Our writers recommend the best TV shows of 2023, from hit series to lesser known gems that hit streaming platforms this year. Read the full list!
2023 was a fantastic year, not just for films but also for television. The time has come to take a look at the best TV shows of the year, and it wasn’t an easy task to come up with this list, as so many great series hit streaming platforms in 2024! Our writers teamed up and each recommended a show: find all their picks below, and scroll to the end for more recommendations! Don’t forget to check out our list of best movies of 2023 too!
BARRY: SEASON 4
When Barry first aired in 2018, I anticipated Hader’s titular character to be a comedic role similar to his previous work. However, after numerous friends deemed the series Hader’s best work to date and a must-see, I binge-watched the show and was pleasantly surprised. Though Barry begins as a dark comedy centering around a hitman who attends an acting class, it gradually becomes a compelling drama that isn’t afraid to push boundaries and venture beyond its signature witty humor. As the plot develops, the audience becomes increasingly invested in the characters and their journey. With each passing season, characters are given more depth and are humanized through their past traumas and unique flaws, allowing viewers to empathize with even those on the wrong side of the law.
Season 3’s cliffhanger ending left fans somewhat skeptical about the show’s future and whether the creators of Barry had written themselves into a corner. However, season 4 exhibits some of the bleakest, most gripping, and most unpredictable episodes throughout the series, with a career-defining performance from Hader both behind and in front of the camera. In the final season, co-creators Alec Berg and Hader masterfully explore the theme of accountability as characters either take responsibility for their actions or accept their inability to change. It’s tragic to watch, especially as viewers realize that even their most beloved characters may not survive. Still, decisions have consequences, and taking responsibility for them can lead to growth and redemption, a powerful message Barry delivers effortlessly in its last eight episodes.
There’s no doubt that Barry owes its success to not only impeccable writing but also an outstanding cast who embrace their roles and provide Emmy-worthy performances. So, if you’re looking for a riveting series to keep you on the edge of your seat, I highly recommend Barry. (Emma Vine)
THE BEAR: SEASON 2
Showrunner: Christopher Storer
Full Review: The Bear Season 2 Review
Last summer, the first season The Bear was released on Hulu and immediately took the world by storm. With its signature blend of sharp comedy, poignant drama and lovable characters, this debut season proved that even the simplest of recipes can exceed expectations when they’re prepared right. Plenty of fans were concerned that The Bear would be unable to outdo itself with Season 2, but those worries quickly washed away when the show decided to take a completely new direction with these 10 episodes and try something totally different. The Bear’s second season ditches the high-octane kitchen drama (mostly) and replaces it with more character-focused, targeted storylines that each serve a more complete whole.
What The Bear’s second season does perfectly is separating the main characters from each other and devoting entire episodes to their individual development in the overall schematics of the show. Instead of cramming everybody together in the kitchen, episodes such as “Forks” and “Honeydew” give characters room to breathe outside of this chaotic environment while “Fishes” and “The Bear” maintain that intense atmosphere that’s so synonymous with the show.
The result of this dramatic tonal shift is a show that feels much more precise in its storytelling: while the season as a whole is more disjointed and doesn’t have many links between the episodes, the stories themselves are much more intricate and leave a stronger impression. The first season admittedly felt more like a miniseries, and for many audiences, it was difficult to see how it could advance from there. But The Bear’s second season is almost a bridge between that initial format and a new, hopefully more prosperous future for the show. (Jack Walters)
Beef is a story about the universality of repressed anger and the avenues we fall down searching for meaning and excitement in life. Its all-star cast, which consists of the always-wonderful Ali Wong and Steven Yeun, paired with Lee Sung Jin’s deeply nuanced writing, puts this thoughtful and completely unique dark comedy at the top of any best of 2023 television list.
Beef follows the vengeful cat-and-mouse game that takes place after its two lead characters, Amy Lau (Ali Wong) and Danny Cho (Steven Yeun), get into a road rage incident. The series meets these characters while they are at very different places in life. Amy is an extremely wealthy entrepreneur attempting to sell her house plant business to spend more time with her young daughter and husband George (Joseph Lee). Danny is working tirelessly, and unsuccessfully, to make enough money from his handyman business to move his parents back to the United States after they were forced to move back to Korea. While they have seemingly nothing in common, the one thing they bond over is the high they get from seeking revenge on each other and letting all their pent-up anger and frustrations fly free in pursuit of making one another suffer. As they seep further and further into their revenge-driven rage their lives become entwined and they come to see that maybe they are not so different after all.
