The 25 Best TV Shows of 2023 (So Far)

TV Lists list
The 25 Best TV Shows of 2023 (So Far)

Each passing year in the Peak TV era brings us not only an expanded slate of TV shows, but of streaming services themselves. All are vying for limited attention, and fewer and fewer are breaking through. This level of output is not sustainable, especially regarding the fact that it’s built on so much debt—and even more so because the networks are grossly underpaying the very writers creating these shows.

We absolutely support the WGA and other unions striking for fair wages and a better system of creation for these productions; and meanwhile, we can also celebrate the good work their members have already done. Despite the overwhelming amount of current TV, the cream does rise to the top. When the Paste staffers, writers, and interns were polled on our favorite shows of the year so far, there was a pretty solid consensus about what was truly outstanding—and these make up this list of the 25 best tv shows you’ll find below.

As for the many platforms on which these shows appear, the newly-renamed Max has the strongest showing thanks to the quality of HBO series it hosts, but Apple TV+ has really put in the work to become a major player this year. Hulu is a great bet for watching a lot of great series from other networks (particularly ABC, Freeform, and FX), and Peacock and Paramount+ are really starting to find their groove as well with a few stand-outs. And don’t forget about Starz, Showtime, and good ol’ PBS (which is free!) Meanwhile, as two of the most popular platforms, Netflix and Prime Video continue to have a solid lineup of originals that are worth checking out. So no matter which streaming service (or services) you may have, there’s something for everyone on this list of the Best TV Shows of 2023 (So Far):

25. Class of ‘07

Created by: Kacie Anning
Network: Prime Video

Watch on Amazon Prime

Imagine the world ending Noah’s Arc-style. Now, imagine the world ending Noah’s Arc-style in the middle of your 10-year high school reunion, revisiting both the boarding school campus you used to call home, as well as the now-estranged women you used to share classes with. That nightmare-inducing premise is the backdrop for Prime Video’s high-concept Australian comedy Class of ‘07, delivering another entry into the female survivalist genre while inserting a comedic edge into the tense atmosphere of the end of the world. Filled with clever pacing and charm, Class of ‘07 dives deep into high school trauma and female friendships, elevated by former best friends Zoe (Emily Browning) and Amelia (Megan Smart), reformed mean girl Saskia (Caitlin Stasey), and the rest of the stand-out titular class. This series manages to balance humor and heart, all while never ignoring the brutal reality of survival and the point of living during the apocalypse. Acting both within and outside of its female survivalist lens, Class of ‘07 is heavy and raw, while still being a raunchy and rowdy good time to boot. It may be unapologetically Aussie, but the universality of intense female friendships, high school bullies, and the base need for survival is a tale as old as time. —Anna Govert

24. You

You Season 4 Part 2

Created by: Greg Berlanti, Sera Gamble
Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

The first halfof You Season 4 went a bit against type for Netflix’s popular if occasionally controversial drama, casting murderer/stalker/generally terrible person Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) as the protagonist in an Agatha Christie-style mystery, tasked with figuring out the identity of the Eat the Rich killer attempting to frame him for a series of crimes he didn’t commit. Your mileage may vary on how well this particular narrative shake-up actually worked—and whether uncomfortably positioning Joe’s character in the role of a hero/victim without really bothering to interrogate whether encouraging its audience to essentially root for and sympathize with him is actually a good idea.

Why Netflix decided to split these halves up is a mystery, but the back half of You Season 4 is, with a couple of exceptions, compulsively watchable and full of the sort of wild, bonkers turns we’ve come to expect from this show. Twisty and propulsive, there are lots of entertaining surprises within Season 4’s conclusion, and more than one moment in which Joe almost feels ready to admit that he’s not the selfless romantic hero he pretends to be, and that his idea of a moral code is as twisted as everything else about him. —Lacy Baugher-Milas

23. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Created by: Amy Sherman-Palladino
Network: Prime Video

Watch on Amazon Prime

Miriam “Midge” Maisel does not tread lightly in life. She stomps in three-inch heels. Can we blame her? Her husband leaves her for another woman. She lives with her two young children in her parents’ apartment and doesn’t have a stable income. But over five seasons, the formidable and Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has let nothing stop her from barreling through comedy clubs… and the lives of others.

Midge has certainly not become easier to empathize with over time, nor does she seem to take into consideration that what happens to her also happens to others. Season 5 lays bare what has long been implied: Miriam Maisel is not the victim of this story. She’s the antiheroine.

