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The Best TV Shows of 2020… So Far

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A lot of showrunners put their new seasons on hold due to the pandemic. However, we thankfully still have numerous shows airing and keeping us entertained while we’re at home. Let’s take a glance at some that you can stream online or catch on air.

Better Call Saul (Season 5)

When Breaking Bad concluded in 2013, it received universal acclaim from critics. Many believe that it’s one of the best TV series to have aired. When producer Vince Gilligan announced that they’d be making a spin-off, fans were more than thrilled.

The TV show is a prequel to the original series, following Jimmy McGill as he transforms into Saul Goodman. From con artist, he strives to become a lawyer but becomes entangled in the drug trade. Several characters from Breaking Bad reprise their roles on the show.

Critics agree that Better Call Saul lives up to and even surpasses expectations of many. Some also believe it to be a step up from the original—something rare for a spin-off. Season 5, which premiered February 23, holds a 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It also scored a 92 on Metacritic, the highest of all seasons in the show so far.

Positive reviews praise the complexity of the themes, the direction, and its strong storytelling ability. It takes fans back to the Breaking Bad universe, but it can also stand as a separate series for new viewers. The showrunners also know how to build things up to a good story. But they also know how to take risks and shock audiences.

Fans can look forward to the sixth season, which is currently in the works. However, producers and writers have announced that it would be the last season of the show.

What We Do In The Shadows (Season 2)

For those looking for a hilarious show to binge-watch at home, this comedy horror may be the one for you. This mockumentary is based on the cult classic of the same name by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi.

The premise is generally the same: traditional vampire roommates trying to accustom themselves to the modern world. And of course, this set-up results in many funny situations that will leave the audience in stitches.

A scene that went viral, where a vampire tribunal met to discuss the main characters’ crimes. The clip is a taste of what you get to enjoy when you watch the show.

Why did the video make its rounds on the Internet?

The vampiric council comprised of well-known celebrities. Most of these actors played themselves, playing on the humor that these stars never seem to age. Familiar faces include the following:

  • Tilda Swinton
  • Evan Rachel Wood
  • Wesley Snipes
  • Danny Trejo
  • Paul Reubens

Sorry, no guest appearance by Robert Pattinson or Kristen Stewart as vampires.

The series has received universal critical acclaim, especially for the second season. It has a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Reviews say it doesn’t slow down from the success of the first season, expanding its horizons but still hitting the mark.

Sex Education (Season 2)

The title of this show may raise eyebrows for the more conservative crowd. But that’s what it wants to do. The show opens up conversations and answers questions you’ve been too shy to ask.

Although some scenes may seem ridiculous and unlikely to happen in real life, it’s widely relatable for its themes. People of all ages need to have an open discussion about sexuality. It’s the only way that we can rid the stigma and promote healthy conversations instead. Otherwise, people would learn unhealthy practices and behaviors.

But the Netflix original isn’t strictly about sex. One great thing about the British show is its ability to handle tough topics. The second season deals with issues such as sexual assault, disability, anxiety, and internalized homophobia. Sex Education masterfully portrays these topics without appearing preachy or forced.

It also brings forth portrayals of genuine, healthy friendships that many new shows seem to miss. While others focus more on developing romantic relationships, Sex Education appears to build on all connections. There’s the somewhat tense but loving relationship between Jean and Otis. Eric’s friendship with Otis also challenges toxic masculinity, showing that two men can be openly affectionate.

Need more reasons to watch the show? Here are just a few:

  • Visually aesthetic cinematography. As if the whole show is an Instagram feed.
  • Gorgeous costume choices. The nostalgic wardrobe makes for a fashion-forward show.
  • Honest diversity and representation. You’ll see actors of different ethnicities, genders, and the like.
  • Eric’s hilarious and witty lines. They gave him all the best lines, really.
  • Gillian Anderson. Period.

If you think this Netflix show about teens is strictly for the youth, well, you’ve thought wrong. 

With its smart writing and relatable experiences in terms of sex, it’s a show all age groups can enjoy. The cast members themselves were surprised at how many older adults would go to them and say the show’s brilliant. A sex education clinic seemed to have been a raunchy premise, but the show ends up being more heartwarming than anything else.

Kingdom (Season 2)

We know what you’re thinking.

“Zombies? But that was so several years ago.”

Well, you haven’t seen Korea’s take on this theme.

Kingdom is a fresh take on zombie stories. The show is set in Korea after the Japanese invasion. A mysterious plague seems to have spread in several towns, drawing the attention of the Crown Prince Lee Chang. The King falls ill and is under the control of his new wife and her father.

The show isn’t dependent on the shock value of zombies. Instead, its rich storytelling drives the series forward. There’s politics, characters with mysterious backstories, and a lot more.

The larger budget also allows the writers and directors to play out their vision better. Something that would not have been as possible had it aired on local channels such as KBS, tvN, or JTBC. The quality of the artistry is evident through makeup, costume designs, and set locations. When you’re not engrossed in the story, you’re simply in awe of the gorgeous scenery and cinematography.

