While most of this year may have been a write-off, thankfully there’s been some brilliant television to keep us all entertained during these dark times. Here I’ve rounded up some of my favourite TV shows which have got me through 2020.
Ok, so it might not be to everyone’s taste, but for me Gogglebox really was the slice of normality we all needed in such an unsettling year. There was something so comforting in seeing familiar faces like the Siddiqui family, Jenny and Lee, Izzie and Ellie, Pete and Sophie and the Malones with their huge dogs (not to mention cakes) casting their opinions on films, TV shows and the latest news. This year they covered everything from I’m A Celeb and Strictly Come Dancing, to the Undoing and even Boris’s press conferences. They had an opinion on everything but managed to make even the worst of news amusing. In a year where we were told to stay safe by staying at home, thereby forgoing spending time with our loved ones, watching Gogglebox was like catching up with old friends.
9. The Baby-Sitters Club
As a child I was obsessed with the Baby-sitters Club, a series of books written by Ann M. Martin about, you’ve guessed it, a baby-sitters club. So my hopes were incredibly high for the new television series, which came to Netflix earlier this year. Thankfully it didn’t disappoint. Over ten episodes the series focused on the lives and adventures of teenagers Kristy, Mary-Anne, Claudia, Stacey and Dawn who live in Stoneybrook, Connecticut. The show brought the books bang up to date but stayed true to the original material. Above all it was a pure and fun show about the power of friendship, and a great watch for people of all ages. I can’t wait for more.
8. The Good Place
The Good Place certainly had its ups and downs over the seasons. The show, about a woman Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) who dies and is sent to the ‘good place’, a heaven-like neighbourhood run by architect Michael (Ted Danson), opened with a cracker of a first series complete with a brilliant twist at the end. The subsequent two seasons felt like a bit of a let-down in comparison, but thankfully the show picked up a notch again for its fourth and final series. The season finale was simply brilliant, a sentimental episode which tied up everyone’s storylines perfectly. It was an incredibly emotional episode but still managed to retain its humour. Forking brilliant.
7. His Dark Materials
It’s never easy to adapt books for film or television, but Jack Thorne did a great job in bringing Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials to the small screen. The show recently returned for a second season which was based on The Subtle Knife, the second book in the trilogy. Dafne Keen and Amir Wilson starred as Lyra and Will, and really settled into their roles for this second series. They were supported by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Andrew Scott and the wonderful Ruth Wilson as Mrs Coulter, the character you love to hate. What I love about the show is that it remains true to the books but is still gripping enough for those who are new to the story. A great drama with a fantastic cast.
6. This Country
I was incredibly late to the party when it came to This Country, but this comedy show quickly captured my heart earlier this year. This mockumentary about the experiences of young people growing up in rural England is set in the Cotswolds and follows village residents Kerry Mucklowe and her cousin Kurtan (played by Daisy May and Charlie Cooper, who also created the show). The final series opened with Kerry getting a job at a local dump while Kurtan looked after her house and her mum (who we never see but has some of the best lines – you’ll never look at a tomato in the same light again). The show was a perfectly observed comedy – fresh, funny and incredibly heartwarming. I miss it already.
5. The Queen’s Gambit
Who knew chess was so exciting? Based on Walter Tevis’s 1983 novel, Netflix’s hit drama The Queen’s Gambit starred Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth Harmon, an orphan who battles addiction while aiming to be the greatest chess player in the world. The stunning series was incredibly compelling and inspiring as we watched Beth try and make it in a man’s world. It was also a beautiful show, with every single scene a feast for the eyes (largely thanks to costume designer Gabriele Binder’s chess-inspired pieces.) What’s more, it was incredibly refreshing to watch a show where a woman is able to be the best she can be without men holding her back.
4. After Life
Ricky Gervais’s touching television show about a widower struggling to cope following the death of his wife returned to Netflix earlier this year and was back with a bang. The second series saw Tony still coming to terms with his loss while struggling to move on and also try to be a better person to those around him. This dark comedy was a touching and honest portrayal of love, loss and grief. Ricky Gervais was great as Tony and backed up by an impressive supporting cast including Joe Wilkinson, Roisin Conaty, Ashley Jensen, Diane Morgan and the amazing Penelope Wilton. And this season we were treated to one of my most favourite cameos ever from Annette Crosbie as an incredibly grumpy old woman. Just hilarious.
3. The Crown
One of Netflix’s top dramas The Crown returned for its much-anticipated fourth season in November and it didn’t disappoint. The series spanned from 1979 to 1990, covering the Thatcher years, the Falklands War, Apartheid in South Africa and the marriage of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer. Writer Peter Morgan once again created a gripping season of drama (yes, I was able to differentiate between real life and dramatic license, unlike some tabloid journalists), but the real gem was in the quality of casting. Olivia Colman, Tobias Menzies and Helena Bonham Carter reprised their roles as the Queen, Prince Philip and Princess Margaret respectively, along with Josh O’Connor as Prince Charles. This season they were joined by Emma Corrin and Gillian Anderson as Princess Diana and Margaret Thatcher, both deserving of all of the awards for their outstanding portrayals. This was an exceptional series, visually stunning and brilliantly acted, and proved why The Crown is one of the best dramas around.
2020 has been a difficult year full of disappointment, unless you’re a PPE supplier or an investor in vaccines, and so it’s no surprise that comedy features heavily in my Top 10. Comic relief came in the form of series 10 of Taskmaster, which aired on Channel 4 after moving from Dave. Hosted by the Taskmaster Greg Davies and his assistant ‘little’ Alex Horne (who’s the brains behind the series), the show sees five contestants take on a number of tasks, from the ingenious to the ridiculous. Series 10 featured Richard Herring, Johnny Vegas, Mawaan Rizwan, Katherine Parkinson and Daisy May Cooper. They carried out all kinds of tasks, from catapulting a shoe into a bath using their feet, making objects disappear and doing something out of character with a £20 note. The series was hilarious from start to finish, with Katherine Parkinson misjudging most of her tasks, Johnny Vegas putting in a memorable performance (and a few memorable falls too) and Daisy May Cooper tackling each of her tasks with incredible gusto (who could forget the sight of her devouring a watermelon fed to her by Richard Herring?!) With a great line-up and some entertaining and imaginative tasks, Taskmaster provided some much-needed escapism in a particularly difficult year.
1. Schitt’s Creek
It’s hard to believe that when I first started watching Schitt’s Creek, I couldn’t get into it. Thankfully I stuck at it, and soon it became one of my most favourite television shows ever. This Canadian sitcom is about the once wealthy Rose family, who lose their money and are forced to move to Schitt’s Creek, a small town they once bought as a joke. After six seasons the show came to an end and the final series was as perfect as it could get. The show normalises LGBTQ relationships (as it should) and what I love most about the show is that it’s based a town with no prejudice or hate whatsoever. We could all learn a lot from this show. The cast were all perfect, with creators Dan and Eugene Levy also starring along with the brilliant Annie Murphy as Alexis (‘ew David’) and the wonderful Catherine O’Hara as Moira, the woman who spawned a thousand memes. Everything about the show was brilliant, from the storylines, costumes, and of course, the final episode, which had me laughing one second and crying the next with its happy ending (ahem, if you know, you know). Schitt’s Creek is a warm and witty show and I’ll miss it greatly. It’s simply the best.
Photo credit: Netflix