Due to the love for film and books that beats in my breast like an eternal flame, I’ll never get to all the shows everyone else watches. A superpower enabling me to freeze time, or perform the limited sort of time travel from About Time, still eludes me, and with it, the freedom to watch and read and listen to and play all of the things. And so, everything that isn’t a movie or a book is relegated to the fringes of my free time.
So this year, like every year, I was a far cry from keeping up with everyone else’s TV habits. Fortunately, the quality of what I watched more than compensated for the lack of breadth. From catching newly premiered shows to catching up on fare that I’ve taken far too long to get around to, my joys far outweighed the disappointments.
Below are all the seasons and limited series I sat down and watched start to finish last year, chronologically as to when I finished them. And of course, these were all in addition to the regular stream of rewatches and whatnot of 30 Rock, Bob’s Burgers, Sunny, Archer, Arrested Development, Seinfeld, Community, and Parks and Rec.
The Good Place – Seasons Three & Four – We start with The Good Place, which, as if 2020 wasn’t heartbreaking enough already, joined Schitt’s Creek and Steven Universe in ending this year (granted, Steven Universe was ending for the second time). It was so hard to say goodbye, but bittersweet, in that all three ended so beautifully.
I’m not sure The Good Place gets enough credit for how ambitious it was. *Spoilers* They got an audience to keep caring about characters, while literally resetting them and their progress repeatedly. They took a deep dive into ethics and philosophy, all while remaining silly, playful, and light on their feet. And most ambitious of all, they found a way to stick a landing that should have been impossible to stick. As an atheist with a Master’s in Divinity, let’s just say that I would have had some internal reactions if they went off the rails in the later episodes, but they fucking nailed it. They easily could have snuck a shallow or disjointed conclusion onto the end of the show. Instead, they created a final season that was poignant, moving, and retroactively made a great show even better.
The Chef Show – Season One, Vol. Three – Season Two, Vol. One – I already went on and on about my love for this one. With its unending curiosity, art, and joy – all rooted in the delightful rapport between Favs and Choi – it was exactly the sort of thing I needed this year.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – Season Fourteen – How on earth have Bob’s Burgers and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia not run out of steam after ten and fourteen seasons respectively?! By all rights, they should have jumped the shark ages ago, and yet both shows still produce great episodes, even as they’ve weathered inevitable shifts in the writers’ room and directorial staff over the years, as talented creators move on to other projects.
Tiger King – Remember nine million years ago, when Tiger King was all anyone talked about?
The Outsider – At its best, it’s really, really good. Even in its uneven bits, I didn’t dislike the second half the way some people seemed to.
Schitt’s Creek – Season Six – As sad as it was to say goodbye to the Rose family for the last time, it was so very satisfying to see the well-deserved acclaim, awards, and unadulterated praise the show has finally received. Before watching it, I assumed it was a cheap ripoff of Arrested Development. In reality, the world was gifted with a brilliant, important, resonant, hilarious show that would make me cry happy tears repeatedly over its six year run. Dan Levy 4 Eva!
Sex Education – Seasons One & Two – Even with a relatively large cast of characters, I fell in love with every single one of them. That meant a great deal in a year where the real life people I love weren’t allowed in my living room. This show is an absolute delight, and can’t wait for season three! And that soundtrack, tho!!
Silicon Valley – Season Six – Remember how good this show was in early seasons? Aside from that, I have no comment.
Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet – Season One – A solid, enjoyable show overall, but the real gift was the absolutely beautiful virtual Covid episode that offered viewers a remarkable degree of empathy, kindness, and care in a really dark moment for all of us.
Bob’s Burgers – Season Ten – Like I said about It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, this show has no business continuing to be so good. If anything, the show gets better as it ages. And this year we get a Bob’s Burgers movie!
Cowboy Bebop – Super curious to see how the live action Netflix show featuring the egregiously underutilized talent (and handsomeness) of John Cho turns out.
Rick and Morty – Season Four – While it’s often shadowed by one of the most toxic fanbases out there, I love this fucking show.