The TV series also introduces a lot of individuals to Korean culture. Asian cultures, in general, aren’t well known to everyone, especially on television. Most of the media we consume are primarily Western. Those who are aware of some Korean pop culture know of K-pop and rom-com K-dramas. Kingdom may be the first to break into the Western space in terms of historical dramas.

This show—alongside the film Parasite, which garnered multiple awards including four Oscars—contributes to bringing Korean culture to the mainstream.

The second season holds 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, reflective of the quality of this series.

Mrs. America (Miniseries)

While we’re talking about shows set in the past, Mrs. America is a loose dramatization of the real-life movement for equal rights. Note that it’s not 100% accurate to the real story.

Cate Blanchett portrays Phyllis Schlafly, conservative and author. She opposed the feminist movement and campaigned against the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the constitution.

Historical and political dramas may not be everyone’s cup of tea. However, it introduces an important chapter of history to those who might still be unaware of it. It takes a look at the women’s liberation movement, showing how complex the issues are.

While it’s set in the past, the themes and topics they discuss on the show can still resonate with people today. The challenges they face are the very same concerns we are dealing with at present. For instance, equal pay is something we can see people fight for everywhere at every level of employment.

Critics applaud performances by the ensemble cast. Joining Blanchett are the following stars:

  • Rose Byrne as Gloria Steinem
  • Uzo Aduba as Shirley Chisholm
  • Sarah Paulson as Alice Macray
  • Elizabeth Banks as Jill Ruckelshaus
  • Tracey Ullman as Betty Friedan
  • Margo Martindale as Bella Abzug

Most of the cast and characters are female. Behind the scenes, women also take the lead as the creator of the show, writers, and directors. 

You can catch the show on FX on Hulu.

The Good Place (Season 4)

Okay, okay. So this The Good Place has been around for a while now, and you’ve probably already heard of it.

Premiering the first episode in September 2016, the show aired its final episode on January 20 this year. Because it managed to get the last few in 2020, we still included it on this list.

If you haven’t seen it yet, the show follows Eleanor Shellstrop, a recently deceased sales associate. She finds herself in the titular “Good Place,” a sort of heaven headed by the angel Michael. However, she knows she wasn’t the kindest person on Earth. She realizes it must have been a mistake that she got to the Good Place, and she tries to hide the truth. She meets other residents of the utopia, including Chidi, Tahani, Jason, and Janet (who’s not a girl!).

During its four-year run, the show has received wide critical acclaim. Critics praise its original premise, writing, and acting. Each actor brings something unique and meaningful to the series through their characters. Its complex story also deals with issues such as ethics and philosophy, something most people haven’t seen. Fans of the show also enjoy the humor, keeping them entertained with every episode.

The final season is arguably the best of the show. It’s certified 100% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and is a perfect closing chapter to a beloved television series.

Ozark (Season 3)

Here’s something for the crime junkies.

Now in its third season, Ozark debuted in July 2017 with 10 episodes. The premise starts with financial advisor Marty Byrde. A problem arises with a Mexican drug cartel when a money-laundering scheme goes awry. He decides to relocate his whole family to the Ozarks to try to escape the mess he has created… Only to find out that he has made life much messier for everyone.

After all, things will eventually catch up to you if you don’t resolve them quickly.

While the first two seasons have received positive reviews, the third has a better consensus. Tensions ramp up and drive the story further. Critics also applaud Laura Linney’s performance in the show.

The physical setting of the show is dark, playing right into the theme of the story. Tall trees serve as a metaphor as big players loom over the family. The scenery is as mysterious as the main characters who are layered individuals. Also worth noting is the prominence of female characters, something lacking in crime shows to this day. The women are brilliantly written and can hold their own in the series.

The show has plans to release its fourth and last season, which will have 14 episodes.

Normal People (Season 1)

If you’re looking for a drama series, here’s a great pick.

Normal People is based on a novel by Sally Rooney of the same title. The show takes a look at the relationship between Marianne Sheridan and Connel Waldron. The two come from different backgrounds: Connel’s mother works as a cleaner for Marianne’s affluent family. 

Despite their differences, the two start a romantic relationship. The story follows them as they finish secondary school and move on to adulthood. The show is perfect if you want to binge a series or pace yourself by seeing one episode at a time.

Critics seem to have taken well to the Irish TV show. They point to elegant writing, acting, and directing as its strengths. It also mostly stays faithful to the original novel, immersing audiences as much as it had its readers. It also beautifully portrays intimate content thanks to its intimacy coordinator, Ita O’Brien.

What’s On Your Watch List?

While the pandemic has put a lot of shows (and jobs) on hold, many have still come through to serve us quality television. Have you seen any of the shows we talked about today? What show are you watching right now?

While you’re at home, TV channels and streaming sites are bound to have something you enjoy. You’ll find a gem and a new favorite in whatever genre you love to watch.

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