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The 20 Best Television Shows of 2020

As horrible as 2020 sometimes was, I think we can agree that some fantastic television was oftentimes a method of escape for us during a global pandemic. Aside from bingeing old episodes of The West Wing or The Office, 2020 presented an impressive slate of new and returning shows that captured our attention and our hearts. So, how do we break down and lay out a year chock-full of addictive series? We get the staff to pitch in and list it all alphabetically! So here it is, our top 20 television shows of 2020!


Betty, Season One (HBO)

I found it near impossible to not get sucked into the tangible New York City atmosphere experienced in HBO’s Betty. The show reunites the creative team of director Crystal Moselle and the female skateboarder crew turned actresses who serve as the titular inspiration behind 2018’s The Skate Kitchen. Like that movie, though fictionalized, the show feels improvisational. It’s as though you’re a fly who instead of perching on a wall decided to sit on one of the characters’ boards as they glide through the hustle and bustle of the city. As the young women go about their lives, the authentic vibe of the show will leave you just as impressed as it is to witness the characters’/actresses’ 
skateboarding prowess. — Aaron Halls

Dash & Lily, Season One (Netflix)

As a long-time lover of romance, holiday movies, and a good old bildungsroman story, it was basically impossible for me not to fall in love with Dash & Lily. A Christmastime cynic meets a forever-optimist in the meet-cute to end all meet-cutes — we love a good epistolary narrative. Like many shows in the genre, it romanticizes young love and adventure and New York City in an entirely unrealistic but totally entertaining way. Big props to Austin Abrams and Midori Francis for being oh so charming in their romance. And Shout out to Jodi Long for being the dramatic Asian-American queen I aspire to be! — Therese Lacson

Harley Quinn, Season Two (HBO Max)

I knew the Harley Quinn animated series would be something special when I saw the pilot with a live-audience at SDCC’19, but I never expected such depth. It’s not only a brilliant meta-narrative of women in the entertainment industry, it’s laugh out loud funny. After the restructuring of the DC Universe streaming platform not only does the Harley Quinn cartoon have a new home at HBO Max, but a third season is on the way! It’ll probably be a while until we get new episodes, but if the quality is anything like previous seasons it will be worth the wait! — Taimur Dar

High Fidelity, Season One (Hulu)

Canceled far too soon, with performances and storylines that are far too relatable, I will admit that I wasn’t initially sure how this show would turn out. Not only does Zoe Kravitz shine as Rob, literally the woman you love to hate, but Da’Vine Joy Randolph is a STAR as Cherise and David H. Holmes as Simon Miller give us the best friend duo for Rob that we needed and deserve more of! So, if you want a romantic comedy about a messy woman struggling to move on after heartbreak and creating a destructive path as she tries to figure out dating and life, with her friends and family giving a plethora of advice and guidance along the way, check out High Fidelity. — Kay-B

Photograph by Courtesy of HBO

His Dark Materials, Season Two (HBO Max)

I’ve already gone on way too long about this show. As a committed fan (and once-anti-fan) of Philip Pullman‘s series, His Dark Materials really kicked off this season. Based on my favorite book in the trilogy, The Subtle Knife, this season really grew into itself. Yes, the freshman season was far from perfect, but we’re getting closer to perfection this year. Jane Tranter and Jack Thorne really have me desperate for Season 3! Renew already, HBO and BBC! Also, shout-outs to Dafne Keen, Amir Wilson, and Ruth Wilson for exceeding their already fantastic portrayals! — Therese Lacson

Hunters, Season One (Prime Video)

Hunters had a premise that I initially was intrigued by but wasn’t sure how they could pull it off. But, man, oh man, is it nothing like what I expected but in some of the best ways. This group of Nazi hunters are truly badass and bring different elements & skillsets to the team that come in handy in the most complicated situations. Apart from some of the accents, Hunters was a rollercoaster of a journey that kept me engaged from top to bottom. While the entire cast is so so good, I have to give a special shout-out goes to Tiffany Boone who portrays the fierce Roxy Jones, and Jerrika Hinton who plays the brilliant Millie Morris, who gave me two of the most layered performances of Black women onscreen this year. So, if you want to see a drama about taking down Nazis, Hunters is for you! — Kay-B

