Looking Back At Our Favorite TV Shows of 2020

2020's been a difficult year, but TV was always there to help us through it. These are our favorite shows we watched this year.

By Lauren Piester, Jonathan Borge Dec 19, 2020 3:00 PMTags
Favorite TV Shows of 2020, Bridgerton, I May Destroy You Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist, The Crown, What We Do in the Shadows, Drag RaceNetflix; FX; NBC; HBOMax; VH1; Melissa Herwitt/E! Illustration

Rejoice, for 2020 is almost over

We don't know what 2021 will hold, but we know that we'll look back on 2020 as one of the strangest and hardest years ever, much of which was defined by the TV shows we binged while we were trying to distract ourselves at home. The world outside was frightful, but the television was so delightful.

For our year-end list of the TV we loved this year, we chose not to go with the "best" TV shows of the year. Our brains are mush and we didn't have the capacity to watch every TV show this year to determine the best ones. We're here to tell you about the shows we loved the most this year—the shows that kept us sane, or made us feel good, or made us laugh. The shows that might have been bad, technically, but we had a good time watching them anyway. The shows we bonded with friends over or disagreed with strangers on the internet about. 

Some of them, we would argue, are in fact the best shows of the year, but some of them certainly are not. And that's fine! 

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2021 TV Premiere Dates

We didn't include things like New Girl, which we binged all the way through twice, because we limited the list to shows that premiered or aired new episodes in 2020, but just know that New Girl was also a favorite show of 2020. Same with The Office, Friends, Scrubs and the first 16 seasons of Grey's Anatomy.

Watch: TV Shows That Got Us Through 2020

Comfort was the name of the game this year, so that's what we kept in mind as we put together our list of our favorite TV shows of 2020. 

Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist

Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist is about a computer programmer who develops a sort of super power where she can hear people's emotions through song. It's a wacky premise but a beautiful, joyful show that packs more emotional punches than I was truly ready for. Jane Levy gives one of my favorite performances of the year as she grapples with her dad's illness and death, and I will never ever hear the song "American Pie" the same again. —Lauren Piester

Selling Sunset

Summer belonged to Selling Sunset. Following the show's season two release in May, I spent my evenings Googling all there is to know about Chrishell Stause, Christine Quinn, Maya Vander, Mary Fitzgerald, Heather Rae Young, Davina Potratz and Amanza Smith—and whether it's actually possible to buy a bottle of Oppenheim Group wine. A ridiculous reality hit from the creator of The Hills, the Netflix show made me lust after the multi-million dollar L.A. homes these women attempt to sell while clinking glasses of bubbly and getting into petty fights. By August, when I grew tired of wearing sweats and hopping on Zoom, season three provided the drama-filled nonsense I had hoped for. Sad as the situation is, Chrishell's unexpected divorce from This Is Us star Justin Hartley kept me Googling, Googling and Googling some more. —Jonathan Borge

Dash & Lily (Netflix)

Holiday-themed TV shows don't have the best track record, but Dash & Lily was cute overload. It was like an extended romcom, sort of You've Got Mail for teens (and also for me) and it was absolutely delightful. I devoured it in a day and immediately wanted to watch it again. —Lauren Piester

Gentefied

2020 was not a good year for Latinx representation—a fact that only tasted more sour when One Day at a Time officially got canceled after four seasons. Luckily, creators Marvin Lemus and Linda Yvette Chávez brought us Gentefied, a delightful and easy-to-binge dramedy with an all Latinx cast. The series follows the Morales family as they work to keep their grandfather's taco shop alive in the soon-to-be gentrified L.A. neighborhood of Boyle Heights. It brilliantly explores what it means to be too American and not Latinx enough (and vice-versa) and organically infuses Spanglish jokes authentic to the experience of children of immigrants, like me. Despite the cliche, it made me feel seen. And I'm especially excited to see the cast's careers flourish (Julissa Calderon is a standout) and thankfully, Netflix already green-lit a second season. —Jonathan Borge

Station 19 (ABC)

While Grey's Anatomy gets a shoutout this year (that beach, man!), I'm fully putting its spinoff Station 19 on the list. The firefighter drama really found its groove in season three, but it was when the show's first two seasons landed on Hulu that it went from "show I like" to "the only show I care about right now." I love every firefighter in that station, and while it's not exactly early Grey's, it's close enough that I'm already settled in for the long haul. I am also still waiting for that hot firefighter calendar they made in season three to go on sale for real. —Lauren Piester

The Crown

Every season of The Crown has been good, but season four felt almost like a new show. Diana (played by a spectacular Emma Corrin) brought new life and a new perspective to the royal family and it was completely riveting in a way no season has been before. It's a shame that Corrin won't get to do more, but the wait for season five is going to be painful. —Lauren Piester