But in the end, instead of going out with a surprise bang or a fade to literal black, in some ways Midge and the others simply did what was expected. They went on. The decades go by. Midge and Joel become older (and grandparents) and while their lives are not unscathed, there are no sudden melodramatic plot twists. Susie and Midge make up after a rift, become older, and—despite some problems—their friendship endures (watching Jeopardy together is about as close as two people can get). The irony is that a show that started with so much whimsy actually wrapped up its storylines the normal way our lives play out. We keep living, learn to endure, and transition to the next phase. Farewell, Mrs. Maisel; when you were good, you were marvelous indeed. —Gillian Bennett and Diedre Johnson

22. Cunk on Earth

Created by: Charlie Brooker
Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

Documentary satire is a niche field, but a very satisfying one. If you have watched and loved David Attenborough-hosted series like Planet Earth or, really, any educational investigation of history or the environment, then the “teachings” of Philomena Cunk (Diane Morgan) in Cunk on Earth are a must. Interviewing experts on a variety of topics from world religions to the dawn of man to the creation of the nuclear bomb, Morgan queries professors and historians in a flat, northern-England accent and deadpan delivery. But her provocative questions are not meant to play out as a prank; she asks with child-like ignorance, is prone to unrelated tangents, and her understanding is filled with misinformation that, she often notes, comes from YouTube videos. Most of the experts are game to the challenge of finding her underlying interests and simplifying their responses, but the unique way Philomena sees the world and describes it is what makes Cunk such a treasure. The short and heavily meta series is full of laugh-out-loud moments, but Philomena’s perspective will occasionally make you reconsider your own understanding and biases of world events. Her casual skewering of America in particular is a highlight, but no one is left unscathed by her surprisingly insightful reading of history. —Allison Keene

21. The Great

The Great Season 3

Created by: Tony McNamara
Network: Hulu

Watch on Hulu

With its bright, colorful aesthetic, penchant for violence, and occasionally raunchy humor, it’s easy to underestimate Hulu’s The Great, which has quietly emerged as one of the best shows of the streaming era. A delightful blend of traditional period drama tropes and biting satire that somehow manages to be both heartfelt and hilarious, The Great’s candy-coated exterior has always been a colorful gloss on more complex truths—about history and who is allowed to tell it, about female power and accomplishment, and the eternal clash between oppressive institutions and those yearning to be free of them.

In its ten-episode third season, The Great embraces what is ostensibly its most bonkers premise yet: Rather than leave Catherine The Great (Elle Fanning) and her husband Peter (Nicholas Hoult) at odds with one another, it asks what might happen if they were actually on the same side—and in doing so finds its strongest, most human story yet, one that extends beyond its central royal couple in ways both large and small.

The Great Season 3 is many things. It is heartbreaking, hysterical, frustrating, and deeply, beautifully weird. It is a story about love and betrayal and how difficult it is to truly see someone for who they are, rather than who you wish they were. It’s a lesson about how vulnerable love inevitably leaves you, how much genuine work it takes to care about something beyond yourself, and how we’re all stories in the end, in some form or other. Perhaps that’s The Great’s greatest trick: this may be an occasionally true story that only sometimes follows the letter of law when it comes to historical fact. But its spirit—one that embraces the humanity and heart of its subject—is unmatched. —Lacy Baugher-Milas

20. The Legend of Vox Machina

Prime Video's The Legend of Vox Machina Levels Up in an Expansive and Heartfelt Season 2

Created by: Brandon Auman
Network: Prime Video

Watch on Amazon Prime

In the first episode of The Legend of Vox Machina‘s second season, Vex’ahlia (Laura Bailey) nails exactly why Vox Machina are such extraordinary heroes: “We’re all frustrated and scared, but the fight’s not over.” It’s that conviction, that determination to fight against all odds that propels Vox Machina and their Legend through adventures of guts, glory, and heart, all culminating to create a satisfying continuation that still captures the spirit of Critical Role while elevating its source material to new heights.

