Let’s face it: 2020 sucked in an unprecedented way, by every single measure known to mankind, except one—television! With nowhere to go and nothing better to do, we’ve had little choice but to rely on the TV gods to entertain us, and the powers that be did so well at their one job that a weird conspiracy theorist might even wonder if Netflix and its peers had known in advance how the year was going to go. Wake up, sheeple!
With so many shows to choose from, and with new streaming platforms launching seemingly every week, you may have missed some gems, and that’s where this list comes in. We’ve singled out the most bingeworthy offerings from networks and streaming services this year, and ranked them all so you know what to prioritize.
Tales from the Loop
Anthology series. 8 episodes.
Based on Swedish artist Simon Stålenhag’s haunting digital paintings of misty, dreary scenes featuring giant, abandoned robots, this Amazon Prime anthology series of interlocking stories is set in a small midwestern town in the mid-1980s. That’s prime Amblin Entertainment and Stranger Things territory, though the show steers clear of worn-out nostalgia tropes and instead explores the Loop, an underground facility kind of like a particle collider that purportedly allows the impossible to become possible. With episodes directed by Mark Romanek and Jodie Foster (among others), and examining topics such as the effects of time travel on the human soul and the inevitability of death and grief, each part, like each Stålenhag painting, is a curiosity to be studied and, if you can, understood.
Season 2. 13 episodes.
Discovering this animated series, which debuted in November 2019 on the DC Universe streaming service, with Season 2 arriving in April, has been one of the many nice surprises brought about by the launch of HBO Max. Not unlike the 2020 Harley Quinn-centric DCEU movie Birds of Prey, the 26 existing episodes (a third season is set for 2021 on HBO Max), features plenty of fast-flying jokes and mayhem. But the genuinely emotional relationship between the wannabe supervillain (voiced by Kaley Cuoco) and best friend Poison Ivy (Lake Bell) sets Harley Quinn apart.
Limited series. 8 episodes.
With its shocking bursts of violence, grim subject matter, and bleak zero-sum view of humanity, ZeroZeroZero can be a tough sell. “A gut-punch Italian gangster epic that plays like an eight-episode version of Sicario” isn’t exactly the “comfort” viewing many viewers have been looking for this year. But ZeroZeroZero, which centers around siblings Emma (Andrea Riseborough) and Chris (Dane DeHaan) taking over their father’s drug-shipping operation, is intoxicating if you can get on its downbeat wavelength. Tricked out with an unnerving score from the Scottish post-rock group Mogwai and shot with an unblinking commitment to intensity by directors like Stefano Sollima, who helmed 2018’s Sicario: Day of the Soldado, it has a stylistic boldness that most other cartel dramas lack. The concluding episode, “Same Blood,” builds to one of the more chilling final scenes you’ll ever see in a crime drama.
Season 1. 10 episodes.
This Hulu comedic drama from the writer of The Favourite takes more than a little creative license with history in telling the story of Catherine the Great’s ascension to power in Russia. If you can overlook that, you’ll find a witty and smart series starring Elle Fanning that chronicles the royal’s scheme to overthrow husband Peter III (Nicholas Hoult), who is depicted alternately a nincompoop and a violent threat.
Season 6. 10 episodes.
Season six returns following the battle between brothers which has left Bjorn victorious and a hero to the people who have been under the tyrannical rule of Ivar for so long. As the new leader of Kattegat, Bjorn struggles to fill his late father’s shoes as king, while facing several dilemmas and wrestling with the idea that power overshadows morals. Meanwhile, Ivar, searching for a new path to separate him from his past, is seen traveling along The Silk Road eventually leading him to Russia. He meets his match in Prince Oleg, a ruthless and unpredictable Russian ruler, who shocks even Ivar with his merciless actions. While Lagertha has her own agenda – to live a quieter and less public life on her own farm, but new dangers lurk close to home. This season, the Vikings continue to take over Scandinavia as Ubbe and Torvi travel to Iceland to uncover the mystery circling around Floki’s disappearance and Hvitserk pursues his personal vendetta against Ivar.
Season 2. 10 episodes.
