As this horrible apocalyptic year comes to an end, I’m back with my annual tradition of favorite shows of the year. It wasn’t easy because lockdown gave us endless options but here we go! What’s your Top 10?
And be sure to check out my previous lists for 2019, 2018, 2017, and 2016.
10 – The Undoing ‑ Limited Series
The best thing about The Undoing is that it’s only six episodes long. That means even if you find some aspects ridiculous, chances are you won’t get bored because this limited series zips along pretty fast. The show’s central mystery certainly keeps you guessing, amplifying tension and dread with its numerous twists at every turn. Nicole Kidman isn’t as fantastic as she was as Big Little Lies (another show by David E Kelly based on a mystery novel), but she’s obviously a captivating actress. Hugh Grant (who I haven’t seen in decades) also turns in a memorable performance, while the beautiful cinematography shows off The Big Apple in all its glory. Unfortunately I have some issues with a couple of unresolved plot threads by the time the finale comes to a close so I can’t call this show one of the all‑time greats. Nevertheless, it’s definitely an intriguing mystery and one of the most memorable tales of the year.
9 – Little Fires Everywhere ‑ Limited Series
If you’re a fan of Big Little Lies, you’ll love Little Fires Everywhere. Also based on an acclaimed novel, this fantastic miniseries explores race and motherhood in subtle and captivating ways. Although Kerry Washington tends to overact at times (a trait I always noticed on Scandal), she plays off Reese Witherspoon (whose role is a toned down version of her Lies character) to excellent effect. The show has a very small and intimate scale, but it definitely succeeds in drawing you into its tangled web across eight atmospheric and powerful episodes.
8 – Dirty John ‑ The Betty Broderick Story ‑ Limited Series
You should watch the show just for Amanda Peet’s committed and downright sensational performance as a woman scorned by her manipulative husband (a loathsome Christian Slater). This is a twisted and compelling ride that has a lot to say about marriage, infidelity and vulnerability. Every episode is a complex and emotionally draining experience, and Peet carries them all with her raw talent and charisma. Just unforgettable (and so very tragic).
7 – The Crown ‑ Season 4
First off, I’ve only watched season one of The Crown. It was very well made of course –superb production and even better acting. However, it was a bit too slow for my taste and I gave up after watching the first episode of season two. I’ve heard great things about the show since then and finally decided to give it a shot and watch season 4 (particularly with the news of Thatcher and Diana being featured). I’m so glad that I did because season four is completely mesmerizing; the show’s pace is still quite slow, but bringing Diana and Charles to the forefront kept me hooked. Moreover, Gillian Anderson’s performance as Margaret Thatcher is a joy to behold. This is fancy TV that’s prestigious and addictive in all the right ways.
6 – Ted Lasso ‑ Season 1
The story of a small‑time football coach who is hired to coach a professional soccer team, Ted Lasso is one of the most uplifting and enjoyable comedies I’ve seen in a long time. Jason Sudeikis’ performance is tremendous in every way, and his extraordinary charisma elevates the show into must‑watch TV. It helps that the show is laugh‑out loud funny across the board and Sudeikis is surrounded by an insanely talented cast. I’ve already seen all 10 episodes and I can’t wait for season 2. If you’re looking for a feel‑good show during these dark times, Ted Lasso is highly recommended.
5 – Unorthodox ‑ Limited Series
I wasn’t sure what I would get when I sat down to watch the first episode of Unorthodox ‑ the story of a young Jewish woman who runs away from her arranged marriage in New York. However, Unorthodox is a thoughtful and very absorbing series. Much like The Handmaid’s Tale’s Elisabeth Moss, the show’s star Shira Haas doesn’t need to say much to get you completely engaged in her journey. The pilot is a quiet and intimate affair, slowly building to a fantastic finale. A definite must‑watch that’s grounded, enlightening, and thought‑provoking.
4 – Ozark ‑ Season 3
When Ozark first came out in 2017, I watched the first three episodes and then soon lost interest. I found the show to be quite slow and uneventful. After all the hype and awards nominations the show received this year, I decided to give Ozark another chance and I’m glad that I did. I watched all three seasons and was so impressed by the show’s complex character development and shocking twists. The story of a man who relocates his family to the Ozarks after a money laundering scheme goes wrong, the show hits its stride towards the end of season one and never lets up. There’s a distinct sense of place and atmosphere to the show (the moody visuals sure help), and both Jason Bateman and Laura Linney are excellent as the leads. Plus the season three cliffhanger is a genuine jawdropper that’s masterfully executed.
3 – The Good Fight ‑ Season 4
Every year I talk about how brilliant The Good Fight is and this year is no different. This is a masterful drama filled with complex characters, sharp storytelling and endlessly creative touches. Season four is extremely short (thank you COVID) but still manages to touch on so many timely topics from Trump to Epstein. No other show lives in the present quite like this one. If you’ve never ever watched The Good Fight, well what are you waiting for? If you’ve never watched The Good Fight, well what are you waiting for?
2 – The Queen’s Gambit ‑ Limited Series
The story of a young woman’s quest to become the world’s greatest chess champion, The Queen’s Gambit is one of the most captivating shows of the year. You don’t have to be a chess fan to appreciate this seven‑episode limited series thanks to its ambitious style and delightful performances. Anya‑Taylor Joy delivers a star‑making turn that’s one of the finest things I’ve seen in a while. Plus in these dark times, watching an inspiring tale that’s this immersive and empowering is very much welcome. The show has some slow moments in the middle stretch, but stick with it because the finale is a tense and gripping affair. Yes unlike most shows on this list, the ending is just perfect.
1 – Defending Jacob ‑ Limited Series
I was hooked from the pilot all the way to the gripping finale of this brilliant miniseries. Chris Evans is surprisingly exceptional as a lawyer whose beloved son is charged with a brutal murder. While I would have liked to have gotten more concrete answers in the end, Defending Jacob definitely kept me guessing on a weekly basis. This limited series delivers an engrossing viewing experience that juggles courtroom drama and murder mystery without ever losing sight of its characters. Definitely my absolute favorite show of the year.
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