Overall, The Legend of Vox Machina is an impressive feat, but never more so than in this second season, which is truly a masterclass of adaptation. Like Season 1, it aims to dilute over 80 hours of tabletop gameplay into just 12, 30-minute episodes, while also relaying information learned across the panels of comic books and scribed in the pages of novels. Importantly, the series manages to balance those call-outs for seasoned fans, while still remaining perfectly accessible to the average viewer, whether as a gateway into Critical Role’s larger world, or simply as a fun fantasy adventure to keep up with week to week. There’s a sincerity to these heroes that makes them feel both relatable and grounded, yet still larger than life, and their adventures—no matter how silly or violent or heartfelt—remain the stuff of legend. —Anna Govert

19. All Creatures Great and Small

All Creatures Great and Small on PBS Masterpiece Is Just What the Doctor Ordered

Created by: Ben Vanstone
Network: PBS / Channel 5

Watch on PBS

It’s actually very difficult to write a review of All Creatures Great and Small, because everything I said in my initial review of the show remains true. Now, there’s just more of it. And what a wonderful gift to chase away the winter doldrums once again as the Channel 5 series, airing in the US on PBS Masterpiece, returns us to a bucolic pre-war Yorkshire and the inhabitants of Skeldale House, the preeminent veterinary practice in the region. (Or so its lead surgeon, Samuel West’s Siegfried Farnon, likes to say—and it is most likely true.)

The show continues to capture the spirit (if not abide by the letter) of James Herriot’s books, giving us a wholesome and cozy setting that can nevertheless be emotionally intense when it comes to the hardships of rural life. And yet, the storylines about the animals the capable and caring James looks after—and what they mean to their humans—are always wonderful. The bottom line is that, once again, All Creatures is a delight. It’s lovingly and beautifully made. It’s a throwback that feels familiar, and yet doesn’t always play out exactly as expected. Even when it does, it’s charming enough to make each decision work. It’s not out to prove itself, make statements, or feel pressured to bring in dark storylines just to feel more modern. It knows just what it’s about, and we love it for that. —Allison Keene

18. Somebody Somewhere

Somebody Somewhere Season 2 Trailer Teases the Return of HBO's Underrated Gem

Created by: Hannah Bos, Paul Thureen
Network: HBO

Watch on Max

In its second season, HBO’s understated gem Somebody Somewhere picks up where it left off, using small moments to ask big questions and solidifying its place as one of modern TV’s best-kept secrets. Sam (the always-breathtaking Bridgett Everett) and Joel (a career-best Jeff Hiller) have committed themselves to getting their 10k steps in, but they every once in a while might cheat on their “designated non-drinking” days. Sam’s uppity sister Tricia (Mary Catherine Garrison) has closed down her shop and shipped off her daughter to college. And though their screen time may have lessened, the presence of Sam’s parents still lingers: mother Mary Jo’s (Jane Drake Brody) rehabilitation stint has taken a rebarbative turn, and father Ed (the great Mike Hagerty, who passed away pre-production) has departed on a boating voyage to Corpus Christi, leaving his daughters the duty of cleaning out the family farm. Sam’s roots in her hometown have grown stronger at this point, and Somebody Somewhere continues to deliver laughter and tears with little stylistic or tonal difference from the last time around.

Created by Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen, the show retains the low-fi, unfussy dramedy vibe in which executive producers Mark and Jay Duplass specialize. Somebody Somewhere may center itself on the minutia of quotidian life, in a place far away filled by people we can recognize but perhaps never know. But its quiet meditations unspool beyond the borders of its frame, letting everybody, everywhere into its beating heart. —Michael Savio

17. Silo

Created by: Graham Yost
Network: Apple TV+

Watch on Apple TV+

Hugh Howey became the face of the self-publishing movement when his 2011 dystopian novella Wool became an enormous hit on Amazon’s Kindle platform. It was the first of the three books in the Silo trilogy and became the basis for the first season of the new Apple TV+ series, developed by Justified creator Graham Yost. Like the book, the series is set in a self-contained world of a 144-story silo surrounded by a dead earth and begins with an IT worker (Rashida Jones) and her sheriff husband (David Oyelowo) digging into the secrets of the their strange anachronistic world (there are computers but no photographs) before shifting focus to an engineer (Rebecca Ferguson), who’s thrown into the center of the Silo’s power struggles. The mysteries and shifting alliances unfold at a brisk pace with mostly satisfying results, as Yost stays true to the story that unexpectedly captivated millions, and the cast is strong, with additional support from Common, Tim Robbins, and Geraldine James. Alongside Severance, Foundation and Hello Tomorrow!, Apple continues to establish itself as the home for smart, enjoyable sci-fi shows. —Josh Jackson

16. Ghosts

Created by: Joe Port, Joe Wiseman
Network: CBS / Paramount+

Watch on Paramount+

Based on the UK series of the same name (which itself is streaming on HBO Max), the delightful Ghosts has become a bona fide hit for CBS. But if you’re an elder Millennial such as myself, you could be knocked over with a feather to learn this is one of TV’s best series. And yet, don’t sleep on it.

