And it’s a wrap! 2023 is officially drawing to a close, so now is the perfect time to look back on all of the best television shows that have graced our screens in what has been a troubling year for the medium.
Since the early 2000’s the small screen has been on an almost unstoppable march in its quest to match the dramatic and visual chops of its big screen counterpart film. And it’s been a relentless one. The majority of people you ask will probably agree with the statement that television - particularly in the last 5 years - has overtaken cinema in a way that would have been thought impossible 20 years ago. But with progress comes pitfalls. And 2023 is the first year in which the cracks have really started to show in this lucrative…but also very costly medium.
Whereas 2022 was the hardest year to pick my final 50, 2023 in comparison has seen a reduction in the list from 50 down to 25. Now the reason for this is twofold. The first is that we’ve seen a post-COVID boom in the number of films released in cinemas. So naturally as I juggle my time (I also have a real full-time job at this company believe it or not haha) I haven’t been able to watch as many Television shows as in previous years - although I have made sure to trim the fat where it counts and avoid obvious stinkers…something I didn’t do previously because I’m a glutton for punishment when it comes to anything on the screen. And secondly, because it simply has been a rather poor year overall for Television. There have still been gems of course - and we’ll get into them shortly - but gone are the days of a good new series landing every week.
With the drastic overspending leading to rampant cost-cutting amongst the big streaming platforms, the dream is that we will see a future focused on quality over quantity going forward. But who am I kidding? This is Netflix, Disney and the jokers at Warner Brothers I’m talking about, they’ll probably cancel anything promising before it gets going.
Anyway, enough moaning and groaning, let’s focus on the good and get into this year's list of the 25 best TV shows in 2023!
Honourable Mention, Squid Game: The Challenge - (Netflix)
Netflix’s biggest-ever series, the roaring success that is Squid Game has earned its very own Reality Game-Show spin-off. 456 contestants from around the globe are thrown into the world of Squid Game, with famous traps from the series returning like Red Light, Green Light and that one where everyone spits on a cookie, as well as brand new traps designed to test the contestant's wits as opposed to their brawn. With $4.56 million on the line, who will play fair and who will play dirty?
Reality shows aren’t normally my thing, but like The Traitors before It, I had to give Squid Game: The Challenge a mention in this year's list for the sheer drama it concocted in its 10-episode run. You can always rely on the general public for pure entertainment value and this series had that in droves. From the wheezing and semi-vomiting of Spencer as the true magnitude of picking the umbrella cookie started to sink in, to Ashley turning into the internets "public enemy number one" after her betrayal of Trey on the glass bridge. Sure the interviews and footage of the contestants wandering around in the living quarters made for mind-numbingly boring viewing. But the challenges were exceptional and at the end of the day, that’s what the show was really about.
25) Lockwood & Co. - (Netflix)
The best YA drama of the year Lockwood & Co. - based on the book series by Jonathan Stroud - is set in an alternative history version of London. In this reality the ghosts truly do walk among us, and boy are they angry. In this world, the most profitable industry you can be in is ghost-hunting. Lucy (Ruby Stokes) fresh off the back of unlocking psychic abilities joins the ghost-hunting agency Lockwood and Co, helmed by the young but experienced ghost-hunter Anthony (Cameron Chapman). While attempting to rid the city of Ghosts the pair stumble upon a conspiracy that puts a target on their backs and sets in motion an epic confrontation.
Netflix truly is an enigma to me. This month, for the first time, they revealed a plethora of viewing performance stats for the year. Included in that list was Lockwood & Co. and it had pretty impressive numbers. Nevertheless, it has still been unceremoniously cancelled by the streaming service. But don’t take that as a reason to avoid Joe Cornish’s brilliant series. The writer and director has done an exploratory job of adapting the rich tapestry of the books into a visual delight. This alternate London has a deep brooding atmosphere to it, with the majority of the show set at night (when the Ghosts are most prevalent) Cornish is able to truly delve into the seedy underbelly of London. Stokes and Chapman are also admirable in their roles, with Chapman, in particular, bringing a playful charm to the series that works as a pleasant alternative to the dark world. It truly is a shame we won’t get more Lockwood & Co, but unlike other cancelled projects, this series does work as a one-and-done.
