What a Year: The Greatest and Worst TV Shows of 2020

The year 2020 has been a real journey. With many of us stuck at home, we’ve had to resort to the screen a little more than usual. With that in mind, the many streaming services (and some good old-fashioned TV networks) have been hard at work, trying to meet our demands.
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While there have been many gems this year with shows like Netflix’s “The Queens Gambit” or HBO’s “This Much I Know,” others, however, missed the mark big time (“Hunters” we’re talking about you.) At the end of the day, good or bad, we’ve been there for all of it. So without further ado, here are all the shows that made their mark in 2020.

Hoops (Worst)

The animated Netflix series is about a high school coach named Ben Hopkins (voiced by Jake Johnson) who tries to transform his disappointing basketball team into all-stars. It’s been called outrageous and foul-mouthed, which, to be fair is usually how these animated series go. A handful of them stay smart and funny.

 

The rest are generally crass horror-shows that try to get away with things that could never be done in live-action shows.

Selena: The Series (Worst)

Selena was one of America’s most beloved Latin artists of all time. One of the things that make her story so fascinating aside from her enormous talents, was her incredible rise to stardom, and her ultimate tragic death all before the age of 23 years old.

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Sadly this Netflix biographical drama misses the mark and fails to capture the full scope of the icon’s story. Critic Kristen Maldonado in a YouTube review said that “it was missing the depth and the heart and the star power of what Selena should be about.”

Brews Brothers (Worst)

Here’s a slightly fresh concept that we haven’t seen on TV that much, a story about a family brewery. Sounds promising enough. You have family drama, beer, and business. Unfortunately, the show just doesn’t land, and neither do any of the jokes.

 

Perhaps if they spent more energy creating characters and interesting storylines than they did on explaining the complexities of  beer classifications and types of yeast,  then perhaps things would have been different.

Labor of Love (Worst)

This Fox reality series claims to explore the procreation dilemma facing many women today and how the process of finding that special Mr. Right who can father their child. In reality, it’s the “Bachelorette” seeking a sperm donor.

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If you think that sounds romantic, then we’re sorry to inform you that Kristy and Kyle (her pick of the lot) broke up a few months after the show. Thankfully they never got to the kid, but Kristy has decided to pursue motherhood alone.

Too Hot to Handle (Worst)

Another Netflix reality competition that took up too much of our time this year (even though some of us had a lot to give.) If you feel like watching a season of hot dummies work hard at not touching each other, then go ahead and bring out the popcorn.

 

But if you don’t, then we completely understand you.

Ratched (Worst)

This take on the legendary Nurse Ratched from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” ends up over the top, and feeling more like a rejected pitch for “American Horror Story” rather than an actual in-depth look at the character.

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While there’s a lot to get into, we’ll just keep it simple and call Netflix’s Ratched wretched.

Avenue 5 (Worst)

Looks like we’re in the era of space comedies. Unfortunately, they’re not really working for us. If “Space Force” wasn’t enough of an indication of this, the execs at TV land hopefully learned their lesson with “Avenue 5.” Can you believe this was done by the creators of “Veep?” We can’t!

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The show stars the usually funny Hugh Laurie and Josh Gad. Keyword, usually. Let this show be a reminder that HBO can’t always get it right.

The Sinner (Worst)

The anthology crime drama mystery’s third installment welcomes a new cast, this time Chris Messina and Matt Bomer. Unfortunately, we’re not feeling these two this time. The show explores Jamie and Nick’s mysterious history but fails to make it matter.

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We may have been more invested in the characters in the previous season, as this one just comes off flat. With too many long-winded boring scenes, the show may have reached its expiration date.

Connecting (Worst)

Filmmaking was another one of the many industries that went remote this year, and this NBC series “Connecting” was a result of that. Unfortunately, while it may have been well-intentioned, the show attempts to gloss over some of the more grim aspects of that experience, and the effect is kind of annoying.

 

As the saying goes “too soon.” If you want to relive the darker moments of 2020 but in sugar-coated, then tune in to this one. If not, we suggest you give it a miss.