Ghosts follows a married couple, Samantha and Jay (Rose McIver and Utkarsh Ambudkar), who inherit a large country estate that is, turns out, filled with ghosts only Sam (after she goes through a near-death experience) can see and hear. These ghosts aren’t scary though, they’re mostly friendly and occasionally annoying in their demands to smell bacon or have Sam turn on the TV. They also make for a fantastic comedy ensemble. Comprised of a small percentage of those who have died on the estate’s property from the beginning of time, the ghosts rule the roost: Bossy Revolutionary War soldier Isaac (Brandon Scott Jones), kind Boy Scout leader Pete (Richie Moriarty), pants-less Wall Street bro Trevor (Asher Grodman), uptight lady of the manor Hetty (Rebecca Wisocky), certified hippie Flower (Sheila Carrasco), flamboyant jazz singer Alberta (Danielle Pinnock), deadpan Lenape tribesman Sasappis (Roman Zaragoza), and the oldest of all the ghosts, Thorfinn (Devan Chandler Long), a Viking.

As Sam and Jay work to establish a B&B, the ghosts both help and hinder the process in earnestly funny ways. The charming CBS series is not quite as cozy as the UK’s version, and features a few early hallmarks of American sitcom formatting that can feel heavy-handed, but when it hits, it really hits. And in Season 2, the ensemble has grown even more on-point in their timing, just as the show’s witty writing continues to deliver weekly comedic joys. —Allison Keene

15. I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson

Created by: Tim Robinson, Zach Kanin
Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

By now you know what to expect from I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson. The sketch show’s third season bears all the hallmarks of its beloved first two, with awkward, oblivious people causing uncomfortable situations: A Tim Robinson character takes something too literally, or runs a bad joke that got him a few laughs into the ground, or misreads a situation and doubles down until he ruins everything.

Familiarity can breed… something, I’ve been told, and I’m sure some who have liked the show to this point will really dislike the new season. And honestly, I will admit to feeling a little underwhelmed the first time through, before having little jokes and moments cut through my consciousness in the days to follow; a full rewatch saw me laughing much harder than I did the first time. As our culture presents an almost endless buffet of ways to embarrass one’s self, Robinson, Zach Kanin, and their fellow writers have no problem needling new threads of social impropriety throughout this season’s six episodes, while also adding enough unexpected wrinkles to keep it interesting. You might see some saying that it’s time for I Think You Should Leave to follow its own instructions and beat it, but don’t listen to ‘em: three seasons in Robinson and Kanin are still growing the show’s language in small but notable ways. —Garrett Martin

14. Happy Valley

Created by: Sally Wainwright
Network: BBC One / Acorn TV

Watch on Acorn TV

In 2014, the fruitful crime show trope of a good-hearted but taciturn cop (now on the brink of retirement) found its apex in the form of Happy Valley’s Sgt. Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire). Her hatred of a psychopathic local criminal, Tommy Lee Royce (James Norton)—who she blames for her daughter’s death—is the beating heart of the elegantly brief crime series, which returned for a second set of six episodes in 2016. At last, seven years later, the final season of Happy Valley gives us six episodes of closure to the saga that has been one of the primary TV triumphs of the last decade.

In this third and final season, Catherine is ready to retire and hike the Himalayas (why not?) But, once again, Tommy Lee Royce is an ever-present shadow over her life and her grandson Ryan’s, especially once it’s revealed that Tommy has made contact with Ryan who now visits him. This emotional bomb, which is only the beginning of their troubles with Tommy this season, rocks Catherine’s world and causes her—and Ryan, along with her sister Clare (Siobhan Finneran) and the entire family—to come face to face with the past, and Tommy’s toxic presence throughout it.