24) Dead Ringers - (Amazon)
David Cronenberg’s 80’s classic film of the same name had the re-boot treatment this year, as it swapped the big screen for the small one and performed a gender swap on twin siblings Beverly and Elliot. Formally played by Jeremy Irons, the twins are played by British acting royalty Rachel Weisz this time around. The talented surgeons are the talk of the town, and with the backing of wealthy businessmen and women, they are on the cusp of opening their medical centre, while revolutionising the way women give birth. But underneath their professional personas harbour dark desires which are ever threatening to break free.
Having watched Cronenberg’s 1988 film for the first time this year as well, I can resoundingly say the series has it beat every day of the week and twice on Sundays. The story, elongated into 6 mouthwatering episodes and revamped for modern-day audiences is effortlessly more compelling than its…dare I say, average counterpart. The production design and cinematography are off the charts, both gorgeous and haunting in equal measure. But the real star of the show is Weisz. It’s very rare to watch an actor perform two separate roles in the same project and not have it playing on your mind. For Dead Ringers, this never crossed my mind. From the sister's first interaction, it is very clear these are very different people, even when they are pretending to be one another, Weisz’s performance is so measured as to leave you in no doubt as to which sister you are following. The series is worth watching for her alone.
23) The Continental - (Amazon)
From the world of John Wick comes The Continental. Transported back to 1970 within the Wickverse - sorry - this is a story of revenge, greed and also the origin of the iconic hotel of the same name that we have become accustomed to over the years. Winston Scott (Colin Woodell) is sent by powers above his station to get his unruly brother under control. But is everything as it seems in this world of assassins and thieves?
First things first you’ve got to hand it to the creators behind the original John Wick film, which debuted all the way back in 2014. I’m not sure even they could have foreseen in their wildest dreams that 9 years later they would be fresh off the back of a 440 million fourth instalment in the franchise and a televised spin-off to boot. It’s astonishing how well the franchise has blossomed, all while refusing to abandon its morals. Each project is created with as much care and craft as their first, The Continental being no exception. Unsurprisingly the action sequences are as bombastic as ever. Rapturous long takes, jaw-dropping choreography and GUNS, upon guns, upon guns, upon guns are all on show here. But what impressed me most is the attention to detail that went into creating 1970’s New York, the set design is impeccable and truly transports you back into the seedy era of the famous city.
22) Servant - (Apple TV+)
M. Night Shyamalan and Tony Basgallop’s horror series was one of many shows to come to a close in 2023. Picking up after the dramatic events of the series 3rd outing, Dorothy (Lauren Ambrose) is bed-bound, with her care and the care of her son Jerico in the hands of the ever-mysterious Leanne (Nell Tiger Free). But there are wolves at the door. The cult who once called Leanne one of their own is going to stop at nothing to bring her back, even if that means the Turner family have to pay the price.
Debuting in 2019 Servant has remained a hidden gem among Apple's ever-growing offering right until the end. The series, equal parts weird and slow-moving has never truly found a home with mainstream audiences - likely not helped by the shows, wheel-spinning second series. But for the second year running…and the third time in total the series has made it into our coveted (I’m sure the creators are thrilled) best of the year list. And no it’s not just because Servant features the best house in TV history. Although I would be a miss to not wax lyrical about it for another year - it’s grandiose in every essence of the word. But instead, it’s because the show sticks the landing, and that’s not something you can always say about M.Night’s projects. Every year the creators impress me with the way they handle the confined environment of the narrative. The way they seemingly bend the space to fit their creative vision is astounding. This year the street outside of the Turner home is explored in more detail, culminating in a delightfully tense Halloween episode.