The slice-of-life comedy from Ramy Youssef is based on his experience as a millennial Muslim coming of age in New Jersey and follows the titular character’s obsessive journey to become a good person and devout Muslim. After a debut season that garnered critical acclaim and a Golden Globe for Youssef, Season 2 reaches new heights, including landing Mahershala Ali for a guest role as Ramy’s sheik. Much of the show’s humor is derived from Ramy’s knack for finding himself in uncomfortable circumstances (which result in him more often than not reverting to being shitty or self-serving), so it’s not always an easy watch, but you keep coming back because of how human it all feels.
The Haunting of Bly Manor
Anthology series. 9 episodes.
The Haunting of Hill House, horror auteur Mike Flanagan’s well-regarded 2018 Netflix miniseries, unearthed the roots of a family’s trauma using the very spirits that haunted them as children in a mansion that was like flypaper for people’s souls. Compared to that season, the second installment of what has become an anthology show with many of the same actors playing unconnected characters is barely frightening at all. But that’s far from a criticism. There are plenty of ghosts in Bly Manor, based on Henry James’ gothic mystery novel The Turn of the Screw, in which a governess comes to believe that her two young charges are being possessed by the ghosts of two lovers who had died on the grounds before she arrived, but the show spends less time on crafting its (very effective) scares and more on exploring what force could possibly be powerful enough to turn a dead person into a ghost. Death is a tragedy; a soul unable to move on even more so.
Season 1. 6 episodes.
The series, created by Crystal Moselle based on her 2018 movie, pulsates with the unmatchable energy of New York City as it follows a diverse group of women and queer skateboarders played by members of the real-life all-girl crew Skate Kitchen. Instead of featuring dramatic arcs typical of teen dramas, Betty tosses you a deck so you can simply ride alongside the ensemble while they navigate their individual identities and a space dominated by boys. It’s as freeing and delightful as it is authentic.
The Third Day
Limited series. 6 episodes.
With his wildly expressive eyes and his easily furrowed brow, Jude Law has no problem playing scared. That talent came in handy during the initial three-episode “Summer” section of The Third Day, a folk-horror mini-series that found the Young Pope star attempting to make sense of a mysterious island that may or may not hold secrets from his past. Blending elements of The Wicker Man, Lost, and live theater, The Third Day, a collaboration between writer Dennis Kelly (the BBC version of Utopia) and director Felix Barrett (Off-Broadway’s Sleep No More) can look intimidating. Do you need to watch the absurdly long live event where Jude Law lugged around pieces of wood? Probably not. Despite its curious structure, The Third Day is best experienced as a spooky suspense story, one that doubles back on itself in gripping, surprising ways.
Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens
Season 1. 10 episodes.
Awkwafina—the Crazy Rich Asians scene-stealer and star of The Farewell whose real name is Nora Lum and who grew up in the Forest Hills neighborhood in Queens, New York—co-created this tidy little vehicle showcasing her comedic talents. She plays a fictionalized version of her pre-fame self who is navigating the often irksome, baffling rules of adulthood, as well as her complicated relationships with her dad (BD Wong), grandmother (Lori Tan Chinn), and snarky cousin (Bowen Yang). The Comedy Central show, which gives off a Broad City vibe, is available to stream on HBO Max.
Season 5. 7 episodes.
Even in a truncated fifth season, paused in the middle of production as COVID shut-down New York, Billions continued to find inventive ways to spin its central rivalry. Paul Giamatti’s Attorney General Chuck Rhoades and Damien Lewis’s hedge fund genius Bobby Axelrod aren’t always at each other’s throats anymore, settling into the type of détente that often arrives midway through a show’s long run, but the series pushes them by introducing new supporting characters who push against their basest instincts. In Corey Stoll’s Mike Prince, a do-gooder rich guy, co-creators Brian Koppelman and David Levien have added a new wrinkle to the show’s moral universe. More than the wrestler cameos and the food porn, that ability to complicate the show’s central premise is what keeps us coming back for more.
Season 5. 10 episodes.