Next (Worst)

We were pretty excited to see one of our favorite Mad Men John Slattery make a comeback to the screen. His last stint on Amazon’s “Modern Love” was also well-received, but this one proves to be rather disappointing.

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The show lacks narrative structure, has too many characters, and just zero momentum. The good cast of actors deserved better than this.

Run (Worst)

While many of the bad shows on this list are laughable failures, this one actually started out really great. “Run” starring Merrit Weaver and Domhall Gleeson play two exes with explosive chemistry who, in the past, made a pact to drop everything at once and board a cross-country train together if either one of them ever decides to text the word “run.”

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Sadly it all gets destroyed when one too many twists and turns get thrown into the mix. It then devolves into a very unnecessary crime drama. All in all, unsatisfying.

Absentia (Worst)

Description: The series tells the story of Emily Byrne (Stana Katic), an FBI agent who disappears without a trace and declared dead in absentia. Six years later, she reappears clinging to life, with absolutely no recollection of the years that she was missing. All this time, the FBI believed she had been killed by the serial killer she had been hunting at the time of her disappearance. Now, Byrne sets out to reclaim her identity and family and resume her life.

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Why it’s a stinker: We’re just going to come out and say it, “Absentia” is as basic as it gets. The production didn’t take any risks leaving its lead and somewhat intriguing mystery plot treading water.

Snowpiercer (Worst)

Before Bong Joon-ho became a household name with his critically acclaimed “Parasite” he actually managed to score himself a director’s credit for the $40 million movie “Snowpiercer.” That was in 2013. In 2020, Netflix took that success and turned it into a series.

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The premise is the same. Set in a dystopian future where the world has frozen over, the survivors, separated by class, ride a train through the snow for the rest of their days. It seems to have everything going for it (Jennifer Connely is onboard after all) yet it somehow manages to turn into a glorified cop show.

The English Game (Worst)

For those who won’t be satisfied with a brief Wikipedia reading on the development of English football, you now get to watch a “Downton Abbey” style six-part miniseries on how the game took hold of England.

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It’s got all the things you would expect of an  English period drama; long walks on the grass, ladies in dresses, uncomfortable stares, rich people, and of course a lot of kicking a leather ball around.

Hunters (Worst)

If you’re into history, drama, and Al Pacino, this next one is for you. The series inspired by real events follows a group of vigilantes on the hunt for German WWII criminals living in New York City in 1977. This diverse band of justice seekers find themselves in the United States when they learn that there’s a conspiracy to create a Fourth Reich in the U.S – there they seek to aim justice and get revenge.

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With a solid cast, and an even stronger sense of justice, there’s something about “Hunters” that somehow feels “off” to us. Perhaps season two will manage to do the show with a promising premise justice?

Space Force (Worst)

It may have seemed like a shoo-in. Round up the creators from “The Office,” throw in Steve Carell and set it in space. Sadly things didn’t go according to plan and this mega-budget sitcom totally tanked about halfway through the first episode.

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Why? You may ask. Well, the general consensus seems to be that it felt like the show was saturating and caricaturing well-liked politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and of course, the unfunny jokes. We hope they get it right next time.

Council of Dads (Worst)

This Disney Channel series “Council of Dads” tells the story of a group of buddies who end up with the job of raising their dying friend’s baby together. It’s got pretty much all the shenanigans you would expect when you bunch a couple of dudes together trying to “do” fatherhood.

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Expect the cliche moral lessons when the boys realize what fatherhood is really all about. We’ve seen this stuff before.

Broke (Worst)

As “Indebted” proved,  the“family moving in unexpectedly” premise reached its expiration date in the year 2020. At least that’s what we all thought. Then along came “Broke” and reminded us that we’re not quite done with this.

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Aside from the stale jokes, this ill-timed sitcom aired in a year where many families have been struggling financially, and that perhaps, is not very funny.

