Since we were quarantined at home for much of the year due to Covid-19, television was almost the only source of new entertainment available to us. And luckily, despite production shutdowns that prevented some of the best shows of 2019 from producing new episodes that year (including Barry, Succession, and Russian Doll), there were plenty of great binge-watching opportunities. Some series even skillfully navigated the pandemic to produce some of the best television programming made in a year.
As a result, there has been no shortage of worthy candidates for this year’s list of the 10 best television shows. The lineup, which includes just one recurring series from the 2019 list, includes four shows that came to the fore in Season 2, two gripping miniseries, a sensational freshman debut, and three longer-running series that just get better with age. (For shows that air on linear networks, we’ve also included the name of the OTT service they are currently streaming on.)
10. The Mandalorian (Disney +)
Every Upstart streaming service wants to attract subscribers by turning a beloved slice of IP into a TV show, but none has done it as adroitly as Disney + did with the very first live-action Star Wars series. In Season 2, the show avoided the dreaded year two slump by choosing against transforming itself into the Baby Yoda Show and leaning into this character’s huge following (his real name is Grogu, but he always will for us Baby Yoda). Instead, Adweek’s TV Creator of the Year Jon Favreau continued to rely on the character in smaller doses, instead focusing on a strong weekly mix of exciting action pieces, creepy enemies (including an ice cave filled with carnivorous spiders), and deepening the star’s humor Wars universe in ways that most of the recent films haven’t gotten to.
9. What We Do In The Shadows (FX, Streaming On Hulu)
Based on the 2014 mockumentary, this comedy about a Staten Island house full of vampires and their human “confidants” is based on its promising first season to produce a steady stream of much-needed belly laughs during the pandemic. Season 2 was full of memorable episodes, including the gang’s panic after receiving a chain email threatening to be cursed by Bloody Mary if they didn’t forward it to 10 other people and the Super Attended their neighbour’s bowl party (which they consider to be a Superb Owl Bash). But nothing comes close to “On the Run,” a tour de force episode in which vampire Laszlo (Matt Berry) hides as a bartender in a small town called Jackie Daytona in rural Pennsylvania – with a toothpick as his only disguise.
8. Lovecraft Country (HBO, streaming on HBO Max)
Misha Green held nothing back in her inventive adaptation of the 2016 Matt Ruff novel about two intertwined black families in the 1950s. One episode would focus on a black woman who could literally slip into the skin of a white woman; The next one followed the story of a South Korean nurse who was possessed by a Kumiho, a thousand-year-old fox demon. Green, Adweeks Game Changer of the Year, skillfully combined horror, supernatural, and other genre elements to create a compelling story about America’s racist past and present.
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In less good hands, this comedy would have been triggered in its first year by its premise, which seemed better suited to an SNL sketch: co-creators Anna Konkle and Maya Erskine play each other out as 13-year-old middle school students in 2000, during the Rest of her classmates are real teenagers. Still, the show turned into something surprisingly poignant and hilarious. That continued into its even stronger season, dealing with the issues that shape youth in moving (and yes weird) ways: from Konkle’s coping with her parents’ marriage separation to other rites of passage like overnight stays, first kisses, and a flirtation with witchcraft.