Entertainment

The 40 Best TV Shows of 2020

So much to watch!

ted lasso
'Ted Lasso' | Apple TV+
'Ted Lasso' | Apple TV+

Let's face it: 2020 sucked in an unprecedented way, by every single measure known to mankind, except one—television! With nowhere to go and nothing better to do, we've had little choice but to rely on the TV gods to entertain us, and the powers that be did so well at their one job that a weird conspiracy theorist might even wonder if Netflix and its peers had known in advance how the year was going to go. Wake up, sheeple!

With so many shows to choose from, and with new streaming platforms launching seemingly every week, you may have missed some gems, and that's where this list comes in. Just like in 2018 and 2019, we've singled out the most bingeworthy offerings from networks and streaming services this year, and ranked them all so you know what to prioritize.

Please note: We've considered only scripted episodic shows and miniseries here, so you won't find any docuseries (e.g., ESPN's The Last Dance), unscripted specials (like the fantastic Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time), or one-off specials and movies on the list (sorry, Horse Girl fans). Also, to qualify, a show has to have begun a new season or made its U.S. debut during calendar year 2020. Got it? Let's begin.

For more things to watch, sign up for our weekly Streamail newsletter and check out our ranking of the Best Movies of 2020, the Best Documentaries and Docuseries of 2020, and the Best Horror Movies of 2020.

tales from the loop
Amazon Studios

40. Tales from the Loop (Amazon Prime)

Anthology series. 8 episodes.
Based on Swedish artist Simon Stålenhag's haunting digital paintings of misty, dreary scenes featuring giant, abandoned robots, this Amazon Prime anthology series of interlocking stories is set in a small midwestern town in the mid-1980s. That's prime Amblin Entertainment and Stranger Things territory, though the show steers clear of worn-out nostalgia tropes and instead explores the Loop, an underground facility kind of like a particle collider that purportedly allows the impossible to become possible. With episodes directed by Mark Romanek and Jodie Foster (among others), and examining topics such as the effects of time travel on the human soul and the inevitability of death and grief, each part, like each Stålenhag painting, is a curiosity to be studied and, if you can, understood.—Emma Stefansky

star trek picard patrick stewart
Matt Kennedy/CBS

39. Star Trek: Picard (CBS All Access)

Season 1. 10 episodes.
The number of times I said "Tea. Earl Grey. Hot." while waiting for the launch of this series focused on the continuing adventures of Patrick Stewart's Captain Jean-Luc Picard is at least as high as the number of shows and movies in the sprawling Star Trek franchise. The ten episodes in Season 1 don't reinvent the Star Trek wheel by any stretch of the imagination, but Picard, which finds the now-retired Enterprise captain in full-on "one last mission" mode as he attempts to save Data's "daughter" from scheming Romulans, hits many satisfying nostalgic notes while also successfully forging its own, intriguing path.—John Sellers

Harley Quinn
HBO Max

38. Harley Quinn (DC Universe/HBO Max)

Season 2. 13 episodes.
Discovering this animated series, which debuted in November 2019 on the DC Universe streaming service, with Season 2 arriving in April, has been one of the many nice surprises brought about by the launch of HBO Max. Not unlike the 2020 Harley Quinn-centric DCEU movie Birds of Prey, the 26 existing episodes (a third season is set for 2021 on HBO Max), features plenty of fast-flying jokes and mayhem. But the genuinely emotional relationship between the wannabe supervillain (voiced by Kaley Cuoco) and best friend Poison Ivy (Lake Bell) sets Harley Quinn apart.—Esther Zuckerman

