The best TV series of 2020

2020 has been a challenging year, but it's also been a year of really good TV. Here's my breakdown of the top five shows (or seasons of a show) worth watching. 

1. Normal People

I’ve written before about Normal People (read it here), the BBC Three and Hulu adaption of author Sally Rooney’s novel of the same name. Set in Ireland, the series follows Connell Waldron (Paul Mescal) and Marianne Sheridan (Daisy Edgar Jones), two introspective loners bound together as they navigate a sometimes shared, sometimes disconnected adolescence. The series is a poignant reflection on loneliness, isolation, and above all, vulnerability as an essential component of love and friendship.

2. Ozark

Ozark has always been good. It’s even, at times, been great. But here, in its third season, the series is louder, sharper, and deeper than ever before, as Marty and Wendy Byrde (Jason Bateman and Laura Linney) continue to build their money laundering empire while battling challenges from all fronts; both foreign and inside the home. Explosive, exciting, and raw, Ozark is prestige TV at its best. 

3. I May Destroy You

While not my personal number 1, there’s a compelling argument to be made that I May Destroy You, the sexual-consent drama written, starring, and partially directed by Micaela Coel, is the show of the year. Both abrasive and delicate, Coel is magnetic as Arabella, the thirty-something writer struggling to finish the follow-up to her bestselling debut book, Chronicles of a Fed-Up Millennial. When Arabella wakes up one morning after a messy night out, she begins to glean the hazy details of a sexual assault, her sexual assault. In just twelve exhilarating, often darkly funny episodes, the series manages to capture the nuances of various power dynamics and the complexities of sexual trauma.

4. The Haunting of Bly Manor

The Haunting of Bly Manor is the second instalment of Mike Flanagan’s anthology horror series, the first being The Haunting of Hill House, which was released in 2018. Where Hill House was set in modern-day America, Bly Manor takes place on the grounds of an extravagant country manor in 1980s England, where a young American woman (Victoria Pedretti) is hired as the live-in au pair for two orphaned children following their former au pair’s tragic death. Unlike Hill House, Bly Manor isn’t exactly terrifying. But what both seasons share is a poignancy, and the unique ability to present horror as tragedy; something deeply human in the form of something otherworldly.

5. The Outsider

Based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, The Outsider stars Ben Mendelson and Cynthia Erivo, and was adapted for the screen by writer Richard Price. Indeed, King, the master of horror, and Price, a seasoned explorer of the gritty realities of urban America, complement one another perfectly to create something which is half detective thriller, half supernatural horror. Ultimately, though, the series explores ideas which transcend genre: the dichotomy of good versus evil, and whether such evil is born from the hearts of men, or from somewhere (or something) much older. Terrifying and disquieting until the end, The Outsider frames these broader themes within the confines of a simple tale about loss, grief, and the limits of belief. 

Honourable mentions

  • The Last Dance
  • Perry Mason
  • The Queen’s Gambit
  • We Are Who We Are
  • The Crown
Tagged in What messes with your head, TV, Opinion, Review