Lee Sung Lin creates a deeply funny yet wildly thought-provoking story about two people who use each other to let out their frustrations about the unfairness and unavoidable disappointment that life brings. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, it will make you think twice before honking your horn. (Hayley Croke)
Although audiences forgot about it not long after they watched it, Nicolas Winding Refn’s self-indulgent and poetic series Copenhagen Cowboy is one of the best shows I have watched this year. Because of this disappearance into the void of Netflix’s endless catalog, the six-episode project now feels more like a curtain closer than an ever-evolving tale. Its ending hinted at the possibility of another season; unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like it’ll be happening. But that doesn’t diminish NWR’s work here.
The Danish filmmaker takes his fascination with exploring the seedy undergrounds of places with dark pasts and intertwines it with modern audiences’ obsession with superheroes. He creates a tale about the abusive state of masculinity through a revenge-thriller narrative and a comic-book approach. The world Miu (Angela Bundalovic) – a psychic renegade searching for vengeance and liberation – inhabits is rather strange, lying between the realms of dreams and nightmares. Refn covers Copenhagen’s criminal underworld in neon lights, and Kenneth Anger-inspired attires, where violence begets violence, and there’s no consolation for the weak-minded.
Copenhagen Cowboy focuses less on the plot and instead relies on plentiful moments of silence, making spellbinding effects of the cinematography to have its effect. We see Miu’s journey for vengeance through a kaleidoscopic array of images and set pieces, most of which look as if they were part of an art installation. Unhurried and chaotic, this piece of work divided audiences plenty: some crawled for the exit; others, like me, binge-watched it on the same day. However, the grand-scale and lavish artistry presented in NWR’s latest, which I hope isn’t his last, is so compelling and hypnotizing that you won’t be able to get your eyes off the screen. (Hector A. Gonzalez)
THE CROWN: SEASON 6
This past year, the highly acclaimed series The Crown concluded its remarkable journey, marking the culmination of a global phenomenon that enthralled audiences worldwide.
The final season, thoughtfully segmented by Netflix, focuses its narrative lens on the final days of Princess Diana’s life. Elizabeth Debicki, once again portraying The Princess of Wales, exhibits exceptional poise and authenticity, capturing the princess’s stoicism and vulnerability with seamless precision. Striving to forge a future in a post-royalty landscape, she emerges as a humanitarian and a tabloid sensation in the public eye. In a poignant portrayal of one of the most distressing moments in modern history, the series tastefully depicts Diana’s car accident, serving as the emotional apex of the entire sixth season.
While Part 1 predominantly delves into the tragic passing of Princess Diana, Part 2 redirects attention to Queen Elizabeth (Imelda Staunton). Constrained by only six episodes to conclude its final season, the show endeavors to encapsulate a considerable period, sidelining other cast members’ narratives. Despite the series sidelined some of their characters, The Crown humanizes the royals, portraying them not just as figures of power, but as individuals grappling with personal dilemmas and emotions. Queen Elizabeth’s storyline concludes with emotional resonance, paying homage to the character’s evolution and tangible contributions, thereby offering a sincere tribute to the enduring influence of the monarch.
As the curtain falls on The Crown, it leaves behind a legacy of excellence. The series has not only entertained but also educated, sparking insightful conversations about the role of monarchy in the modern world. The Crown has undeniably earned its esteemed place as a crown jewel in the realm of television. (Fabian Garcia)
FOR ALL MANKIND: SEASON 4
Showrunners: Ben Nedivi, Matt Wolpert, Ronald D. Moore
Full Review: For All Mankind Season 4 Review
For All Mankind came out swinging with its release of Season 4, and its creators have us on the edge of our seats waiting for the sci-fi hit’s upcoming season finale. I said it back in October and I’ll say it again: For All Mankind Season 4 is, without a doubt, the best season yet. Why, you ask? Two words: space pirates. And, yes, of course there are intriguing character arcs, breathtaking special effects, increasing tensions, and plenty of drama, but the one reason you should be watching is to see how things might’ve played out had the Americans not been the first to land on the Moon.