zerozerozero, andrea riseborough
Patti Perret/Amazon Studios

37. ZeroZeroZero (Amazon Prime)

Limited series. 8 episodes.
With its shocking bursts of violence, grim subject matter, and bleak zero-sum view of humanity, ZeroZeroZero can be a tough sell. "A gut-punch Italian gangster epic that plays like an eight-episode version of Sicario" isn't exactly the "comfort" viewing many viewers have been looking for this year. But ZeroZeroZero, which centers around siblings Emma (Andrea Riseborough) and Chris (Dane DeHaan) taking over their father's drug-shipping operation, is intoxicating if you can get on its downbeat wavelength. Tricked out with an unnerving score from the Scottish post-rock group Mogwai and shot with an unblinking commitment to intensity by directors like Stefano Sollima, who helmed 2018's Sicario: Day of the Soldado, it has a stylistic boldness that most other cartel dramas lack. The concluding episode, "Same Blood," builds to one of the more chilling final scenes you'll ever see in a crime drama.—Dan Jackson

the great, elle fanning
Hulu

36. The Great (Hulu)

Season 1. 10 episodes.
This Hulu comedic drama from the writer of The Favourite takes more than a little creative license with history in telling the story of Catherine the Great's ascension to power in Russia. If you can overlook that, you'll find a witty and smart series starring Elle Fanning that chronicles the royal's scheme to overthrow husband Peter III (Nicholas Hoult), who is depicted alternately a nincompoop and a violent threat.—Esther Zuckerman

35. Bridgerton (Netflix)

Season 1. 10 episodes.
Bridgerton, which is the first show released on Netflix produced by Shonda Rhimes after her headline-making exclusive deal with the company, is set in the early-1800s period known as the Regency, during the Austen-Brontë stretch of time when English society's structure was rigid, corsets were tight, and marriage was the Number One priority of any woman considered of age. In other words, it's about hot characters doing scandalous things, just what Shondaland fans have come to expect.—Emma Stefansky

ramy hulu
Hulu

34. Ramy (Hulu)

Season 2. 10 episodes.
The slice-of-life comedy from Ramy Youssef is based on his experience as a millennial Muslim coming of age in New Jersey and follows the titular character's obsessive journey to become a good person and devout Muslim. After a debut season that garnered critical acclaim and a Golden Globe for Youssef, Season 2 reaches new heights, including landing Mahershala Ali for a guest role as Ramy's sheik. Much of the show's humor is derived from Ramy's knack for finding himself in uncomfortable circumstances (which result in him more often than not reverting to being shitty or self-serving), so it's not always an easy watch, but you keep coming back because of how human it all feels.—Sadie Bell

star trek discovery
CBS All Access

33. Star Trek: Discovery (CBS All Access)

Season 3. 10 episodes.
Star Trek: Discovery is truly one of the most creative and daring sci-fi shows on TV, and its third season transports the crew of the Federation's trusty science vessel into the future—waaaaay into the future—where worlds that were once closely united have been flung apart to drift in the vastness of space by an unknown and catastrophic event. Naturally, the only ones who can figure out what happened are Michael Burnham, Saru, and their crew, residing inside a starship that contains the intellectual wealth of an entire universe. Three seasons in, every character aboard the Discovery is given plenty of room to grow, as well as leaving a few seats open for some exciting new members. Come for the far-future space odyssey, stay for the enormous cat named Grudge. (Who is a queen. A queen.)—Emma Stefansky

the haunting of bly manor
Netflix

32. The Haunting of Bly Manor (Netflix)

Anthology series. 9 episodes.
The Haunting of Hill House, horror auteur Mike Flanagan's well-regarded 2018 Netflix miniseries, unearthed the roots of a family's trauma using the very spirits that haunted them as children in a mansion that was like flypaper for people's souls. Compared to that season, the second installment of what has become an anthology show with many of the same actors playing unconnected characters is barely frightening at all. But that's far from a criticism. There are plenty of ghosts in Bly Manor, based on Henry James' gothic mystery novel The Turn of the Screw, in which a governess comes to believe that her two young charges are being possessed by the ghosts of two lovers who had died on the grounds before she arrived, but the show spends less time on crafting its (very effective) scares and more on exploring what force could possibly be powerful enough to turn a dead person into a ghost. Death is a tragedy; a soul unable to move on even more so.—Emma Stefansky