With the addition of a mysterious terrorist, a missing protomolecule specimen, and a bunch of rocks hurtling towards humanity’s homeworld, Season 5 of The Expanse turns things up several notches. Overwhelmed by the opportunity presented by the exoplanets reachable through the Ring, thanks to the protomolecule mysteriously left behind by an unknown and seemingly all-powerful alien race, the solar system is on tenterhooks once again, plenty of factions vying for control of the wormholes, disturbing the tentative peace between Earth, Mars, and the Belt. Adding a further wrinkle is the appearance of Belter terrorist Marco Inaros (Keon Alexander), driven to near insanity by the slights and hardships he suffered as a citizen of the asteroid belt, who plans to declare war on Earth by launching stealth-cloaked asteroids at the planet’s surface. The crew of the Rocinante, traveling separate paths for the first time, must figure out how to save the solar system from descending into war once again.
Season 4. 10 episodes.
With the introduction of Princess Diana and Margaret Thatcher, The Crown has reached the juiciest period of Queen Elizabeth II’s incredibly long reign, a stretch roughly bookended by the Royal Wedding and the end of the Iron Lady’s tenure as Prime Minister. The production is as lavish as ever, but it’s all anchored in wonderful work by newcomer Emma Corrin as the People’s Princess and Gillian Anderson as the loathed prime minister. (Anderson’s take on Thatcher has been divisive, but we’re on the pro side, especially during the Ibble-Dibble scene.) The abrupt final sequence of Season 4 sets the table for what should be a very dramatic fifth season, with Emily Debicki and Dominic West taking over as Princess Diana and Prince Charles, respectively, and Imelda Staunton replacing Olivia Colman, as the saga heads into the fateful 1990s.
Season 1. 24 episodes.
Do you like darkly funny heist stories with endings that are maybe predictable—the good guys win, of course—but the routes taken to get there blindside you with twists you never saw coming? Then Great Pretender is absolutely the series for you. Yes, it’s anime; yes, you’ll read subtitles. But the trajectory of small-time swindler Makoto Edamura (“Edamame,” when he’s being denigrated) falling in with heavy-hitting con man Laurent Thierry and his assembled crew—jetsetting around the world for drug busts, art heists, plane races, and revenge on human trafficking schemes—fills in nearly every question mark in deft gestures across its 24 episodes while, by the end, still leaving a door ajar that you’ll hope swings open for another season or two.
I Hate Suzie
Limited series. 8 episodes.
Lucy Prebble and Billie Piper cribbed liberally from the latter’s own life in creating Suzie Pickles, the actress at the center of I Hate Suzie. But it’s where Piper’s and Suzie’s lives differ that creates the conflict. Suzie, not Piper, is the victim of a phone hack wherein photos of her in a compromising sexual situation with a man who is very clearly not her husband are made public. Even before the leak, her career and marriage had by no means been perfect, but the photo hack sends her spiraling. This inventive half-hour quasi comedy is as funny as it is stress-inducing, with revelatory work from Piper.
Never Have I Ever
Season 1. 10 episodes.
From co-creators Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher, Never Have I Ever stars Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as Devi, a high schooler so desperate to increase her social standing that, over the course of the season, she ends up alienating basically everyone in her circle. The show, which has been renewed for a second season, mashes up absurdist humor (including having famously cantankerous tennis great John McEnroe narrate) with pathos. It’s as much about Devi’s grief over the death of her father as it is about her wanting to kiss boys.
Season 2. 7 episodes.
Is a TV show wherein two adult women (Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle) play middle-school versions of themselves opposite actual middle-school-aged actors a tough sell? By the second season of the wildly funny and uncomfortably real PEN15, you either get it or you don’t, but the scripts nail the weirdo tendencies that girls of a certain age who lived through the early 2000s gravitated toward in the pursuit of finding their place in the world and allow the two actresses to blend in with the kid cast as their grade’s outcasts. Season 2 digs new emotional resonance from the most terrible years of American youth, from more frivolous endeavors like dabbling in witchcraft (poorly) and school-sponsored theatrical productions to heavier topics like divorce. Maya and Anna’s surreal, mature delusions reinforce the all-consuming Big Feelings that make every moment of early teenhood seem revelatory.
The Plot Against America
Miniseries. 6 episodes.
David Simon and co-creator Ed Burns’ adaptation of Philip Roth’s novel imagines a “what if?” scenario that directly addresses the America of the past four years. Namely, what’s the worst that could happen if a populist candidate somehow won the presidential election? In the short, well-written but sometimes too-on-the-nose miniseries’ case, the worst is putting a Nazi sympathizer in the Oval Office who alters the course of World War II and threatens the safety of millions of Jewish families.
