In an otherwise bad year, 2020 did come with the only thing the world can count on right now — television. TV series are a shoulder to lean on when you feel like 2020 won’t end anytime soon. They provide the much-needed escapism in a world battling the global pandemic. If someone told us a year ago that we would seek solace in a backstabbing-cat-people world, we would’ve called them insane. Yet we did. But more on Tiger King in some other article.
From Netflix to HBO, 2020 has transformed our love affair with television into a full-time committed relationship. Many countries have recently opened up due the decrease in COVID-19 cases. Although it’s tempting to return to life as we know it, it’s still safer to stay home and watch TV series. However, if you’re like us, you might be out of shows to watch. Don’t worry though — the streaming world is full of surprises.
So, if going out is still out of the question for you, we’ve asked our staff for some TV show recommendations. We’ve divided their picks into two categories:
We’ll begin with the first category. Here are the top TV series of 2020 so far according to our staff.
From the writer-director of Ex Machina, Alex Garland, comes an ambitious new series simply titled Devs. Garland didn’t stray too far from the tech world that brought Ex Machina both a critical and commercial success. And viewers around the world are glad for that!
Devs centers on a made-up tech company called Amaya, founded by an enigmatic CEO Forrest (Nick Offerman). The company is based in Silicon Valley and it inspires the confidence of many of its workers, including a young couple Sergei (Karl Glusman) and Lily (Sonoya Mizuno).
After a rather impressive presentation, Forrest invites Sergei to join Amaya’s secret department, Devs. Sergei can’t wait to find out exactly what the division does. However, he never returns home to his girlfriend, Lily, which acts as a catalyst for the ensuing events. Sergei’s death is ruled a suicide, but Lily isn’t convinced.
Devs follows Lily as she explores the mysterious death of her boyfriend and what he discovered at the secret department. The TV show has received generally positive reviews, with critics praising its acting, imagination, and soundtrack.
Where to Watch: FX on Hulu
Genre: Science Fiction Thriller
While waiting on the season 4 of the hit TV show Stranger Things, fans can explore the world of I Am Not Okay with This. The new coming-of-age comedy show is based on a Charles Forsman comic book and directed by Jonathan Entwistle who is famous for The End of the F***ing World.
The comedy explores the life of Sydney (Sophia Lillis), an angry Pennsylvania teen. At first glance, Sydney comes across, as she announces in a deadpan voiceover, as “a boring 17-year-old white girl.” But, as you’ll see if you watch the show, she’s anything but. Throughout the series, Sydney tries to maintain friendships with bubbly Dina (Sofia Bryant) and eccentric Stanley (Wyatt Oleff).
However, we find out that she’s never really dealt with her father’s suicide. This makes Sydney a volcano waiting to erupt. On top of that, she discovers mysterious superpowers which take her by surprise. So, this teenage girl needs to navigate the trials of high school, deal with the complexities of her family, and sudden supernatural strength.
Like many of our top TV series of 2020, I Am Not Okay with This has also received positive reviews, with praises for Lillis and Oleff’s performances.
Where to Watch: Netflix
Packed with remarkable performances, this television miniseries presents the world of women’s rights revolutionaries and their formidable counterrevolutionary. Mrs. America comes from the pen of Dahvi Waller, the writer of Mad Men. As you’ll see, it certainly deserves to be among other top TV series of 2020.
The miniseries is loosely based on the story of the movement to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment and its fierce enemy, Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett). We see the world through the eyes of the women of this era, including Schlafly and second-wave feminists Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, and Bella Abzug.
Similar to Mad Men, Mrs. America provides a fresh angle on the age of revolution through the eyes, first, of the counterrevolutionary Schlafly. She takes on the culture war over women’s rights to advance her conservative agenda. Schlafly is, by all accounts, the godmother of the modern anti-feminist movement.
Parallel to her story, viewers watch an ensemble series focusing on the 1970s feminist movement. The main protagonists are Steinem (Rose Byrne), Abzug (Margo Martindale), Representative Shirley Chisholm (Uzo Aduba), and other less-celebrated E.R.A. fighters. The group doesn’t feel threatened by Schlafly and her movement. Quite the contrary, they are too busy with the passage of the amendment.
The series premiered to critical acclaim around the world.
Where to Watch: FX on Hulu
Our list of “Top TV Series of 2020” wouldn’t be complete without the next title. Some historical figures are so fascinating that we need to revisit their lives over and over again. One of those figures is Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia. Although just last year Helen Mirren played the empress, HBO decided to shed a comical light on Catherine’s life.