betty hbo
Alison Rosa/HBO

31. Betty (HBO)

Season 1. 6 episodes.
The series, created by Crystal Moselle based on her 2018 movie, pulsates with the unmatchable energy of New York City as it follows a diverse group of women and queer skateboarders played by members of the real-life all-girl crew Skate Kitchen. Instead of featuring dramatic arcs typical of teen dramas, Betty tosses you a deck so you can simply ride alongside the ensemble while they navigate their individual identities and a space dominated by boys. It's as freeing and delightful as it is authentic.—Sadie Bell

the third day, jude law
HBO

30. The Third Day (HBO)

Limited series. 6 episodes.
With his wildly expressive eyes and his easily furrowed brow, Jude Law has no problem playing scared. That talent came in handy during the initial three-episode "Summer" section of The Third Day, a folk-horror mini-series that found the Young Pope star attempting to make sense of a mysterious island that may or may not hold secrets from his past. Blending elements of The Wicker Man, Lost, and live theater, The Third Day, a collaboration between writer Dennis Kelly (the BBC version of Utopia) and director Felix Barrett (Off-Broadway's Sleep No More) can look intimidating. Do you need to watch the absurdly long live event where Jude Law lugged around pieces of wood? Probably not. Despite its curious structure, The Third Day is best experienced as a spooky suspense story, one that doubles back on itself in gripping, surprising ways.—Dan Jackson

awkwafina comedy central
Zach Dilgard

29. Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens (Comedy Central)

Season 1. 10 episodes.
Awkwafina—the Crazy Rich Asians scene-stealer and star of The Farewell whose real name is Nora Lum and who grew up in the Forest Hills neighborhood in Queens, New York—co-created this tidy little vehicle showcasing her comedic talents. She plays a fictionalized version of her pre-fame self who is navigating the often irksome, baffling rules of adulthood, as well as her complicated relationships with her dad (BD Wong), grandmother (Lori Tan Chinn), and snarky cousin (Bowen Yang). The Comedy Central show, which gives off a Broad City vibe, is available to stream on HBO Max.—John Sellers

billions
Jeff Neumann/Showtime

28. Billions (Showtime)

Season 5. 7 episodes.
Even in a truncated fifth season, paused in the middle of production as COVID shut-down New York, Billions continued to find inventive ways to spin its central rivalry. Paul Giamatti's Attorney General Chuck Rhoades and Damien Lewis's hedge fund genius Bobby Axelrod aren't always at each other's throats anymore, settling into the type of détente that often arrives midway through a show's long run, but the series pushes them by introducing new supporting characters who push against their basest instincts. In Corey Stoll's Mike Prince, a do-gooder rich guy, co-creators Brian Koppelman and David Levien have added a new wrinkle to the show's moral universe. More than the wrestler cameos and the food porn, that ability to complicate the show's central premise is what keeps us coming back for more.—Dan Jackson

dead to me
Netflix

27. Dead to Me (Netflix)

Season 2. 10 episodes.
The second season of Dead to Me—one of those rare plot-driven, half-hour comedies you can't resist bingeing in a single sitting—retains the breezy, twisty quality that made Season 1 so popular but explores even darker territory as it asks, "What happens when two wine-swilling suburban women cover up a murder and discover the lies they've been telling each other?" Series creator Liz Feldman serves up outlandish plot surprises galore for Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini's frenemy characters to contend with (seriously, so many twists!) but the Emmy-nominated leads' chemistry makes it all work. Netflix announced in July that the show will wrap up with Season 3, likely arriving in 2021.—Sadie Bell

