Although this year was marred by the coronavirus pandemic and numerous delays in entertainment, quite a few TV shows released and impressed millions of people around the world. Throughout the 2010s, the concept of peak TV became more ubiquitous as top-tier TV shows came and went in droves. And judging by the quality of TV shows in 2020, it certainly looks like prime television is here to stay – and even grow in some cases.
Of course, due to the pandemic, there were many TV shows that were either delayed or outright canceled because of budgetary issues or concerns with productions. Netflix notably canceled several shows that were previously renewed, and other series, such as Stranger Things and The Witcher, may have come out in 2020 but are now eyeing 2021 or possibly 2022 releases. At the same time, 2020 saw several shows conclude – Arrow, Supernatural, Modern Family, 13 Reasons Why, and many, many more – thus ending one era of TV while giving way for another to begin.
Continue scrolling to keep reading Click the button below to start this article in quick view.
Related: Biggest Movie News Stories Of 2020
Just like movies, not every TV show is widely beloved. Some are more liked and more watched than others, which is why it’s very likely people’s favorite shows may not appear on this list; in fact, quite a few terrific TV shows didn’t make the cut. As with every previous year, Screen Rant compiles its list of best TV shows by tallying the individual lists of the editors and staff writers. Each section below was written by one of the people who voted for that particular TV show.
15. Star Trek: Discovery
John Orquiola, Staff Writer:
Star Trek: Discovery reinvented itself in season 3, rocketing into a tumultuous distant future (circa 3189) with unpredictable twists and turns around every corner. The show finally lived up to its name thanks to Commander Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and the crew of the USS Discovery facing a dangerous new era unlike what they, and Star Trek fans, were used to. In addition, Discovery embraced its role as the franchise’s flagship series by reintroducing classic Star Trek concepts and tying into the legacy of the entire Trek movie and TV franchise, all while delivering feature-film quality visuals, action, and stirring drama. In season 3, Star Trek: Discovery fulfilled its potential as the Star Trek show of the future while being the Star Trek show we need right now.
14. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Rebecca VanAcker, News Editor:
Canceled by original network Fox in 2018, Brooklyn Nine-Nine continues to defy odds as it heads into season 8 on NBC, its home since last year. The show has slowly but surely become one of TV’s warmest and most reliable comedies, anchored by strong performances from Andy Samberg, Andre Braugher, and the rest of its stellar ensemble cast. Though Brooklyn Nine-Nine is consistently funny, it’s also not afraid to delve into more serious storytelling; a memorable season 7 episode followed Jake and Amy’s struggle to conceive. While some shows grow stale later in their runs, Brooklyn Nine-Nine has never been better.
13. What We Do In The Shadows
Shawn DePasquale, News Editor:
It is exceedingly rare that a TV adaptation of a movie lives up to the original, but What We Do In The Shadows manages to do just that, and so much more. The series greatly expands the film’s unique monster mythology while remaining consistently hilarious. Stand out performances from Kayvan Novak, Natasia Demetriou, Matt Berry, and Harvey Guillén give depth to the main characters, and unexpected celebrity cameos fill their world with plenty of bizarre supporting characters. What We Do In The Shadows is a must-watch comedy and one of the best TV shows of the year.
12. Lovecraft Country
Mansoor Mithaiwala, Features Editor:
There’s a beauty in mastering Lovecraftian horror and fantasy separately, but seamlessly blending the two is practically unheard of. Then to use both genres as a tool to tell a story that deconstructs American racism, while also providing viewers with brief, sometimes not-so-subtle history lessons about such racism, is astounding. Coupling all that with expert acting, writing, direction, and cinematography, and HBO found itself with a wonderful hit on its hands. What furthered Lovecraft Country‘s excellence was that people couldn’t expect what the next episode would entail, which is a rarity in television, even in the era of peak TV. And that’s exciting.
Related: Lovecraft Country Season 1 Finale: Every Major Reveal & Ending Twist Explained
11. The Good Place
Alex Leadbeater, Managing Editor:
Only four episodes of The Good Place aired in 2020, but that quartet managed to take the baton from the high-point of “The Answer” and crafted a convincing solution to the show’s central conundrum. Although Michael Schur’s show went off the boil in its middle seasons when chasing evermore impermanent shakeups, the final episodes of season 4 returned the series to its core: the characters and underpinning philosophical themes.
An idealized afterlife built around more spiritual ideals and geared towards acceptance of the end is a pretty literal manifestation of The Good Place‘s driving idea, and it was done with suitable affectionate humor, callbacks and payoffs aplenty. Given how many endings in recent years leave a bitter taste that reshape the show’s legacy for many (see: HIMYM, Game of Thrones), The Good Place‘s achievement can’t be understated.
