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Our favorite TV shows of 2020

Anna Konkle, left as Anna Kone and Maya Erskine as Maya Ishii-Peters in a scene from "PEN15."
Anna Konkle, left as Anna Kone and Maya Erskine as Maya Ishii-Peters in a scene from “PEN15.”



(Hulu)

The world may have shut down in 2020, but thankfully there was plenty of good television to watch. From highbrow dramas to scandalous reality, here are our favorite shows of the year.

Sara Butler’s top 5

“The Hookup Plan”
I’ve taken up a love for foreign TV shows in quarantine, and the French comedy “The Hookup Plan” is by far my favorite. Elsa (Zita Hanrot) is a 30-year-old Parisian hung up on her ex, and her best friends Charlotte (Sabrina Ouazani) and (Joséphine Draï) hire a male prostitute to take Elsa on a few dates to help her move on. As expected, things do not go as planned. Though this comedy leans into the romantic affairs of the three female leads, their connection with one other is truly the heart of the show, which shows a realistic depiction of how even the strongest of adult friendships ebb and flow through life. And as an added bonus, the show helped me improve my French language skills — and I enjoyed the series so much that I plan to rewatch the two seasons to keep practicing.
Where to watch: Netflix

Zoe Kravitz and David H. Holmes co-star in "High Fidelity," the new Hulu series based on Nick Hornby's novel.
(Phillip Caruso)

“High Fidelity”
Remember the 2000 classic starring John Cusack? Twenty years later, the film has been reimagined as a TV show led by the talented Zoë Kravitz, who plays record-store owner Rob. In this adaptation, guarded Rob struggles to keep her shop afloat as well as recover from her breakup with swoon-worthy, British bloke Russell (Kingsley Ben-Adir). Alongside her eccentric friends/employees, she’s forced to deal with her past actions in relationships and realizes that she may not always be the victim after all. Unfortunately, the series was cancelled after its first season — prompting Kravitz to call out Hulu with the statement: “It’s cool. At least Hulu has a ton of other shows starring women of color we can watch. Oh wait.” — so here’s hoping another platform picks up the show in 2021.
Where to watch: Hulu

Victoria Pedretti and Penn Badgley in a scene from the Netflix series, YOU.
(Beth Dubber/Netflix/Beth Dubber/Netflix)

“You”
Psychological thrillers aren’t normally my jam — I’m scared of basically everything — but this creepy drama is an exception (likely because of my major crush on “Gossip Girl” actor Penn Badgley). The plot centers on charming but elusive bookstore manager Joe Goldberg, later switching to the alias Will Bettelheim, who has a bad habit of falling madly in love with beautiful, quirky women. Yet this is no rom-com: his initially endearing infatuation with these women ultimately leads to an unhealthy obsession, resulting in disastrous consequences. No, it’s not an award-winning drama (it originally premiered on Lifetime before getting picked up by Netflix), but it’s a gripping, twisted plot that sends shivers down my spine.
Where to watch: Netflix

"Too Hot to Handle" on Netflix.
(Ana Cristina Blumenkron/Netflix)

“Too Hot To Handle”
Ah, 2020, the year I finally got off my high horse and started watching reality TV. Not only did I watch them, I binged them: “Love Is Blind,” “Married at First Sight,” “The Circle” — you name it, I streamed it. The one that started it all was “Too Hot to Handle,” a ridiculous dating game show in which a group of conventionally attractive people are forced to live together on an island paradise for a summer of fun with one catch: they are not allowed to touch each other. Every sexual act that occurs deducts money from the $100,000 prize money, which will be split between all remaining participants at the end of the challenge. The desire gets the best of many of them, resulting in a lot of risky behavior, rule breaking and finger pointing. It’s an absolutely bonkers show that is sure to break your brain, but it sure was a nice eight-episode distraction from reality.
Where to watch: Netflix

The Bold Type's Aisha Dee, left, and Katie Stevens.
(Jonathan Wenk/Freeform)

