Best of 2020: All the top TV shows from a truly strange year

Here were some of the things we watched during this confusing, difficult time

Hugh Grant and Nicole Kidman in "The Undoing." (HBO)

After having lived through the year 2020, all we can say is this: Thank the heavens above for new TV shows.

How else could we have escaped the constant dread of living through a pandemic, without new episodes of the most binge-able TV shows right at our fingertips?

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Our old favorites like Netflix and Hulu delivered more and more reliable TV shows, movies and documentaries that we love to watch, while new services like the revamped HBO Max and Quibi flourished and crashed, respectively.

Here were some of our favorites.


It doesn’t matter if you were the popular kid, the jock or a nerd just trying to get by, middle school was incredibly awkward and embarrassing for us all, and “Pen15″ does an incredible job at capturing that moment in our lives. Creators Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle star as middle school versions of themselves, while their classmates are played by actual 13-year-olds. It’s hilarious, nostalgic, heart-breaking and will make you miss your seventh-grade BFF more than ever.

Where to watch: Hulu

‘The Crown’

There is no doubt that “The Crown” has always been good, but after three seasons, it seems that the show has finally gotten to the juicy stuff, aka, the Princess Diana years. For those who remember when Diana entered the orbit of the Royal Family, it should come as no shock that Prince Charles was (allegedly) the worst, but for millennials who grew up knowing Diana but not much about her backstory, it’s incredibly enlightening to see just how tortured she was in her marriage to Charles.

Plus, include the delicious performances of Olivia Colman as the queen, Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret and Gillian Anderson as Margaret Thatcher, and you’ve got one of the best seasons of the show so far.

Where to watch: Netflix

‘Ted Lasso’

This new comedy from AppleTV+ flew under the radar when it premiered over the summer, but if there is any new show you want to start while you’re hanging out at home over the holidays, make sure it is “Ted Lasso.” Ted Lasso is an American football coach who gets hired to coach a down-on-their-luck professional soccer (er, football) team in the Premiere League in England.

Lasso knows not a thing about actual football, but what he lacks he makes up for in positivity, empathy and kindness. Jason Sudeikis plays the lovable Lasso, creating one of the best new TV characters of the year.

With a year that was filled with so much negativity, the positivity of “Ted Lasso” might be a welcome distraction.

Where to watch: AppleTV+

‘Never Have I Ever’

There are a lot of shows about teens on this list (somehow that has become a recurring theme this year), and none of them capture teenage life in the year 2020 better than “Never Have I Ever.” Created by Mindy Kaling, the show follows high schooler Devi as she grapples with having crushes on boys, losing her beloved father and coming to terms with her Indian identity. Fans of Kaling’s other work like “The Office” or “The Mindy Project” will appreciate the pop culture jokes and hilarious antics, but this show has a lot of heart, too.

Where to watch: Netflix

‘Schitt’s Creek’

No one had a better year than the cast of “Schitt’s Creek.” Period. The show’s popularity grew over the course of its six-season run, and after wrapping up the series in a perfect bow for audiences, the cast went on to win practically every comedy Emmy at this year’s awards show, including best acting wins in all four of the categories. Moira Rose made us cry in the last episode of the show, and Catherine O’Hara made us cry when she won her Emmy. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Where to watch: Netflix

‘The Undoing’

“Big Little Lies” creator David E. Kelley teamed up again with Nicole Kidman for another book adaptation-turned-mini series. The series didn’t open with big fanfare, but by the time the series finale aired on Thanksgiving weekend, it’s all people on Twitter could talk about. While most viewers were expecting a giant surprise reveal, the last episode was a bit of a downer. Still, with great performances from the entire cast (which included Hugh Grant, Donald Sutherland and Noma Dumezweni) and a classic murder-mystery storyline, “The Undoing” became a major TV moment of 2020.

Where to watch: HBO Max

‘The Queen’s Gambit’

If you’re wondering why all your friends and family are suddenly learning to play chess as a new hobby, you have “The Queen’s Gambit” to thank. Beth Harmon goes from orphan to chess prodigy in just a few years, but her trauma from childhood resurfaces and she becomes the best chess player in the world. Most of us never thought twice about chess being entertaining to watch, but “The Queen’s Gambit” really shows just how thrilling the game is to play. It did such a good job that even chess set sales have increased ever since the show came out.

Where to watch: Netflix

‘The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City’

We respect reality TV just as much as scripted TV, and there was no better reality TV to watch in 2020 than “The Real Housewives.” While some cities like “New York” and “Atlanta” have been around forever and continue to deliver season after season, newcomers Salt Lake City arrived in November like an ice-cold Mormon wind, ready to prove why the “Housewives” franchise is still the best. We’re only six episodes into the premiere season, and it’s already given us multiple iconic moments that will go down in “Real Housewives” history. From “you smell like hospital” to a Met Gala-themed brunch, the Salt Lake City ladies have delivered so far.

Where to watch: Bravo

‘Taste The Nation’

“Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi filled the hole that Anthony Bourdain left when he died in 2018 with her show, “Taste The Nation.” While Bourdain would travel all over the world and try various cuisines, Lakshmi is tasting all of the flavors of the world, but in America. She travels to cities that are known for bringing a country’s cuisine to the United States, and explores how food and culture mix in this often-divided nation.

Where to watch: Hulu

‘The Real Housewives of Potomac’

Another “Real Housewives” city had a big season, and it’s another one of the newer installments to the brand. Potomac (which is a small affluent community just outside of Washington D.C.) flew under the radar its first few seasons, despite still being fantastic to watch. Things have picked up the past few seasons, and the highly anticipated fifth season did not disappoint. Most of the drama focused on a fight of epic proportions between two former best friends, but the ladies of Potomac are keeping things light, so there were plenty of laughs to go along. If you’re still sleeping on Potomac, considered yourself warned.

Where to watch: Bravo

‘I May Destroy You’

This is the one show this year in which the title really says it all. Created by and starring Michaela Coel, “I May Destroy You” is intense, raw and will stay with you for days after watching, but it’s something that you need to see if you haven’t already. Coel based the story and character after herself, and talks about the night she was sexually assaulted. While it’s a heavy show to watch, it’s a side of the story that we often don’t get to hear: from the victim.

Where to watch: HBO Max

‘Dead To Me’

Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini came back with the second season of their irresistible best friend dramedy “Dead To Me,” and it was a welcome distraction during the early days of the pandemic. The story of Jenn and Judy gets even more complicated after they killed someone at the end of season one, and given how season two ended in another cliffhanger, season three should be just as good.

Where to watch: Netflix

Honorable mention

‘Tiger King’

During a time in which we were all basically trapped inside our homes, “Tiger King” was the perfect distraction from the craziness of the world. “Tiger King” really isn’t even that special, but because it arrived right when the country shut down, it was something to watch and talk about in happy hour Zoom calls -- well, besides rising COVID cases and the lack of toilet paper in stores. Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin become household names, especially Baskin, who went on to compete in the latest season of “Dancing With The Stars.”

When you think about it, “Tiger King” wasn’t actually good; it was just an inside look at a world of people owning big cats and personal zoos that most of us had no idea existed. At the same time, it’s hard to imagine “Tiger King” existing in any other year besides 2020.

Where to watch: Netflix

About the Author

Jack is a Digital Content Editor with a degree in creative writing and French from Western Michigan University. He specializes in writing about movies, food and the latest TV shows.

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