I May Destroy You, Season One (HBO Max)

Created, written by, and starring Michaela Coel, I May Destroy You might be the most complex portrayal of sexual assault I’ve seen in film or television. It explores the trauma without feeling exploitive or sacrificing character, often in the tone of a dark comedy more than anything else. After this show’s success, I have to imagine Coel can write her ticket to create whatever she wants next, and I can’t wait to see it. — Hannah Lodge

I’ll Be Gone In the Dark, Docuseries (HBO Max)

I distinctly remember crying after finishing Michelle McNamara‘s I’ll Be Gone In The Dark book in 2018, which came on the heels of the capture of the killer who is the subject of McNamara’s book. Her story was not just about the Golden State Killer, but also an introspective on her own life. The HBO Max series goes into McNamara’s obsessive hunt for the killer but also gives us vignettes and stories about Michelle from the people in her life, including her husband Patton Oswald and researchers and investigators Billy Jensen and Paul Haynes. A respectful, emotional, beautiful docuseries, any lover of true crime should have this on their watchlist. McNamara’s “Letter to an Old Man” is particularly stirring. — Therese Lacson

It’s Okay To Not Be Okay, Miniseries (Netflix)

I loved the way this show portrays the various ways mental illness, guilt, and grief affects people in their day-to-day lives. The main plot revolves Moon Gang-tae (Kim Soo-hyun), a person-support worker at a small psychiatric hospital who’s forced to face painful memories and truths about his past and his relationship with his autistic older brother. With the amazing acting from the main and supporting cast, great story development, and character growth, It’s Okay To Not Be Okay became one of the most popular K-dramas of 2020 with audiences all around the world, even if it left us overwhelmed with emotions every other episode. — Carolyn Hinds

NORMAL PEOPLE

Normal People, Season One (Hulu)

Throughout this Irish drama, the hypnotic push and pull plot between main characters Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Connell (Paul Mescal) will keep your eyes glued to the screen. What keeps them there as their relationship shifts and turns from secondary school and beyond is the electric chemistry between its stars Mescal and Edgar-Jones and the intimate direction from Lenny Abrahamson and Hettie Macdonald making this small story one with the biggest impacts of the year. — Aaron Halls

Perry Mason, Season One (HBO)

A slick, pretty-looking reboot of the classic Perry Mason TV show from the 50s/60s, this hardboiled detective novel on the small screen featured Matthew Rhys in his best role since The Americans (which wasn’t too long ago). It also had a killer supporting cast, an engaging mystery, and beautiful visuals. Even if you’re a diehard fan of the original series, reticent to try a grittier look at the famed detective turned lawyer, you should still take a look. — Ruth Johnson

Schitt’s Creek, Season Six (Netflix)

If you know, you know. If you don’t, get on it! This show was several years into production before it suddenly became an internet sensation, and by the time this final season aired, it had gone from cult favorite to mainstream stay, nabbing a record nine Emmy wins earlier this year. It’s a return to the light-hearted 30-minute comedy by way of Dan Levy (son of Eugene Levy) and his dry Canadian humor. — Hannah Lodge

Star Trek: Discovery, Season Three (CBS All Access)

Back for its third season, the hit Star Trek series is determined to take fans on an emotional ride each episode and we love it. Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and her fellow shipmates face extremely difficult challenges when they jump over 900 years into a future they never imagined. The writers seem intent on making them (and me) cry over unexpected losses as much as smile from surprising wins. The season isn’t over yet, but I’m along for this ride as long as it keeps going. — Carolyn Hinds

Star Trek: Lower Decks, Season One (CBS All Access)

In the first season finale of Lower Decks “No Small Parts,” elements from every one of the preceding nine episodes are integral to the climactic story, proving the thesis inherent in the episode’s title. A perfectly constructed season of television that simultaneously fulfills your expectations while fully subverting them, Lower Decks is a Star Trek series that goes where no one has gone before by recognizing that perfection is an illusion – and suggesting that by working together, humanity can aspire to greatness in spite of this inescapable conclusion. — Avery Kaplan

The Great, Season One(Hulu) 

