Television wasn’t spared by the pandemic, but there were still more great shows than any one person could watch. Here’s a look at the top series of the year, as well as some that signed off for good.
We said goodbye to a lot in 2020. That made it a little easier to mourn a show — it’s just a show! — but also a little harder — must everything be so terrible? My attention span, my capacity to engage and my willingness to ingest sorrow and violence also took big hits this year, and that redefined my tastes in ways that are hard to specify. Every year I am sure I’ve missed dozens of wonderful shows; I’m even more sure that’s true this year.
To qualify for this list, which is arranged in alphabetical order, a show must have aired new episodes in 2020, and limited and mini-series do not count. Shows are judged on their entire runs, not just their final seasons. Did not meet the criteria, but man I will miss them: “GLOW” and “Drunk History.” Neither aired new episodes in 2020, and in fact both were in production when Netflix and Comedy Central, respectively, pulled their plugs. Their cancellations are tremendous bummers.
Lenox Hill (Netflix)
I’m not sure what the last great doctor show was, but it’s definitely been a minute, which is why the frank elegance of this documentary seemed even more potent during our pandemic spring. (There was even a Covid-specific special ninth episode.) “Lenox” captured a staggering range of human emotion, so it felt like both a riveting narrative and a modern wisdom text about the ebbs and flows of life and loss. Sadly, it’s a one-and-done.
(Streaming on Netflix.)