21) Daisy Jones & The Six - (Amazon)
Based on Taylor Jenkins Reid’s 2019 novel of the same name, Daisy Jones and The Six is the globetrotting story of the rise and subsequent fall of the fictional rock. From their breathtaking highs in the 1970s to the band's sudden separation, filmed like a pseudo-documentary the series explores what really happened behind closed doors. And is definitely NOT based on Fleetwood Mac.
I’m very open about the fact that music, especially older music is lost on me. I didn’t grow up listening to music, so I’m very often the butt of the “who sings this” game that is played at work…thankfully for me we have hired people who know even less about music than me so I get more rest bite these days than I used to. All that being said - and ignoring my obvious obsession with Paramore, which my Spotify Wrapped has made me painfully aware of - I do jive with 70’s music maybe more than any other era. So, it should be no surprise to anyone who has watched Daisy Jones & The Six that I loved this deep dive into a fictional 70’s band. It helps that the music produced for the show is pretty damn good, so good in fact that the series titular song “Look At Us Now” has recorded over 41 million streams on Spotify since its release in March.
20) Dave - (Disney+)
Everyone's favourite rapper Dave Burd has returned with his fictional autobiographical series 3rd outing. Finally starting to make moves in the industry Dave and the merry gang are heading on the “Looking for Love Tour” across America. But nothing with Dave is easy. His overbearing personality and quest for perfection soon leave the gang getting into constant hot water, with one unfortunate adventure leading to the world believing the singer has died.
Since its debut in 2020, Dave has become renowned for having exceptional season finalises, after the heartwarming finale of series 2 I have been eagerly awaiting what the creative genius would come up with for his third series. And it’s safe to say I wasn’t disappointed. Enter…Brad Pitt. The living legend joins the cast of the final episode playing a swashbuckling version of himself. Not only does Pitt steal the show with his acting chops, but thanks to the series' musical focus he even gets to play his hand at singing, and although it might be one of the most auto-tune-heavy songs you will ever hear, it's absolutely hilarious. Pitt isn’t the only high-profile cameo in this series. With Drake, Rachel McAdams and Don Cheadle also getting a chance to join in the shenanigans.
19) Love & Death - (ITVX)
Based on the tragic true story, Love & Death explores the interwoven lives of the Montgomery and Gore families as their previously wholesome friendship is turned sour by an affair between Candy Montgomery (Elizabeth Olsen) and Allan Gore (Jesse Plemons). Sour soon turns to tragedy when Allan’s wife Betty (Lily Rabe) is discovered at her home hacked to death by an axe. But who did it?
David E. Kelley is who I like to call “the tempered Ryan Murphy”. Kelley, like Murphy is the showrunner for multiple series every single year. But unlike Murphy he knows when to let a story be about its characters and narrative rather than himself. You could watch all of Kelley’s work back to back and not be sure who the showrunner is, and that is what makes him so talented. Although he has a thing for crime dramas, each one has its own style. Love & Death is no different. I thoroughly enjoyed this twisting and turning mystery. In particular the performance of Elizabeth Olsen. Now freed from the shackles of the Marvel cinematic universe Olsen is able to properly flex her acting chops in this meaty role. Unlikely Murphy, I’m very excited to see what Kelley has in store next.
18) Hijack - (Apple TV+)
The premise is simple. Flight KA29 from Dubai to London has been Hijacked, but no one seems to know why. While the authorities are left on the ground scrambling, negotiator and all-around calm customer Sam Nelson (Idris Elba) is left trying to recon with the situation in the air.
For many around the world, and especially our office this was real watercooler television. With Apple releasing a new episode each week everyone was left on edge waiting for the answers to the previous week's cliffhanger ending. Although it may have got a little silly in the end - why oh why did he go back on that plane? - there’s no denying the series kept viewers, including myself, on the edge of their seats right until the end. Taking place in real time over the course of the plane journey the tension inside the small tin-can in the air was fever pitch. With each attempt to fight the terrorists playing out in real-time, there was always a fear the series could go the way of 24 and be littered with boring filler. Instead, creators Jim Field Smith and George Kay were careful to ensure they never let off the gas or delivered a dull moment.