Tiger King

What a beautiful disaster. Unbelievably, this seven-episode limited series about a zookeeper named Joe Exotic and his arch nemesis Carole Baskin is what brought so many of us closer together as cities across the U.S. implemented mandatory lockdowns that had us repeating the same word over and over again: quarantine, quarantine, quarantine. Was Tiger King actually good or just a product of being miserably stuck indoors with nothing else to do? You decide (I thought it was good). But look, this whole experience was unquestionably gripping, from those insane matching pink shirts to the allegations that Carole fed her husband to her cats after putting him in a meat grinder (she's repeatedly denied them since). If one series perfectly encapsulates the dumpster fire that 2020 was, this is it. —Jonathan Borge

Bridgerton

Shonda Rhimes' first Netflix drama isn't even out as of press time and just narrowly makes it into 2020 TV shows (it comes out Christmas Day) but hoo boy, it might just be my favorite show of the entire year. It's visually stunning and a beautifully modern take on a classic genre where ladies in corsets must be married off in order to secure their family's futures. That's still what's happening here, but the queen is a Black woman and the handsome, most sought-after duke is a Black man. Sex scenes (oh, the sex scenes) are set to orchestral versions of Taylor Swift songs. Pride and Prejudice plus Gossip Girl plus Scandal is all I ever really wanted, apparently. —Lauren Piester

Cheer

Who actually dropped Sherbs?! Though it feels like a lifetime ago, the January premiere of Cheer had me whole-heartedly invested in coach Monica Aldama and the Navarro College cheerleading squad she repeatedly leads to victory. Across six episodes that legitimately kept me on the edge of my seat, I watched as athletes like La'Darius Marshall, Morgan Simianer and Lexi Brumback miraculously flipped across the air and competed despite some pretty painful injuries. The docuseries was an overnight hit, the type of Netflix event that inspired memes and spoofs for weeks and weeks. Its success led Monica to season 29 of Dancing With the Stars. It also shone a light on Jerry Harris, who is now facing seven charges in a federal childhood pornography case. To say the show got everyone talking is an understatement. —Jonathan Borge

The Mandalorian (Disney+)

I may refuse to call him Grogu but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate how info-packed season two was compared to season one. The Mandalorian only makes me think that the rest of Disney+'s upcoming Star Wars roster is going to be absolutely incredible and I cannot wait to devour every single show, even if they don't all contain Baby Yodas. —Lauren Piester

Insecure

Since its 2016 HBO debut, Insecure's Issa Rae has kept me laughing. Season four found Issa and everyone in her circle "leveling up" as she and Molly (Yvonne Orji) experienced newfound tension and Lawrence (Jay Ellis) popped in and out of the picture. In addition to the eye candy (hello, Alexander Hodge, Y'lan Noel and Kendrick Sampson), I loved Tiffany's (Amanda Seales) rocky relationship with motherhood, which was relatable and refreshing. A request for season five? More scenes with Kelli (Natasha Rothwell). Issa's hilarious rap lines made me smile during quarantine. And while her character's career seems to be flourishing, is it bad that I want her to spend more time as an Uber driver? It's funny! —Jonathan Borge

RuPaul's Drag Race

What would we all have done without Snatch Game and RuPaul's signature cackle? In a year that forced drag performers to completely reimagine how to drop-kick and throw shade in front of a live audience (ahem, Zoom), the entire RuPaul's Drag Race franchise was a balm for the LGBTQ+ community—especially for young viewers still learning about their own sexual orientation and gender identity. What especially deserves praise is the series' efforts to be more inclusive. Two Black queens were crowned (season 12 winner Jaida Essence Hall and All Stars five winner Shea Couleé) in addition to an Indo-Caribbean queen (Canada's Drag Race winner Priyanka) and a Peruvian queen (Drag Race Holland winner Envy Peru). Yep, those six Emmy wins were well deserved. —Jonathan Borge

I May Destroy You

Michaela Coel's breakthrough performance in this distressing exploration of sexual assault, consent and trauma certainly ripped my emotions to shreds. Inspired by Coel's own experience, the story follows Arabella, a Twitter-famous writer who gets date-raped, then works to put that harrowing evening's events back together in search of her tormentor. It's hard to watch, yet Coel's writing and her relationship with her friends offered lighthearted moments that felt authentic to being in your 20s. Plus, it's one of few TV shows that also intimately unpacks what happens when men are the victims of sexual assault. The finale is one of this year's best. —Jonathan Borge

What We Do In the Shadows

Two words: Jackie. Daytona. FX's What We Do in the Shadows took things to a new level in season two, sending Guillermo (Harvey Guillén) on a new journey towards his vampire slayer destiny and introducing us to one incredible Regular Human Bartender named Jackie. After so many years of angsty, dramatic teen vampires, these angsty, dramatic non-teen vampires are still a breath of fresh air. I love them so very much. —Lauren Piester