It’s this devastating emotional undercurrent leading to the last confrontation between Catherine and Tommy that makes the series finale a triumphant cap to an exceptional show—and it doesn’t play out as one might predict. As hard as it is to say goodbye, creator Sally Wainwright knows how to do a proper sendoff that speaks to the series’ many recurring themes, pays homage to its troubled locale, and honors its affecting stories. While there’s not much happiness to find in Happy Valley, there’s the right amount of satisfaction in the glimmer of hope that we get a peek of at the end. —Allison Keene

13. The Other Two

Created by: Chris Kelly, Sarah Schneider
Network: HBO

Watch on Max

Few TV shows skewer the entertainment industry so brightly and bombastically as The Other Two. The series started out by tracking the fates of the two older, less successful siblings—Brooke (Heléne York) and Cary (Drew Tarver)—of teen superstar ChaseDreams (Case Walker). Since then, the show has morphed in bizarre and always hysterically entertaining ways, from their mother (Molly Shannon) landing her own daytime talk show to Brooke and Drew finding some semblance of stardom themselves, although never quite how they might hope. Happiness, for all, remains somewhat elusive. Creators Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider understand the surreal, cynical, and fleeting nature of celebrity and modern “success” in entertainment, and expertly convey it here with biting accuracy through the wonderful performances of their talented cast. And yet, the show is never dark; it’s comedically augmented reality, and a whip-smart portrayal of the highs and lows of, well, chasing your dreams. —Allison Keene

​​12. Star Trek: Picard

Star Trek: Picard's Third Season Finally Goes Where The Next Generation Has Gone Before

Created by: Akiva Goldsman, Michael Chabon, Kirsten Beyer, Alex Kurtzman
Network: Paramount+

Watch on Paramount+

Picard has never truly felt as if it’s found its footing, or decided what kind of show it really wants to be. But its third (and final) season feels as if the show has, at last, finished shuffling about the furniture on set, finished negotiating with everybody’s agents, and committed to the selling point: the most beloved characters from the best Star Trek (I will not apologize) are back together in deep space, playing cat-and-mouse submarine warfare in nebulae, sciencing the shit out of problems, butting heads with Starfleet higher-ups, and firing off quips.

In watching this season, you will wonder if all franchise TV has to offer us at its peak is warm, fuzzy nostalgia. You will wonder why getting this cast back together, in this kind of adventure, was not the goal of the first season, and why they didn’t just wait until they could get all the pieces together to achieve it. You will wonder how they made Worf look even sexier. But if fans of TNG are looking to see their favorite characters return looking distinguished and engaged, this last season of Picard is probably the first one they may find to be worth sitting through to find out the answer. —Ken Lowe

11. Beef

Created by: Lee Sung Jin
Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

In Beef, the brilliant Ali Wong—playing the well-off boutique entrepreneur Amy Lau—has become engaged in a feud with the suicidal contractor Danny Cho, played by the equally excellent Steven Yeun. It started with an instance of road rage, in which Lau almost kills Cho, and escalates from there. One is rich, and one is poor, but fundamentally they’re both prisoners who feel no sense of control of their lives. What this violence against one another shows is that, briefly, they are resuscitated; they need this. It’s not healthy, it’s going to harm them both, but you know beyond any doubt that they are going to chase this high as long as they can. A raw thrill brought them both back to life, from a chance encounter in a parking lot, and through it they’ll even come to depend on each other.

As far as premise-setting, you just can’t do it any better, and there’s very little that you need to know about the show beyond that. They fight, and fight, and fight, and as the stifling atmosphere of modern lives continues to let them down, to leave them unhappy and confused, they’ll seek solace in each other, but that solace will come in the form of violence, because what they both require is the thrumming, hot conflict that can be waged between two people without the restrictions that society and the dual strictures of wealth and poverty have put in place. —Shane Ryan

10. Shrinking

Apple TV+'s Shrinking Introduces a Hilarious Psychological Vigilante We Didn't Know We Needed

Created by: Bill Lawrence, Jason Segel, Brett Goldstein
Network: Apple TV+

Watch on Apple TV+

For avid fans of the sitcoms Scrubs, Cougar Town, and most recently, Ted Lasso, Bill Lawrence’s name will be familiar. And his latest series, the 10-part Apple TV+ comedy Shrinking (co-created with Ted Lasso fan-favorite Brett Goldstein and comedy veteran Jason Segel), has every chance of blossoming into another crowd-pleasing success: it’s unapologetically witty, charmingly heartfelt, and features a set of quirky characters that are irresistibly likable. The plot follows Jimmy (Jason Segel), a therapist and a single father who’s been grieving his late wife for over a year. His apathetic mood has leaked into his professional life, turning him into a passive counselor without much progression to show for when it comes to his patients. Then one day, Jimmy snaps and loses his cool in an unprofessional outburst, but… it works. From that moment, he tells each one of his patients what he thinks their problems are and what they should do to get out of their own way, to varied success.

