Last week I wrapped up 2020 with my favorite, and least favorite, films of the year. As we move into 2021, I’m continuing the countdown with my favorite TV Series of 2020. Next week I’ll wrap up this look at my favorites of the year with my favorite TV Episodes of 2020. That will help you’re new year get off to a hot start by experiencing some of the best of 2020.
Have favorite shows of your own? Post them in the comments and get this started.
10. Hellstrom, Season 1, Hulu
About: This is based on a Marvel comic, but came in a little under the radar. It’s darker than your typical Marvel stuff, so it went to Hulu rather than appearing on Disney+. Hulu had a low-key great year, and is on this list a few times. Tom Austen and Sydney Lemmon really sold this as the brother-sister team at the heart of the series, while Elizabeth Marvel had some great supporting scenes. It was dark, violent, and weird at time, but it captured my attention.
9. Mrs. America, Hulu
About: Hulu hits again, this time for a very different series. This docuseries follows several famous women during the turbulent rise of the Women’s Rights Movement in the 1970s. Cate Blanchett, as Phyllis Schlafly is at the heart of the series, but it features an incredible ensemble including Rose Byrne, Margo Martindale, Elizabeth Banks, Uzo Aduba, Ari Graynor and Sarah Paulson, among others. It was put together well and examined a period of history, and some key figures, that I didn’t know much about. It was an interesting, at times emotional journey.
8. Yellowstone, Season 3, Paramount Network
About: This show, which comes from Taylor Sheridan and focuses on a Montana rancher (Kevin Costner) and his family. The early comparisons to “The Godfather” are apt, and I’ve enjoyed all the seasons of the show. But I think it hit its stride in a new way with this third season, which included some incredible performances and sequences, and ended with a heck of a cliff hanger. This is one you can now binge on Peacock as well!
7. Defending Jacob, Apple TV+
About: This limited series, based on the novel from William Landay isn’t an easy story. Over the course of eight episodes this mystery plays out, delivering a heck of a finale. Chris Evans is great in the lead, with Michelle Dockery and Jaeden Martell delivering great performances as well. This one had me guessing how it would go (I didn’t read the novel) throughout. In the latter part of the year, the mini-series “The Undoing” offered a similar style story, but it paled in comparison to this one. Apple TV+ has faded some from the headlines, but they had an incredible 2020 with original series and films.
6. The Queen’s Gambit, Netflix
About: A seven-episode drama about chess? I know what you’re thinking, and I had similar thoughts. Until you watch it, then you’re totally hooked. I think I finished the whole series in two sittings, and was moved by it deeply, thanks in large part to the lead performance from Anya Taylor-Joy, who makes the most of her turn in the spotlight here. Scott and Allan Frank did a great job putting this one together.
5. Bosch, Season 6, Amazon Prime
About: Based on the novels from Michael Connelly, this has been one of my favorite series since it debuted. It’s also one of the most overlooked. Eric Overmyer developed this for television, and it’s been on Amazon so long I remember when it was part of the public pilot process. Titus Welliver is the main draw here as Bosch. Season six was great and I can’t wait for the seventh and final season in 2021.
4. Normal People, Hulu
About: Based on the novel from Sally Rooney, this limited series told the story of Connell (Paul Mescal) and Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones), and their relationship as it played out over a number of years. It was the subject of some discussion thanks to its plentiful and stylized sex scenes, which are a part of the presentation, but this is really a story of two people who are trying to love each other through the ups and downs of life, and growing up. It’s bittersweet throughout, but particularly at the powerful end. It works because of Mescal and Edgar-Jones. It grabbed headlines for what was included, but it should grab your attention because of its emotional depth of storytelling.
3. The Last Dance, ESPN
About: This documentary on the 1990s Chicago Bulls was a gift during the early days of the pandemic in April and May. It is 10-episodes, airing over five weeks and diving into the long run of the Chicago Bulls with Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson. The Bulls weren’t my favorite team, but this documentary sucked me in, captivated me, and moved me. It was an incredible experience and a must watch for anyone who loves a good story, whether you’re nuts about sports or not.
2. The Mandalorian, Season 2, Disney+
About: “The Mandalorian” was one of my favorites of 2019, and it set a high bar. It was fair to wonder if the second season could match that. It did, and went beyond. It was better than season one and offered a richer emotional experience. It was an incredible watch, particularly the home stretch of the final four episodes. If it weren’t for this next show, this would easily have topped my list. I can’t wait for Season 3.
1. Ted Lasso, Season 1, Apple TV+
About: Apple TV+ started a touch slow, but man has the streamer hit its stride. And its done it under-the-radar, like with “Ted Lasso.” When I read the description about an American college football coach moving to England to coach a Premier League soccer team, I thought it wasn’t for me. Then I watched the first episode. Jason Sudeikis is a gift, and he shows an incredible range of emotions and heart in this role. The 10 episode first season was magnificent and an emotional journey. It was one of the funniest shows of the year, but also the one with the biggest heart. There was no doubt that for me, any list of 2020 on the small screen begins with “Ted Lasso.”
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a proud member of the Drive-In Podcast Network.