17) Boat Story - (BBC)
Bizarre French films involving cannibalism, hilarious storyboards with a sarcastic narrator, bundling small-town cops way out of their league, a play within a show telling the story of said show and the most cartoonish gangsters of the year, Boat Story has it all. Fresh off the back of a horrific workplace injury Janet (Daisy Haggard) stumbles upon a boat run aground on the beach of the fictional coastal town Applebury. After investigating the boat with stranger Samuel (Paterson Joseph) they discover hidden treasure. In the form of a massive haul of cocaine. Little do they know their discovery and subsequent stealing of the cocaine will set in motion a chain of events that will leave the quiet coastal town a shadow of its former bliss.
Created by Harry Williams and Jack Williams - the minds behind the disturbing series The Tourist - Boat Story is clearly heavily inspired by Fargo. In fact, if Fargo was to be set in the United Kingdom I imagine this is how the series would play out. But that fact should in no way take away from the creative brilliance of the pair. The series contains some of the most shocking moments of the year as well as some of the funniest. This is a lesson in dark comedy. Joseph and Haggard are brilliant in the leading roles, but I’d be amiss not to mention the scenery-chewing performance of Tcheky Karyo as the series titular villain The Tailor. Our first meeting with the unsavoury gang leader sees him forcibly extracting a man's tongue, and by the end of the series that seems relatively tame for him.
16) Happy Valley - (BBC)
After a 7-year hiatus, the critically acclaimed series by creator Sally Wainwright returned for its third and final hurrah. Deliberately delayed so Rhys Connah who plays protagonist Cathrine Cawood’s (Sarah Lancashire) grandson Ryan could grow into the role of a 16-year-old questioning his father’s past misgivings, Wainwright has had all the time in the world to perfectly bookend the story of one of the televisions most steadfast characters, but did she deliver?
For the most part, yes. The penultimate showdown between Cawood and her daughter's rapist and all-around scoundrel Tommy Lee Royce (James Norton) is a masterclass of screenwriting. It may not be the ending we asked for, but it’s the end that best fits the narrative. Making that distinction isn’t always easy, and it’s certainly brave. However, this series' side plot involving the out-of-the-depth chemist, turned drug dealer Faisal (Amit Shah) fell a little flat for me. The show comes to an end without a fitting conclusion to the story, becoming a miscarriage of justice in a show that previously had avoided such endings. That being said, Happy Valley still remains one of the best dramas the BBC has ever produced, it’s just a shame the final series didn’t match the overall quality of the first two.
15) Interview with the Vampire - (BBC)
Based on the critically acclaimed novel by illustrious writer Anne Rice, Interview with the Vampire is a modern update on the iconic story. Previously adapted for the big screen, this series created by Rolin Jones switches the plantation setting of it’s cinematic counterpart for the roaring streets of early 1900’s New Orleans. After catching the attention of visiting French-man Lestat de Lioncourt (Sam Reid) local pimp Louis de Pointe du Lac (Jacob Anderson) is infected with the vampieric curse. What follows is a poetic love story re-told by a present day du Lac to weary journalist Daniel Molloy (Eric Bogosian).
Like the characters it’s fair to say I fell in love with the shows New Orleans setting. The stunning production design which sees the city transported back to it’s fully glory is breathtaking. And the perfect home for this tragic, bloody, love story. The series - with it’s enlongated run-time - makes the love story between the two vampires and their unquentable thirst for eachother the center piece of the narrative. And although there is blood, guts and all the gore we have become accustanet to in vampire storys, the love story is what holds the narrative together over it’s seven episode run. The first of a two part story set to conclude next year. Interview with the Vampire will leave you hungry for more, with a cliffhanger ending that is sure to raise more than a few eyebrows.
14) The Crowded Room - (Apple TV+)
Spiderman are you okay? Superstar Tom Holland makes a deep dive into prestige TV as he plays troubled soul Danny Sullivan. After being arrested for taking part in a shooting near Times Square Danny is hung out to dry, with no one wanting to take his case. Step forward investigator Rya Goodwin (Amanda Seyfried). After taking an interest in the case Rya must attempt to solve the mystery behind the shooting before Danny is placed behind bars for life.
