TV reigned in 2020, and these shows ruled over the rest.
For many of us, TV was one of 2020’s biggest saving graces. Everything from endless rewatches of our favorite streaming comfort TV shows to the new and exciting debuts we could catch up with week-to-week, having something to watch from the comfort of our homes made quarantine a little less challenging, and thankfully, there was plenty to go around, no matter what genre or vibe you might be into.
We’ve compiled our top 10 favorite TV shows of 2020 and here you’ll find 9 of them. To learn which show took home the top honor with our editorial team, you’ll want to head here to see which series was the very best of the best: GameSpot’s Best Show of 2020.
The 9 shows represented here are unranked, and available to watch now–from the existential sci-fi drama of FX on Hulu’s Devs to the go-for-broke sports docu-series that was ESPN’s The Last Dance. There’s something here for everyone.
And, while you’re at it, don’t forget to check out our other year-end coverage:
Writer/director Alex Garland is best known for his movies Ex Machina and Annihilation but this year saw him jumping from the big screen to the small with a limited series for FX on Hulu called Devs. Conceptually, it falls right into Garland’s ouvre–it’s the story of a bleeding edge Silicon Valley tech company called Amaya and its mysterious Devs division as they work to develop a system that has the potential to not only change the world, but change history as well.
Devs is a lavish, poetic, and surprisingly human entry into Garland’s filmography that features some powerhouse performances by actors like Sonoya Mizuno, Allison Pill, and Nick Offerman. It’s somewhere between hard sci-fi and dream-like philosophy and available to watch in its entirety on Hulu, right now. – Mason Downey
The Mandalorian Season 2
Coming hot off of Season 1 in 2019, in which the world fell in love with Baby Yoda AKA The Child (AKA Grogu), The Mandalorian took viewers along for the ride on a sci-fi wild west series that became a bit more of an ensemble show this year. In addition to the return of Cara Dune, Season 2 introduced exciting characters from animated Star Wars series, and reintroduced us to the infamous bounty hunter Boba Fett. Sure, we also learned that Baby Yoda’s true name is Grogu–but we’re not calling him that. Season 2 of The Mandalorian may cater a little too much to Star Wars fans, hanging onto the past, but it built toward the future of the show, further developing Mando. He met other Mandalorians along the way and found that his way of life isn’t the norm for those from Mandalore. What The Mandalorian does exceptionally well is make Star Wars accessible to everyone, crafting a show that appeals to folks who have never seen a Star Wars movie as well as those who live and breathe everything in a galaxy far far away. – Chris Hayner
The Queen’s Gambit
Netflix’s period piece chess drama seems like an unlikely success on paper–unless you’re a chess superfan, of course. But The Queen’s Gambit subverted expectations by blending deeply emotional human drama with all the strategy and inside baseball of competitive chess tournaments. You probably won’t actually learn much about playing the game itself as you work through the mini series, but that’s more than alright–you’ll still find yourself tearing up or cheering along as Anya Taylor-Joy’s Beth Harmon makes her finishing moves and puts her opponents in checkmate. – Mason Downey
The Boys Season 2
The Boys Season 2 was a nightmare, in all the best ways possible. It held up a mirror to society and forced us to face our current dilemma head-on, by showing exactly how Americans–ordinary and super alike–can be so easily seduced by racists and nazis. It told a gripping story about corruption, hatred, and unfettered corporate power, and how desperate the fight against those forces can feel. At the same time, The Boys has some of the most complex characters around, with villains who have a soft side and heroes who are sometimes difficult to root for. It wasn’t all grim–with the gore turned up to 11, The Boys Season 2 often cut through the tension with well-placed laughs, even as we cried at the injustice of it all. Frankly, we just loved spending time with these characters. The Boys Season 2 cemented this series as one of our favorite shows ever. – Mike Rougeau
The Last Dance
Full disclosure: I’m British and not a big sports fan, so a ten-hour documentary series about the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s should’ve been extremely low on my list of the year’s best shows. But the ESPN/Netflix co-production The Last Dance showed that no matter the subject matter, a gripping real-life story and a fascinating cast of characters are the key to a great documentary. Michael Jordan is, of course, at the center of the series, as it charts his final ’97-’98 season with the Bulls while flashing back to the life events that led him to become the most revered basketball player of all time. But there’s so much more than that; there’s plenty of focus on Jordan’s superstar teammates (Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Steve Kerr), the behind-the-scenes conflicts between Bulls general manager Jerry Krause and head coach Phil Jackson, the way the team’s incredible run of success captured the imagination of the world for a few years, and the inevitable pressures it put on all involved. And despite the modern day involvement of all the players, it’s not a puff-piece either. They are often shown to be flawed, arrogant, and insecure people as well as incredible athletes, and the filmmakers are unafraid to ask Jordan difficult questions about the way he treated his teammates in his single-minded quest for victory. Gripping, inspiring, and at times very moving, this is documentary-making at its best. –Dan Auty
The Haunting of Bly Manor
Bly Manor had some big shoes to fill after 2018’s breakout hit, The Haunting Of Hill House, which set expectations for the newest entry in Netflix’s horror anthology series understandably high. But thankfully, Bly met the challenge head-on by weaving an intricate, emotional gothic romance story that honored the ambience and energy of its precursor while setting itself apart with new characters, scares, and of course . Bly Manor’s touching tragedy was the perfect binge for 2020’s dreary, party-free Halloween season and an instant classic. – Mason Downey
On paper, Ted Lasso sounds like just one more situational sports-adjacent comedy. Jason Sudeikis plays a great straight man, but he doesn’t inspire confidence as a lead. All those assumptions prove unfounded, though, as you dive into the ultra-positive, earnest, and upbeat world of Ted Lasso, a mustachioed, drawling American football coach who moves to England to coach UK football, an act of subtle sabotage that Ted gradually but fully subverts through sheer likability. The show is rarely saccharine, though; Ted is a guy who always does his best, even while the world around him completely sucks. He inspires the people around him to want to do their best, too. And he doesn’t always succeed, but you’ll find yourself rooting for him either way. This was the exact show we needed in 2020. – Mike Rougeau
Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet
Obviously, this is GameSpot, so a TV show about game devs is going to be on our radar. However, that bias aside, Mythic Quest turned out to be a great and hilarious show. Created by some of the same writers of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia–Charlie Day, Megan Ganz, and Rob McElhenney–the series follows a successful developer as they push out a new update for their MMORPG. With some assistance in development of the Mythic Quest game footage and production from Ubisoft, the series delved into all aspects of game development and what devs have to deal with, including Twitch streamers, toxic players, and the economics of microtransactions. While all the characters featured on the show–a couple of whom are portrayed by actors Always Sunny–have their flaws, the ensemble cast balances itself perfectly as the series is incredibly well-written. It was the light-hearted romp we all desperately needed in 2020. – Mat Elfring
The name “Dark” at first feels a little vague, but by the time you finish crawling through this 3-season web of time travel, incest, and paradoxes, you’ll understand it perfectly. Dark isn’t just dark; it’s pitch-effing-black. But what really impressed us about Season 3 is how it wrapped things up, even while continuing the tradition of adding yet another new dimension (so to speak) to the show’s tangled timelines. It managed to weave one of the most complex, but somehow still cohesive, sci-fi stories we’ve ever seen (we have some to recommend once you reach the end). Did we mention the whole thing is in German? Watch it now. – Mike Rougeau
And our number 1 show of 2020 is…
We loved these nine shows, but we loved one more above them all. We’ve decided to honor said show in its own post–click here to find out why.