It’s been an impossible year for the entertainment industry but despite the mounting challenges of the coronavirus era, it still managed to deliver some absolute smash hit TV shows in 2020. While the TV trickle has slowed to a crawl over the last few months, the earlier parts of the year were filled with gems. Some, you may even have forgotten about — does anybody remember Bojack Horseman going out with a bang in January?
These are Gizmodo Australia’s picks for the absolute best shows of 2020. They’re all must-watch TV.
The Boys is absolutely not for the more conservative amongst us, but if you’re in the mood for a gruesome, politically-charged romp through the modern superhero landscape the show delivers in spades. Season two of The Boys debuted in September 2020 and dialled the gore-filled antics of the original season up to 11 and beyond. There’s few shows on TV that could get away with including an extendable, prehensile penis as a superpower, but The Boys did just that.
While it lacked a lot of the hope and light-hearted humour of the first season, it was an impressive season filled with tension, diabolical antics and Karl Urban’s exquisite (but undefinable) accent. It also set up an exciting third season, which is sure to ramp up the superheroic stakes.
The Boys can be extremely gross, but it delights in the act and it’s all the better for it.
What We Do In The Shadows
What We Do In The Shadows continued the example set by its excellent first season and delivered an even better outing for 2020.
Season two was all about the three vampire housemates’ loyal companion Guillermo and his journey towards become a vampire hunter. It was a more human tale, and more down to Earth — but that didn’t come at the expensive of the show’s good humour.
Chuck in a few cameos from Star Wars legend Mark Hamill, original vampire Jemaine Clement and the always delightful Haley Joel Osment and you’ve got a winning recipe.
Season two of the show doubled down on wild antics and irreverence, making it an overall wilder and more impressive season. It continues to buck the trend of TV-movie-adaptations being awful, and we hope it continues long into the future.
Schitt’s Creek is the perfect comfort TV, and watching it come to a close this year was equal parts cathartic and devastating. The final season of the show spotlighted the relationship between David and Patrick, as well as Johnny’s endeavour to expand the Rosebud Motel into a commercial endeavour.
Each character got their time to shine this season and really showed off how much personal growth they’d been through over the last few years.
Like any feelgood TV show, it wrapped up a near-perfect run with wholesome good vibes and an absolutely heartwarming ending. Schitt’s Creek is an essential show and genuinely changed the TV landscape. Its impact on LGBTQIA+ representation in modern media is hard to overstate. Even though the 2020 season marked the end for this show, it leaves an impressive legacy behind.
Harley Quinn was a breath of fresh air in the world of superhero streaming. While adult cartoons are often derided for leaning into crassness over substance, Harley Quinn does both — and pulls it off with flair. Now in its second season, the show benefits from sharp writing, a great sense of humour and the performance of Kaley Cuoco as Harley. It all makes for one smashing little package, and an excellently binge-worthy show.
Even in a time when Harley Quinn saturation has hit its peak, Harley Quinn managed to pull off an original take on the character and explore her in far more depth than other media. This is the show Harley deserves, and certainly one of 2020’s best TV shows.
The first season of The Mandalorian was thoroughly enjoyable, but it felt lacking in purpose. Season two was (and still is) a major course correction, with ties finally being drawn between the show’s action and the canon of the Star Wars universe.
So far, we’ve had appearances from Ahsoka Tano, Bo-Katan and even Boba Fett. Far from just being simple fan service, these moments made The Mandalorian feel like an essential piece of Star Wars lore.
This season spotlighted bigger action sequences, more character development and too many awesome moments to count. Plus, Baby Yoda (we’re not calling him Grogu) is still the cutest Star Wars bubba around. If The Mandalorian continues the way it has in 2020, it’s set to be one of the best modern Star Wars properties.
Lucifer knows exactly what the fans want, and we love it for that reason. For four (and a half) seasons, the show has delivered supernatural mysteries and crime drama like no other show on air. As always it had plenty of fan service and ‘Deckerstar’ goodness, but the writers also managed to weave in a universe-spanning plot concerning the archangel Michael and the interference of God on the human realm this season.
In 2020, Lucifer was bigger and more fantastical than it’s ever been, and it made for more impressive set pieces, bigger action and arguably, better writing.
The second half of season five can’t come soon enough, especially with that cliffhanger ending.
It’s hard to believe Bojack Horseman wrapped up its incredible six-season run this year, but in early January this show came to its final end.
It was heartbreaking and emotional, but there was no other way it possibly could’ve gone. Bojack Horseman never pulled punches and looked at the darker side of Hollywood in ways we haven’t really seen before. Sure, it was through the lens of a cartoonish, anthropomorphised world — but arguably its format only elevated the narrative.
Bojack went through considerable personal change over the course of the show’s run with many halting stops along the way, but the final season gave hope to his journey. The standout episode here was ‘The View From Halfway Down’, an incredibly surreal episode that dealt with guilt and responsibility in devastating ways.
The entirety of Bojack Horseman is worth a look, but its sixth season is the show’s crowning glory.
The Queen’s Gambit
Who knew chess could be so scintillating? The Queen’s Gambit was one of 2020’s biggest surprises, and sent us all scrambling for the dusty old chess boards lurking in our attics. Essentially, it’s a period drama about an orphan who becomes a chess champion. But it’s so much more. The writing is excellent, the tension is high and the set dressing is incredible.
Anya Taylor-Joy is also on perfect form here, as usual. If you don’t expect yourself to get wrapped up in a drama about chess, reconsider. The Queen’s Gambit is totally engrossing and one of 2020’s best TV shows.
Mythic Quest‘s coronavirus special was a standout in 2020. It followed in the same emotionally gritty tone of the fifth episode, which offered a very real, human look at early video game development.
It was probably the best out of all of the coronavirus special episodes this year, partially because it felt incredibly natural for the industry it was talking about, but also because it attacked the impact of lockdowns on mental health head on. We need more shows willing to tackle major issues in the ways Mythic Quest has.
The series has really gone from strength to strength this year, and has effectively managed to avoid becoming the stereotypical and shallow view of the games industry it was expected to be. Instead, it marries human stories with real heart and humour, making it one of 2020’s biggest surprises all around.
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