For All Mankind explores the 1969 space race through an engaging alternate version where the Soviet Union is the first to land on the Moon. As a result, the space race never ends and NASA finds itself in its own race to keep up with Russia, as well as North Korea. Season 1 brought us to the Moon where we found water and saw the development of lunar bases. Season 2 took a political turn and placed a woman as the head of NASA, and it also brought nuclear tensions on Earth between the Americans and the Russians as the space race became a large part of the Cold War. Season 3 introduced the launch of an orbital space hotel, a race to Mars, a female president, and a major terrorist attack that obliterated NASA Mission Control.
And Season 4, well, it’s the best yet, full of mischief, new faces, steaming tensions, and a worldwide race to capture the most profitable, mineral-rich asteroid anyone has ever seen. And did I mention space pirates? This show is absolute genius. (Keeley Brooks)
Showrunners: Craig Rosenberg, Evan Goldberg, and Eric Kripke
One of the most compelling pieces of superhero media released in 2023, Gen V is a spinoff of Prime Video’s The Boys, centered on young superpowered individuals coming of age while attending Godolkin University. The so called “God U” was founded by Vought International to train heroes, but everything is not as it seems there. This show was recommended to me by a good friend of mine and I’m so glad I gave it a shot. Gen V is bonkers, action packed, and hilarious. The creative team takes fantastic new characters like Emma Meyer/Little Cricket (portrayed by the delightful Lizze Broadway) and gives audiences a satirical, bloody, fun take on young heroes that is worth watching whether you are a fan of The Boys or not.
The plot is intriguing from beginning to end with twists that audiences are not likely to see coming. In a way, Gen V is the most Marvel like thing that Amazon’s The Boys has offered, considering that it is quite connected to its parent series. The series still manages to maintain a charm and level of chaos that fans would expect. Also, unlike most of Marvel’s streaming offerings, while watching three seasons of The Boys would benefit audiences, I would not call it a requirement. Gen V is awesome and filled with colorful characters and satisfying moments that allow the series to stand out while expanding the world of The Boys in wicked ways. (Branyan Towe)
THE LAST OF US
Showrunners: Neil Druckmann & Craig Mazin
Full Review: The Last of Us: HBO Series Review
It’s so surreal to think of The Last of Us as a 2023 show, as even if it first hit Max in January last year, it was such a phenomenon that it already feels part of our culture. There are many reasons why The Last of Us — revolving around a father (Pedro Pascal) and a 14-year-old girl (Bella Ramsey) surviving the apocalypse in a post-pandemic world — deserves to be on this list. One of them is the sheer perfection that was episode 3, telling the tragic, twenty-year-spanning love story of a survivalist named Bill (Nick Offerman) and a kind man named Frank (Murray Bartlett). The incredibly well-crafted “Long, Long Time” took us by surprise when it first aired, delivering a lesson on storytelling that was so effective that even Steven Spielberg wrote an enthusiastic letter to writer Craig Mazin.
But there are so many reasons why The Last of Us earns its spot as one of the best TV shows of 2024. If The Walking Dead gave you a very specific idea of what a post-apocalyptic series is supposed to look like, this video game adaptation subverts our expectations. Craig Mazin (Chernobyl) and Neil Druckmann deliver a slow-burning gem that wears its influences on its sleeve, from the grittiness of Cormac McCarthy to the gore of George A. Romero. Episode after episode, we witness the magic that are Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey and we get even more invested in a story that keeps on delivering till the very end. (Serena Seghedoni)
LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY
Showrunner: Lee Eisenberg
Full Review: Reviews of all episodes of Lessons in Chemistry
From its very first shot, Lessons in Chemistry transports the audience back in time to the 1950s where we follow the life of a brilliant scientist with a passion for cooking, Elizabeth Zott (Brie Larson). Both while working as a lab tech and as a cooking television show host, Elizabeth is forced to face the challenges of a sexist environment that would rather see a woman be a housewife than pursue a career and be successful at it. While the world might tell her to stay silent, she is not afraid to speak her truth and take control over her own life, as do many of the women featured in the show, including her neighbour Harriet Sloane (Aja Naomi King). As a Black woman in 1950s United States, Harriet is also facing an entirely different system of oppression the show is able to reflect on.
