I recently read on New York Times that we are in the platinum age of TV. There’s as much TV shows out there as there are songs. With Netflix and all the other streaming platforms dropping a new one every day, I definitely can’t see it all. But thank God I found these gems out of this rubble that is 2020. Some I’ve seen in their entirety twice already in the space of months and I’m still happy to go a third run before 2021 premieres. Here are my top TV shows of the year 2020.
1 The Boys Season 2: If you know me, you already know my Top 3 as I can’t stop talking about them. After a much celebrated first season last year, Amazon’s Prime comic book adaptation returns with the biggest bang of all. Changing to a weekly release format to amp up discussions, which I very much endorse for ‘some’ shows, The Boys literally creeps up on you every week with haunting depictions of capitalism, racism, sexism, Nazism, all the isms that should make you feel uncomfortable in a superhero show… yet The Boys is Exhilarating. Shocking. Unpredictable. Bombastic.
One minute you’re throwing popcorns in your mouth watching characters’ unload newer shades of their personalities, the next minute there’s blood everywhere. The good guys are the bad guys. The bad guys are the good guys. The bad guys do actually get to be bad guys and the good guys get to do good things… but this constant switch of roles is The Boys’ way of saying there are no good guys or bad guys in the real world. Everyone has good and bad in them and it is simplemindedness to throw someone into a box of good or bad. This show squashes the superhero format, flips it inside out and ushers a new era of spanks and leather pants.
2 Ted Lasso: I’m about to see Ted Lasso for the third time and it still feels like I haven’t seen it properly. Jason Sudeikis and his team shocked 2020 with this surprise hit show for Apple TV+. I mean, enthralling. A football drama about an inexperienced American Football coach going to Europe to coach a Champions League team where everyone wants him to fail. I concluded that it’s Lasso’s unhinged positivity, the ensembles comedic talents and clever writing that makes this show exceptionally bingeable. I love love love Ted Lasso. Every single character is a joy. Every single episode, also a weekly format, has the same quality as the number 5 show on this list, which is the ability to surpass its predecessors’ range. I’ve heard that it has been renewed for two more seasons but chill, I’m not done with season one yet.
3 Dave: Hi, I’m Dave. Blow me a kiss if the song Freaky Friday was your first encounter with Lil Dicky. Blow me two kisses if you don’t know who Lil Dicky is. It’s totally cool. If you love rap, comedy and just absolute brilliance together in one cocktail, well here’s your drink buddy. Lil Dicky is convinced he’s one of the greatest rappers alive and when the screen fades to black at the end of the 10th and final episode, you are probably convinced as well. The controversial rapper takes you into his life and into the life of an upcoming rapper in a crowded industry and it’s just an ecstatic experience to watch. All I want for Christmas is another 10 hours of the full Dave experience. Happiness.
4 The Queen’s Gambit: I hadn’t even seen TQG when I was putting this list together. Coming at the tail end of the year, TQG was a surprise Netflix banger in a year where Netflix championed some of the worst shows of the year (I’m looking at you, Space Force.) This show is about chess – one of the most complex board games ever. Probably one of the most complex games to make a-hour long 7-episode Netflix show about. I wasn’t gonna see a show about chess especially cos I hate genius dramas like Hidden Figures that never bother to carry the audience along and, in the end, make you feel less of a person for not understanding the dynamics. They always amp up the score and rely on close shots to create false tension. With an exception of Queen of Katwe which explores deeper concepts than the game of chess its protagonist (who isn’t even a genius, just a smart girl who makes mistakes like the rest of us) uses to elevate her family out of the slums, there were nothing to enjoy in those films. So why did I see TQG? Well, I’m glad I did just one week before finally writing this.
Beth is a genius. Infact, she’s the worst kind of genius – the arrogant and self-centered type. But the show never tries to force her on you as a heroine instead it makes the game of chess, (and sometimes one game takes 5 hours, adjourn, and continue the next day) exciting. Never have I been captivated by something I have no understanding of. And no, TQG doesn’t even make you want to learn chess because you know that you’ll never be as good as Beth but the next time you stumble on an ongoing chess game, a smile will inadvertently form on your face as all your senses will start firing as you recollect the Sicilian Opening and Queen Sacrifices. This show has really memorable characters that will live in your head for a long time, and even this year’s best villain, but most importantly, it has serious engaging power. It’s fun. It’s fresh even. And I wish there was more.
5 Perry Mason: Sometimes I just start watching a new show I’ve never heard of just because it’s on HBO. And it’s been great most of the time. But Perry Mason was an unexpected twist. Imagine a Sherlock, but with a less-witty, former military man who now works as a private investigator tasked with solving the mysterious case of a kidnapped child. The brilliance of this show’s execution is subtle. It’s in the small things I punctuate my watch with ‘wow.’ I could not understand for the life of me how this show that’s dragging one case for 10 episodes manages to make every episode astonishingly better than the last.
From racism to religion to spirituality, journalism, media trials, womanhood, old age. Every week I expect to be bored but my appreciation for its execution surges. A supporting character could be walking into where the action is taking place and just before they step in, a movie-worthy event happens to them and they deal with it in a matter of seconds and we are onto another matter. How that surprisingly makes you care about that character and what might be going through their head after what they’ve just experienced even when the focus has shifted to other really important things on the show that doesn’t even involve the character but has them in the background is the type affective storytelling that Perry Mason employs. It makes you to empathize with the characters and it probably did the same to HBO executives as this show was supposed to last for a season but it has now been renewed for a second. HBO has a history of changing miniseries’ to full blown shows with disastrous results. I hope Perry Mason dazzles again.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Netflix’s Hollywood S1, Money Heist S4, ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder Season Finale, Agents of Shield’s Season Finale, The Baker and The Beauty S1, CBS’ Evil S1.