I will be the black woman who tells you what TV was good in 2020
TV reviews, TV opinions and also sometimes other opinions
**No spoilers this edition, it’s a Best-of-the-Year list extravaganza**
It’s fair to say people trust my TV opinions. Even when I have to go out on a limb and suggest incredibly white TV shows like Dave or Ted Lasso, it’s usually because it really is worth it. But when I sat down to make my Best TV of the Year list, I struggled. I watched a lot of TV this year and, yeah, a lot of it was very good, but…come on, this was a weird year. With quarantine, how people watch TV changed and so did the way we enjoyed television. Or at least, for me it did. Suddenly, shows I thought I’d never get into were the only shows I wanted to watch. Things that usually comforted me only frustrated me. Traditionally “good” shows didn’t offer the entertainment I needed to survive this weird year. But something like Industry suddenly felt like a portal to a long lost time when you could have one night stands and kiss strangers and for that, I was grateful.
To get through quarantine, I had to watch TV differently, so I decided to make different Best of the Year lists to reflect that. Some of these shows aren’t even from 2020, but they helped make 2020 easier, so they’re included.
There’s my overall Best TV of the Year, Best Sandpaper TV, Best Unscripted TV and Best Worst TV lists.
Let’s get to my genre-defying overall bests:
Dave (FX) - I did not want to like Dave. Prior to the show, I had no clue who Lil Dicky was and when I found out, I was not convinced to become a fan. When I started Dave, I told my friends it was a good show if you focused on everything that wasn’t Dave. By the time I finished the show, I realized the show knew that too and the reveal that the show hates Dave just as much as viewers do is so well done, the show deserves to be recognized. No, it’s not Atlanta, it’s Dave.
Sex Education (Netflix) - Did people forget about this show’s perfect second season because it came out all the way back in January? There’s a moment with Gillian Anderson and a Sufjan Stevens song that will shake you to your core.
P-Valley (Starz) - You can hear me gush about P-Valley on my podcast where I’ve interviewed Nicco Annan and Brandee Evans, but I will beg you again to watch this incredible show.
Ted Lasso (Apple TV) - Like Dave, I did not want to like this white man, but he won me over. I’ve written enough about him, but Ted Lasso is a show that restored my faith in humanity.
I May Destroy You (HBO) - I wrote weekly reviews of I May Destroy You (and created now lost visual appreciation threads on Twitter), but it truly is one of the best shows of the year. I’d say it was the best show, but sadly, the environment it came out in did have an impact. I was able to binge the episodes, which made viewing great, but with protests and quarantine, the weekly wait between episodes made it a hard show for some to get through. If you still haven’t watched, I’d recommend sitting down and taking it all in.
90 Day Fiancé: The Other Way (TLC) - I don’t think it’s possible for me to write more about 90 Day Fiancé, but this spin-off was the best version of the year for me. Of course Before the 90 Days was funnier and flashier, but this edition had Kenny and Armando!! I needed reality TV that made me believe in love again and The Other Way did just that.
Seduced (Starz) - You probably already read what I had to say about this documentary and listened to my talk with its director and editor, but it truly is one of the best documentaries on sexual assault and being a survivor. It provides a guide for how future documentaries can address these topics and the survivors at the center of them.
What We Do In The Shadows (FX) - Absolute all star season. I have already rewatched the newest season four times and it just gets better and better. Enough people have given this show the recognition it deserves, but goddamn, Jackie Daytona? Genius.
Better Things (FX) - Better Things is an amazing show people don’t talk about enough and its newest season was some of the best work the show has ever done.
Pen15 (Hulu) - This is how comedies about girlhood/coming of age should be handled. I screamed about this show a lot on twitter, but it’s among the best alt comedy shows out there.
The Dress Up Gang (TBS) - The Dress Up Gang is the funniest fucking show on TV and no one has heard of it because TBS no longer wants to focus on being Very Funny. That’s a shame, because this show is equal parts quarantine-feel-good, equal parts weird-shit. I want HBO Max to save this show and officially take over comedy. Please, this show is so good.
Insecure (HBO) - Insecure had its best season ever. I wrote about it for The A.V. Club, but truly, this was an A+ season.
White TV Shows I’m Not Acknowledging Because They Got Enough Attention:
The Queen’s Gambit, Mrs. America, The Great, Normal People, BoJack Horseman, The Boys, Harley Quinn, Search Party
What is “Sandpaper TV?” Well, early on in quarantine, I realized the best way to survive this was to become a bubble-brained dumb bitch. I had to finely sand down the functions of my brain to get through the living hell that has been 2020. These are the shows that made that possible. They are the equivalent of sinking into a warm bath and I am thankful for them.
The Great Pottery Throw Down (HBO Max) - Oh, I already talked about these sex freaks and why I’m so down to hangout with any of them.
Down to Earth with Zac Efron (Netflix) - At the beginning of quarantine, I had brain cells and complicated thoughts. After binging a few episodes of Down to Earth, my mind could only focus on visions of Efron’s sparkly blue eyes. Thank you, Zac.
Joe Pera Talks With You (Adult Swim) - Not only is Joe Pera funny, he genuinely makes me believe everything is going to be okay if I just focus on tending to my garden and being kind to everyone I meet.
Darcey and Stacey (TLC) - This show is perfect reality TV show fodder. Easy to follow even if you haven’t watched 90 Day Fiancé and Darcey and Stacey are so frustratingly oblivious, their life choices seem realistic enough to laugh at without seeming exploitative.
