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Your favourite TV shows of 2020 - Quaran-stream!

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Best TV of the Year

Despite lockdowns, I missed a lot of TV as it was airing now this year so my list is missing what I assume is a lot of good stuff. Still, I got a good list here.



10. Fargo

This is probably the weakest season of Fargo thus far but it is still VERY good and, more importantly, is trying new things. Specifically, this is the season that discusses race in America and mostly does a good job. Chris Rock is great as one of the two major crime bosses in the series who gets wins and makes smart moves only to find goal posts constantly in motion. One of the villains is a cross between the nihilistic superkillers of seasons past and the seemingly goofy and very white mid-west protagonists. More than any other season, this is an ensemble with no one main character, which is a little unfortunate as I feel like as a teenage black girl, I would much rather have had E'myri Crutchfield in an even more central role, even if it meant less of the crime boss drama, which is admittedly great. As all Fargo seasons are a bit of a Coens remix, this one is its take on Miller’s Crossing, only with a very interesting examination on the nature of race. This might be Fargo’s least gripping season but it is also evolving with the time, even as it looks back.



9. She-Ra and the Princesses of Power

Here’s the first of many shows that ended this year and ended very well. I think a lot of people felt the last season of the LGBT fantasy adventure series had a bit of a quality drop but frankly, I don’t recall noticing. Instead, my take away was a very fun and exciting conclusion full of arcs coming to a close and while not everyone had as much time as they could have to feel out fully satisfying ends, She-Ra closes out with a happy ending and a promise of more adventure and boy did I need that this year.



8. Chihayafuru



I’m a little bummed that the next four entries of my list are a clump of anime that I talked about before (followed by a clump of finales that are excellent but had less than a full season aired in 2020). Chihayafuru got the second half of its season this year and it was great. No finale, but lots of big moments that have been building since the beginning and a match I was deeply invested in despite expecting the ending that it did. But the show did a good job making me think “Wait, could this go another way?” If you haven’t seen it, it’s a shojo sports series about a poetry-based sport. It sounds like it might be too niche but trust me, with its strong, lovable characters and excellent drama, I highly recommend it.



7. Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!

My second anime pick of the year is the visually arresting yet emotionally grounded Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken, about a club of animators who put in long hours to see their dreams come to light. If you are interested in animation at all, I highly recommend it, showing both the seemingly Sisyphean nightmare of being an animator and the passion and love that fuels its completion. I suspect we won’t get a second season and that’s a bit of a bummer but as a one-off, it is a creative series about creativity and one’s enthusiasm towards it.



6. Golden Kamuy

When it first aired, it seemed like Golden Kamuy was just a competent adventure show but as it went on, it became clear it was a comedy adventure edutainment food travelogue of extreme violence and compelling characters. I can’t think of another show like it as a former soldier and an Ainu hunter team up to find stolen Ainu gold. This season breaks them up with each of them having to team up with characters who are really their antagonists. Characters are deepened but it doesn’t rob us of the hijinx we love, capable to turning on a dime from emotional reunion to pee-pee jokes. The third season has been the emotionally richest so far and though it will kill me to wait for more, it comes to a pretty grand season finale with a lot of well-earned pay-offs and me being extremely invested in some characters I didn’t realize I would be.



5. Japan Sinks

My last entry for this anime block is Japan Sinks, a loose adaptation of the book of the same name that not only was adapted multiple times before but even its parody, Everything Place Sinks But Japan, was adapted multiple times. If you want a disaster movie as a series, this is your place but it is also a powerful, emotional story with some genuine surprises. A middle arc involving a mysterious compound went to some generally surprising places when I was just settling in for a straightforward cult story and I feel is meant to be subverting traditional “individualist” narratives and how we need each other both in the face of a disaster and beyond. Japan Sinks is an emotional and sometimes grueling journey but never gives in to become miserablist in nature, instead telling an ultimately hopeful story with a lot of tragedy within.



4. Bojack Horseman

I feel like this show went to some dark places most shows wouldn’t be willing to. But despite everything, Bojack is a show that has hope for its main character. But hope never erases the shit he’s done and the last season deals with the fact that on his road to self-improvement, he’s left pain in his wake that will never be undone or taken back. The episode where Bojack has two interviews that go VERY differently is a difficult watch that’s necessary for the show to go through and leads to an ending that says a necessary goodbye to the status quo as for their own good, some people leave his orbit on pretty good terms. Its such a balancing act to have the character responsible for such awful things and revealing “no, he’s not a good guy deep down because our actions are much of what define us” and still get us to make us want him to get better. The show doesn’t end with Bojack being a good guy. But it ends with hope that he’s on the right path as he heads towards it.



3. Steven Universe Future

Another show that only had a handful of episodes in 2020 before ending but they are some strong ones. Steven Universe Future was an epilogue series that deals with the question “what happens to the hero after the adventure ends?” and the truth is the hero might need a lot of self-care that he’s been dodging. The show recontextualizes Steven’s selflessness as something that might be the sign of something that needs to be looked at and like the series before goes to some dark places. As you might imagine it ends with tears but, like, happy tears. A show like future risks a show overstaying its welcome with a long goodbye but instead we get to sink our teeth into some emotional stuff that can really only happen after the adventure.