Legendary

Yaaas. It's a herculean task to accurately depict ballroom culture on television, much less revisit its origin and evolution (how do you top the 1990 documentary Paris Is Burning?). Yet HBO Max's Legendary deliciously put the spotlight on the LGBTQ+ community and the Black and brown people still keeping the worlds of ballroom and vogueing alive. A dance competition with a production value that gives The Masked Singer or The Voice a run for its money, Legendary is truthfully just fun to watch. Competitors from iconic ballroom houses gather to win a $100,000 cash prize as judges Megan Thee Stallion, Law Roach, Leiomy Maldonado and Jameela Jamil offer honest feedback. Dashaun Wesley is the perfect emcee. And I highly recommend rewatching this series in anticipation of Pose season three. —Jonathan Borge

Lovecraft Country (HBO)

Perhaps no show this year was more beautiful or more strange than Lovecraft Country, a horror semi-anthology that switched genres and tropes with nearly every single episode and went as hard as it could. I couldn't watch it at night before bed, but it was an absolutely gorgeous and terrifying watch during the day. —Lauren Piester

Emily in Paris

Like other shows on this list, Emily in Paris quite simply offered an escape. Lily Collins was a joy to watch in the titular role as she made friends (Ashley Park), found love (Lucas Bravo) and annoyed the hell out of her Parisian colleagues. From Sex and the City creator Darren Star, the polarizing show sparked serious debate at E! News, prompting Lauren and I to face off and question whether it's worth anyone's time. Ultimately, the dreamy costumes (thanks, Patricia Field) and picturesque backgrounds got my mind off of, well, everything. And isn't that the whole point of watching TV? —Jonathan Borge

The Baby-Sitters Club

Netflix's update of the popular tween book series was one of the most delightful binges of the year, even for an adult who somehow was never into the books. It was somehow both new and nostalgic at the same time, fully 2020 yet reminiscent of childhoods of the past—the ultimate comfort show for people of all ages. —Lauren Piester

The Flight Attendant (HBO Max)

Kaley Cuoco followed up The Big Bang Theory with one of the year's most thrilling shows, a wild, unpredictable comedic whodunit that is extremely stressful yet extremely fun at the same time. Cuoco is fantastic, the mystery's mysterious and the mix of comedy and drama is pretty superb. Once again, I will admit I was extremely stressed while watching, but I had a good time anyway. Bring on season two! —Lauren Piester

The Haunting of Bly Manor

Mike Flanagan's spooky-ish follow-up to The Haunting of Hill House wasn't nearly as terrifying as the first installment in the anthology, but I loved it. Victoria Pedretti once again proved to be one of the most enjoyable actresses to watch (season three of You can't come soon enough). And though the premise is simple—American nanny looks after two creepy kids in the English countryside while ghosts try to kill her—I was charmed by the lesbian love story written in. —Jonathan Borge

The Real Housewives of Potomac

In four short years, The Real Housewives of Potomac has grown to be one of the most hotly-anticipated in Bravo's housewives universe—and season five lived up to every expectation. Where to begin? Robyn Dixon finally got engaged. Gizelle Bryant rekindled with Jamal. Ashley Darby stuck by Michael and his messy behavior. Wendy Osefo delivered a dose of snap-your-fingers-at-it intellect. Karen Huger stepped up her wig game. And the fight. Who could forget the fight? The hard-to-watch brawl between Monique Samuels and Candiace Dillard will forever go down in housewives history. And so will another unexpected breakout star: T'Challa the bird. —Jonathan Borge

Schitt's Creek (Pop TV)

It's so hard to say goodbye, but we were forced to when Schitt's Creek ended in April. It may have been annoying for all the other deserving shows when it won almost every single comedy award at the 2020 Emmys, there's also a reason it did. It's just the nicest, happiest show about the best family, and the final season gets even better when you think about how much the Roses evolved over six seasons. I also have to give a shoutout to Moira's wedding attire because it was simply the best. —Lauren Piester

The Queen's Gambit

Will someone just preemptively give Anya Taylor-Joy the Emmy she deserves? Like I mentioned in November, The Queen's Gambit is absolutely worth the hype, a limited-series that shattered Netflix viewership records and secured Taylor-Joy's spot as one of 2020's standout actresses. Who knew that a drama about the sleepy game of chess would cause such a stir? I came for the attractive and familiar cast—yep, Benny Watts is played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster, the kid from Love Actually—and stayed for a dark yet uplifting tale about female empowerment and self-actualization. Considering it's based on Walter Tevis' 1983 novel of the same name, it's safe to say book-to-series adaptations are where it's at. —Jonathan Borge

The Undoing

Chloe Fineman's spot-on Saturday Night Live impersonation of Grace Fraser is the best way to remember this glamorous and wildly engrossing psychological thriller. Played by Emmy winner Nicole Kidman, Grace is the wife of Hugh Grant's Jonathan Fraser, her sociopathic husband at the center of a dark and twisted murder case. Only six episodes long, the limited-series required little investment with the reward of a whodunnit that kept me sweating—literally. And while some viewers didn't love the predictable finale, it still inspired creative, super fun fan theories. The cast included acting legends such as Donald Sutherland, but for me, it was Lily Rabe's A+ performance as Sylvia Steinetz, "the gatekeeper of everyone's secrets," that offered a much-needed dose of levity. —Jonathan Borge

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