Part of what makes this AppleTV+ series brilliant is that its narrative does not revolve solely around Elizabeth. While she may be the protagonist, the show offers us multiple positive examples of womanhood the audience can look up to. Albeit different, none of these women – nor their lives or career choices – are less valid or pitted against each other, which is something still rare to see in media in 2023. Lessons in Chemistry is one of the best tv shows – if not the best- that I have seen all year. It stands out particularly because of its poignant reflection on grief and its powerful commentary on an unjust patriarchal and racist system that is not only historically accurate but also rings true in today’s world. (Clotilde Chinnici)
Showrunner: Rian Johnson
It will surprise no one that Rian Johnson loves a good mystery. His debut feature Brick was a Raymond Chandler noir set in a contemporary high school. His second feature The Brothers Bloom was about setting up and executing the perfect con. In creating Benoit Blanc for the Knives Out franchise Johnson has brought the detective chamber mystery (a la Agatha Christie) to the fore with humour and wit. Poker Face, a series he created and is the showrunner for, pays homage to the “howcatchem,” giving Natasha Lyonne’s Charlie the chance to be a new iconic detective in a series of episodic mysteries crossing the United States as she runs for her life from both crooks and the cops.
Former card sharp and casino cocktail waitress Charlie Cale has an uncanny knack for knowing when people are lying, and also the inability to stay out of a mystery. Johnson puts Charlie in her Plymouth Barracuda as she hits the road encountering all kinds of Americana. Poker Face is Columbo meets David Byrne’s True Stories with a quirky, deadpan, sex positive, and often foul-mouthed heroine at the forefront.
Poker Face features a host of guest stars. Adrien Brody and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are joined by legends including Ellen Barkin, Tim Blake Nelson, Ron Perlman, Nick Nolte, Benjamin Bratt, and Judith Light. Plus, new favourites Stephanie Hsu, Hong Chau, and Charles Melton. Johnson and co-writers Wyatt Cain and Charlie Peppers engage in the love of all things showbiz with homages to spare. Guest directors include Janicza Bravo and Lucky McKee, and Lyonne herself.
You never know what kind of scrape Charlie will find herself entangled in as she tries to survive on the lam. Addictive, hilarious, and an ingenious genre delight, Poker Face is the series Lyonne was born to star in. (Nadine Whitney)
SCOTT PILGRIM TAKES OFF
Directors: Abel Gongora, Moko-chan
Full Review: Scott Pilgrim Takes Off: Netflix Series Review
We live in an age of reboots and remakes, where seemingly everything is getting redone with a fancy new coat of paint. For the most part, these kinds of films, shows and games have been where creativity has gone to die, a safe haven for creatives and studios looking to do anything except push the boat out. However, in the case of Scott Pilgrim Takes Off, that’s absolutely not the case. At first glance, this may just seem like another adaptation of the beloved series of graphic novels, but at the end of episode 1, Takes Off rips off its mask and reveals its true colours.
The iconic characters are all still here, including the titular bassist himself and his mysterious love interest Ramona Flowers, but they’re thrust into a brand new story that challenges the idea of “rebooting” itself. It’s a story about that innate desire to go back and fix the mistakes of your past, whether those are creative or personal, and one that constantly managed to surprise me. Scott Pilgrim Takes Off is a series brimming with new ideas, and one that’s hard to talk about given how it thrives off the element of surprise and subverting your expectations. In many ways, it might just be the definitive reboot for this generation, one that shows the potential of a practice many of us dismissed as a lazy cash grab years ago. (Tom Spoors)
Showrunners: Brett Goldstein, Bill Lawrence, Jason Segel
Full Reviews: All reviews of Shrinking Season 1
Shrinking is one of the rare shows that has made me both genuinely laugh and cry multiple times. The series follows Jimmy (Jason Segel), a therapist who has recently lost his wife and is trying to get his life back on track while grieving. Through this pain, he decides a radical new approach to therapy: being brutally honest to his clients. I love almost everything about Shrinking, but the ensemble is one of the best casts I’ve seen on tv in years. Segel gives a career best performance and Harrison Ford does his best work since the 90s. But Jessica Williams is also astonishingly good as Gaby, a close friend and coworker of Jimmy. Williams has such a powerful level of charisma and her performance is my favorite of 2023, even though this came out in January.