2. The Good Place

Only 4 episodes aired of this show (though the last one was an hour) this year, but boy did they make the most of it. Seriously, I know its less than half a season but not including on my list would be a crime, as it is one of my favourite series finales of all time, making me cry. It’s a show that examines the big questions of what it means to be good and it’s a much more difficult task than it sounds. But the last two episodes feature the last test our heroes face followed by what comes next. Its an emotional goodbye in every sense of the word as everyone’s favourite Arizona dirtbag and their friends save existence by completely re-inventing the afterlife (twice), then get to finally enjoy it. But in doing so, they needed to make sure they gave the afterlife some sadness to make the happiness matter and this is where we get a bittersweet ending. They are ready to say goodbye to existence, retiring from their retirement and the reveal of what that means is rather beautiful.



Smell ya later, the Good Place.



1. Better Call Saul

We had a year of good finales but the best is yet to come… and its going to kill me to wait until, I’m assuming, at least 2022 for the final season of Better Call Saul. But the penultimate one is no slouch. The fact that Rhea Seehorn isn’t nominated for best actress for the Emmy’s is a god-damned crime. I love Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad but a lot of those shows are very much about the men but Kim Wexler managed to carve out her place as the most nuanced, complex and entertaining character of the season. Usually you expect the anti-heroic leads to surprise and shock you with decisions but thanks to the writers taking cues from Seehorn, Kim evolved from a “voice of conscience” friend to a figure who slowly comes to the conclusion that if you want to do anything worthwhile in law, you need to cheat. The system is not your friend. But at the same time, it is clear Kim is also headed to do some very bad and even hurtful things, even if the causes are good. And even this character would be enough but this season was so good. We get Lalo, a figure who is a weird cross between Scarface and Columbo, a brilliant avuncular detective who is not afraid to do awful things for the sake of his goals and is downright terrifying. And Bob Odenkirk continues to evolve a character who was once comic relief into a tragic figure who continues to take more emotional damage, pushing him from a morally flexible antihero to a largely amoral opportunist he will become in Breaking Bad. Somehow, for a prequel with a set in stone future, Better Call Saul never fails to shock and surprise as we head to an inevitable tragedy and what lies beyond that in the black and white world of Gene the Cinnabon Manager.


What are your favourite shows of the year?
 
I'm just gonna go by my list of TV I watched this year/know I'm currently watching... not all aired new episodes in 2020.

New to me/ongoing series:

Elite: Remains an excellent program about horny, murderous teens played by twentysomethings. Great music direction.

Cuplicated: Not from 2020. A hateful parody of modern-day dramedies and prestige streaming hits. (many of which I like, clearly!) Extremely funny. The creator has some other connected pieces of media but this one stuck out the most. Just 22 minutes.

Teen Titans Go!: Funny.

Derry Girls: Also not new this year, just new to me. Anyway, funny.

Grey's Anatomy/Station 19: Grey's is the GOAT medical procedural. Its first spin-off Private Practice stood on its own and Station 19 tried to for a bit (to a lesser extent) but is now fully just Grey's Anatomy 1.5, but in an earlier timeslot you should really watch it first for the whole story. Who could complain? This show is at times a completely earnest Wheels, Ontario for grown-ups and I love it. A few years ago on Grey's, the character Jo's abusive ex-husband came back to town, confessed to being violent and gaslighting to all of her co-workers so no one would doubt her, (not that they would, Grey's regulars are not that kind of complicated at this point) then her husband offered to kills him and she was like, no, and then her ex got exploded by a bus and they were like, we'll treat him professionally anyway because we are GOATs, and then he died, but it wasn't their fault, it was just the plot. And that despicable ex-husband? Was Glee's own Matthew Morrison.

The just aired midseason finale of these shows had the firefighters meeting up for a dinner party then immediately happening onto some human trafficking scheme in suburbia because the showrunner unintentionally created a Ghislaine Maxwell character last season and had to bring her back. May this last for one more season at least! I would've assumed it would end here but Chandra Wilson doesn't think so and I believe her.

Also, shout out to the Grey's Cinematic Universe for inexplicably casting so many people who speak Italian as a first language.

I May Destroy You: Great drama; rightly acclaimed. I did think it was a little weird how all the characters (including, ultimately, Kwame) seemed to agree it was Problematic for a gay character not to tell a female sexual partner he was gay but I'm just like, is this a British thing? At the very least, seems underdiscussed for how much time is spent on that plotline.

Raised By Wolves: Little irritated by the robot acting at the start, but ultimately, the robot acting was great. I'm happy for HBO to spend a bit more on a cool looking show about robots having goofy conversations about religion.

