The Best Television of 2020

As 2020 ends with a bang and not a whimper. As we ride out this global hell year. As we look back on everything we missed out on, did not do, wished we could do, regretted happened or just made us plain angry. It’s good to remember that 2020 got at least one thing right.

There was some amazing television.

And we all got lots and lots of time to watch it (at least those of us who still have jobs, homes and lives).

Bright side!

What defined 2020?

It’s hard to say what defined 2020. We’ll be analysing the year for decades to come. At least until society collapses from out of control climate change and we realise 2020 was just a small taste of what was to come. This is all getting a bit dark. But, hey, that’s my mood. Peak 2020.

A lot of great shows culminated in 2020 and this list reflects that. It was a year of darkness but also a year of hopefulness. Even the most pessimistic dystopian science fiction of this year ended on a hopeful note. It’s surprising (or maybe not) that screenwriters took a year that seemed to make dystopia redundant and twisted it to put a happy note on it. There are a few exceptions but if I had to define 2020, I’d say we still want to hope for something better. So maybe it’s not as bleak as we sometime feel it is.

The Best?

This is not a comprehensive list of what people watched and enjoyed over this year. It only includes shows that have finished and can be watched from beginning to end. As such it can’t encapsulate e.g. why everyone you know suddenly started watching Schitt’s Creek or why The Crown was all they talked about. Both shows are ongoing and I believe strongly that a television show is defined by its ending.

This list also embodies the belief that popularity does not equal quality. These are the shows I genuinely believe are the best of the best, regardless of genre, country of origin, language or viewers. They are not ranked but are listed alphabetically (I have no idea how to compare high-concept German science fiction to Filipino BL).

EDIT: I’ve just been informed that Schitt’s Creek did in fact end this year. So now all I have to do is watch six seasons of television and update the post. This may take a while…

There are only so many hours in the day (even in 2020)

Have a show you think should be on this list? Let me know!

The Best of 2020


Promotional photo for 4%, showing five of the main characters in profile

Country: Brazil
Genre: Dystopian science fiction
Language: Portugese
Seasons: 4
Where can I watch: Netflix
What is it about: In a Brazilian future where the poor scrape out a living in a blasted urban slum, the elite live on a Utopian tropical island offshore. Every year those who turn 20 have one chance to undertake a grueling testing process to become of the three per cent who are deemed worthy to leave the hell of the Onshore and go to the heaven of the Offshore. The first season starts with a group of 20-year-old’s undertaking the Process. But with an ideologue at the helm, a political struggle in the Offshore and a resistance movement (The Cause) trying to infiltrate the island, nothing is what it seems.
Why is it so good?: Over its four seasons, the 3% examined structural disadvantage, violent vs passive resistance, the elite’s erasure of the truth in building the social myths that benefit them, the role of the Church in perpetuating the status quo, and the tension between bringing down an elite and wanting to be one of them instead. It was a female-led drama that embraced its multiracial ensemble cast and never took the easy way out with its plotting. And its ending was pitch perfect.
Final rating: 8/10


The Unknown from Dark, often portrayed as a trinity. Young, adult, old.

Country: Germany
Genre: Mind-bending science fiction
Language: German
Seasons: 3
Where can I watch: Netflix
What is it about: In the small town of Winden, a child disappears and four families start to realise they’re a part of a time travel paradox spanning several generations.
Why is it so good?: A discussion of existentialist philosophy that I once said was written “as if the Grimm brothers met Einstein arguing with Nietzsche and decided to write a modern-day fairytale on eternal recurrence”, it is a fairy tale, a religious allegory, a masterclass in physics and a brilliantly-written, conceived and executed piece of television. And if that sounds offputtingly intellectual, it also holds the perfect level of teen angst, an epic love story, and a ending so perfect it will make you cry.
Final rating: 11/10 (what, it’s my blog!)