Season 3. 8 episodes.
In the final season of Netflix’s German-language sci-fi brain-buster, the forces of good and evil vying for control of the very nature of time itself in the past, present and future of Winden wend further along their possibly unending temporal loop that we now know also spans a parallel universe. Jonas, having been rescued by Martha 2 in the second-season finale, is more determined than ever to stop the villainous Adam and return things to normal. But undoing a knot that has held Winden in balance for five generations requires a sacrifice, resulting in one of the most shocking and emotional conclusions to a TV show you’ll see this year.
Miniseries. 4 episodes.
One of the surprise breakouts of early quarantine was this miniseries from Deutschland 83 co-creator Anna Winger. Adapted from Deborah Feldman’s memoir of the same title, the Emmy-nominated drama follows Esty, a young woman raised in the ultra-Orthodox Hasidic community of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. She escapes from an unhappy marriage where she doesn’t meet the child-bearing expectations of her husband and her community and heads to Berlin, where she falls in with a group of music students. Anchored by an extraordinary performance from Shira Haas, Unorthodox deftly explores the divide between religion and faith.
Season 1. 8 episodes.
Playwright Katori Hall’s Starz series takes you “down in the valley where the girls get naked,” as the theme song says, to the world of The Pynk, a strip club in the fictional town of Chucalissa on the Mississippi Delta. Hall herself branded the show “Delta noir,” and it’s got all the trappings of that genre (mysterious women, dramatic lighting, etc.) but all filtered through a distinctly Black and Southern lens. It’s also got one of the best soundtracks of any piece of entertainment this year. Stream “Fallin'” and get back to me.
Season 2. 8 episodes.
The Boys, already the savviest show about the state of pop culture, went even darker and harder in its second season. Despite operating in the same genre as Marvel and DC, The Boys is less about world saving and more about greedy corporate entities that trade on public fears in order to sell their product—the product in this case being superheroes. This batch of episodes introduced You’re the Worst‘s Aya Cash as a no-bullshit feminist using the language of women’s rights for her own evil aims, a fucked up narrative not just there for shock value: It gets to the root of something genuinely insidious in the entertainment industry.
Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!
Season 1. 12 episodes.
An anime celebrating anime might sound too meta for those who could not give one single fuck about anime, but trust me here: This one-and-done import (which first aired beginning in January on NHK General TV in Japan and concurrent worldwide streaming via Crunchyroll, with AT&T-owned sister site HBO Max adding it at launch in May), the series is accessible to everyone. Directed by the shapeshifting Masaaki Yusasa (who also did this year’s tragic eco-disaster Japan Sinks: 2020 and 2018’s supremely disturbing Devilman Crybaby, both on Netflix), KYHOE! is all about the euphoria and headaches of making art, driven by three passionate and occasionally self-obsessed high school girls who superimpose their wild imaginations over their city’s strange architecture to drum up big ideas for their short films. Deft, funny, and insightful, this is for anyone who’s ever had a big dream.
Limited series. 8 episodes.
Devs! Shout it out! If you love a bonkers yarn involving murder, quantum theory, and Nick Offerman in a villainous beard, boy, do I have a miniseries for you—this moody, visually stunning techno-thriller, entirely written and directed by Alex Garland and starring Offerman as a creepy tech CEO, Alison Pill as his chief designer, and Sonoya Mizuno as a software engineer who investigates the mysterious death of her boyfriend on his first day of work at the secretive company. Fans of Garland’s previous work, especially the 2007 Danny Boyle sci-fi horror movie Sunshine he scripted, will be mesmerized, even as the plot folds in on itself and threatens to venture into Black Mirror territory.
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Season 10. 10 episodes.
Has it really been 20-plus years since Curb Your Enthusiasm made its stealth brilliant debut as a mockumentary about Larry David’s post-Seinfeld attempt to revive his stand-up career? Yes, and, ever since, I have thought about the 1999 special that led to the show’s episodic debut a year later, for the scene where Larry calls an exec and says that he was an executive producer on Seinfeld and the guy replies, “Never watch it, not a fan,” which is so applicable in every day life. Anyway, the show’s come a long way over two decades and 10 seasons, but it’s still exactly what you need it to be, and funnier, at minimum, than Season 9, and probably a few other seasons as well. You’ll laugh, especially at the season-long arc about Larry’s “spite store” coffee shop, Latte Larry’s, unless you’re one of those “Never watch it, not a fan” guys.