The Great, starring Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult, takes a fictionalized approach that leaves you wanting more. This show is a coming-of-age comedy of cruel manners that makes you wonder whether you’d survive a day at Emperor Peter III’s court. What we love about The Great is that it immediately warns you that it’s “an occasionally true story.” It revels in all of its anachronisms, including swearing and feminism.
In this miniseries, a stubborn 19-year-old Catherine (Fanning) goes to Russia to marry Peter (Hoult). Catherine is unlike other Russian women of that time. She’s a francophile German, bookworm, and admirer of the Enlightenment. Sadly, contrary to her hopes, Catherine doesn’t find happiness with Peter, who’s portrayed as a man-child.
Without the support of her husband, she finds herself at the Russian court which is filled with drunken mirth, rococo ladies, and public sex. Disgusted with Peter’s views (“Women are for seeding not reading,” he proclaims in one episode), Catherine starts to consider a coup.
This show has gained generally favorable reviews.
Where to Watch: HBO
A few of our top TV series of 2020 have one thing in common — they are TV adaptations of famous books. One of them is The Outsider, based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name. Most renderings of King’s works, such as The Shining and It, were huge successes. Something tells us that The Outsider will be too.
The show focuses on the discovery of the body of an 11-year-old boy who was horrifically murdered. Local detective Ralph Anderson (Ben Mendelsohn) finds evidence that points to Terry Maitland (Jason Bateman), a Little League coach. Maitland is arrested, but he insists on his innocence. Although sure of his findings, Anderson can’t stop the case from falling apart.
Namely, Maitland has an alibi that shows he was out of town when the murder took place. Ralph digs a bit and confirms that Terry attended a conference on that day of the muder. This begs the question — what in the world is going on here? Find the answers while watching The Outsider.
Although generally praised, some criticize the show for its slow plot. However, its slow burn is intentional. After all, the show is slow in the way that a predator’s pace is slow.
Where to Watch: HBO
Genre: Horror crime drama
Fans of Conan O’Brien were eagerly waiting for the premiere of the animated space opera TV show Final Space that he executive produced. This comedy is set in the galaxy-traversing future that beckons you to keep watching.
Final Space is about a not-that-bright guy named Gary who is a bubbly yet inept astronaut. Gary (voiced by Olan Rogers who also created the show) wants to impress a successful female astronaut Quinn (Tika Sumpter) by pretending to be a pilot. However, this is when he spills top-secret government stuff. For this mistake, he is sent to jail aboard a spacecraft “Galaxy One.”
While there, Gary meets a mysterious alien whom he names Mooncake. They become friends and Gary discovers that Mooncake can destroy planets. His alien friend is also wanted by the Lord Commander (David Tennant), a powerful telekinetic creature. The two friends embark on a journey to save the universe while trying to find out what “Final Space” really is.
Final Space received mixed reviews from critics. But, trust us, it deserves to be among other top TV series of 2020. Season 3 is set to premiere in 2021.
Where to Watch: TBS
Genre: Animated space opera
Television and big screens love a good vampire. But viewers are mostly used to a dark insight into their lives. Indeed, these bloodsucking fiends are generally much less funny than they are in the wonderful new comedy What We Do in the Shadows.
The series is based on the 2014 movie of the same name, co-written and co-directed by Academy Award winner Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement. Although the two starred in the film, they’ve been replaced with a new gang of undead roommates who struggle to transform Staten Island into a vampire colony and live together in peace and harmony.
Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), her husband Laszlo (Matt Berry), and former Ottoman Empire warrior Nandor (Kayvan Novak) have shared a house for several centuries. Although mingling with humans, they have failed to conquer the new world for vampires. We also meet Guillermo (Harvey Guillen), their assistant who works his fingers to the bone in hopes that the group will turn him into a vampire one day. This quirky and funny approach to vampires makes What We Do in the Shadows one of our favorite picks on the “Top TV Series of 2020” list.
Following its huge success, What We Do in the Shadows was renewed for a second season which premiered on April 15, 2020.
Where to Watch: FX
Genre: Mockumentary comedy horror
We hope you’ve enjoyed our top TV series of 2020 and that you have a few favorites like we do. So, pop yourself some popcorn, turn off the lights, and press play on one of the above shows!