The 20 best TV shows of 2020

17 December 2020, 11:05

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Katie Louise Smith

By Katie Louise Smith

From RuPaul's Drag Race to I May Destroy You and everything in between, here's our picks for the best shows of 2020.

Thank God for TV, am I right?! Despite absolutely everything, TV and streaming services thrived – and delivered – while we were all stuck in quarantine this year. From prestige dramas, ghost stories and teen murder mysteries to Drag Races, catty reality shows and everything in between, 2020 gave us some absolute bangers.

Despite many shows being put on hold due to production delays, this year saw the release of some incredible new series like Never Have I Ever and I May Destroy You, alongside some sensational follow-up seasons to shows we already know and love.

READ MORE: The 20 best TV shows of 2019
The 20 best TV shows of 2018

Before we begin, we must acknowledge Emily In Paris. A show that divided the world, and the PopBuzz Slack channel. Will we be watching season 2? Obviously. But for now, you won't find Emily and her lil' Pain au Chocolat in the list below because, well, it honestly deserves its own list.

But anyway! Here are the must-watch TV shows of 2020, as chosen by the PopBuzz writers.

PopBuzz's 20 best TV shows of 2020
PopBuzz's 20 best TV shows of 2020. Picture: Netflix, BBC

20) Canada's Drag Race

After successfully launching a British version in 2019, RuPaul stayed closer to home and launched Canada's Drag Race. With a controversial panel of judges (Brooke Lynn Hytes and Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman were often accused of being too harsh…), the show managed to stay true to the signature Drag Race format we all know and love but with some added Canadianisms thrown in for good measure. It's safe to say we were all pretty much hooked from the moment we met the Canadian queens. – Jazmin Duribe


19) You

After an absolutely killer first season, You managed to match itself with a twisty LA-based follow up that had us on our toes from the very first episode. In season 2, Joe Goldberg finally met his match in murderess Love Quinn, who in turn introduced us to a phrase that might be one the most horrifying things ever muttered on a TV show. I wolf you? I wolf you too, You. – Katie Louise Smith

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Technically, You season 2 was released at the end of 2019 but we didn't get the chance to nominate it last year and time has no meaning now anyway! It's our list, we can do what we want! Who cares!)

READ MORE: You season 3's cast and plot has been revealed


18) We Are Who We Are

Call Me By Your Name director Luca Guadagnino’s debut TV series is beautifully shot coming of age story, following a group of teenagers on an American airbase in Italy. The series is more of a slow burn, but after a few episodes we were totally captivated. Jack Dylan Grazer is brilliant as the very annoying-at-first but ultimately endearing lead Fraser, as is Jordan Kristine Seamón as Caitlin, who Fraser helps as they question their gender identity. More shows like this in 2021 please. – Woodrow Whyte


17) Julie and the Phantoms

Julie and the Phantoms may sounds like a mess on paper – 'a band of ghosts help a gifted teen singer fall in love with music again' – but that’s part of what makes it so great. There are no rules. The script is brilliant, the characters are excellent and the soundtrack slaps. It’s impossible to watch an episode without smiling. Not to mention, Madison Reyes (who plays Julie) is a superstar – and there’s a gay ghost romance. What more could you want? - Sam Prance


16) Little Fires Everywhere

Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington never fail us so it's no surprise that Little Fires Everywhere gave us everything we needed and more. Adapted from the best-selling Celeste Ng book, the mini-series explores how racial and class divisions affect relationships when the worlds of two mothers from two very different socio-economic backgrounds collide. From the gripping plot to the award-worthy performances, Little Fires Everywhere is must-see television. – SP


15) Tiger King

Where do we even begin with this mess? Tiger King was the first show that spread around the world like wildfire during the pandemic, bringing together communities via the magnetism of gay, polygamous zoo owner and convicted felon Joe Exotic. What that says about us and that time is up for debate, but Tiger King remains an omnipresent force in pop culture, whether that’s Joe Exotic aiding the revival of the mullet, to “that bitch Carole Baskin” appearing on DWTS, or just the millions of memes that continue to be spawned. It was sensationalist, ethically dubious, and in many ways completely tragic, but we can’t ignore the fact that for a brief moment it seemed like the whole world was completely hooked. – WW


14) Hollywood

Following an ambitious group of aspiring actors and filmmakers who will do almost anything to make their showbiz dreams come true, this Ryan Murphy production was savaged by reviews at the time. But what those reviewers seemed to completely ignore was that Hollywood was incredibly good fun. More fool them. And if Ryan Murphy wants to make more shows with David Corenswet wearing absolutely nothing while posing on a chaise lounge, well that’s absolutely fine by me. – WW


13) The Crown

The fourth season of The Crown was the most hotly anticipated yet, as it introduced a young Diana, still a teenager, as she embarked on her doomed-to-fail marriage to Prince Charles. While the series has been criticised for inaccuracies, the emotional resonance from viewers shows just how compelling and successful the storytelling was this time around. We doubt members of the royal family will be adding it to their best TV lists this year, but perhaps Meghan will. – WW


12) Elite

Elite is like if Gossip Girl, How to Get Away with Murder and Big Little Lies had a baby and season 3 is the show’s best season yet. Based around the mystery of who killed Polo, season 3 provides the perfect dose of drama, sex and scandal. It also keeps you guessing who did it right until the end and gives the perfect send-off to fan-favourite characters like Lu, Nadia and Carla. We have no idea what’s to come in season 4 but you can bet that we’ll be binge-watching it as soon as it comes out. – SP