What We Do in the Shadows – Season Two – I was so hesitant to start this show back in 2019. I’m always wary of adaptations – especially the movie to TV variety – and I love the movie so, so, so, so, so, so much, the idea of it being spoiled was almost too much to take. But I needn’t have worried, What We Do in the Shadows is hilarious. And season two is even better than season one!
Devs – From what I can tell, too many of you are sleeping on this show. It’s a tense, dark, relatively slow burn tech-sci-fi-mystery-thriller-reality bending show created, written and directed by Alex Garland [the guy who wrote and directed Ex Machina and the adaptation of Annihilation, and who wrote 28 Days Later, Sunshine, and the adaption of Never Let Me Go]. You should watch it.
Steven Universe [Complete] & Steven Universe: Future – My most important pop culture development of 2020 was finally getting around to watching Steven Universe. Of all the things getting me through this nightmare, this show has played the biggest role. I’ve already written about my new obsession here.
Fleabag – This show absolutely blew me away, even for all of its adoring fanfare and exaltation, it still exceeded my expectations. Thank Glob for the rise of Phoebe Waller-Bridge!! I can’t wait to see all the things she does next.
Perry Mason – Season One – A solid first season, anchored by consistently great performances by the entire cast. I hope there’s a second season, because the show was clearly an origin story.
Harley Quinn – Seasons One & Two – While I’m pretty sure most of you are sleeping on Devs, I KNOW most of you are sleeping on Harley Quinn. Without my friend Josué, I’d still be sleeping on it, too. If you at all enjoy irreverent, R-rated cartoons, you need to watch this show.
Central Park – Season One – Created as it was by Loren Bouchard, I went in thinking it was going to be an occasional musical like Bob’s Burgers. So I was surprised to find that it was actually just a full-on musical. And a pretty damned good one at that!
Brooklyn 99 – Seasons One – Three – This was certainly a weird year to re-watch the early seasons of a show about cops. I’m really curious to see what the show-makers do next, as the cast and writers have all been transparent about how seriously they are taking this moment, and the growing awareness by the general public of how remarkably problematic and toxic policing is in this country.
The Haunting of Bly Manor – The first season is still first in my heart, but this was a solid chapter for this burgeoning anthology series. I’m going to be honest and say I hated the epilogue of sorts, and the narrative framing, centered in “present-day” scenes that seem like they were produced for an entirely different, entirely inferior show. Even with that being the case, I still really enjoyed the time I spent in Bly Manor.
Last Week Tonight – Season Seven – God bless John Oliver, and the entire Last Week Tonight team. Who could’ve guessed that a comedy news show would quickly become the most deeply and meticulously researched show on television? From rat erotica to the transcendent conclusion of the running Adam Driver joke, the show brought all the humor and entertainment one would hope for. But there were also a number of surprisingly poignant, human moments, making the show another bright spot in a dark year. All whilst being thoughtful, sharp, and informative. And they topped the whole thing off with a truly cathartic explosion.
Archer – Season Eleven – Even in the more uneven state it finds itself in at this point, I still love Archer.
Lovecraft Country – Speaking of uneven Lovecraft Country. It certainly had its brilliant moments – even whole episodes – but overall I was disappointed. The big surprise is that the truly great, timely antiracist HBO show is actually Watchmen.
The Mandalorian – Season Two – I really liked first season of Mando. I loooooooved season two. To be honest, after The Last Jedi I was pretty fatigued on Star Wars, but The Mandalorian pulled me back in. As a guy who is all in on the western and samurai DNA of the show, this season was a genre-worshipping wet dream. I sure hope Favs doesn’t expect us to survive with more Grogu, though. This is a Grogu world now. We can never allow ourselves to return to a non-Grogu one.
Adventure Time: Distant Lands – “BMO” and “Obsidian” – Adventure Time has returned with what will eventually be four hour long specials, each focusing on different characters from the show. So far, we’ve gotten a BMO episode, along with a Princess Bubblegum and Marceline episode. They are both so, so good. If this is the quality we get when they drop a few new stories here and there for the rest of time, I am definitely here for it.
Lots and lots of Seth Meyers – Similarly to Last Week Tonight, watching someone pick apart the absurd, stupid, evil, gaslighting reality of this administration, and the state of the country, played a huge role in helping me preserve at least some small vestige of my sanity.