Attention reader. Do not, under any circumstances google this show, watch the trailer for this show, or even read the title of the book for this show. Because every single one will spoil it for you. Unfortunately, I like many others befell this fate, having learnt about a key plot point in the show before even watching it. Now this normally wouldn’t be a problem, except the show’s narrative is framed in such a way that said plot point doesn’t appear until you are over halfway through the story. More fool me hey? Anyway, back to the review. The Crowded Room was subject to a myriad of criticisms when it debuted, each one as unfounded as the next. This is a brilliant limited series, and although it may take its time to get going that isn’t a bad thing. The world Danny inhabits is beautifully realised. And Tom Hollands' performance is momentous. You can tell he went to the ends of the world to conjure out this performance, and to have it met with criticism by some critics. It’s a disgrace.
13) Swarm - (Amazon)
Donald Glover's first project for Amazon sets the creative genius off to the races in dramatic fashion. Staring the talented Dominique Fishbank as Dre, Swarm is an exploration of the obsessive and dark side of fandom that has swarmed the internet since the turn of the century. When a family tragedy strikes Dre falls further and further into her obsession with pop star Ni’Jah - totally not a caricature of Beyonce - with deadly results.
Swarm is a very strange show, and certainly not a show that is going to enamour itself with a mainstream audience. But for those of us who enjoy dark comedies that aren’t afraid to err on the other side of caution, this is a must-watch. Fishbank’s performance is mesmerising, as always and with the help of creator Glover she is allowed a treasure trove of who’s who actors and starts to bounce off of. With the likes of Billie Eilish, Damson Idris, Paris Jackson and Rory Culkin guests starting in the series, each episode brings a unique flavour for the viewer to enjoy. It’s also not afraid to get bloody, there are some brutal scenes of extreme violence littered within the show, so those of a faint heart be warned.
12) Beef - (Netflix)
As you may have noticed it’s been a fairly quiet year for Netflix, with only three of their shows making it onto the list this year. It’s fair to say that the former top dog is suffering from adding competition to the streaming landscape. That being said, when they are on their a-game - even if that is rare nowadays - they are still able to produce brilliant shows like Beef. Created by Lee Sung Jin who has previously written for the aforementioned show Dave, Beef invites us into the world of road rage and revenge. After a brutal road rage incident Amy (Ali Wong) and Danny (Steven Yeun) are thrown into a tit-for-tat game of revenge as they both attempt to ruin each other's lives.
Yeun and Wong are excellent here. The pair fully embrace the silliness of the premise of the show and don’t hold back. And although their early pranks - and I use that word with a pinch of salt - are precarious they soon snowball into downright dangerous, to the extent where people start to lose their lives. What is most impressive about the show is that although the premise of revenge in the form of pranks is something that has been done many times before the creators leave you guessing every step of the way as to what turn the narrative is going to take next. I mean who could have predicted what Danny does to that bathroom?
11) Slow Horses - (Apple TV+)
Jackson Lamb (Gary Oldman) and his hopeless band of Slow Horses are back on the case for another year. This time they are investigating the kidnapping of one of their own, as mild-mannered Catherine Standish (Saskia Reeves) is abducted by an unknown intelligence unit led by rogue MI5 agent Sean Donovan (Sope Dirisu).
Slow Horses debuted in April 2022. Since then we have had three whole series and an extensive teaser for series four, which for all intents and purposes seems to have wrapped filming already. I surely can’t be the only one who thinks the speed at which this show is written, filmed, edited and then released is astounding. We’re lucky if we get a new series of Euphoria in less than 3 years at this point. But what's most impressive is that each series so far has been better than the last. A big part of that is the performance of Gary Oldman. You’d have thought by now, after eighteen hours of his farting, burping and all-around disheveled Jackson Lamb the joke would have gotten old. But the reality is, it’s nowhere near getting old. The creative team have been very smart in rationing the acclaimed actor's screen time to ensure every interaction is as deliciously addictive for the viewer as possible. Apple are on to a certified winner here, and with the speed the series is created we could be looking at one of the best shows of the still-young decade.