the expanse season 5
Amazon Studios

26. The Expanse (Amazon Prime)

Season 5. 10 episodes.
With the addition of a mysterious terrorist, a missing protomolecule specimen, and a bunch of rocks hurtling towards humanity's homeworld, Season 5 of The Expanse turns things up several notches. Overwhelmed by the opportunity presented by the exoplanets reachable through the Ring, thanks to the protomolecule mysteriously left behind by an unknown and seemingly all-powerful alien race, the solar system is on tenterhooks once again, plenty of factions vying for control of the wormholes, disturbing the tentative peace between Earth, Mars, and the Belt. Adding a further wrinkle is the appearance of Belter terrorist Marco Inaros (Keon Alexander), driven to near insanity by the slights and hardships he suffered as a citizen of the asteroid belt, who plans to declare war on Earth by launching stealth-cloaked asteroids at the planet's surface. The crew of the Rocinante, traveling separate paths for the first time, must figure out how to save the solar system from descending into war once again.—Emma Stefansky

The Crown, princess diana
Netflix

25. The Crown (Netflix)

Season 4. 10 episodes.
With the introduction of Princess Diana and Margaret Thatcher, The Crown has reached the juiciest period of Queen Elizabeth II's incredibly long reign, a stretch roughly bookended by the Royal Wedding and the end of the Iron Lady's tenure as Prime Minister. The production is as lavish as ever, but it's all anchored in wonderful work by newcomer Emma Corrin as the People's Princess and Gillian Anderson as the loathed prime minister. (Anderson's take on Thatcher has been divisive, but we're on the pro side, especially during the Ibble-Dibble scene.) The abrupt final sequence of Season 4 sets the table for what should be a very dramatic fifth season, with Emily Debicki and Dominic West taking over as Princess Diana and Prince Charles, respectively, and Imelda Staunton replacing Olivia Colman, as the saga heads into the fateful 1990s.—Esther Zuckerman

great pretender
Netflix

24. Great Pretender (Netflix)

Season 1. 24 episodes.
Do you like darkly funny heist stories with endings that are maybe predictable—the good guys win, of course—but the routes taken to get there blindside you with twists you never saw coming? Then Great Pretender is absolutely the series for you. Yes, it's anime; yes, you'll read subtitles. But the trajectory of small-time swindler Makoto Edamura ("Edamame," when he's being denigrated) falling in with heavy-hitting con man Laurent Thierry and his assembled crew—jetsetting around the world for drug busts, art heists, plane races, and revenge on human trafficking schemes—fills in nearly every question mark in deft gestures across its 24 episodes while, by the end, still leaving a door ajar that you'll hope swings open for another season or two.—Leanne Butkovic

i hate suzie, billie piper
HBO Max

23. I Hate Suzie (HBO Max)

Limited series. 8 episodes.
Lucy Prebble and Billie Piper cribbed liberally from the latter's own life in creating Suzie Pickles, the actress at the center of I Hate Suzie. But it's where Piper's and Suzie's lives differ that creates the conflict. Suzie, not Piper, is the victim of a phone hack wherein photos of her in a compromising sexual situation with a man who is very clearly not her husband are made public. Even before the leak, her career and marriage had by no means been perfect, but the photo hack sends her spiraling. This inventive half-hour quasi comedy is as funny as it is stress-inducing, with revelatory work from Piper.—Esther Zuckerman

never have i ever
Netflix

22. Never Have I Ever (Netflix)

Season 1. 10 episodes.
From co-creators Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher, Never Have I Ever stars Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as Devi, a high schooler so desperate to increase her social standing that, over the course of the season, she ends up alienating basically everyone in her circle. The show, which has been renewed for a second season, mashes up absurdist humor (including having famously cantankerous tennis great John McEnroe narrate) with pathos. It's as much about Devi's grief over the death of her father as it is about her wanting to kiss boys.—Esther Zuckerman

pen15
Hulu

21. PEN15 (Hulu)

Season 2. 7 episodes.
Is a TV show wherein two adult women (Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle) play middle-school versions of themselves opposite actual middle-school-aged actors a tough sell? By the second season of the wildly funny and uncomfortably real PEN15, you either get it or you don't, but the scripts nail the weirdo tendencies that girls of a certain age who lived through the early 2000s gravitated toward in the pursuit of finding their place in the world and allow the two actresses to blend in with the kid cast as their grade's outcasts. Season 2 digs new emotional resonance from the most terrible years of American youth, from more frivolous endeavors like dabbling in witchcraft (poorly) and school-sponsored theatrical productions to heavier topics like divorce. Maya and Anna's surreal, mature delusions reinforce the all-consuming Big Feelings that make every moment of early teenhood seem revelatory.—Leanne Butkovic