Season 3. 10 episodes.
After two seasons being subjected to relentless pressure from various entities, Marty and Wendy Byrde (Jason Bateman and Laura Linney) somehow slip even deeper into the Missouri sludge. This time around, they get way too involved with a Mexican cartel, as their riverboat scheme begins to capsize under the weight of an FBI investigation and various antagonists and frenemies sick of their bullshit and looking to take them down. In the process, Season 3 ups the ante significantly over the uneven second season, and has set things up nicely for the fourth and final season. It also features a pretty perfect cameo by classic rockers REO Speedwagon and a fake arcade game Beast Slayer that Marty was obsessed with as a teen in the ’80s.
What We Do in the Shadows
Season 2. 10 episodes.
Season 1 of this vampires-in-Staten Island mockumentary walked so that Season 2 could sprint like a werewolf in the night. It’s one hit after the next this time around as we learn more about vampire housemates Nandor (Kayvan Novak), Laszlo (Matt Berry), Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), and Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch). The 10 episodes get into their fear of ghosts and distrust of witches, chain-email paranoia, and Laszlo’s surprising history with the song “Come On Eileen.” The episode guest-starring Mark Hamill, in which Lazlo goes on the lam and becomes a Pennsylvania town’s most passionate high school volleyball enthusiast, is not to be missed. What We Do in the Shadows has ascended from cult delight to one of the few must-watch comedies on TV.
The Flight Attendant
Season 1. 8 episodes.
In this twist-filled HBO Max original comedy-thriller, Kaley Cuoco plays an alcoholic flight attendant who wakes up after a one-night stand in Bangkok to find that the man’s throat has been slit and zero memory of how that might have happened. The eight episodes track her obsessive quest to solve the mystery while doing her best to to evade the FBI, her estranged brother, multiple assassins, a nosy colleague, and any question that might make her confront the root cause of her problems. It all works way better than anyone expected it would when HBO Max first announced the series and is among the most purely enjoyable binge-watching experiences of 2020.
Season 1. 10 episodes.
Set in the 1950s, Lovecraft Country follows the Freemans and the Lewises, two Black families from Chicago who find themselves caught up in a centuries-long battle between warring lodges dabbling in the esoteric dark arts. It begins with Korean War vet Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) receiving a letter from his father, Montrose (Michael K. Williams), which sets Atticus off on a cross-country rescue mission with childhood friend Letitia Lewis (Jurnee Smollett) and his uncle George (Courtney B. Vance). Atticus soon learns that he is a pawn sought by a secret-society patriarch (Scandal’s Tony Goldwyn) hatching a scheme to become the most powerful wizard in the country. That encounter sets off a quest to discover what’s really going on, and the monsters and ghosts Atticus, Letitia and their families encounter are only a smidge scarier than the segregated reality they live in. A solid mix of Watchmen-style allegorical world building and X-Files monster-of-week intrigue make this fantasy series from Misha Green a mind-melting must-see.
Limited series. 9 episodes.
It’s difficult to think of many shows with the same scope and ambition of Mrs. America, a nine-episode miniseries that follows the battle over the Equal Rights Amendment through the competing perspectives of conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett) and prominent femnist figures like Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne), Shirley Chisholm (Uzo Aduba), and Bella Abzug (Margo Martindale). Creator Dahvi Waller, who worked on similarly rich period dramas like Mad Men and Halt and Catch Fire, has a difficult task: How do you convey the unceasing grind of politics without losing sight of the people at the heart of the struggle? Her solution is to center individual episodes around different women while still placing Blanchett’s Schlafly at the center. The resulting balancing act made for an occasionally frustrating, often exhilarating show.
Season 3. 10 episodes.
The high wire act of Search Party continued as the comedy-mystery series hopped from TBS to HBO Max, with a brilliantly hilarious third season that put its Brooklyn hipsters on trial. With Alia Shawkat’s disaffected Dory Sieff and her exasperated former boyfriend Drew Gardner (John Reynolds) being tried for the Season 1 murder of Keith Powell (Ron Livingston), Search Party ratchets up its absurdity, while also transforming its heroine into a legitimate sociopath. Incredible guest turns from Shalita Grant, as Dory’s unorthodox lawyer, and Louie Anderson, as Drew’s jaded attorney, add to the fun. Season 4 is set to debut in January 2021, so happy new year in advance.
