Television was a constant companion in 2020. With the closure of most cultural institutions, the small screen has still managed to provide us with a deluge of new things to enjoy and discuss – far more than anyone could ever watch. In fact, sometimes this year I’ve struggled to watch anything – or at least, anything new.
My habits were often inconsistent and I danced through new and old shows; I started a lot and finished a few in my journey to get lost Something. And so even in this extraordinary year, the usual caveats apply. I’m just one person and I can’t watch all television. Here are, in no particular order, the shows that remained with me a long time after turning off the stage.
While the show premiered in 2019, the rest of Give meAll 10 episodes of the series aired in 2020, and each was among the best dramas of the year. Based on the novel of the same name by Megan Abbott, Give me followed the friendship between high school cheerleaders Beth and Addy – and what happened when their ambitious new coach Colette French got a little too involved in their lives. A high school noir thriller with extraordinary pace and performance, Give me was a brave, daring TV that, while canceled, performs incredibly well as a standalone TV season.
How with John Wilson
The strangest spectacle of 2020, Comment is part documentary, part video essay and part creaky comedy. Each of the How with John WilsonAll six episodes start with a simple question – how to split a check, for example – then move on to do not answer it in the most incredible way.
Comment is also an instruction manual for loving the city you live in: it embraces the inherent strangeness of being near so many others and responds to that quirk with affection. No other show I’ve ever seen is so interested in the meaning of scaffolding or a man obsessed with the health benefits of the foreskin. Watching How with John Wilson will make you worry more about the weirdos in your life.
The good Lord bird
Americans’ collective understanding of history is simple and dishonest and must be changed. Fortunately, in the meantime, there is The good Lord bird, a show based on the James McBride novel of the same name. The show comes off as an almost true tale of abolitionist John Brown’s last days, seen through the eyes of a young man he “saves” and continually deceives himself for a girl. It’s a funny, straightforward look at the messy work of the revolution, a story interested in debunking the myth that progress is seen as a clean and noble pursuit in its time.
And Friday night lights was a comedy, it would probably sound a lot Ted Lasso. The hit dormant series fleshes out the eponymous character – who is best known through commercials – and builds a fishy out of water comedy around him. The Principle: Ted Lasso, a folk American football coach, is inexplicably hired to lead a struggling football team in England. It’s a ridiculous idea and everyone knows it – but what no one knows is that Lasso is set up to take the fall by a cynical team owner.
In this tension, Ted Lasso sing: It’s a show about what it means to work tirelessly to be a good, positive person in a hostile environment. It’s about picking yourself up over and over again in the hope that your faith in others becomes contagious.
Mythic Quest: The Raven’s Banquet
The first good video game show is here, and surprisingly, it’s also great fun for people who don’t know the first thing about them. A scathing workplace comedy about the (few) pleasures and (abundant) toxicity of game development from the makers of It’s always nice in Philadelphia, Mythic Quest follows studio workers behind a popular online game. The show is successful because it refuses to fire punches: Mythic Quest No doubt this is a show about a sexist industry that seeks to pacify online trolls and Nazis, and with that clarity comes some pretty good comedy.
Superheroes are blunt instruments, primary color metaphors for very simple ideas. It is not a brake. I think that’s what makes them good, a vehicle for stories that translate across decades and media. The boys is a show about the people who use these instruments, now that they have become extremely valuable corporate intellectual property, controlled by a handful of people. Juvenile, on the nose and incredibly biting, The boys grew up in its second season and turned to fandom, and what happens when you cheer on a country like you do for a rock star.
I can destroy you
Arabella has a deadline. It’s a viral success story, a blogger with a first best book working on her follow-up – mostly to no avail. Because in the meantime Arabella is also struggling to rebuild her life after being drugged and raped at a party. I can destroy you shows Arabella undertaking both of these efforts; the result is introspective television hard work into what happens to a person working in a world interested in exploiting trauma, and how the stories we tell ourselves to survive can also break us.
I can destroy you is a complicated and convoluted story about equally complicated and complicated people. It’s one of the best things you can watch this year.
Few shows are concerned with the representation of complicated struggles of religious faith; even fewer are interested in exploring these stories in non-Christian contexts. Frame is different. In its second season, comedian Ramy Youssef’s comedy Hulu becomes a show about a young man who struggles to be a Muslim but desperately wants to be good at it. Ramy engages with a new sheikh, only to learn the depths of his consuming selfishness. This slowly alienates him from anyone he cares about, despite their faith in him. In Frame, faith makes you think about your own failures and asks you: what next?
You better call Saul
Anyone who watched Breaking Bad knows that, five seasons later, Saul Goodman is going to do something irremediable. You better call SaulThe 2020 episodes brought us closer to heartache as well-meaning roommate Jimmy McGill fully embraces his Saul Goodman alter ego and plays dangerous games with Kim Wexler, one of the only people who still cares about him. . Catch up now – because although it is much less popular than its predecessor Breaking Bad, You better call Saul turned into a much better show.
The second season of Patrol of Fate abandons the more boring aspects of his first season – namely, a boring, all-knowing villain who also told – and double what worked: stories about broken people passing through it. In Patrol of FateAccepting who you are is dangerous and scary work, especially when you are a powerful cyborg, the host of a deadly cosmic being, or a system of alternate personalities that each possess devastating power. Irreverent, strange and affectionate, Patrol of Fate is the best new DC Comics adaptation you can watch right now.
The last dance
Was Michael Jordan the GOAT? We could argue all day. Was he really that popular? Without question. The last dance speaks less of Michael Jordan the man than of Michael Jordan the phenomenon. Framed against in-depth, never-before-seen footage that followed Jordan’s final year with the Chicago Bulls, the superstar’s career is told through 10 episodes that feature interviews with former teammates, rivals, and His Airness himself. Filmed with Jordan involved, it’s less of an argument about the man and more of a document about how he sees his time as basketball’s biggest name – which, like the best documentary subjects, is a little more revealing than he thinks.
What we do in the shadows
What we do in the shadows got awesome in its second season by leaning into the things that made it different from the movie it was based on. Namely, Colin Robinson, an “energy vampire” who looks like a normal guy – only he thrives on the misery that victims get from extremely boring conversations he has. And then, Guillermo de la Cruz, a familiar who desperately wants to be a vampire but who has also learned that he is destined to be a vampire hunter.
These two are What we do in the shadows’ secret weapons, comedic Reapers deployed when the already good premise of a mock documentary about vampires living together on Staten Island needs a bit of a revamp. Which, honestly, doesn’t really need to happen. This What we do in the shadows he does anyway, which is why this is one of the best comedies on tv.