Greatness, Gambits and Gore Galore – My Favourite TV Shows of 2020
While the world at large seemed to stop in its tracks off and on… There never seemed to be a lack of TV dramas, serialized at least, to choose from. Someone predicted this would be the year of less production and decided to overcompensate in advance, or what? At least I had a hard time keeping up and making priorities. Certain well-reviewed shows I simply haven’t gotten to yet. Or might not get to in the foreseeable future. I do have a day job. So this is what it is, but still a pretty interesting bunch of powerful or at the very least entertaining shows from different genres – I think.
The Best of the Best:
1. Le Bureau de Legendes (a k a The Bureau, creator/showrunner Eric Rochant). They have been building up to this. The fifth season was to a large degree the climax, the resolution to some of the most poignant and decisive story elements we have witnessed until now. Some of it hurt, some of it was business as usual and if they will be back someday, these loyal (well…) servants of the French Intelligence Service, it will probably feel like a new world. Or at least a world populated by predominantly fresh faces and new storylines. Thanks for everything so far.
2. The Great (Tony McNamara). It’s not history, exactly. But it wouldn’t be this…great without the historic premise to build on and play around with in the possibly most consistently surprising and entertaining show of 2020, loosely based on the life of a young Catherine the Great in the Russian court.
3. Perry Mason (Ron Fitzgerald, Rolin Jones). Actually, that old original show has never really stuck in my mind; probably broadcast mostly before my time and the name is more of a legend in itself, something regularly referred to in crime drama/lawyer/courtroom-drama-you know the drill-contexts… So, anyway, this reboot worked out just fine with me, starring the already battle-proven warrior Matthew ”The Americans” Rhys as a less than glamorous private eye looking for redemption and a purpose in life.
4. The Queen’s Gambit (Scott Frank, Allan Scott). Well, everything’s already been said and written, right? So, it was a show that did most everything right and managed to bring out as much excitement as you might imagine (and then some) from the game of Chess.
5. Narcos: Mexico (Carlo Bernard, Chris Brancato, Doug Miro). Second season, post-Camarena story turned out to be just as riveting and moving. For reasons somehow not always easy to explain. It just has this flow, photogenic vistas and characters that draw you in and prove difficult to forget.
6. Killing Eve (Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Suzanne Heathcote). Third season of this unconventional take on female friendship (something we as men will never completely decipher) and, as it happens, serious crime and professional psycho killers touring Europe just keeps reinventing itself and offering new surprises as it goes on.
7. Stateless (Tony Ayres, Cate Blanchett, Elise McCredie). Underrated, I say. This Netflix miniseries might seem to preachy or obvious for some, but it certainly did keep the drama going about the plight of refugees stuck in the Australian detainment system, and incidentally a lot of heart.
8. The Boys (Eric Kripke). Well, yes, it might be too much of a lot of things, but the second season seemed to double down on everything that made the first one so intoxicatingly addictive. Probably not the most healthy and wholesome thing around, but just the way it inverts the the whole superhero-concept while complicating every relationship in the story, combined with the regular head-exploding routine… As I said, addictive.
9. Lovecraft Country (Misha Green). So what was this, exactly? Not sure, but I enjoyed most of it. Visually, verbally and with all the twisting and turning between worlds. Which one was the scariest? The real one or the transcendent seemingly supernatural one? And where do you draw the line?
10. Devs (Alex Garland). Speaking of different worlds and not knowing in which one you’re really present at the moment… ”Devs” just appeared in the menu without warning and for my mind, managed to make something intriguing with the basic premise that I appreciated in ”Westworld” for the first two seasons, but became less mind-blowingly fascinating in the third one. Where are we? Who are we? Why? And to what degree are you allowed to alter that reality?
Runners-up: Hunters (first season), Roadkill (miniseries), Homeland (last season), La casa de papel (fourth season, sort of), Billions (half of the fifth season still missing but the first half was pretty good), The Good Fight (season 4).
Honourable mentions: Messiah, Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, Westworld, Brave New World, Upload, Avenue 5, Miracle Workers (season 2), Bosch (season 6), Trackers, Strike Back (probably the seventh and last round, depending on how you count).
Recently started watching: Raised by Wolves, Fargo (season 4), The Stand, The Name of the Rose, La Révolution, Björnstad, Bridgerton, Ted Lasso… and a few others.