The plot against america
HBO

20. The Plot Against America (HBO)

Miniseries. 6 episodes.
David Simon and co-creator Ed Burns' adaptation of Philip Roth's novel imagines a "what if?" scenario that directly addresses the America of the past four years. Namely, what's the worst that could happen if a populist candidate somehow won the presidential election? In the short, well-written but sometimes too-on-the-nose miniseries' case, the worst is putting a Nazi sympathizer in the Oval Office who alters the course of World War II and threatens the safety of millions of Jewish families.—John Sellers

dark netflix
Netflix

19. Dark (Netflix)

Season 3. 8 episodes.
In the final season of Netflix's German-language sci-fi brain-buster, the forces of good and evil vying for control of the very nature of time itself in the past, present and future of Winden wend further along their possibly unending temporal loop that we now know also spans a parallel universe. Jonas, having been rescued by Martha 2 in the second-season finale, is more determined than ever to stop the villainous Adam and return things to normal. But undoing a knot that has held Winden in balance for five generations requires a sacrifice, resulting in one of the most shocking and emotional conclusions to a TV show you'll see this year.—Emma Stefansky

unorthodox
Netflix

18. Unorthodox (Netflix)

Miniseries. 4 episodes.
One of the surprise breakouts of early quarantine was this miniseries from Deutschland 83 co-creator Anna Winger. Adapted from Deborah Feldman's memoir of the same title, the Emmy-nominated drama follows Esty, a young woman raised in the ultra-Orthodox Hasidic community of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. She escapes from an unhappy marriage where she doesn't meet the child-bearing expectations of her husband and her community and heads to Berlin, where she falls in with a group of music students. Anchored by an extraordinary performance from Shira Haas, Unorthodox deftly explores the divide between religion and faith.—Esther Zuckerman

p-valley, starz
Starz

17. P-Valley (Starz)

Season 1. 8 episodes.
Playwright Katori Hall's Starz series takes you "down in the valley where the girls get naked," as the theme song says, to the world of The Pynk, a strip club in the fictional town of Chucalissa on the Mississippi Delta. Hall herself branded the show "Delta noir," and it's got all the trappings of that genre (mysterious women, dramatic lighting, etc.) but all filtered through a distinctly Black and Southern lens. It's also got one of the best soundtracks of any piece of entertainment this year. Stream "Fallin'" and get back to me.—Esther Zuckerman

the boys season 2
Amazon

16. The Boys (Amazon Prime)

Season 2. 8 episodes.
The Boys, already the savviest show about the state of pop culture, went even darker and harder in its second season. Despite operating in the same genre as Marvel and DC, The Boys is less about world saving and more about greedy corporate entities that trade on public fears in order to sell their product—the product in this case being superheroes. This batch of episodes introduced You're the Worst's Aya Cash as a no-bullshit feminist using the language of women's rights for her own evil aims, a fucked up narrative not just there for shock value: It gets to the root of something genuinely insidious in the entertainment industry.—Esther Zuckerman

keep your hands off eizouken
HBO Max

15. Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! (Crunchyroll/HBO Max)