I Hate Suzie: Loved this. Co-created by a Billie Piper and Succession writer Lucy Prebble, this is an extremely funny and smart miniseries about a British wholebrity's sex scandal. I'm not a good poster and I've already written several paragraphs about Grey's which I hate (my writing, not the incredible show) but if you only watch one thing on my list, this would be my rec.

Saved By The Bell, 2020: Funny. Better than Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Great News in terms of post-30 Rock shows by 30 Rock people.

Big Mouth: Funny. What can I say! I like to laugh.

Rewatches:
The Comeback: Still a perfect two seasons of television.

Strangers With Candy: Funny. Also verrrrrrry dated in some respects. Bit of dialogue constantly in my head: Think about it! I haven't.

Dinosaurs: Last time I watched I was like, this is over-the-top and preachy and it still is but also my politics are not as terrible so I can appreciate it again. The series finale is not out of place at all! The series is often a bit of a downer. Anyway, I just love these dino-muppets. What a great show to have four seasons of. At one point Jessica Walter literally does her Gene Parmesan shriek of excitement 10 years earlier, as a dinosaur muppet.
 
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Rascally Badger

El Capitan de la outro espacio
(He/Him)
I might come back with more detailed write-ups, especially of Queen's Gambit and Giri/Haji. Some others mentioned about, like Fargo S4 and Saved By The Bell are right up there for me as well.

The Queen's Gambit - amazing.

The Good Place and Schitt's Creek - I'm going to miss both of these shows a lot.

The Great Pretender - My favorite anime I've seen in years.

Stargirl - Something about this just worked for me. I really like the mix of in over his head step-dad Luke Wilson and way too gung-ho teen superhero.

The Boys - The last second stinger didn't work for me at all, but otherwise this was brutal, with brutally on the nose satire, and surprisingly sincere. I feel like I may be giving this show too much credit, but I really did enjoy it.

The English Game - I am not actually sure this show is good, but I can't imagine a show more perfectly designed for me to enjoy it. Set in the late 19th century, it is about the originals of the UK's soccer association, and also a Dickensian look at class conflict at that time.

Giri/Haji - A British Japanese co-production about a Japanese cop who goes to England to find his supposedly dead Yakuza brother. Crime things happen. The protagonist has to both find his brother, and decide if he is there to save him, or arrest him, or kill him. It is melodramatic and I thought it was amazing.

What We Do In The Shadows - Its soo good.
 
I’m not done with it yet but How To with John Wilson is fantastic. The ending of episode 3 is beautiful and hilarious.

Caught this about a month ago. Kind of representative and worth watching independently.
 

jpfriction

A most radical pontiff
Lost a lot of good shows this year.

Good Place and She-ra both ended very strong. Bojack maybe slightly less so but still a good time.

Owl House and Kipo were the other standout kids stuff I watched. The two Adventure time HBO Max specials so far were also quite good.

Otherwise mostly just caught up on the DC Universe-> HBO Max stuff. Titans, Doom Patrol, Harley Quinn. All quite good, Harley Quinn being the obvious standout.

Recently started up Cobra Kai which is dumb and fun. Letterkenny also started up season 9 a couple days ago. I’ll never get tired of watching those adorable Canadians say “must be fucking nice”.

Oh yeah, Big Mouth season was great but that’s no surprise.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
I’m just going to count shows I started watching this year, since... 2020 is an utter mystery in terms of keeping track of things otherwise.

Cobra Kai enkindled a love I never realized I had for a movie I didn’t see in a franchise I didn’t watch.

I was lukewarm on the movie, but What We Do in the Shadows is everything I could possible ever want from vampire tv

Harley Quin might be my favourite Batman cartoon? It’s a far closer race than I ever imagined, certainly.
 

Adrenaline

Post Reader
(He/Him)
I May Destroy You is a show about a woman trying to figure out how to deal with the trauma of a sexual assault and putting her life back together. It spends a lot of time unpacking how complicated the idea of consent is. Despite all that it's a very funny and entertaining show as well.
 

karzac

(he/him)
Black Sails and Elementary were the two best shows I watched this past year and both are all-time favourites now. Highly recommended - basically nobody talks about Black Sails either and I don't understand why, it's fantastic.

Oh and the new season of Better Call Saul. I barely remembered that that happened in 2020. Holy shit, final season of Bojack was 2020 also. What a year.
 

Adrenaline

Post Reader
(He/Him)
Black Sails and Elementary were the two best shows I watched this past year and both are all-time favourites now. Highly recommended - basically nobody talks about Black Sails either and I don't understand why, it's fantastic.
Probably because it was on Starz.
 

Beta Metroid

At peace
(he/him and such)
I think the only shows I watched last year that were actually airing last year were Good Place and Schitt's Creek. Both are among my all-time top-tier shows, would watch again.
 

Patrick

Magic-User
(He/Him)
Oh my gosh, I forgot that I re-watched Twin Peaks: The Return. Not new in 2020, or new to me, but maybe the single best season of any show. It's really more of an 18 hour movie.
 
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