The Queen’s Gambit
Miniseries. 6 episodes.
The runaway popularity of The Queen’s Gambit, a show about a female chess prodigy who gets really good at outplaying a bunch of boys, is only surprising if you haven’t already seen it. Netflix’s miniseries, adapted from Walter Tevis’ 1983 novel of the same name, is a dark, sexy, intense exploration of the minds of obsessives, addicts, and strategic geniuses, as well as a fascinating foray into the cutthroat world of 20th century professional chess. The journey of Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) from precocious orphan to world-famous master of her craft is as exhilarating as it is, at times, deeply tragic, turning an unflinching eye on what happens when nurturing a childhood talent becomes feeding an endless desire to win at all costs.
Season 6. 14 episodes.
Schitt’s Creek is a Peak TV rarity: Instead of steadily shrinking over time, the Canadian-produced comedy from co-creators/stars Eugene and Dan Levy has actually gotten bigger with age. Since launching on cable’s Pop network in 2015, the show has seen its linear ratings more than double and its overall audience soar past 3 million viewers. Word of mouth around the series has also exploded, fueled by critical acclaim and a 2017 deal which put past seasons of the show on Netflix. But Schitt’s didn’t just happen overnight. It’s been a slow-rolling success, blowing up at a point in its run when most other shows would just be starting to wind down. Ahead of the series’ season-five premiere, Vulture called up the Levys, as well as execs at two of their network partners, for the inside story on just how the Rose family blossomed into an American beauty.
Season 2. 8 episodes.
In its second season, The Mandalorian kicked into an even higher gear than the first, which itself was among the most rapturous viewing experiences of 2019. Having accepted the mantle of transporting Grogu, née the Child, aka Baby Yoda, back to his own people, whoever and wherever they may be, Mando’s mission became clearer, his allies more colorful, and the line between good and evil blurrier with each subsequent episode. The show preserved the brisk, planet-hopping flavor of Season 1 while delving deeper into Star Wars lore without getting too bogged down in its own mythology. An exciting array of guest stars, surprise character appearances (including that super-famous one in the raucous finale), and delightfully crafted aliens (two words: Frog Lady) kept things fresh while still retaining that essential Star Wars spark. This is the way.
Season 1. 10 episodes.
Look, I’m as surprised as you are. I fired up the first episode of Apple TV+’s Ted Lasso with two thoughts: 1) Did we really need a goofy-sounding series starring a mustache-wearing Jason Sudeikis as a relentlessly upbeat, “aw, heck”-spouting American football coach hired to manage a dysfunctional English Premier League football team with a new owner harboring a secret plan to tank the season? and 2) Isn’t the “wise, old-school veteran saves the team from an undermining new female owner” premise very similar to that of the 1989 movie Major League, and if so, am I going to spend 10 episodes thinking about Charlie Sheen’s stupid creatively sculpted hair from that movie or that Dennis Haysbert, the actor best known as 24‘s President David Palmer and Allstate’s spokesman, played Jobu-worshipping first baseman Pedro Cerrano? The answer to both of these question turned out to be “yes,” and I have now joined the chorus of initially skeptical viewers who now consider Ted Lasso to have been the ultimate quarantine binge.
Better Call Saul
Season 5. 10 episodes.
It’s quite sad that we’re coming to the end of Better Call Saul and the Saul Goodman saga. When AMC wraps up Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould’s highly regarded but weirdly underrated prequel to Breaking Bad after Season 6, it’ll create a Bob Odenkirk-shaped hole in our hearts—unless Gilligan, Gould and AMC have a secret plan to follow it up a Saul Goodman sequel series that dives further into his Cinnabon years. Unlikely. For now, we’ll have to make do with the best written drama on TV, which, in Season 5, focuses on Jimmy McGill’s continued transformation into his slicker persona in the wake of Chuck’s death and its negative effect on Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn), and start placing wagers on how the series will all end. My money is on a shot-by-shot recreation of Saul’s first meeting with Walter White.
