The Best TV Shows of 2020

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Critically speaking, there might be shows that exist to give some of these a run for the money.

But this year calls for a slightly different way of determining the best. Our souls are on the line, as is our sanity.

These shows address both our sanity and our souls with brilliant casts and fast-moving stories that surprise, comfort, and fascinate in meaningful ways. Excellent production values drive these series to the very top of the list of the best on TV for 2020.

Check out our picks below(in alphabetical order!).

Best Shows of 2020

Better Things (FX)

Three Generations of Better Things

When I reviewed Better Things Season 4 in March, I called it perfection. That still stands.

Creator and star Pamela Adlon doesn't shy away from life's ugly little secrets. Instead, she embraces them with nuanced beauty that makes her on-screen family (Sam and her three daughters, mother, and lots of friends) feel like our family.

There's not much better than that.

The Boys (Amazon)

The Boys Season 2 Homelander Poster

The Boys Season 2 managed to touch on timely subjects without ever losing track of it's gloriously gory and R-rated core.

The bad got badder, and the not-so-bad got a little more heroic, despite their many obstacles. There were complaints about the pacing, but it never suffered in my eyes, and getting to soak it in weekly was a nice change of pace.

We got to talk about it as it aired, and too often, the best streaming shows miss that watercooler experience.

Dead to Me (Netflix)

Dead to Me Season 2 Poster

In my review for Dead to Me Season 2, I posited that the sophomore outing was every bit as good as its first season.

It thrives on the strength of the bond between Jen (Christina Applegate) and Judy (Linda Cardellini) and its ability to grow even stronger under every new peculiar circumstance.

There is one more to go, and we see no reason it won't go out on top.

The Flight Attendant (HBO Max)

The Flight Attendant Poster

Kaley Cuoco needed to break free of The Big Bang Theory in front of the camera. She'd already ditched TBBT with Harley Quinn, but it is animated.

With the Flight Attendant, Cuoco's Cassie is just as funny as the character she's known for, but she's a lot darker. The show is almost all Cuoco's, and she makes Cassie's many crises both entertaining and heart-wrenching.

It's pure excitement from start to finish, and we needed to get away more than ever this year.

I May Destroy You (HBO)

I May Destroy You Poster

Michaela Coel's immersive look at the ways sexual assault can change your life was deeply moving.

Rape isn't entertaining, but Arabella's fighting spirit sure was, and if it was vengeance.

A no-holds-barred peek inside the way being a victim without being victimized transforms your life, I May Destroy You easily earned a spot on many top lists for 2020.

I'll Be Gone in the Dark (HBO)

I'll Be Gone In the Dark Poster

True crime fans aren't the only people who found something to love in the documentary following Michelle McNamara's quest to bring The Golden State Killer to justice.

She lost herself in the crime, the killer, and the victims, ultimately working herself to death as stress and sleepless nights sliced through her life.

Her journey was both heartbreaking and admirable, offering a cautionary tale for anyone following in her footsteps.

Lovecraft Country (HBO)

Bloody Day - Lovecraft Country Season 1 Episode 1

Writers and showrunners have found a way to turn humanity's gravest mistakes into something entertaining.

Lovecraft Country speaks to racism in America with a genre show that took viewers on a trippy journey episode by episode.

Black history saved the day as much as the characters, and Jurnee Smollett finally found her start turn.

McMillions (HBO)

McMillions Game Piece

This fits into the stranger than fiction category. McDonald's Monopoly game had everyday Americans stuffing Big Macs and Quarter Pounders down their gullets to get game pieces with the hopes of winning millions.

Little did they know that individuals with mob ties had corrupted the game, found the wins, and shared the loot with friends and family. Just before the world changed during 9/11, the Feds were ready to make their bust.

This story is so fascinating, especially in light of 2020, when we are at our most vulnerable. It's really easy to see the appeal of free money, even when it means committing a felony.

Ozark (Netflix)

Ozark Season 3 Poster #2

Ozark Season 3 took a darker turn with Tom Pelphrey's arrival as Ben, the bipolar brother of Wendy Byrde.

Keeping their secret was difficult enough with the kids, but adding Ben's volatile condition into the mix was met with devastating consequences.

The Byrdes have been pirouetting in so many directions, and they've never gotten dull in the process.

The Queen's Gambit (Netflix)

The Queen's Gambit Poster

If the idea of a TV show focusing on chess champions sounds as scintillating as watching paint dry, then you haven't seen The Queen's Gambit.

Anya-Taylor Joy is mesmerizing as an orphan, Elizabeth, desperate for connection and finding it through chess with the orphanage's janitor. Excelling at chess takes her place she could never have imagined. Co-Creator and showrunner (among other titles), Scott Frank manages to make chess into edge-of-your-seat viewing.

The set decoration and costumes are out of this world. Altogether, The Queen's Gambit was one of the most satisfying series in recent memory.

Ted Lasso (Apple TV+)

Ted Lasso Poster

From a little commercial plugging soccer in partnership with the NFL, Jason Sudekis and Brendan Hunt partnered with Bill Lawrence to make feel-good entertainment cool again.

Even the characters who are painted as the bad guys on Ted Lasso are developed incredibly well.

But it's always Sudekis' Ted Lasso who brings a smile to your face with his kindness and desire to make the world a more joyful place than it was before you knew him.

The Undoing (HBO)

The Undoing Poster

Nicole Kidman is on a role with HBO. Hot off of Big Little Lies, she takes on another troubled relationship on The Undoing with consequences just as dire.

As a therapist who didn't heed the warning signs in her marriage, Kidman is matched with Hugh Grant as a charming surgeon with a very dark secret.

Grant, as the bad guy, took the world by storm, and why says a lot about how we view good and evil.

Upload (Amazon)

Upload Poster

Finally, Robbie Amell found a starring vehicle that showcases his talents. As Nathan Brown, Amell is tasked with bringing the future of the afterlife and the possibility of living forever into focus.

Upload isn't a deep dive, but it offers a lot to think about life after death. There is comedy and mystery with dribbles of existential angst on Upload.

And this easy watch even has a little bit of old-fashioned romance.

The Wilds (Amazon)

The Wilds Poster Tall

If being a teenager is rough, stranding a group of them on a deserted island for their betterment sure is entertaining.

The Wilds takes teenage angst to the next level in extraordinary circumstances but proves that when the climate is right and you open up to others, your life can change for the better, even when people are trying to keep you down.

Young women rooted The Wilds and gave it life, while the adults manipulated the action for viewers' enjoyment (and the girls' development?).

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on X and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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