A list is always the harbinger of opinions that often turn into arguments (and counterarguments), especially when we are talking about television (and streaming) at the end of the year. We can all agree upon the fact that this is the golden age of television, but that only makes our job of picking the best shows of the year all the more difficult. Like every year, in 2023 we’ve seen a lot of great TV, from new to returning old favorites. Choosing the best ten out of that is a herculean task, and I bet not all of you are going to be pleased with all the selections. I’m certainly going to leave some of your favorites out, and I apologize for that in advance. That’s why, before we begin, let me at least mention the ones that could have been here but didn’t make the cut.
Beef, which is about the strange escalation of a mere road-rage issue; the magnificently poignant Somebody Somewhere; the fourth season of the throughout fantastic Atlanta, Rian Johnson’s hilariously engaging Poker Face; and Kaley Cuoco’s true crime satire Based on a True Story almost made the cut, and there is no way these are any inferior to the ones that finally made it to the list. Just that I personally liked the ones that are included in the list a little more. Here we go.
10. The Fall of the House of the Usher
It’s hard to even imagine the incredibly morbid literary works of Edgar Allan Poe being adapted for the screen, but horror master Mike Flanagan managed to do exactly that. In fact, he managed to pull off the extraordinary feat of combining as many as six Poe tales along with two poems in one deliciously dark, very cohesive narrative. Watching The Fall of the House of Usher was an engaging, often chucklesome, and very rewarding experience for me.
9. Mrs. Davis
Easily the weirdest of the bunch, Mrs. Davis was probably the most original content that we got this year. The story of a nun (and her ex) taking on a strangely powerful artificial intelligence (which is called Mrs. Davis, by the way; yes, the show is titled after its AI antagonist) was already ludicrous on paper. Naturally, the execution was absolutely bonkers. I have a penchant for comically weird stuff, so Mrs. Davis was right up my alley.
8. Gen V
A The Boys spinoff set on a college campus with a predominantly teenage cast didn’t seem like a promising thing. But the way Gen V introduced a bunch of new characters, made us all care about them and told us a story that is set in the same world as the mother show but feels very different vibe-wise, was very commendable. It still managed to neatly tie up with The Boys, and the Homelander cameo in the finale and an appearance from none other than Billy Butcher in the post-credit were the icing on the cake.
Not a single second of Netflix’s Beckham docuseries is boring, which alone is enough to put this one on this list. What I particularly liked about Beckham was the fact that it didn’t adhere to the generic style of documentary filmmaking, which focuses on the illustrious career of the man by dividing it into equal measures and doing the episodes that way. Instead, more than sixty percent of Beckham revolved around his association with Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson, which clearly implied that despite leaving the club in a rather controversial manner, he never stopped being a “Red Devil.” My only qualm was about that part of the docuseries, where it addressed Beck’s alleged affair but never really came clean with the whole thing.
6. A Murder at the End of the World
A Murder at the End of the World could very well be described as the love child of True Detective and Black Mirror. Yet, the miniseries stood on its own. And that could only happen because of its really likable lead character, Darby Hart, who came off as a refreshing take on detectives, along with her ex, Bill Farrah, a character that should be used as an example of how not to be a toxic ex. The mystery at the center was not particularly original, but the show’s philosophy of not romanticizing serial killing, a very known trope of popular culture, was what set this one apart from the rest.
5. The Curse
If there’s one show that probably none of you tried (or left after a bit of trying), then that has to be The Curse. You might be surprised to see this one here, but I am a fan of everything Benny Safdie (and his brother Josh, who’s not related to this) does, and The Curse is no different. Of course, Emma Stone’s genius and Nathan Fielders’ brand of weirdness are equally responsible for The Curse fully coming alive. A couple trying to make a TV show about home renovation certainly doesn’t sound that exciting on paper, but the show is clearly much more than that, which they’re proving with every single episode.
We probably forgot about the existence of Fargo, which used to be considered top-tier TV once upon a time. However, the latest season has taken it upon itself to prove its worth once again and is turning out to be the best of the lot. That could only happen thanks to the lead character, Dot; a seemingly normal housewife who would do the craziest possible thing to stop her dark past from taking away her rather stable present life. Watching Juno Temple go wild against forces like Jon Hamm is absolutely delightful, and I can’t wait to see how this season of Fargo wraps up the craziness.
3. The Last of Us
The Last of Us looked a lot like The Walking Dead from the trailer, which was not something to feel excited about. On top of that, neither am I a video game fan nor has there been a memorable video game adaptation. But this show was made to prove people like me wrong, as it knocked things out of the park in every possible way. The third episode, titled Long, Long Time, was something that I could never imagine from a show like this one.
2. The Bear
After binge-watching the first season of The Bear, I wondered how they could possibly top that, given how perfect that was in every possible sense. But the sophomore season of the restaurant drama decided to be bolder and more courageous by trying out things that you don’t really get to see on TV, even in this day and age. And everything they tried—from character-centric episodes to a chaotic Christmas episode entirely set in the past (Fishes, my personal favorite TV episode of the year) to the redemption arc of probably the least likable character—worked out in the show’s favor. Now I can’t wait to see what The Bear does in the next season.
What could possibly top Succession? I am obviously being rhetorical here because we all know the answer. Not only the best of the year, Succession should go down as one of the greatest ever. I don’t think I have enjoyed watching any TV show more than Succession, ever since I started watching it a few years back. Naturally, it was bittersweet for me (and I believe for all the Succession fans) to see it go, but the show made sure that it was ending with a bang. I don’t know when we will have a show like Succession again, but until then, the reruns and Kendall Roy memes are going to help, I suppose. And if you haven’t seen Succession yet, you know what to do.