Season 1. 12 episodes.
An anime celebrating anime might sound too meta for those who could not give one single fuck about anime, but trust me here: This one-and-done import (which first aired beginning in January on NHK General TV in Japan and concurrent worldwide streaming via Crunchyroll, with AT&T-owned sister site HBO Max adding it at launch in May), the series is accessible to everyone. Directed by the shapeshifting Masaaki Yusasa (who also did this year's tragic eco-disaster Japan Sinks: 2020 and 2018's supremely disturbing Devilman Crybaby, both on Netflix), KYHOE! is all about the euphoria and headaches of making art, driven by three passionate and occasionally self-obsessed high school girls who superimpose their wild imaginations over their city's strange architecture to drum up big ideas for their short films. Deft, funny, and insightful, this is for anyone who's ever had a big dream.—Leanne Butkovic

nick offerman devs
FX

14. Devs (FX on Hulu)

Limited series. 8 episodes.
Devs! Shout it out! If you love a bonkers yarn involving murder, quantum theory, and Nick Offerman in a villainous beard, boy, do I have a miniseries for you—this moody, visually stunning techno-thriller, entirely written and directed by Alex Garland and starring Offerman as a creepy tech CEO, Alison Pill as his chief designer, and Sonoya Mizuno as a software engineer who investigates the mysterious death of her boyfriend on his first day of work at the secretive company. Fans of Garland's previous work, especially the 2007 Danny Boyle sci-fi horror movie Sunshine he scripted, will be mesmerized, even as the plot folds in on itself and threatens to venture into Black Mirror territory.—John Sellers

larry david curb your enthusiasm
HBO

13. Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)

Season 10. 10 episodes.
Has it really been 20-plus years since Curb Your Enthusiasm made its stealth brilliant debut as a mockumentary about Larry David's post-Seinfeld attempt to revive his stand-up career? Yes, and, ever since, I have thought about the 1999 special that led to the show's episodic debut a year later, for the scene where Larry calls an exec and says that he was an executive producer on Seinfeld and the guy replies, "Never watch it, not a fan," which is so applicable in every day life. Anyway, the show's come a long way over two decades and 10 seasons, but it's still exactly what you need it to be, and funnier, at minimum, than Season 9, and probably a few other seasons as well. You'll laugh, especially at the season-long arc about Larry's "spite store" coffee shop, Latte Larry's, unless you're one of those "Never watch it, not a fan" guys.—John Sellers

ozark, netflix
Netflix

12. Ozark (Netflix)

Season 3. 10 episodes.
After two seasons being subjected to relentless pressure from various entities, Marty and Wendy Byrde (Jason Bateman and Laura Linney) somehow slip even deeper into the Missouri sludge. This time around, they get way too involved with a Mexican cartel, as their riverboat scheme begins to capsize under the weight of an FBI investigation and various antagonists and frenemies sick of their bullshit and looking to take them down. In the process, Season 3 ups the ante significantly over the uneven second season, and has set things up nicely for the fourth and final season. It also features a pretty perfect cameo by classic rockers REO Speedwagon and a fake arcade game Beast Slayer that Marty was obsessed with as a teen in the '80s.—John Sellers

what we do in the shadows, fx
FX

11. What We Do in the Shadows (FX)

Season 2. 10 episodes.
Season 1 of this vampires-in-Staten Island mockumentary walked so that Season 2 could sprint like a werewolf in the night. It's one hit after the next this time around as we learn more about vampire housemates Nandor (Kayvan Novak), Laszlo (Matt Berry), Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), and Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch). The 10 episodes get into their fear of ghosts and distrust of witches, chain-email paranoia, and Laszlo's surprising history with the song "Come On Eileen." The episode guest-starring Mark Hamill, in which Lazlo goes on the lam and becomes a Pennsylvania town's most passionate high school volleyball enthusiast, is not to be missed. What We Do in the Shadows has ascended from cult delight to one of the few must-watch comedies on TV.—Leanne Butkovic