Sarah Moran, News Editor:
The Good Place already cemented itself as a modern sitcom classic with its still brilliant season 1 twist. In its final season (the later half of which aired in 2020), it continues to be one of the best shows of the last decade with not only more surprises and absurdly funny jokes, but an honest exploration of what makes life worth living. For a show whose main characters are dead for much of it, The Good Place didn’t linger on death. Instead, it used its after life premise to largely focus on the life that precedes it and how it makes for either a good or bad person. The Good Place season 4, however, brings death back into the equation, but of course, in an uplifting, Good Place-way. Still, it uses the finality of death to reminds its characters (and by proxy the audience) that part of what gives life meaning is knowing it ends, and that what matters most is how the time we’re given is spent. The Good Place season 4 delivers this message alongside hilarious gags, feel good moments, and a few tearful farewells, wrapping up what’s been four seasons of forking great television.
10. Big Mouth
Christopher Fiduccia, News Editor:
Big Mouth returned for season 4 at the beginning of December, continuing the story of teenagers growing up in New York while going through the awkward stage of puberty. There are plenty of animated comedies out there to watch, but Big Mouth has stuck out since its premiere in 2017 due to its lewd subject matter. Big Mouth season 4 didn’t disappoint, with the newest 10 episodes including even cruder jokes than past seasons, while still giving Andrew, Nick, Jessi, and the other characters satisfying arcs. Big Mouth season 4 was able to tackle sensitive topics as well, such as gender/racial identity and anxiety, while still providing plenty of laughs to make the end of 2020 a tad more bearable.
Related: Big Mouth Season 4 Ending Explained: What Nick Starr Really Means
9. BoJack Horseman
James Hunt, Features Editor:
The first half of BoJack Horseman season 6 was the setup, moving the story and characters into the starting blocks; the second was BoJack’s one horse race to the finish line, a dazzling and devastating denouement to arguably Netflix’s best ever original series. Taking a trip into its protagonist’s past to inform his present and future, BoJack Horseman season 6, part 2 is every bit as funny, weird, beautiful, and sad as fans have come to expect. Studying the impact BoJack has had on the lives around him allows for a run of episodes that feels simultaneously personal and broadly powerful, tackling abuses not only of substances, but of love, trust, and relationships, and daring to ask what comes next.
BoJack has always been a show that blended its visual absurdity and razor sharp gags with a pitch black darkness, and that’s to be found here once again. But perhaps more surprisingly, BoJack is able to give most of its characters a happy ending, something ultimately deserved and that still stays true to the show’s core. And with BoJack himself, having been taken to almost literal hell and back, the show offers up its biggest, most important message yet: there is always hope. BoJack Horseman may not be able to change, but he’s at least willing to try, and as the show comes to an end, that’s everything.
8. The Crown
Simon Gallagher, Lead Features Editor:
Though Netflix have now set a lifespan for the final seasons of The Crown, the grand original series defied any expectations to slow down with a fourth season in 2020 that hurtled far more purposefully through time. Taking in the entirety of both Charles and Diana’s courtship and marriage (up to the point it began to irrevocably fall apart) and Margaret Thatcher’s time as Prime Minister, season 4 was also the most controversial. Thanks to the tighter focus on Prince Charles’ evolution from sympathetic outsider to full-blown bratty villain, the show waded into waters murky enough to inspire calls for a disclaimer on Netflix about it being a work of fiction.
The creative liberties leaned heavily into some of the more caustic opinions on the Royal Family and uncharacteristically offered a counterpoint in what the real people of Britain experienced over the same period. The performances across the board were outstanding, particularly the disarmingly accurate Thatcher offered by Gillian Anderson and Diana by Emma Corrin, but just as it’s no sickly sweet celebration of the Royals, it’s also no mere mimic show. This was the most challenging season of The Crown yet and its end promised even greater things when the cast swap out for season 5.
Related: The Crown Season 4 True Story: What Really Happened (& What Changed)?
7. Agents of SHIELD
Thomas Bacon, Staff Writer:
The flagship TV series of Marvel Television, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD had started off as the official MCU tie-in show – but, over the years, it grew increasingly distanced from the movies. The seventh and final season demonstrated just how much of a strength that is, using time travel to explore the show’s own mythology. It was essentially Marvel Television’s own version of Avengers: Endgame, a celebration of everything they had established since Agents of SHIELD launched in 2013, and it was an absolute delight for long-term viewers. Agents of SHIELD will be missed, but not forgotten. Fans eagerly hope some of the central characters, most notably Chloe Bennet’s Quake, will find their way into the mainstream MCU – only time will tell.
6. Schitt’s Creek
Kara Hedash, Staff Writer:
While 2020 marked the end of Schitt’s Creek, the beloved Canadian sitcom certainly went out with a bang. After gaining popularity in recent years due to streaming availability on Netflix, the series celebrated its concluding sixth season by sweeping all major categories at the year’s Emmy Awards. Created by the father-son duo Eugene and Dan Levy, Schitt’s Creek excelled in embedding heartfelt moments within absurdly comedic storylines. The show notably starred both Levy men, Catherine O’Hara, and Annie Murphy as the Rose family who found themselves in a fish out of water scenario after losing their fortune. In time, Schitt’s Creek turned into a touching tale about finding happiness in the unlikeliest of places. With a stellar cast and remarkable writing, the sitcom will go down in history as one of the best in recent memory.