Emily in Paris (Worst)

If the first half of 2020 could be summed up by “Tiger King,” the second half is certainly all about “Emily in Paris.” The show scored a one-star review in The Independent but did somehow manage to divide the internet, with one half rooting for the innocent American Instagram heroine, and the other half complaining about the painful French cliches.

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We will say there’s not much substance here, but you might enjoy the pretty colors (and humans.)

Hollywood (Worst)

Ryan Murphy definitely knows how to make things look pretty. Unfortunately, as with most of his projects, they begin strong but then inevitably fall flat, and “Hollywood” is no exception. The cast is great, the homage to the golden age of Hollywood is entertaining, but then it loses the plot.

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We can still hold onto that wonderful cast, including a finally non-Sheldon Jim Parsons and Darren Criss who wowed us in “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” Newcomer Samara Weaving is also someone you ought to watch out for.

Chrissy’s Court (Worst)

Another Quibi production we have here, proving that this production company is fast becoming home to some of the world’s worst shows. But if you’re a fan of Twitter celeb Chrissy Teigen, then this show might be for you.

 

This bizarre Judge Judy style parody fronted by the charisma-less Tiegen is both pointless and painful. Though each episode only lasts six minutes, those six minutes feel like an eternity.

Dummy (Worst)

In the wake of the #metoo era, there have been a string of shows jumping on the feminist bandwagon, some successfully, and some very much not. Case in point “Dummy.” The disappointing Dan Harmon show tells the story of an aspiring feminist writer and, um, how we do put this gently, and an adult toy that comes to life.

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The dialogue is strained and uncomfortable with some tasteless jokes.

Indebted (Worst)

It’s a shame “Indebted” didn’t take off. The show stars the talented Abby Elliot (“SNL”, ” Odd Mom Out” and more) and the legendary Fran Drescher (“The Nanny”,) yet even these two couldn’t save the show from its eventual flop.

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Stock characters, cliched storylines, we doubt this show will surpass a season.

October Faction (Worst)

We’ve certainly given the good shows their due. So now it’s time for the trainwrecks. “October Faction” is a Netflix teen drama/horror series that follows a pair of monster hunters who are apart of an international secret society that works to keep the world protected from the paranormal.

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The handful of okay performances aside, this graphic novel adaptation couldn’t quite hit the right tone and just ends up unnecessarily complicating the original story.

Away (Average)

The Netflix series takes place in the not-so-distant future where the world is about to witness its first mission to Mars, and it’s led by all women. The mission is a huge undertaking supported by five of the most powerful nations and is scheduled to last three years.

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Hillary Swank plays Emma Green, the mission’s captain who is struck by personal tragedy when her husband (Josh Charles) suffers a stroke. It’s a dazzling and emotional show about matters of the heart and human ingenuity, but the critics were less into it we suppose.

The Great Catherine (Average)

The Great Catherine is clearly having her moment. HBO brings us another decent show about the life of the legendary Russian ruler. The four-part miniseries stars Helen Mirren as the empress in the golden years of her reign.

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Helen Mirren is phenomenal as ever, depicting the mighty ruler who refuses to bow down to any man, no matter how much they make her try.

Schitt’s Creek (Best)

“Schitt’s Creek” is now a staple of the Netflix family at this point. In the latest season of the hilarious Dan Levy series, we watch the family grapple it out, coming together in this strange and small town.

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The show manages to hit a bit more of an emotional cord this time, but of course, all of that is done with incredible humor that we have seen throughout the series.

The Good Place (Best)

“The Good Place” came to an end this year, giving viewers a wonderfully satisfying ending after four seasons. The show beautifully packed together deep philosophical and existential questions all in a cute, charming, and funny way.

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With so many premium dramas on streaming TV these days, “The Good Place” is proof that more traditional style network TV can still be mightily entertaining.

Devs (Best)

This new mini-series by Alex Garland focuses on Lily Chan (Sonoya Mizuno) an engineer for a fictional quantum computing tech giant called Amaya. Chan eventually finds herself at the center of the corporate espionage scandal that involves the kind of technology that has the potential to change the notions of human existence.

