We’re approaching the end of the tumultuous year that has been 2020, and with everyone quarantining at home, television has been more important than ever.
Luckily, this year we’ve been gifted with some unbelievable television shows, and no, we’re not talking about Tiger King or Emily in Paris. From Michaela Coel’s perfectly devastating I May Destroy You to Luca Guadagnino’s identity-searching We Are Who We Are, we put together some of the best shows this year had to offer.
Check out the best television shows of 2020 below.
I May Destroy You
Michaela Coel is an absolute genius. I May Destroy You is a brilliant ten episode journey that sees Coel turning her very own trauma and difficult relationship with fame into a critical commentary on modern life. The series sees Arabella (Coel) trying to piece together blurry memories of a night that occurs in episode one where she was drugged and sexually assaulted at a bar, all while attempting to write a book. Throughout the series, the dark, devastating moments are interspersed with lovable, perfectly flawed characters and there’s not much more to say about this show other than this: you absolutely must watch it.
We Are Who We Are
Call Me By Your Name and Suspiria director Luca Guadagnino returned with his new HBO series We Are Who We Are this year. The must-watch series takes place on an American military base in Veneto, Italy, and it explores “friendship, first-love, identity, and immerses the audience in all the messy exhilaration and anguish of being a teenager.” From lush clips of Italy to awkward moments between main characters Fraser (Jack Dylan Grazer) and Caitlin (Jordan Kristine Seamón), at its core the stunning, heartwarming series follows a slew of outcasts exploring questions of identity.
Grab the tissues and dive right into the heart wrenching series that is Normal People. Sally Rooney’s adaptation of her own 2018 novel is perfectly intimate, following a popular working class boy named Connell (Paul Mescal) as he falls for a wealthy social outcast named Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones). The limited series looks at gender, class, and toxic behaviour through the lens of the couple’s relationship, jumping in time throughout an entire decade. This epic love story showcases the flaws and intricacies of these two people from very different worlds that are drawn together through their intellectual connection.
The Queen’s Gambit
Who knew a show about chess could have you sitting on the edge of your seat? The Queen’s Gambit, Netflix’s adaptation of Walter Tevis’s 1983 novel, has truly made waves with its stunning cinematography and captivating storyline. The miniseries follows orphaned Beth Harmon’s unbelievable career trajectory on her rapid rise to fame as she becomes the world’s best chess player over just 14 years. The story is so well fleshed out and three-dimensional that it’s difficult to believe it’s not based on a true story.
Better Call Saul
A whopping five seasons in to this series, Better Call Saul has established such a strong identity that it’s easy to forget that it’s a Breaking Bad prequel. The new season ranges from upfront ethical decay to laugh-out-loud moments of hilarity for a perfectly well-rounded show. From the astounding score to the creative soundtrack, Better Call Saul gets better and better each and every season.
What We Do In The Shadows
The second season of the television adaptation of Taika Waititi’s vampire comedy What We Do In The Shadows was released this year, and it sees the show developing even more heart and hilarity among a slew of incompetent vampires living in Staten Island. The mockumentary, which is essentially a gothic horror makeover of The Office, truly lets its inherent silliness run its course in season two, settling into a sort of absurdist groove.
Pen15 made its cringe-worthy return with season two’s “Back to School” release in September. While the show didn’t get to film its full second season before it was forced to halt production due to COVID-19, the 7-episode version of the show that dropped this year locked the series in as a perfectly hilarious and equally appalling tale of the heartbreak and embarrassment that is eighth grade. Thirty-year-old co-creators Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle do a peculiarly amazing job of playing 13-year-olds, physically embodying their characters so flawlessly that it’s easy to forget that they aren’t actually teens.
The sixth season of Netflix’s BoJack Horseman was split into two parts, and after ending with a depressing, game-changing midseason finale, 2020 kicked off with the second half of the season. For the last six years, the animated series came packed with killer jokes, devastating twists, and witty remarks. The show’s final episodes explore what BoJack’s recovery actually looks like through the series’ classic dark comedy. “I made a lot of mistakes,” BoJack says. “But I look back at that other BoJack and think, ‘Who is that?’ I’ve had a lot of what I thought were rock bottoms only to discover another rockier bottom underneath.”
Season two of The Mandalorian has been released this year. The Star Wars spin off is worth more than just Twitter memes (Thanks, Baby Yoda), offering a balance of compelling sakes for the show’s key players alongside captivating action scenes. With the way the show has developed, it looks like The Mandalorian has created a name as a standout action-drama on its own, regardless of its link to the Star Wars franchise.
The third and final season of Netflix’s first German language series, Dark, dropped this year. The science fiction thriller follows characters from the fictional German town called Winden as they embark on a tumultuous hunt for the truth after a child’s disappearance. As the series progresses, it reveals a sinister time travel conspiracy, ultimately exploring the implications of time and its effect on humankind.
Issa Rae and Larry Wilmore’s dramedy Insecure released its fourth season this year. The gorgeous, complicated series is a stunning examination of American Blackness, and tackles everything from relationship problems to class divides to mental health. This season specifically explores the relationship between Molly and Issa. It beautifully portrays how sometimes relationships don’t have an explosive conflict, and instead you can take the people you love most for granted, allowing a friendship to quietly fade into the background.
Dan and Eugene Levy’s Canadian sitcom Schitt’s Creek broke records with its fun-loving, yet heart-wrenching final season, setting a new record for the most Emmys ever won by a comedy series in a single season. The show came to a perfect close with its sixth season, revealing throughout its fourteen-episode arc that they may be the same loveable (and vain) Rose family that started the show, everything was about to change.
Hulu’s gender-swapped television reboot of High Fidelity made waves this year, but eventually got cancelled after just one season. Zoë Kravitz stars in the series as record store owner Rob, and much like the other versions of High Fidelity, music snob Rob recalls her past relationships and heartbreaks. This captivating remake is definitely a must-watch for music lovers, as not only does it come packed with an amazing story, but its got an unbelievable soundtrack to boot.
Never Have I Ever
Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher’s heartwarming and clever new comedy Never Have I Ever sees Mississauga’s Maitreyi Ramakrishnan truly shining in her debut role as Devi. Taking the tropes of teen comedies and reworking the familiar format into something fresh and magnetic was no easy task. This refreshing energy comes from Ramakrishnan, who plays a perfectly well-rounded character, honing a perfect balance of confidence and self-consciousness, humour and melancholy, vulnerability and selfishness, ultimately making for a well-nuanced lead.
The fourth season of Fargo premiered in September on FX. The 11-episode season marked the newest instalment of the American anthology Black comedy-crime TV series. The ambitious new season may not live up to the expectations of its previous seasons, but it still serves as a captivating exploration of race-based power and crime in 1950 Kansas City.
Autobiographical comedy Ramy sees Ramy Youssef playing a fictionalized version of himself as he struggles to reach a balance between his New Jersey friends and his Egyptian family. The new season truly made waves after Youssef didn’t even appear in a third of the episodes, and Mahershala Ali was unbelievable in his role as the new sheikh.
Adapted from Crystal Moselle’s Skate Kitchen, HBO’s Betty follows a group of skater girls as they defiantly make their mark on New York City. The original film’s stars Nina Moran, Dede Lovelace, Ajani Russell, Rachelle Vinberg, and Kabrina Adams all return as slightly different characters, while maintaining their perfectly relatable teenage angst. This bittersweet nostalgic series will stick with you, as it makes its way through fun-loving scenes of lust and chaos for a memorable television experience.