What Shrinking does right from the start is be upfront about every character’s emotional baggage. Jimmy grieves, Gaby (Jessica Williams) has marital issues, and Paul (Harrison Ford) struggles to open up about his Parkinson’s diagnosis. They might be shrinks, but they’re also human beings dealing with the same personal problems as any of us (which they often ignore just like their patients do). Shrinking revels in the type of humor that’s uncomfortably honest and filled to the brim with sarcasm. But it never goes too far to feel insensitive or insulting. That’s a fine line, incredibly hard to walk, but the show does it with inherent confidence—even if the downside of that approach is that some jokes become cringey in various situations. But if you grow fond of these characters as fast as I did, you can easily pardon their occasionally embarrassing behavior. And undoubtedly, the cast does a tremendous job of making us fall in love with these flawed goofballs. The well-balanced dose of sarcastic and contagious humor (rooted in pain and heartache) is the kind of prescribed laughter we need to heal our souls after a long and hard day. —Akos Peterbencze

9. Party Down

In Party Down's Long-Awaited Return

Created by: John Enbom, Rob Thomas, Dan Etheridge, Paul Rudd
Network: Starz

Watch on Starz

Set several years after the events of the second season finale, and catching up with most of the main cast, the new Party Down proves that not much has changed about the “haves and have nots” of the entertainment industry or the people who serve it besides the power of the internet (one of the new Party Down employees, played by Brockmire actor Tyrel Jackson Williams, is a rising TikToker with dreams of making “content”). Party Down was always about the fickleness of fame, and the returning of star Adam Scott and most of the original cast to play people who (still) haven’t made it and are (still) working as cater-waiters is (still) a set-up for some dark humor. But though it’s been a long time since we last caught up with the caterers, the show has not missed a beat. Still incredibly funny, irreverent, and an excellent skewering of the Hollywood machine, Party Down remains an underrated treasure. —Whitney Friedlander and Allison Keene

8. Ted Lasso

Created by: Jason Sudeikis, Bill Lawrence, Brendan Hunt, Joe Kelly
Network: Apple TV+

Watch on Apple TV+

Ted Lasso’s third and likely final season aimed to recapture that same glory that made it such a fan favorite over its first two years, while also introducing something Lasso has never really had up until this point: a rival. An enemy. A true, straight-up antagonist on the other side of the pitch. It’s a tried and true piece of the sports story formula, and if anything, it’s wild to think they haven’t really done it up until this point. That rival is, of course, West Ham United. Rebecca’s (Hannah Waddingham) ex-husband Rupert (Anthony Head) purchased the club to compete against Richmond at the end of Season 2, and poached “wonder kid” assistant coach Nate (Nick Mohammed) to serve as team manager.

Though it could be a cliched sports story with less nuanced execution, setting up Richmond and West Ham as rivals—with Nate and Ted in the spotlight on both sides—makes for a fascinating dynamic as the season continued to unravel. Despite the bar napkin pitch on the logline of “American football coach moves to England to coach soccer,” this has never been a simple show. It’s a story about broken people doing their best, and it all just happens to revolve around a football club. In Season 3, these relationships and bonds are stronger and more nuanced than ever. It’s been compelling as hell to see the creative team playing in the world they’ve built a little longer, and hopefully there is more to come. We love these characters, we love this team, and that hasn’t changed. —Trent Moore

7. Yellowjackets

Yellowjackets Season 2 cast

Created by: Ashley Lyle, Bart Nickerson
Network: Showtime

Watch on Showtime

Yellowjackets Season 2 was darker, more disturbing, and more confident than ever—utterly fearless in its storytelling and unflinching in its vision. Unlike so many shows before it, Yellowjacket’s critical and popular success hasn’t changed or compromised its quality in any way, and its second season felt like nothing so much as a natural expansion and extension of its first. In many ways, it was that first season, turned up to eleven—more uncomfortable, more transgressive, and full of even more rage (both sublimated and directly expressed) than its predecessor. If Yellowjackets has taught us, as viewers, anything, it’s that this is a show that knows where it’s going, and we’re just here to enjoy the ride. I’m happy to see where it takes me. Buzz, buzz, buzz. —Lacy Baugher-Milas