5. The Umbrella Academy
Hannah Shaw-Williams, Features Editor:
Based on the comics by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá, The Umbrella Academy has become one of Netflix’s most popular original shows for a reason. Belonging to the same superhero counter-culture as The Boys and Watchmen, Umbrella Academy explores the consequences of taking a group of children with superpowers and forcefully trying to mold them into a superhero team – with results varying from drug addiction to serious daddy issues. In season 2, the members of the Umbrella Academy find themselves in the classic time-travel position of going back to 1963 armed with the knowledge to prevent the JFK assassination – and naturally, instead of making things better, they end up almost bringing about another apocalypse. An excellent soundtrack, creative fight scenes, and a dark sense of humor all come together in a triumphant return for the Hargreeves family.
4. Better Call Saul
Chris Agar, News Editor:
Long ago, Better Call Saul escaped the shadow of Breaking Bad and rightfully stands on its own merits as one of TV’s finest dramas. Better Call Saul season 5 further solidified the spinoff’s excellence and was arguably the show at its best (“Bagman” in particular being a highlight). Thanks to fantastic performances throughout the main cast and storylines that kept viewers on the edge of their seats, Better Call Saul set itself up for a thrilling conclusion in its upcoming final season. This has become the shining example of how to do a captivating prequel.
Related: Better Call Saul Season 5 Ending’s Biggest Twists (& What They Mean For S6)
3. The Queen’s Gambit
Sarah Milner, Features Editor:
Not content to lean on convention, The Queen’s Gambit is a truly unique series. Anya Taylor-Joy shines as Beth Harmon, a young woman who aspires to become the next chess World Grandmaster. A fascinating hybrid of sports drama, period piece, and coming of age story, the Netflix miniseries is hands-down the sleeper hit of 2020. Based on the Walter Tevis novel of the same name, The Queen’s Gambit follows Beth’s journey into the world of competitive chess during its peak period into the 1960s, while also navigating the difficult transitions from orphanage to adoptive family, and adolescence to adulthood.
At its core, The Queen’s Gambit is an exhilarating story of a young woman overcoming adversity and conquering her own insecurities. It’s an empowering story that subverts the typical “strong female character” tropes while also, gently, crafting a message of community and acceptance. Over its eight tight, perfectly paced episodes, the miniseries lovingly sells the audience on the sport’s appeal – while also reminding viewers that competition doesn’t have to preclude friendship.
2. The Boys
Craig Elvy, Staff Writer:
The Boys dramatically upped its game for a highly anticipated season 2, perhaps more than anyone expected. The characters are more compelling (both those with superpowers and without), and the addition of Aya Cash as Stormfront proved to be an evil stroke of genius, matching Homelander for each and every evil glare. The Boys’ debut season was a welcome, anarchic break from the superhero deluge, but season 2 proved there’s more to Butcher, Hughie, M.M., Frenchie and Kimiko than just sticking a middle finger up to DC and Marvel. Taking aim at everyone from Joss Whedon to Donald Trump, season 2’s pop culture jabs have all the subtlety of a Christmas sweater, but that doesn’t make The Boys’ humor any less smart, or its satire any less effective.
1. The Mandalorian
Mansoor Mithaiwala, Features Editor:
The Mandalorian season 1 did a great job at laying the foundation for Din Djarin’s story in the Star Wars galaxy, while also subtly connecting the series to the overarching franchise – but season 2 took all of that and turned the whole story on its head… in a great way. People knew some characters would be appearing in season 2, like Boba Fett and Ahsoka Tano, but exactly how the season brought them into the fold and used them to an extent that satisfied hardcore fans were praise-worthy. In many ways, season 2 fell more in line with what fans expected of the sequel trilogy while never losing track of its core story.
Really, The Mandalorian season 2 perfectly encapsulates George Lucas’ vision for Star Wars, by having a lone warrior like Din Djarin traversing the galaxy and dropping in on other people’s adventures every week. To not only do that but also expand the Star Wars universe, while simultaneously bridging the gap between the animated and live-actions worlds, is truly astonishing to witness. And by the time the season ends, Luke Skywalker’s shocking CGI face is nothing more than an afterthought, because the technology doesn’t matter. What matters here is the emotional payoff of seeing Grogu and Din Djarin depart, coupled with an inner explosion of happiness of seeing Return of the Jedi‘s Luke in all his glory as a true Jedi Master.
Next: The Best Movies Of 2020
Bollywood Wives: Karan Johar’s Age, Father, Movies, IG & Net Worth
About The Author
Mansoor Mithaiwala (1710 Articles Published)
Mansoor is the lead features editor at Screen Rant. He joined the team as a freelancer back in 2016 and somehow managed to fail upwards. Someone must be following his career with great interest…