10) From - (Sky)
Picking up quite literally where series one left off, this sophomore series sees Sherif Boyd (Harold Perrineau) trapped inside an old well, separated from his town and its inhabitants. At the same time, a cross-country bus has arrived in town, with a whole host of unwitting occupants left perplexed by their new surroundings. Can the towns folk save them before the night draws in?
From the executive producers of Lost is a tagline that is used on almost all the marketing material for From. It’s no surprise why. Despite its final series being certified Marmite, Lost is still regarded by fans and the television industry as an unparalleled triumph for the medium. Without the bold storytelling of Lost, it’s very possible that many of our favourite modern shows wouldn’t have been greenlit. From certainly wouldn’t have been. The series, like its predecessor, is a complex maze of themes and ideas all cramped into this tiny town that the characters call home. Although some of these ideas aren’t always fully realised, the world that has been created is second to none of television at the moment. Shows like From aren’t afraid to leave viewers guessing, and I for one think we are better off for that. Too many shows try to spoon-feed their audience instead of revealing in ambiguity and mystique. If more shows were like From, television would be a better place.
9) Barry - (Sky)
After four great series that have seen the show get darker and darker and the comedy less prevalent and then even less prevalent, Alec Berg and Bill Hader's pitch-black comedy has come to a glorious end, in the way only Barry could. Following Barry’s ( Bill Hader) foiling at the hands of his former acting mentor Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler) the would-be actor, formerly hitman, finds himself rotting away in jail with seemingly no escape. But to make matters even worse he’s joined by Monroe Fuches (Stephen Root) - or should we call him The Raven - who will not relent in yapping his ear off.
As I touched upon before Barry as a series has been on a slow progression of dialing down the humour but doubling on the suffering. Series four is far and away the darkest yet, as characters are forced to reckon with the actions that have led them to this point. No one will make it away unscathed, least of all Barry. A fair number of people have been put off by the show's steed descent into darkness, but I personally believe this was the natural endpoint for the series' premise. Barry, despite the absurdity at moments, has always taken a fairly grounded approach to its subject matter. So it should be no surprise that a revered hitman trying to turn his life around wouldn’t end in disaster.
8) Fargo - (Amazon)
Aw, heck! What's this another series of Fargo? Wasn’t that some kind of film from the 90’s or something? Well yes, dear reader you are correct. Noah Hawley is back with a fifth and potentially final series of the hit spinoff show. Set in modern-day Minnesota, seemingly innocent wife and mother Dorothy Lyon (Juno Temple) finds herself on the wrong side of an attempted abduction by two bag-wearing fiends. After being stopped by police during their escape, chaos rains in typical Fargo fashion and Dorothy manages to escape. But what actually did those mysterious fellows want with our Dorothy? Well…in the world of Fargo, there are no clear answers.
In the same vein as Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal Fargo has no business being this good. After all, as aforementioned, it simply started out as a spin-off to the famous Coen Brothers picture. But it’s safe to say that five series in Noah Hawley’s small-screen adaptation has more than earned its flowers. I was left very disappointed by the widely maligned fourth series of Fargo, so to see it return in such a rip-roaring fashion this year fills me with joy. And the main reason for this is the performance by Juno Temple as Dorothy. She is magnetic in the role and is comfortably the heartbeat of the show. So far Amazon has only released the first seven episodes with the final three set to land in the new year. But I have no doubt that this series will comfortably stick the landing.
7) The Fall of The House of Usher - (Netflix)
Horror maestro Mike Flanagan returns for his fifth and final Netflix limited series. The controversial Usher family are at the height of their powers. Profiting from the gluttony of the American pharmaceutical industry, brother and sister duo Roderick (Bruce Greenwood) and Madeline (Mary McDonnell) have never been more powerful. But then, at the drop of a hat - or in this case a million drops of sulphuric acid - their world comes crashing down. The Usher family has made a deal with the devil and the devil is here to collect.