“The Bold Type”
This light-hearted drama centers around three best friends Jane Sloan (Katie Stevens), Sutton Brady (Meghann Fahy) and Kat Edison (Aisha Dee). Although the show also chronicles their love lives, including Kat exploring her queer identity, “The Bold Type” centers on the ambitious careers of the women, who all work together at Scarlett magazine in New York City. It’s refreshing to see a female-focused show put their professional lives at the forefront, as well as watch the trio lift each other up through their blunders and successes. As a magazine writer, I’ve been obsessed with the show since it first aired in 2017, but this year’s season — set in a newsroom environment — was especially addicting since I’m missing my own downtown office.
Where to watch: Hulu, Freeform

Nina Garin’s top 5

Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal star in an adaptation of Sally Rooney's "Normal People."
(Hulu)

“Normal People”
I didn’t know anything about Sally Rooney’s best-selling novel before watching this, so I was caught off guard by this show’s honesty and beauty. The 12-episode series follows the decades-long relationship between sometimes friends, sometimes romantic partners, sometimes enemies Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Connell (Paul Mescal) and explores how their strong connection affects them in various stages of life. I loved this show so much that I only watched one episode a day in order to just sit with the characters, the beautiful Irish scenery and the anguish of complicated love.
Where to watch: Hulu

The stars of the TV show "Pen15"
A scene from “Pen15"

“PEN15"
This show is supposed to be silly — the title alone is a juvenile way to spell penis. It’s set in middle school in the year 2000 and embraces all the awkward things that happen to 13-year-old girls. But the second season has magical, heartbreaking moments about friendship and family dynamics that actually, literally took my breath away (specifically the end of episode three, “Vendy Wiccany” and episode seven, “Opening Night”). Come for the silly humor, stay for the life lessons.
Where to watch: Hulu

Poorna Jagannathan and Maitreyi Ramakrishnan in a scene from "Never Have I Ever."
(Netflix)

“Never Have I Ever”
This show, written and created by Mindy Kaling, begins as lighthearted comedy about 15-year-old Devi (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) who goes to great lengths to change her social status after a disastrous freshman year. As you get invested in the characters, though, it transcends to a complex series about family relationships and expectations, grief and how to process it, and the many stages of teenage friendship. So by the time you reach the 10th and final episode, it’s very likely that you’ll be straight-up sobbing through it.
Where to watch: Netflix

Olivia Edward as Duke Fox, left, and Pamela Adlon as Sam Fox, in the family kitchen in "Better Things."
(Nicole Wilder-Shattuck/FX)

“Better Things”
Since the debut of Pamela Adlon’s semi-autobiographical series in 2016, she’s shown a refreshing though brutal honesty about life as a woman in Hollywood over age 40. From raising three independent daughters to dealing with aging, “Better Things” is often slow-moving and subtle — it feels more like you’re watching a persons diary come to life. Season four has Adlon’s character, Sam, coming to terms with the ghosts of old relationships, specifically in my favorite episode, “Batceañera.”
Where to watch: FX and Hulu

Jason Sudeikis in "Ted Lasso."
(Courtesy of Apple)

“Ted Lasso”
Watching “Ted Lasso” is like taking a shot of seratonin — it’s so cheerful and optimistic — the perfect way to combat the darkness of 2020. The show stars Jason Sudeikis as a college football coach who is recruited to coach a professional soccer team in England. No one wants him there. But through a positive attitude, some hilarious one-liners and a genuine interest in people, Ted slowly wins over the players, the staff and even the boorish fans. It’s a simple premise, but it’s packed with so much charm and so many well-written jokes that it actually made me care about English soccer.
Where to watch: Apple TV+

Jennifer Ianni’s top 5

Dave Burd, a.k.a. Lil Dicky, in "Dave."
(Ray Mickshaw/FX)