kaley cuoco the flight attendant hbo max
Phil Caruso/HBO Max

10. The Flight Attendant (HBO Max)

Season 1. 8 episodes.
In this twist-filled HBO Max original comedy-thriller, Kaley Cuoco plays an alcoholic flight attendant who wakes up after a one-night stand in Bangkok to find that the man's throat has been slit and zero memory of how that might have happened. The eight episodes track her obsessive quest to solve the mystery while doing her best to to evade the FBI, her estranged brother, multiple assassins, a nosy colleague, and any question that might make her confront the root cause of her problems. It all works way better than anyone expected it would when HBO Max first announced the series and is among the most purely enjoyable binge-watching experiences of 2020.—John Sellers

lovecraft country
HBO

9. Lovecraft Country (HBO)

Season 1. 10 episodes.
Set in the 1950s, Lovecraft Country follows the Freemans and the Lewises, two Black families from Chicago who find themselves caught up in a centuries-long battle between warring lodges dabbling in the esoteric dark arts. It begins with Korean War vet Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) receiving a letter from his father, Montrose (Michael K. Williams), which sets Atticus off on a cross-country rescue mission with childhood friend Letitia Lewis (Jurnee Smollett) and his uncle George (Courtney B. Vance). Atticus soon learns that he is a pawn sought by a secret-society patriarch (Scandal's Tony Goldwyn) hatching a scheme to become the most powerful wizard in the country. That encounter sets off a quest to discover what's really going on, and the monsters and ghosts Atticus, Letitia and their families encounter are only a smidge scarier than the segregated reality they live in. A solid mix of Watchmen-style allegorical world building and X-Files monster-of-week intrigue make this fantasy series from Misha Green a mind-melting must-see.—Emma Stefansky

mrs. america, cate blanchett
FX

8. Mrs. America (FX on Hulu)

Limited series. 9 episodes.
It's difficult to think of many shows with the same scope and ambition of Mrs. America, a nine-episode miniseries that follows the battle over the Equal Rights Amendment through the competing perspectives of conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett) and prominent femnist figures like Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne), Shirley Chisholm (Uzo Aduba), and Bella Abzug (Margo Martindale). Creator Dahvi Waller, who worked on similarly rich period dramas like Mad Men and Halt and Catch Fire, has a difficult task: How do you convey the unceasing grind of politics without losing sight of the people at the heart of the struggle? Her solution is to center individual episodes around different women while still placing Blanchett's Schlafly at the center. The resulting balancing act made for an occasionally frustrating, often exhilarating show.—Dan Jackson

search party season 2
HBO Max

7. Search Party (HBO Max)

Season 3. 10 episodes.
The high wire act of Search Party continued as the comedy-mystery series hopped from TBS to HBO Max, with a brilliantly hilarious third season that put its Brooklyn hipsters on trial. With Alia Shawkat's disaffected Dory Sieff and her exasperated former boyfriend Drew Gardner (John Reynolds) being tried for the Season 1 murder of Keith Powell (Ron Livingston), Search Party ratchets up its absurdity, while also transforming its heroine into a legitimate sociopath. Incredible guest turns from Shalita Grant, as Dory's unorthodox lawyer, and Louie Anderson, as Drew's jaded attorney, add to the fun. Season 4 is set to debut in January 2021, so happy new year in advance.—Esther Zuckerman

the queen's gambit, netflix
Netflix

6. The Queen's Gambit (Netflix)

Miniseries. 6 episodes.
The runaway popularity of The Queen's Gambit, a show about a female chess prodigy who gets really good at outplaying a bunch of boys, is only surprising if you haven't already seen it. Netflix's miniseries, adapted from Walter Tevis' 1983 novel of the same name, is a dark, sexy, intense exploration of the minds of obsessives, addicts, and strategic geniuses, as well as a fascinating foray into the cutthroat world of 20th century professional chess. The journey of Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) from precocious orphan to world-famous master of her craft is as exhilarating as it is, at times, deeply tragic, turning an unflinching eye on what happens when nurturing a childhood talent becomes feeding an endless desire to win at all costs.—Emma Stefansky

insecure, issa rae
HBO

5. Insecure (HBO)

Season 4. 10 episodes.
On the latest season, Issa and Molly "leveled up" (as Issa would refer to it), with Issa finally throwing the community event she always imagined and Molly opening herself up to a relationship. As the characters stepped out of their comfort zone, so did Insecure itself—because instead of relying on the friendship at the center of the series to remain intact as the two women grew on their own, the season documented the feud that had long been percolating between them. It made for an earnest depiction of the complexity of adult women friendships, a solid performance from Yvonne Orji, and the show's strongest season yet, with more on the way.—Sadie Bell

baby yoda grogu the mandalorian
Lucasfilm Ltd.

