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Top 20 TV shows of 2020

Staff Writer

2020 will go down in history as one of the worst in recent memory, with nobody coming out of it unaffected by illness, bereavement, job losses, financial struggles or other stresses and trauma. Throughout these past 12 months, one thing has been a constant: the presence of the TV in your living room / bedroom / kitchen / pocket to provide pure escapism, hard-hitting facts and provocative or cathartic entertainment. It’s sparked conversations online, united fans in appreciation (such as the brilliant Doctor Who Tweetalongs that have run throughout the year) and, above all, provided everyone with something to stare at that isn’t the latest coronavirus update from the government.

To keep those conversations and connections going, or to provide you with some catch-up inspiration during the first months of 2021, our team of writers voted on their favourite shows of this year – from Netflix and BBC to Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV+.

Here are the top 20 TV shows of 2020:

1. Small Axe

“A taut yet free-wheeling, important yet understated celebration of a community building – and defending – a home in a city that’s growing and changing, of voices being heard rather than being dismissed. There is heft and weight here, but there is also a vibrant urgency to proceedings, propelled by composition so pinpoint sharp you could feed it through a colander. This is vital, potent, compassionate filmmaking – and, fittingly, makes history in its own right.”

Watch on BBC iPlayer

2. I May Destroy You

“Michaela Coel’s frank exploration of consent is remarkable, personal and uncompromising TV.”

Watch on BBC iPlayer

3. Better Call Saul Season 5

“Things heat up in the thundering climax to Better Call Saul’s penultimate season.”

Watch on Netflix UK

4. I Hate Suzie

“Billie Piper’s bold and bittersweet TV show is sly, sardonic and simply unmissable.”

Watch on Sky and NOW TV

5. Ghosts Season 2

“Ghosts gets even more spirited in this clever, imaginative, laugh-out-loud funny second season.”

Watch on BBC iPlayer

6. Taskmaster Season 10

“Jumping from UKTV Play to Channel 4, it’s a relief to note that nothing has really changed at all, with the show’s uniquely daft format still as hilarious as ever – this is, against all the odds, exactly the TV show we need right now.”

Watch on BBC iPlayer

7. The Last Dance

This thrilling 10-part series tells the story of how Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls came to dominate and define basketball in the 1990s. Gorgeously edited and structured, the result is a binge-watch that will hook in anyone, even if they haven’t seen Space Jam.

Watch on Netflix UK

8. Normal People

“This smart and sensual adaptation is powered by its two impressive young stars.”

Watch on BBC iPlayer

9. Ted Lasso

“Jason Sudeikis is hugely charming as a clueless football manager in this delightful, optimistic TV gem that’s the nicest TV show of the year.”

Watch on Apple TV+

10. Staged

“David Tennant and Michael Sheen are hilarious in BBC One’s knowing lockdown satire.”

Watch on BBC iPlayer

11. Schitt’s Creek Season 6

“This delightful riches-to-rags sitcom maintains its sharply written charm until the very end. A standout comedy of the past decade.”

Watch on Netflix UK

12. Inside No 9 Season 5

“Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton’s impeccable anthology of wonderfully twisted tales is as hilariously warped and deliciously dark as ever.”

Watch on BBC iPlayer

13. The Queen’s Gambit

“Anya Taylor-Joy is never less than engaging in Scott Frank’s lavish drama about a troubled chess genius.”

Watch on Netflix UK

14. Into the Night

“If we don’t get out of here, the sunrise will kill as all.” Those are the immortal words that set Netflix’s Into the Night in motion – and they set the tone for a ludicrous and entertaining thriller.

Watch on Netflix UK

15. Feel Good

“Mae Martin’s raw study of dependency and love is funny, honest, moving and thoughtful telly.”

Watch on All 4

16. His Dark Materials

“The second chapter in this jaw-dropping Philip Pullman adaptation is bigger, bolder and darker.”

Watch on BBC iPlayer

17. Dead to Me Season 2

“The show’s blend of unpredictable potboiler thrills and surprisingly cathartic character drama is as darkly compulsive as ever.”

Watch on Netflix UK

18. The Boys Season 2

“The action is louder, the chaos is messier – but the satire is sharper too.”

Watch on Amazon Prime Video

19. This Country Season 3

“BBC Three’s mockumentary bids a hilarious yet poignant farewell with its funniest season yet.”

Watch on BBC iPlayer

20. Quiz

“ITV’s account of the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? cheating scandal is a sensational story, sensationally told.”

Watch on ITV Hub and BritBox UK

Other strong contenders: Upload (Amazon Prime Video) Bojack Horseman Season 6 (Netflix UK) Save Me Too (Sky and NOW TV) Sex Education Season 2 (Netflix UK) Gangs of London (Sky and NOW TV) Dracula Little Fires Everywhere (Amazon Prime Video) Ozark Season 3 (Netflix UK) Harley Quinn Season 2 (E4 / All 4) Unorthodox (Netflix UK) Tiger King (Netflix UK) The Mandalorian Season 2 (Disney+) The Salisbury Poisonings (BBC iPlayer) Lovecaft Country (Sky and NOW TV) DC’s Stargirl (Amazon Prime Video) The Good Place Season 4 (Netflix UK)

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