READ MORE: Netflix unveil new Elite season 4 cast members


11) Normal People

Was Normal People really that great or were we all just locked inside and a little bit horny? We’ll have to revisit the show once the pandemic is over to know the true answer to that question. What we know for sure is that Connell’s humble chain became the sexiest male accessory of 2020, talked about in ways usually reserved for imaginary boyfriends we lied to our friends about meeting on summer holidays. And for that reason alone, Normal People more than deserves a spot on this list. God bless Connell and his cheap Argos chain. – WW


10) The Umbrella Academy

The Umbrella Academy season two had everything: Time travel, JFK conspiracy theories, Robert Sheehan as a cult leader, Baby Pogo, three creepy Swedish guys, Kate Walsh being ICONIC and a plot twist ending that absolutely no one saw coming. Season 2 betters the first offering of the show in almost every single way, and the show-stopping finale sets up a game-changing third act that will be sure to turn the Hargreeves sibling's world – and ours – upside down once again. – KLS


9) The Haunting of Bly Manor

If Carla Gugino ever comes up to you and asks if you wanna hear a nine-hour ghost story that actually turns out to be a devastating tale of true love, clear your goddamn schedule and say YES. Some may have found it lacking in the jump scare department, but Bly Manor's unexpected heart-wrenching and beautiful storylines were, as Flora Thee Wingrave once said, perfectly splendid. After Bly Manor and Hill House, the next instalment of Mike Flanagan's anthology series couldn't come soon enough. – KLS


8) I Am Not Okay With This

I’m just going to say what we’re all thinking: WHY THE HELL DID NETFLIX CANCEL THIS SHOW!?! One of many to have fallen victim to Netflix’s mass cull following the fallout from coronavirus, IANOWT is now likely to become a cult classic, but that will bring little comfort to those that fell for Sydney and Stanley's oddball double act, and left hanging by that excruciating cliff-hanger on top of the tower. Was the supernatural figure Sydney’s father? Now we’ll never know. Thanks a bunch, Netflix. – WW


7) RuPaul's Drag Race season 12

Let's be honest, we were getting a bit of RuPaul's Drag Race fatigue. It can be hard to keep up with the influx of queens coming through Ru's door. But season 12 changed that. This fresh batch of witty queens provided some much-needed relief from the coronavirus pandemic. Whether you watched for Crystal Methyd's iconic mullet, or Heidi N Closet's infectious personality, Drag Race ensured we were all obsessed once again. – JD


6) Sex Education

There was much to love and applaud about Sex Education’s second season. It is probably the only show that can begin with a ridiculous opening montage of its lead, Otis, masturbating in several locations before ejaculating in his mum’s car, and then end with an empowering and moving display of female solidarity in the wake of Aimee’s sexual assault. With a surprise baby on its way in season three, we can't wait to see where the show’s creators take the series next. – WW


5) Cheer

Believe it or not, Cheer was released *this* year. Back in January, millions of viewers were glued to Netflix, waiting and hoping to see if the Navarro Cheer squad managed to win the National Championships in Daytona, FL. Within days, the students (and Coach Monica!) went from being hometown heroes to inspirational superstars. Not since 2000's Bring It On have I, someone who is scared of heights and has the flexibility of a metal rod, wanted to be a cheerleader so desperately. A must watch. – KLS


4) Selling Sunset

Just when 2020 was getting a bit drab, bam, Netflix dropped TWO seasons of Selling Sunset to pick us back up again and provide some much-needed escapism. The internet was hooked on the series, which follows the lives of a bunch of luxury real estate agents, and it's hard not to get invested in the drama that unfolded at the Oppenheim Group. From Chrishell Stause's shock divorce to Christine Quinn's explosive feuds, watching Selling Sunset only leaves you craving more… and a house in the Hollywood Hills. – JD


3) Never Have I Ever

Never Have I Ever stanned a show like this. Never Have I Ever is the kind of show that you can’t help but instantly fall in love with. Not only does it have all the makings of a classic teen drama but newcomer Maitreyi Ramakrishnan leads the entire show with the talent and comedic skills of someone who’s been acting for years.

Watching Devi come of age as she comes to terms with her father’s death is equal parts hilarious, heartwarming and moving. If you’re not in tears watching the final episode, you have no soul. – SP


2) Schitt's Creek

Schitt’s Creek was a triumph from start to finish. The show was a slow burner when it first aired in 2015 but even after it started gaining popularity, it never strayed from its roots and its heart.

For six seasons, we laughed, we cried, and we marvelled at Moira Rose’s wig collection. All in all, the final season was the perfect culmination of all those years: Character arcs were rounded off in spectacular fashion (love that for Alexis!), love, hope, acceptance and joy were celebrated at David and Patrick's wedding, and The Crows Have Eyes III: The Crowening was finally released to one positive review – from Ornithology Today.

As much as we’d love to see one more season of Eugene and Dan Levy’s little bébé that could, their decision to end it was the right call. And now, Schitt’s Creek can lay claim to one of the most perfectly written TV finales in history. – KLS


1) I May Destroy You

There's no other word to describe I May Destroy You other than 'genius'. The series follows the life of talented author Arabella (Michaela Coel), who is spiked and raped by an acquaintance during a night out. Arabella's life slowly starts to unravel as she deals with the ramifications of the sexual assault and it intertwines with her friends' stories of sexual assault and consent.

The series manages to cover the important topic of sexual assault and consent in one of the most innovative ways imaginable. It was needed and incredibly timely. Michaela (who actually wrote, co-directed, produced and starred in the show) manages to perfectly encapsulate the current sexual climate while displaying a variety of stories around the subject and challenging what consent actually is. 

The performances from the entire cast were spectacular and convincing. And, while the series handles the sensitive topic with the utmost care, there's an element of humour that runs through I May Destroy You as it bounces between comedy and heartbreaking drama. It truly takes the viewer on an educational journey and there's no other show like it. – JD


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