New Girl (Netflix) - There was a collective moment on Twitter where we all seemed to come together to watch New Girl reruns. This was my third rewatch, but I appreciated the show more than ever before during the ‘tine.
Girlfriends (Netflix) - Netflix finally started streaming black TV shows and I watched all 8 seasons of Girlfriends in a week. This was incredibly healing.
The Big Flower Fight (Netflix) - Remember the sweet dad and son on this show? And how the dad became all of our dads? Was that just me? God, I miss my Gardening Reality TV Dad.
The Midnight Gospel (Netflix) - This show is basically a podcast with graphics, but it made me feel better about the inevitability of death.
Legendary (HBO Max) - The best competitive show of the year that was absolutely overlooked. This show gave me drama, family, tension…everything. It has Megan thee Stallion as a judge and everyone should’ve been talking about it. The best part is making fun of Jameela Jamil!
Single Parents (ABC) - RIP to one of the best hangout sitcoms TV ever made. You belong in heaven with Better off Ted, Happy Endings and Don’t Trust the B in Apt. 23 now.
The Animaniacs Reboot (Hulu) - If you do acid and watch this show, you can heal all of your issues with your inner child (this may only work if you were born in 1990).
I love documentaries so much, I want to honor them with their own category. These are the shows that are guaranteed to send you down a Wikipedia-spiral so that you momentarily forget the government is giving us $600 to survive a pandemic:
Class Action Park (HBO Max) - Some people loved Tiger King as the “White People Are Crazy” documentary of the year, but I gotta go with Class Action Park. White people will really shoot themselves down the side of a mountain!
A Wilderness of Error (FX) - Based on the book, this series does an amazing job of breaking down bias in documentary filmmaking and investigation. It also does a great job of hiding the obvious so the final conclusion still feels like a surprise, even if it seemed clear the entire time.
Trial by Media (Netflix) - The world is a terrible place and I have no hope in our legal system or modern journalism. This series will certainly make you mad about something.
Baby God (HBO) - This documentary covers the real story behind Almost Family, the charming network TV show about a fertility doctor who gets patients pregnant with his own sperm. The TV show was cute and funny, but the reality is horrific and disgusting. The doc also does a great job of showcasing the harm of the doctor’s actions in a way that hasn’t really been examined.
Heavens Gate: The Cult of Cults (HBO Max) - I love a cult documentary and this is another strong entry in the genre. Somewhat similar to Seduced, but there’s a lack of salacious, sex-based details that makes this documentary an even more stark examination of the cult indoctrination process.
Murder on Middle Beach (HBO Max) - This documentary fucking changed the game and I cannot wait for part two. It’s emotional, terrifying and you’ll definitely come up with your own theory.
American Murder: The Family Next Door (Netflix) - I appreciated this documentary because it provides some best practices for using social media to tell the story of your victim. Rather than seeming exploitative, we’re able to truly see Shannan Watts thanks to the careful curation of her statuses, pictures and videos. I imagine the future of murder mysteries will look a lot like American Murder.
Unsolved Mysteries (Netflix) - On God, we’re gonna solve these mysteries, bro.
Dark Side of the Ring (Vice) - I love wrestling and the latest season of DSotR focused on some of the best stories in the sport. Chris Benoit, Jimmy Snuka and the Owen Hart accident are some of the best episodes this season.
The Crown (Netflix) - Well, it is all facts.
People often think I don’t enjoy TV shows that I also talk a lot of shit about, but this is not true. I love bad television. Bad TV is a necessity for me. We all must understand and accept that not everything is made for us, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be fun to watch and make fun of something that wasn’t made for me. I respect and honor shows that just weren’t for me by watching them anyway.
Emily in Paris (Netflix) / Love Life (HBO Max) - These may as well be the same show. Following in the steps of Gossip Girl and Sex and the City, sometimes you just need to watch a shiny rich white girl be skinny in a major city.
13 Reasons Why (Netflix) - This show has always been bad, but with its last season, it was like they wanted you to actively hate every student in the school. I cheered for their demise.
The Ripper (Netflix) - This documentary about a British serial killer just came out, but it’s basically just four episodes of British cops going “Ay, cheerio mate, might ya fancy turning yourself in? You’ve really stirred up quite the pea souper for us!”
The Vow (HBO) - This documentary is morally and ethically questionable given the way it portrays Mark Vicente and the disgusting tease at the end of a second season with interviews from Keith Raniere and Nancy Salzman. The world never needs to hear from these two people again, but the team behind The Vow is still under NXIVM’s spell and treats Raniere and Salzman as geniuses who simply got lost. Seduced makes their danger and harm clear. Still, once you know everything about NXIVM, The Vow is fascinating to watch if you want to see Vicente continue to delude himself and evade accountability. Without that context though, it’s dangerous for people to just watch The Vow.
Grey’s Anatomy (ABC) - It’s so bad again, but I will never stop watching.
The Undoing (HBO) - It didn’t even try to be clever in shoveling the obvious down our throats, but, god was it entertaining to watch.
Industry (HBO) - Another show I’ve ranted about, but this show about sex-driven twentysomethings in finance felt like it was written by virgins who googled “finance advice” and wrote a script. Making fun of this show with my loved ones sustained me during quarantine.