriller with a big-name cast and a top notch performance from Cynthia Erivo – a great horror, thriller, mystery and crime series. Star Wars: The Clone Wars came back to finish off with a strong final season, delivering awesome action and a long-awaited conclusion to the beloved series. The final 4 episodes of this season are Star Wars at its best. Locke and Key hit very early in the year and is a fun, entertaining and pleasant ride. It’s a refreshing blend of fantasy, horror, magic and a touch of thrills. Twisty drama thriller Dead to Me managed to build upon its first season in some nice and creative ways, delivering a second season that is funny and compelling the whole way through. Last but not least, The Rain came to a stellar close with its final season that brings closure to every character’s arc and keeps up the suspense right to the final moments.
#10 – Altered Carbon (Season 2)
One of the unfortunate casualties of the year is Altered Carbon, a series which built a universe with a rich history and seemed to be setting up an even more expanded third season. This second season introduced Anthony Mackie in the lead role and bought back Renée Elise Goldsberry, both of whom put in awesome performances. The narrative this season is constantly moving, constantly pushing towards the climax with hardly any downtime and it makes for a thrilling ride. Watching the mystery unfold and following Takeshi on this rather eventful and twisty journey made for a thoroughly engaging season. Unfortunately, it seems the viewer numbers didn’t aline with Netflix’s expectations as it got the axe – meaning we won’t see how this story unfolds.
#9 – The Queen’s Gambit (Season 1)
This miniseries about chess, one of the most thrilling sports to ever exist, came out of nowhere to become the most watched miniseries on Netflix. The Queen’s Gambit is deeply engaging across every moment and throws you into the world of competitive chess… or rather it guides you through, displaying the effect it had on a young Beth Harmon. The pacing is calculated and the entire series feels like a tight, self-contained story where all the minor details tie things together intricately well. Not only is the cinematography absolutely stunning, the lead performance from Anya Taylor-Joy is just mesmerising – she completely disappears into the role and makes every second well worth it.
#8 – Fuller House (Season 5)
It’s truly sad to see this series depart – it bought so much fun, joy, positivity and laughter that it simply can’t be replaced. One of the most feel-good series’ to ever exist, Fuller House built on the timeless success of Full House in a way that honoured the fans of the original series while also forging its own path. This final season, and especially the last episode, is full of laughs, but also brings plenty of emotion. The final moments bring the waterworks and just show the impact the series has had over the last 5 years. The fact that it was able to end on its own accord and close everything off nicely was very well deserved. But who knows… perhaps we may see a “Fullest House” sequel series in the future – only time will tell.
#7 – What We Do in the Shadows (Season 2)
A flawless blend of smart and ridiculous humour, What We Do in the Shadows brings a second season that expands this crazy world of vampires and cements itself as the funniest new series on TV. Every episode is spectacularly written – packed with hilarious moments that make the most of the mockumentary style. Each episode also balances the smaller, self-contained arcs and furthers the season-long storylines that pop in and out. The chemistry between Kayvan Novak, Matt Berry and Natasia Demetriou is near unbreakable. The three of them together are an unstoppable force of comedy. Their timing is impeccable and they delve so far into their characters that they may as well be real. All I wish is that this series is long-lasting and we get season after season of greatness.
#6 – Raised By Wolves (Season 1)
For a brilliant piece of high-concept sci-fi, look no further than Raised by Wolves, a gripping sci-fi mystery thriller that oozes classic vibes of Ridley Scott’s Alien franchise. For a brand new series, this is a wildly ambitious first season – setting up a rich universe that harbours a tonne of secrets, some of which we are still yet to uncover. The series begins at a very self-contained level, then gradually introduces more characters and more mysteries that expand the scope of the story beyond anything you could’ve imagined. It runs at a slower pace, but at the same time it’s a calculated one – designed to reach its core story beats precisely when it means to. It’s eerie, beautiful and keeps you locked in the whole way through – a winding sci-fi journey that’s not to be missed.