It’s bewildering to me that Netflix would allow Mike Flanagan to leave their streaming service for a new home. This is the man who has after all created two of Netflix’s greatest-ever television shows “Midnight Mass” and “The Haunting of Hill House” but hey I’m sure Netflix have their reasons for allowing this to happen…idiots. The Fall of The House of Usher is a worthy entry into the pantheon of horror created by Flanagan. With a who’s who of returning faces from his previous limited series and some electrifying new talent - see Mark Hamill as steely-faced fixer Arthur Pym - he has once again crafted a feast for horror fans the world over. What's most impressive about this latest series is how Flanagan has gone about adapting Edgar Allen Poe's iconic works of literature. Instead of focusing on one tale, Flanagan has created a sweeping narrative that covers multiple works from Poe, allowing the story to stay fresh and dynamic.
6) The Bear - (Disney+)
Can you feel the stress yet? That's right the most shouty show on television is back and believe me you haven’t seen anything yet. After the events of the last series finale Carmey (Jeremy Allen White) must come to terms with the task at hand. Turning an absolute dive of a restaurant into an upstanding, respectable establishment. One thing is for sure a renovation of this size is going to take time…wait…what do you mean they only have three months!!! Well, at least the menu is complete…wait…what do you mean the menu hasn’t even been started yet!!! And let the chaos ensue.
I’m a stickler for having my television on loud. If it’s below 20 I'm like an old man shouting at the screen saying I can’t hear a thing. But even I had to reach for the remote and press that volume down button when episode six “Fishes” started to get into gear. I can’t recall such a stressful viewing experience in my life. And I’ve watched The Bear series one. But in all seriousness away from the craziness of the show's loud outbursts there is so much to love here. Episode 4 which follows Marcus on an exploration of deserts in Denmark is a calm musing on one man's search for perfection in the ever-changing environment of Michelin-star dining. It's heartwarming, one might even say poetic, and works as a perfect showcase for The Bears many sides.
5) Poker Face - (Sky/Peacock)
Remember last year when I was reviewing Apple TV’s new series The Afterparty, I had this to say “On the back of Knives Out success, everyone seems to be trying to re-create that mouthwatering combination of mystery and comedy” Well it turns out Peacock were the smartest of the bunch. Instead of trying to recreate the magic captured by Knives Out why not just hire the man behind the magic? And so they did. Que Rian Johnson to smash it out of the bag and land himself a place in this year's top 5 shows of the year.
Orange Is The New Black star Natasha Lyonne plays Charlie Cale, a seemingly normal woman working at a casino with one very non-normal talent. She’s a human lie detector. It doesn’t matter how good a fibber you are, she knows when you have been lying. The show smartly wastes no time trying to explain this almost supernatural ability, instead, it throws Charlie straight into the action, with a case a week formally that sees her travelling the country unwittingly solving crimes. The concept is genius, the execution is magnificent and unsurprisingly Lyonne produces a powerhouse performance. It’s safe to say Rian Johnson has found his niche and if he’s smart we’ll be seeing more of Charlie and her extraordinary talent for years to come.
4) The Last of Us - (Sky)
The most anticipated new show of 2023, the show that would finally put an end to the “there’s never been a good video game adaptation” discourse, The Last of Us kicked off 2023 under immense pressure and unsurprisingly it delivered tenfold on the anticipation. Set in a post-apocalyptic future Joel (Pedro Pascal), a man who has lost all faith in the world, must take Ellie (Bella Ramsey) a precocious teenager under his wing against his own wishes. But what follows is the forming of a bond that will leave the two survivors' futures forever entwined.
The story of Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) is part of pop culture legend. Such was the tsunami of praise that arrived upon the game's release in 2013. Now 10 years, a plethora of awards, a revered sequel and over 20 million units sold later the timeless story has once again captured people's hearts. What is most impressive about Craig Mazin’s adaptation is how he isn't afraid to step away from the game's core narrative to explore other parts of the story. Take the widely praised third episode, this is a completely fresh story being told by Mazin, based purely on a minute conversation in the original game. Fans can sometimes get rowdy when an adaptation changes direction away from the original story. But with results like this, no one can complain.