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It’s not an easy plot, and has that signature Garland style we saw in “Annihilation” and “Ex Machina.” With a bit of mental effort though, it’s totally worth it.

Dave (Best)

The YouTube sensation “Lil Dicky,” the Jewish rapper who went viral got his own show. And it’s as bizarre as you would expect. “Dave” follows the rapper, his bipolar promoter, his Wall Street junkie roommate, and kindergarten teacher girlfriend and their everyday lives.

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Don’t worry, it’s not as juvenile as it sounds. The show manages to offer its take on important matters like friendship, mental health, and the road to achieving your dreams.

Tiger King (Best)

The year 2020 would not be complete had it not been for “Tiger King.” The scandalous tale of Joe Exotic captivated the world in a time of a much-needed distraction. The seven-episode docu-series dives into the strange world of big cat owners like Joe Exotic, Carole Baskin, and Doc Antle.

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Though it may not sound intriguing enough on the surface, this show involves a three-way marriage, an assassination plot, and a mysterious disappearance.

Mrs. America (Best)

Lauded by some as the best series of 2020, “Mrs. America” beautifully tells the story of Second Wave Feminism’s most iconic leaders. The great Cate Blanchett takes the lead as Phyllis Schlafly, the famous conservative politician known for trying to hold back the feminist movement of the ’70s.

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Watch Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne) Bella Abzug (Margo Martindale,) Shirley Chisholm (Uzo Aduba,)  Betty Friedan (Tracey Ullman,) and more take on all who defy them.

Upload (Best)

Amazon also makes the cut with its interesting show that explores the relationship between technology and humanity. “Upload,” tells the story of a man whose consciousness is “uploaded” to the cloud after dying in a suspicious car accident.

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The show grapples with mortality and the human “god-complex.” It’s also created by Greg Daniels, the man behind “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation,” so you know it’s going to have humor.

Normal People (Best)

It’s always challenging adapting novels, especially as one as internal and delicate as this one (by writer Sally Rooney) but Hulu’s “Normal People” succeeds in bringing the Irish teens’ Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan passionate love story to life.

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The visually striking series depicts young love and differences in class. Prepare for lots of gentle whispers.

Feel Good (Best)

Stand up comedian Mae Martin charmed viewers with her incredibly personal and poignant debut TV series “Feel Good.” The heartfelt Channel 4-Netflix romantic drama follows Mae and her journey to reclaim control over her love life and career while struggling with her bouts of addiction.

 

Critics have compared the quippy tone and wit to the BBC’s “Fleabag.” IndieWire’s Jude Dry called this one refreshingly goofy and, at times, painfully introspective.”

The Last Dance (Best)

Another sports docu-series, “The Last Dance” tells the story of the unforgettable Chicago Bulls in the Michael Jordan days. Watch Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, Ken Burns, and more revisit the iconic period of basketball.

 

Director Jason Hehir artfully gets the legendary players talking like it was 1998 all over again, with the laughs, the anger, and a lot of the pain. Obama even has his two cents.

Homecoming (Best)

Adapted from the podcast of the same name, “Homecoming,” follows Heidi Bergman. Portrayed by Julia Roberts, Bergman tries to piece together the reason behind leaving Homecoming, the treatment center for veterans she worked at as a therapist. Years later, working as a waitress, Heidi realizes that there’s a lot more to the story than what she’s been telling herself.

 

“Homecoming”  is a well-executed mystery that avoids a lot of the pitfalls of mystery shows. It is a visually aesthetic exploration of trauma, and the conflict between the human heart and mind.

I May Destroy You (Best)

Michaela Coel, the talent behind “Bubblegum” shocked viewers with an entirely different show this year. The BBC One and HBO joint production follows Arabella (Coel) as she attempts to piece together the shocking events that took place after getting her drink spiked at a bar.

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It’s a show that deals with a plethora of themes from male to female dynamics, abuse, and race, yet all with a dose of deliciously dark humor. The result is an extremely original story.