#5 – Criminal: UK (Season 2)
A brilliant claustrophobic psychological drama, Criminal: UK is chilling, compelling and near-perfectly executed. Each of the 4 episodes in this season introduces an original case, highlights a new suspect and unfolds the details of each mystery in a way that entirely locks you in for a solid 40-50 minutes. Every episode is full of edge-of-seat thrills and sends you on a rollercoaster of emotions as pieces of the unpredictable narrative are gradually dropped through cleverly-written dialogue. This season touches on some relevant social issues and brings out a quite harrowing tone at times. Then you have the performances which are truly mindblowing! Kit Harrington, Sharon Horgan, Kunal Nayyar and Sophie Okonedo are absolutely brilliant across every single second of their respective episodes. I can’t pick a favourite, but Kunal Nayyar’s performance is so spellbinding that you’ll completely forget he played Raj in The Big Bang Theory.
#4 – The Haunting of Bly Manor (Season 1)
Mike Flanagan follows up his incredible horror series, The Haunting of Hill House, with this equally breathtaking and even more emotionally impactful series, The Haunting of Bly manor. To call this series a straight horror would be doing it an injustice. There are chilling pieces of atmospheric horror sprinkled throughout the series, but this is really a gothic romance at its core. It’s a breathtaking piece of emotional storytelling that goes quite deep in exploring every single one of its characters and the relationships they have formed. It’s haunting, beautiful, emotional and features an ensemble of performances that make you care about everyone. This is a phenomenal piece of horror storytelling that is not to be missed.
#3 – Westworld (Season 3)
Ahhh, Westworld – one of the very lucky shows that sits up there in my top 5 TV series’ of all time. This sci-fi epic from the minds of Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan took a much different turn from what we’ve seen in the first 2 seasons – leaving the parks behind and venturing out into the real world. Many people weren’t fans of the changes made, however I thought the new narrative and the characters involved were awesome. The parallels drawn between the hosts in the park and humans in the real world make for some incredibly compelling meta commentary. This season retains the series’ trademark mystery angle that keeps you guessing as to exactly what’s going on for the majority of the season’s run. I love the way the writers execute these character arcs and keep every single storyline engaging to watch. The production value is through the roof and it’s just beautiful to look at. The season brings with it a lot of answers and also a lot of questions that I’m sure will be answered in season 4. Unfortunately, despite a phenomenal season of TV, it couldn’t make the top spot… so here it sits.
#2 – The Mandalorian (Season 2)
Well, well, well… The Mandalorian has risen from only making the ‘honourable mentions’ of my list last year to being the second best series on TV in 2020. It was bigger, it was better and it’s easily one of the best pieces of Star Wars content ever made. There is something to love about every single episode in here. Even episode 2, which is the low-point of the season, is still a great entertaining episode with plenty of action to enjoy. There is so much awesome, purely insane Star Wars content to consume across each episode that it just continues to shock and surprise as it builds to the epic, mindblowing finale. Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni have smashed expectations with a season of TV that tops itself with each new episode. Just when you think the season has peaked, they say nope and do something even more insane. Everything about this season has been fine-tuned to near perfection and it’s more than worthy of this position. May the force be with you.
#1 – Devs (Season 1)
Here it is… the #1 series of the year is Alex Garland’s mind-bending sci-fi masterpiece, Devs. No show from this year was more deserving of this spot than Devs – every single second of this series was absolutely phenomenal. The twists and turns, high-concept sci-fi and toying with the ideas of reality, humanity and free will was all executed to perfection by Alex. The story is entirely fresh, original and unpredictable, with tonnes of clever foreshadowing that shows the level of detail put into this narrative. The gradual building of suspense, through to a spectacular finale, is orchestrated so well it will have your heart pounding out of your chest. Your brain will be working the entire time to piece everything together, while the likes of Sonoya Mizuno and Nick Offerman put in brilliant on-screen performances. Seeing Offerman kill it in a much more serious role is just one of the many joys of experiencing this series. The slow burn may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is well worth the journey.
Didn’t find one of your favourite shows of 2020? CLICK HERE to find all of the TV shows I watched and reviewed in 2020. Or simply use the search bar at the bottom of the page.