Promotional poster from Extracurricular with the four main characters. Their faces are smeared by black paint in various places so they look messed up

Country: Korea
Genre: Teen/crime drama
Language: Korean
Seasons: 1
Where can I watch: Netflix
What is it about: Needing money for his education, student Oh Ji-soo uses his technological skills to connect prostitutes to clients and provide them protection. When his criminal activity is discovered by a fellow student, she blackmails herself into the business and the world unravels from there.
Why is it so good?: The Korean teen Breaking Bad you didn’t think was possible and never thought you needed, Extracurricular is not just a brutal indictment of consumer culture and late-stage capitalism, it’s a compelling bingeworthy drama about young adults whose attempts to seize control of their lives fail horribly. The script is fast-paced and disturbing and violent and full of expletives and if you’re like me you won’t be able to stop watching.
Final rating: 9/10

Forest of Secrets 2 (Stranger 2)

Title credits for Forest of Secrets. A bleak urban cityscape with the title in Korean

Country: Korea
Genre: Crime drama
Language: Korean
Seasons: 1
Where can I watch: Netflix (listed as Stranger)
What is it about: The sequel to the 2017 drama, Forest of Secrets (Stranger), it continues the story of incorruptible prosecutor, Hwang Shi-mok and police officer, Han Yeo-jin. Three years on, our eternal partners find themselves caught up in the debate over investigative rights in Korea and prosecutorial corruption.
Why is it so good?: The original season is regularly voted the best Korean drama of all time and its sequel is possibly even better. Intricately and brilliantly written with amazing performances and grounded in real-world events, Forest of Secrets is peak crime television from anywhere. And while I’m testing the limits of my criteria for posting (it’s a definite candidate for a third season), no list of the Best of 2020 could be published without this show in it.
Final rating: 10/10

The Good Place

Promotional poster of the Good Wife with the main characters in bright, differently coloured columns

Country: United States
Genre: Comedy
Language: English
Seasons: 4
Where can I watch: Netflix
What is it about: When Eleanor Shellstrop dies in a freak shopping trolley accident, she finds herself in The Good Place; a heavenly utopia run by the architect Michael. But the immoral Eleanor soon realises her place in the Good Place is a terrible mistake. Terrified of being sent to the Bad Place she enlists the aid of moral philosopher, Chidi, to learn how to be a good person.
Why is it so good?: The Good Place is intelligent, well-written, thoughtful and genuinely funny television. It will make you laugh but – as with only the best comedies – it will also make you feel, cry, and think. And while the ending was somewhat controversial in some quarters, for me it was perfect.
Final rating: 9/10

Someday or One Day

The three leads from Someday or One Day sitting on a couch. The OTP is listening to music and she is reading a diary

Country: Taiwan
Genre: Time travel, Romance
Language: Taiwanese
Seasons: 1
Where can I watch: Viki
What is it about: Still struggling with the grief from the death of her boyfriend, Huang Yu-Xuan finds a tape player with a song from the past that takes her back into the body of 1990s school student, Chen Yun-Ru. But what is the connection between herself and Chen Yun-Ru and why does her crush look exactly like her deceased boyfriend?
Why is it so good?: Beautiful and bittersweet and profound, Someday or One Day barely made a misstep across its 13 episodes. The show felt both quintessentially Taiwanese while being completely fresh and brilliantly new. A show about grief and hope, it was the perfect mix of twisty time travel and heart.
Final rating: 10/10


5 thoughts on “The Best Television of 2020

  1. I’m ashamed I’ve only seen SD1D from your list (but agree with it being here). But your whole list sounds interesting. Some of these sound really interesting. I’ll add them to my list!

    However, I am disappointed Tiger King isn’t on your list. That should be rated 100/10 🤣

  2. You have convinced me to watch DARK. I though it is a thriller (from which I steer clear) but your description says otherwise. So I will finally try it.

    1. Hmm… so it definitely has horror elements to it. They come from the fairy tale elements. The monster in the woods, something lurking outside of civilisation. But I wouldn’t call it a thriller, no. Give it a try and see how you feel about it. It’s by far my favourite thing this year and I loved a lot of things.

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