This hysterical tragicomedy from one of the writers of The Favourite, Tony McNamara, this series stars Elle Fanning in the titular role…Catherine the Great. Well, Catherine before she was “the Great,” i.e. her teenage years. It’s a rollicking good time with a tragic tinge, much like The Favourite. If you’re a fan of historical dramas with an anachronistic spin, I’d highly recommend it. — Ruth Johnson

Credit: Disney+

The Mandalorian, Season Two (Disney+)

My knowledge and fandom of Star Wars are pretty much limited to the
films but by the end of Season One last year, I was hooked. After The Rise of Skywalker fizzled, Mandalorian has unequivocally brought “new hope” to the franchise. It achieves the impossible of being accessible to new viewers while simultaneously pleasing the diehard Star Wars fans. Obviously, Baby Yoda (or Grogu as revealed now) continues to endear audiences and generate more internet content and potential merch. Like many, I was bawling in tears by the end of Chapter 16. — Taimur Dar

The Queen’s Gambit, Miniseries (Netflix)

Pills, fashion, obsession, and chess! What more could I want from a miniseries? The victory of The Queen’s Gambit lies not in the psychedelic scenes of giant chess pieces moving on a ceiling, but rather in Anya Taylor-Joy‘s magnetic performance as the brilliant Beth Harmon, a young chess prodigy with a troubled backstory. And while performances from Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Harry Melling definitely added to the strength of the series, it was Beth’s relationship with her adoptive mother Alma, played perfectly by Marielle Heller, that stole the show for me. An imperfect story told about an imperfect human, The Queen’s Gambit still manages to call checkmate on my heart for 2020. — Therese Lacson

Upload, Season One (Prime Video)

One of my favorite surprises of the year, Upload is endearing, complex, ridiculously funny and a mystery to boot! Upload takes the afterlife, the in-between (or a technologically crafted purgatory of sorts), and even real-life to higher heights. I binged it in one day and it brought me more joy and another ship to love (shout out to Andy Allo & Robbie Amell!) So, if you like a good sci-fi after-life tech mystery with the expected romantic turn between friends we knew was coming but always need, then check out Upload, currently streaming on Amazon Prime! — Kay-B

Utopia, Season One (Prime Video)

This year has been tough. But, if you thought that a virus halting our actual lives would be enough to make me steer clear of a project that also features viruses shaking up the world, you’re wrong. While Utopia is fiction, there are some quite eerie similarities to present-day 2020 and that was part of the intrigue for me. Not only are there more twists and turns that I could keep up with, but the performances are outstanding, albeit very disturbing and creepy but exceptional none-the-less. Now I do want to warn that this show is incredibly violent and if you don’t like that type of content, plus blood, etc., this is likely not the show for you. But if you want a psychological thriller that has a graphic novel that coming to life in all of the wrong ways, and also to meet some of the most controversial characters and complex villains, I recommend Utopia. Although it was canceled (I hope it gets picked up because there’s so much more I need to know), watch Season 1 & the incredibly stacked cast that includes John Cusack, Sasha Lane, Rainn Wilson, Dan Byrd, Asheligh LaThrop, and many more! — Kay-B

What We Do in the Shadows, Season Two (FX)

The sophomore season of What We Do in the Shadows began airing in April and proceeded to deliver seven straight weeks of outstanding comedy – including “On the Run,” an episode which, between Mark Hamill’s “Jim the Vampire” and regular human bartender Jackie Daytona might be the single funniest half-hour of television to be released in 2020.  As the executive producers revealed during the SDCC ’20 What We Do in the Shadows panel, the entire season was edited in lockdown. And people have the gall to ask why no one’s produced great art during the pandemic! — Avery Kaplan


Did we miss any of your favorites? Let us know! We can’t wait for 2021 to come, but 2020 has served as well, at least as far as television goes.

The post The 20 Best Television Shows of 2020 appeared first on The Beat.

As horrible as 2020 sometimes was, I think we can agree that some fantastic television was oftentimes a method of escape for us during a global pandemic. Aside from bingeing old episodes of The West Wing or The Office, 2020 presented an impressive slate of new and returning shows that captured our attention and our hearts. […]

The post The 20 Best Television Shows of 2020 appeared first on The Beat.

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