I May Destroy You
Limited series. 12 episodes.
Michaela Coel’s astounding series defies all expectations. What seems like it might at first be centered around the mystery of who attacked her character Arabella during a drunken night out, transforms the more you watch into an intimate, expressionistic, often devastating character study of a woman trying to reconcile her trauma with the hard-partying person she was prior to the incident. Based on an experience that happened to Coel herself, I May Destroy You follows no reliable structure, constantly playing with the concepts of time and memory as it unravels its narratives, all culminating in a striking finale that leaves you questioning the very nature of what a satisfactory conclusion to a story as layered as this one could even be.
Dead to Me
Season 2. 10 episodes.
The second season of Dead to Me—one of those rare plot-driven, half-hour comedies you can’t resist bingeing in a single sitting—retains the breezy, twisty quality that made Season 1 so popular but explores even darker territory as it asks, “What happens when two wine-swilling suburban women cover up a murder and discover the lies they’ve been telling each other?” Series creator Liz Feldman serves up outlandish plot surprises galore for Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini’s frenemy characters to contend with (seriously, so many twists!) but the Emmy-nominated leads’ chemistry makes it all work. Netflix announced in July that the show will wrap up with Season 3, likely arriving in 2021.
The Last Dance
Season 1. 10 episodes.
There are different ways for docuseries to distinguish themselves. Some do it through interesting formal choices or new revelations about their subject matter. What elevates ESPN Films’ “The Last Dance,” is its exhaustive level of detail and expertise. This is no mere piece of fan service. It is a stunningly refined and comprehensive look at the legacy and inner turmoil of one of the most essential sports teams of all time, the ‘90s Chicago Bulls, with input from every major player. We’ve all seen sports docs that throw up a few talking heads, self-proclaimed experts on a sport that they probably never played. But “The Last Dance” not only allows the major players from the Bulls of that era to tell their own story, but then supports those incredible athletes with an insane roster of interview subjects. It’s hard to imagine anyone said no. Not only does it include input from contemporaries like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Isaiah Thomas, and so many more athletes, along with the key sports journalists of the time—it just drops in interviews from President Barack Obama and Bill Clinton almost like it’s showing off. After all, if you’re going to make a documentary series about one of the most beloved sports franchises of all time, you really should aim to jump as high as its star did every night he was on the court.
Season 11. 8 episodes.
It’s definitely been a very memorable season for Archer. The show’s 11th year has successfully pulled Sterling Archer out of his multi-season coma and forced both him and his inner-circle to adjust to the many changes that they’ve faced. This season has featured Archer at his most alone and miserable, but it’s also highlighted a newly repentant side of the character. Against all odds, Archer has actually been able to exhibit personal growth, demonstrate newfound maturity, and even think about people other than himself. He also has a kick-ass new cane. “Cold Fusion,” the season finale, features a massive story that feels fitting as the conclusion to this satisfying run of episodes. As much as this new season has been about Archer returning to a new normal, “Cold Fusion” once again attempts to reestablish the status quo in a way that’s genuinely exciting. Archer’s executive producer, Casey Willis, exclusively breaks down this final installment of the season as he discusses Archer’s growth, his future with Lana, and what to expect in season 12.
Season 11. 14 episodes.
Created in 2011, by Loren Bouchard, the animated sitcom on Fox features the Belchers: Bob, Linda and their kids, Tina, Gene and Louise. Together, the family runs the titular family restaurant. I decided to give the series a go in 2013. At first, I couldn’t stand it. The Belchers were too quirky; the humor wasn’t snappy enough; the kids were weird. Slowly but surely, I grew to love them. Bob, like my father, was the patriarch in constant pursuit of the American dream; Linda, like my own mother, was his supportive, independent, often anxious wife. And his children were, like my sister and I growing up, awkward, innocent, yet sharp and loyal. Unlike so many other animated series I have watched—“Family Guy,” “American Dad”—the jokes in “Bob’s Burgers” are never at the expense of someone else’s experience. “In comedy, you want people bouncing off each other. You want a little disagreement,” Bouchard told NPR, “but for all of us working on the show, it ends up being more funny to just assume that they accept each other, the members of this family, and that the conflict comes from elsewhere, something more circumstantial.”