3) Jury Duty - (Amazon Freevee)
“Amazon Freevee…what the fuck is that”? I hear you ask. Well, who knows? Officially it’s Amazon's free channel that allows viewers to see shows free of charge with adverts. However, when your’s truly watched Jury Duty I don’t remember seeing any adverts. Anyway, that’s enough about the oddity that is Freevee. Let’s talk about the oddity that is Jury Duty. The premise is simple, the series follows an American jury trial as they muse over a trial of workplace misconduct. However, the twist is that eleven of the twelve jurors are actors, and the trial is a fake. That leaves Ronald Gladden, an unsuspecting man in for the ride of a lifetime.
Creators Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky don’t know how good they got it when they picked Ronalds to be their canary in the mine. What are the chances that they could have picked such a heartfelt, caring and understanding person to be the focus of this bizarre series? I know for a fact that if I was in Ronald’s shoes I would have had it up to my wit's end with the hijinx on display during this trial. But Ronald instead has come away as a modern-day white knight and I’m all for it. Jury Duty might be the most I have laughed all year. From a massive fake turd to hilarious leg pants every episode serves up some of the most memorable moments of the year. And James Marsden, what a performance. This man, in my eyes, can do no wrong.
2) Silo - (Apple TV+)
For the second year in a row, Apple has a big-budget Science fiction series in the top three shows of the year. But this time it’s got one step closer to that coveted top spot. Based on Hugh Howey’s science fiction book series, Silo is set in a post-apocalyptic world - yes another one - where humanity has dwindled to a measly ten thousand people, all trapped within a giant industrialised silo. One day, unbeknownst to the citizens of the silo, Sheriff Becker (David Oyelowo) decides to step outside of the silo into the unforgiving wasteland, condemning himself to certain death. But is he dead? There are doubters within the citizens of the silo. And it’s up to his replacement Juliette (Rebecca Ferguson) to discover if those doubts have merit.
I love science fiction. And for that reason, I’m also one of its harshest critics. Too many science fiction projects are half-baked, poorly made and simply set up to fail. For that reason any science fiction series that makes it into this list, especially as high up as second, should speak for itself. The care and detail that have gone into crafting the sets and meticulously finetuning the visuals are plain for all to see, these are creatives at the top of their game. Not only that, the story of Silo is effortless riveting. The bravery to hold off introducing your main character until the second episode, because it’s what works for the narrative, is something not many showrunners would dare to do. Especially when that lead character is someone as talented as the mercurial Rebecca Ferguson. Last but not least I have to mention the marvellous final episode that leaves the series sweetly poised for its second outing.
1) Succession - (Sky)
It’s about damn time. After its fourth and sadly final series Succession has finally reached the precipice of the Ohh Deer Best of The Year list. And is it any surprise? The simple answer is almost always the correct one…no. With Jesse Armstrong's magnum opus reaching its conclusion, so has ended the last great defender of peak TV. Succession will deservedly take its place among the pantheon of the greatest shows of all time. Series four may in fact be the greatest of all.
After Logan’s (Brian Cox) decision to sell off the Waystar company to tech mogul Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgard) the duplicitous threesome of Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Roman (Kieran Culkin) attempt to win back what they see as their birthright. The dialogue is as hilarious and sharp as always, the set pieces are even bigger than before and the twists…oh the twists are gloriously staged. Every single episode is breathtaking. From “Connor’s Wedding” and the fallout that follows that gargantuan twist, to the amazing episode “American Decides” to the blistering finale that leaves you guessing right to the end “I’m the eldest boy!” This felt very much like a show that would be impossible to end satisfactorily. How can you have someone finish on top when the entire cast is so despicably evil? Well, Jesse Armstrong found a way. It’s unclear if television will ever be this good again. But even if it’s not, what a hell of a ride it’s been.