Whilst movies may have had a stymied year, television is (and has been) thriving. When I say television, of course, I mean long-form, episodic content mainly because more and more people view this content over streaming services. My co-writer, Josh, has more to say about that in an upcoming article so stay tuned! With that said, let's get into my top picks for episodic shows over these past 12 months.
I would like to stress that, though I've put them in an order, these are all excellent shows that I would objectively score all at least a 9/10, so I won't give a rating. I'll just give you my own thoughts on each show.
10. Little Fires Everywhere (Prime Video, Hulu)
This is a great show starring Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon as two mothers from diametrically opposed ends of life.
If I loved Parasite for its commentary on class and social structure, I love Little Fires for its commentary on those, plus the added themes of privilege and institutional racism.
9. Home Before Dark (TV+)
This is a very mysterious, dark show that makes good use of its young cast - and yes, these are kids that can actually act!
Their innocence adds some gravitas to the overall story, an it's a good watch if you've got a spare 10 hours. Warning: once you start, you might not be able to stop!
8. Quiz (ITV Hub)
I've always been fascinated with the story of Major Charles Ingram and how he cheated his way to £1M on Who Wants to be a Millionaire; the fact that the show aired on ITV seems a bit like a diss-track because the guy made the whole network look like a right mug.
But, this is a fantastically acted, well-written - if not slightly dramatised - version of a non-violent headline that captivated an entire nation.
7. Upload (Prime Video)
A comedy-drama about mind-uploading? This show is not afraid to pull any punches and never misses the chance for its equivalent of fart jokes (merger jokes, by the way).
I'm excited to see what's in store for these characters, because that cliffhanger at the end of Season 1 was just brutal.
6. The Mandalorian - Season 2 (Disney+)
5. Schitt's Creek - Season 6 (Netflix)
This was like coming home after you've been away for months. The way that Dan Levy made me love these characters in just a few short seasons, it's like a masterclass in comedy writing. Your characters don't have to be one-dimensional pieces of wood who get stuck in relationship loops; they're allowed to love, change and grow, whilst at the same time being the characters you felt that initial connection with in the first place because that's how real people are.
An excellent final season for an excellent show.
4. Search Party - Season 3 (HBO Max)
Search Party is a show I caught on All4 back in 2017 when both Seasons 1 and 2 were out. Then, the show went silent and I never heard a peep. This was back when I wasn't sure how networks and rights all worked. Now that I know it used to air on TBS, which is owned by Warner, who then moved the show to HBO Max, it makes a lot of sense as a streaming show. The first season follows a group of self-obsessed millennials in NYC who go searching for their friend from university after that friend goes missing. But, their real motivations for doing so are much less selfless than they would like everyone to believe.
When the third season came around, it was long overdue (a fourth season has already been ordered, filmed and is now awaiting release!), but with the third season I feel like these characters definitely matured. Not strictly in their personas, but in terms of their development as complex people.
This is a hilarious, fun and deeply interesting show, and one I am excited to see make its way down an even darker path come Season 4.
3. The Good Place (Netflix)
A perfect ending for a perfect show.
2. The Flight Attendant (HBO Max)
Originally billed as a miniseries, The Flight Attendant looked very interesting from the trailer. I am happy to say that the trailer did not disappoint. The character of Cassie is so deeply human that I felt I knew her on a personal level, and the humour isn't afraid to make jokes that a lesser show would not have been able to pull off.
Whilst I'm glad it got renewed because I want to see more of Cassie, I really do hope they don't screw it up. Either way, Kaley Cuoco needs her Emmy for Episodes 7 and 8 because she deserves it.
1. Ted Lasso (TV+)
I am not a fan of football (soccer), but I loved this show to my very core. Ted Lasso is one of the best shows I've ever seen in my life, and I'm the guy who defends LOST tooth-and-nail. This was a fantastic comedy with some great dramatic moments and a lot of love to give. It's easy to make dark humour land because you get a pass if it fails, owing to peoples' tastes. It's so much more difficult to make nice comedy work, and work well, but this show does it. The characters don't hate the situations they're in, they thrive from it, and it's the finely-tuned skill of series creator Bill Lawrence (Scrubs, Cougar Town), combined with Sudekis's wide-eyed wit, that take this show from "very good" to "excellent".
I can't wait to see how Ted Lasso goes from "obscure junk on that one service that everyone gets for free", to a mature and wholesome comedy that follows in Schitt's Creek's footsteps to sweep the Comedy category at the Emmys. The two-season renewal should help the show mature and establish itself as one to watch for years to come.
If you want to watch any of these shows but the services they're on aren't available in your region, check out StreamLocator, a convenient and cheap way to ensure you have unfettered, high-speed access to all the services your heart desires! (I may make some money through this link)
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Until then, happy streaming!