Dead to Me (Best)

Not many thought that this Netflix gem, “Dead to Me” had any steam left for a second season, but once again, the surprisingly good dark comedy did not disappoint. The latest installment of the show got even more complex.

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Jen Harding and Judy Hale (Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini) find themselves navigating yet another crime together, and actress Natalie Morales enters the show as an endearing new character with an interesting arc, one that connects specifically to Judy. No spoilers.

Lovecraft Country (Best)

JJ Abrams and Jordan Peele joined forces to create this bold new HBO series. The story follows Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) who journeys on a cross-country road trip with his friend and uncle.

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Things take a turn when they find themselves confronted by the awful racial terrors that plagued America during the 1950s, except it’s a lot worse than they thought because, in this world, these racists are actual monsters.

Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi (Best)

Padma Lakshmi is really the only person you can trust when it comes to a culinary journey of the entire nation. The tasty adventure reveals the subtleties of your favorite foods and their diverse origins. It’s an incredible lesson on the things we take for granted, even something as a simple hotdog.

 

The Hulu show reveals just how much a melting pot America really is and how the country is really one giant food experiment.

Pen15 (Best)

The ever original Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle burst onto our screen last year with their hilarious take on adolescence, and they’re back. In its second season, the show takes a slightly darker turn into some of the more difficult aspects of tweenhood and friendships.

 

There’s also more input from the moms of the show, as well as a deliciously complex arc about the girls’ new frenemy. If you grew up in the early 2000s, you will appreciate the show’s hyper level of accuracy.

The Boys (Best)

The show follows a world where superheroes are commodified into action figures and take part in heroic publicity stunts so that the powerful corporation that owns them can market and monetize on them.

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Let’s be real, who doesn’t love superheroes misbehaving? “The Boys,” based on the comic by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson, introduces an eclectic cast of super-natural humans. Ahead of the show’s premiere, Amazon renewed “The Boys” for a third season.

I Know This Much is True (Best)

Mark Ruffalo outdoes himself in this one, twice! Playing identical twin brothers, Ruffalo does some serious work in this heavy HBO drama. The story follows Dominick who is tasked with the impossible job of helping his twin brother Thomas deal with his paranoid schizophrenia.

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As Thomas’s condition worsens, Dominick uncovers secrets about his family history, as well as the facility that seems to have a negative impact on his condition. The six-episode series directed by Derek Cianfrance (“Blue Valentine”) is filled with heartfelt sorrow and is a testament to incredible storytelling.

The Queen’s Gambit (Best)

This show makes chess look cool, which is probably the first time that’s ever happened. The Netflix Series surprise hit is actually based on a 1983 novel of the same name. The miniseries follows the story of the orphan Beth Harmon and her journey to becoming the world’s greatest chess player anyone has ever seen.

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Along the way, she suffers from some major addiction issues and takes on legendary Russian chess kings. The cinematography is beautiful, and the big-eyed Harmon, played by Anya Taylor-Joy is simply captivating.

The Mandalorian (Best)

It’s a hard act to follow, living up to the enormously successful Star Wars franchise, but the “Mandalorian” succeeded. If you’re not to sci-fi, and fantasy, then you can at least tune in to enjoy the achingly cute Grogu, AKA Baby Yoda.

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While the writing is not too shabby, (George Lucas at least help out on set for this one) the clear star here is Grogu. This little creature even makes murder look cute.

The Undoing (Best)

There’s a reason that there are such huge names attached to this one. The latest David E. Kelley installment (creator of “Ally McBeal,” “Big Little Lies,” “Boston Legal” and so much more) tells the story of a psychotherapist named Grace (Nicole Kidman) and how her world is torn apart when she discovers that her seemingly perfect children’s oncologist husband Jonathan (Hugh Grant) is accused of an unspeakable crime, and then some.

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It’s a psychological drama with countless twists and turns, making you not quite sure what to believe. The established heavyweights like Grant, Kidman, and Donald Sutherland give outstanding performances, while less familiar faces, steal the show too. Take note of Lily Rabe.