“Dave”
Rapper/actor/comedian Dave Burd (aka Lil Dicky) surprised critics and viewers this year with “Dave,” a show loosely based on his life that chronicles his character’s quest to become the greatest rapper alive. The comedy contains enough raunch to catch viewers’ attention, but they stay for the heart and thoughtfully nuanced performances, particularly from Davionte “GaTa” Ganter, who, in real life and on the show, is Lil Dicky’s hype man who struggles with bipolar disorder. The Los Angeles Times described Ganter’s performance as the “emotional heart” of the show, “thanks to a deeply moving performance – his first outside of music videos – drawn in part from his own real-life experience with bipolar disorder.”
Where to watch: FXX

 Whitney Rose, Meredith Marks, Mary Cosby and Heather Gay in "The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City."
THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF SALT LAKE CITY -- Pictured: (l-r) Whitney Rose, Meredith Marks, Mary Cosby, Heather Gay -- (Photo by: Dan Boczarski/Bravo)
(Bravo/Dan Boczarski)

“The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City”
It’s been a minute since Bravo has graced us with a new “Housewives” franchise, so when they announced at last year’s BravoCon that a Salt Lake City locale of the show was in the works, fans seemed a little skeptical. Well, never doubt the powers that be at Bravo because “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” is a bona fide hit, with storylines that involve one cast member (Whitney Rose) being excommunicated from the Mormon church, another (Jen Shah) converting to Islam and another (Mary Cosby) who married her step-grandfather at the behest of her late grandmother. You just can’t write this kind of thing — thank goodness we have the “Real Housewives” to show us a different side of Salt Lake.
Where to watch: Bravo

Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant in "The Undoing."
(Niko Tavernise/HBO)

“The Undoing”
I’m not normally one for psychological thrillers, but I started hearing great things about Hugh Grant’s performance in HBO’s latest miniseries, so I gave it a shot. The show isn’t without its very valid critiques (Nicole Kidman’s accent goes in and out; the last episode left me a little underwhelmed), but the episodes leading up to the climax of the show deliver genuine intrigue and it ultimately did what good television shows do — it got people talking. Whether it was Kidman’s characters ornate coats (the show has serious coat porn, if that’s your thing) or the good old fashioned “whodunit” plot, the show had me — and many others — hooked until the very end.
Where to watch: HBO

The Michael Jordan docuseries "The Last Dance" was a hit for ESPN.
(ESPN Films / Netflix / Mandalay Sports Media / NBA Entertainment)

“The Last Dance”
Quarantine did a lot of crazy things this year — including getting me to watch a 10-part sports documentary from ESPN Films and Netflix. The series traces the stellar career of Michael Jordan, basketball’s G.O.A.T., with in-depth interviews from Jordan and other famous folks like Scottie Pippen, Charles Barkley, Dennis Rodman and even Bill Clinton. In a touching moment, Kobe Bryant makes a posthumous appearance describing his relationship with Jordan, so get your tissues ready. The series had just enough pop culture to keep me interested — the Rodman episodes alone were enough to keep me invested. This is a worthy watch for anyone interested in sports history, pop culture or just genuinely compelling subject matter.
Where to watch: Netflix, ESPN

Chrishell Stause on "Selling Sunset."
(Netflix)

“Selling Sunset”
Do we really need another soapy reality show set in Los Angeles that follows beautiful people living their lives on camera? In my world, the answer is an emphatic yes, especially when it’s produced by the same person who brought us “Laguna Beach” and “The Hills” so many years ago. Adam DiVello’s Los Angeles is a beautiful one, cinematically shot, perfectly lit and set to the right soundtrack — the City of Angels has never looked so good. The show follows a glossy group of very good-looking realtors at The Oppenheim Group — including the bosses (and brothers), Jason and Brett Oppenheim; the charming villain, Christine Quinn; the wide-eyed ingenue, Chrishell Stause; the scrappy Mary Fitzgerald; the lovelorn Heather Rae Young and the office underdog, Davina Potratz. The multi-million dollar Hollywood Hills homes are a nice backdrop to all the drama.
Where to watch: Netflix


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