4. The Mandalorian (Disney+)

Season 2. 8 episodes.
In its second season, The Mandalorian kicked into an even higher gear than the first, which itself was among the most rapturous viewing experiences of 2019. Having accepted the mantle of transporting Grogu, nĂ©e the Child, aka Baby Yoda, back to his own people, whoever and wherever they may be, Mando's mission became clearer, his allies more colorful, and the line between good and evil blurrier with each subsequent episode. The show preserved the brisk, planet-hopping flavor of Season 1 while delving deeper into Star Wars lore without getting too bogged down in its own mythology. An exciting array of guest stars, surprise character appearances (including that super-famous one in the raucous finale), and delightfully crafted aliens (two words: Frog Lady) kept things fresh while still retaining that essential Star Wars spark. This is the way.—Emma Stefansky

ted lasso
Apple TV+

3. Ted Lasso (Apple TV+)

Season 1. 10 episodes.
Look, I'm as surprised as you are. I fired up the first episode of Apple TV+'s Ted Lasso with two thoughts: 1) Did we really need a goofy-sounding series starring a mustache-wearing Jason Sudeikis as a relentlessly upbeat, "aw, heck"-spouting American football coach hired to manage a dysfunctional English Premier League football team with a new owner harboring a secret plan to tank the season? and 2) Isn't the "wise, old-school veteran saves the team from an undermining new female owner" premise very similar to that of the 1989 movie Major League, and if so, am I going to spend 10 episodes thinking about Charlie Sheen's stupid creatively sculpted hair from that movie or that Dennis Haysbert, the actor best known as 24's President David Palmer and Allstate's spokesman, played Jobu-worshipping first baseman Pedro Cerrano? The answer to both of these question turned out to be "yes," and I have now joined the chorus of initially skeptical viewers who now consider Ted Lasso to have been the ultimate quarantine binge.—John Sellers

kim wexler better call saul
Gary Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

2. Better Call Saul (AMC)

Season 5. 10 episodes.
It's quite sad that we're coming to the end of Better Call Saul and the Saul Goodman saga. When AMC wraps up Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould's highly regarded but weirdly underrated prequel to Breaking Bad after Season 6, it'll create a Bob Odenkirk-shaped hole in our hearts—unless Gilligan, Gould and AMC have a secret plan to follow it up a Saul Goodman sequel series that dives further into his Cinnabon years. Unlikely. For now, we'll have to make do with the best written drama on TV, which, in Season 5, focuses on Jimmy McGill's continued transformation into his slicker persona in the wake of Chuck's death and its negative effect on Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn), and start placing wagers on how the series will all end. My money is on a shot-by-shot recreation of Saul's first meeting with Walter White.—John Sellers

michaela coel, i may destroy you
HBO

1. I May Destroy You (HBO)

Limited series. 12 episodes.
Michaela Coel's astounding series defies all expectations. What seems like it might at first be centered around the mystery of who attacked her character Arabella during a drunken night out, transforms the more you watch into an intimate, expressionistic, often devastating character study of a woman trying to reconcile her trauma with the hard-partying person she was prior to the incident. Based on an experience that happened to Coel herself, I May Destroy You follows no reliable structure, constantly playing with the concepts of time and memory as it unravels its narratives, all culminating in a striking finale that leaves you questioning the very nature of what a satisfactory conclusion to a story as layered as this one could even be.—Esther Zuckerman

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