The heart of Shrinking lies with Jimmy’s journey of coming to terms with losing someone who he has loved dearly. While this exact journey is quite messy, often funny but still plenty heartbreaking, it’s the specificity of this story that makes the show so relatable. Everyone processes loss differently and while watching other people go through the same struggles might not seem comforting, to me and other people I know, Shrinking is more than a show, but a healing experience. I cannot wait to see what Jason Segel, Brett Goldstein, and Bill Lawrence have in store for us in season two. (Jonathan Vargas)
SLOW HORSES: SEASON 3
Showrunner: Will Smith
Full Review: Slow Horses Season 3 Review
There hasn’t been a show I’ve been dying to sit down and watch weekly ever since White Lotus at the end of 2022. This all changed as soon as I dived head first into Slow Horses finally and never looked back. Every Wednesday from November 29th until December 27th was Slow Horses day, the most exciting time of the week. Whilst I absolutely adore the thrill of the first two seasons, the third is bigger and better, and packs an absolute punch in only six episodes.
Season 3 of Slow Horses revolves around kidnapped MI5 agent Catherine Standish (Saskia Reeves), whom we’ve grown to know and love in series 1 and 2. The team of misfit agents that she works with, manned by often unsavoury Jackson Lamb (Gary Oldman), must team together to track down Standish. Along the way, they make more enemies than friends, and all get themselves stuck in situations they didn’t even know could exist. From bloody shootouts between people who are meant to be allies, to agents double crossing each other, season 3 has everything you could want from a suspenseful spy show.
Oldman’s Lamb is a character that he’s clearly been destined to play for his whole life, embodying the role in every episode like it’s his alter-ego. Highlights of season three include the development of friendship between MI5 agents River Cartwright (Jack Lowden) and Louisa Guy (Rosalind Eleazar) as they face on their biggest challenge yet, and Roddy Ho (Christopher Chung)’s decked out sparkling blue ‘hot rod’ car with personalised B16 R0D number plate. Slow Horses season 3 is easily the best of the year. (Bethany Lola)
SUCCESSION: SEASON 4
Showrunner: Jesse Armstrong
Full Reviews: All reviews of Succession Season 4
Who would have thought that a primetime TV show produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay – satirizing the Murdoch family’s empire, Fox News – would leave us utterly heartbroken? For four seasons, Jesse Armstrong’s Succession served as a means to poke fun at the ridiculous culture of media conglomerates and those who control them. As hilarious as it was to see the Roy siblings come to blows with one another over who would get to inherit their father’s company, the HBO series resonated with viewers due to the emotionally draining family drama that often felt too close to home.
On paper, the audience doesn’t have much in common with our lead characters. The Roy family are a bunch of egotistical maniacs who care very little for anyone outside their circle. But as we tuned in every Sunday night for a new episode, with each season peeling off layers that made the Roys slightly more relatable, we quickly realized that Armstrong and co. were telling a story of childhood trauma and how one’s upbringing can shape us into the deeply flawed, even evil individuals we are today.
Succession season 4 is the culmination of these themes, as the Roys continue to destroy each other over a game of succession they were forced to play by their father. The show’s final season doesn’t tighten things nicely but rather leaves them open, in a series of events that makes you lose all hope in the Roy siblings righting the wrongs of the past. It might come across as an exaggeration, but Succession feels like the closest thing we have to a modern Shakespearean piece. Funny, shocking, melodramatic, and tragic, Succession season 4, and previous seasons for that matter, showcase what is possible in television and how boundaries can still be pushed today. (Edgar Ortega)
THE BEST TV SHOWS OF 2023: A FEW MORE SERIES
- American Born Chinese Season 1
- The Crowded Room
- The Curse
- Daisy Jones & The Six
- The Fall of the House of Usher
- Invincible Season 2
- Love & Death
- Our Flag Means Death Season 2
- Queer Eye Season 7
- Reservation Dogs
- Robbie Williams
- Shadow and Bone Season 2
- Yellowjackets Season 2