6. Schmigadoon!

Created by: Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio
Network: Apple TV+

Watch on Apple TV+

Picking up the baton from the delightful first season, Apple TV+’s Schmigadoon! Season 2 moves on from lampooning musicals of the ‘40s and ‘50s and takes a stab at the darker and edgier musicals of the ‘60s and ‘70s in the town of Schmicago. Following their escape from Schmigadoon last season, Melissa (Cecily Strong) and Josh (Keegan-Michael Key) find themselves back in the real world, but ultimately become unhappy with their lives there. In an effort to find Schmigadoon once again, they venture back out into the woods, only to stumble upon the seedier Schmicago instead. Many familiar faces return alongside brand new additions to brave this new setting with just as much musical gravitas and campy fun as before. From executive producer Lorne Michaels, Schmigadoon! captures the joy of musical theater while providing the perfect inside joke for Broadway fans and newcomers alike. —Anna Govert

5. Barry

Created by: Bill Hader
Network: HBO

Watch on Max

It’s been a long road (thanks to a 3-year pandemic break), but Bill Hader and Alec Berg’s Barry has finally reached its conclusion. The hitman-turned-actor has executed more people than failed auditions by this point, and with him locked up at the start of the season thanks to his former acting coach, it’s been terrifying to see what Barry might be capable of with his back pushed this much against the wall. The series took a sharp stylistic shift between seasons 2 and 3, and the characters feel as stripped-back as the visual style. Hader, directing all eight episodes, is clearly in his wheelhouse, and confidently pulls heart-wrenching, blackly comic performances out of all the remaining cast. After a few early wrong-notes, Barry sets off on a final mission that risks no one from the ensemble getting their happy ending—not that we’re complaining. —Rory Doherty

4. Abbott Elementary

The 10 Best Abbott Elementary Quotes (So Far)

Created by: Quinta Brunson
Network: ABC

Watch on Hulu

Sometimes there’s that magical moment when you realize you are watching something truly exceptional. From the moment I watched the pilot of ABC’s Abbott Elementary, I knew the show was much more than typical network sitcom drudgery (lame punchline, tinny laugh track, repeat). There was a grounded sweetness to the show. It was neither saccharine nor sardonic. We were introduced to the teachers of Philadelphia public school: the earnest Janine (series creator Quinta Brunson), veteran teachers Melissa (Lisa Ann Water) and Barbara (Sheryl Lee Ralph), as well as reluctant substitute Gregory (Tyler James Williams), the socially inept Jacob (Chris Perfetti), and the self-centered and clueless principal Ava (Janelle James). As a group, they immediately clicked; their combined comedic beats were perfect. The pilot was hilarious but also moving, all while shedding light on the underfunded public school system without being patronizing or exploitative, and the rest of the first season continued in kind.

And ever since, the show has remained everything you would want and expect it to be. Warm, hilarious, relatable… and damn if it doesn’t sometimes make me cry. —Amy Amatangelo

3. Poker Face

Created by: Rian Johnson
Network: Peacock

Watch on Peacock

The deck is heavily stacked in the audience’s favor with Rian Johnson and Natasha Lyonne’s Poker Face, a case-of-the-week “howcatchem” that feels less like an ode to Columbo and more like a gleeful, excited squeal of adoration. Johnson writes and directs the pilot, giving us a welcome return to the darker, restrained type of genre filmmaking he showed in Brick and Looper, which provides an impeccable introduction to the world of Charlie (Lyonne), a nobody who can sniff out when anyone is ever lying. Our perceptive idol still has to slum it across America’s backroads, seemingly drawn to impractical, impossible murders being staged in regional theaters, crummy punk bars, and a militant old folks home. There’s a great deal of texture to the world that a team of capable writers and directors explore, and despite some repetitive structure issues, Poker Face makes us wonder why procedurals like these aren’t on TV year-round. —Rory Doherty

2. The Last of Us

Created by: Craig Mazin, Neil Druckmann
Network: HBO

Watch on Max

You wouldn’t think puns would work as connective tissue between characters in any television series, yet alone a brutal post-apocalyptic drama, but it does just that whenever 14-year-old Ellie (Bella Ramsey) throws them at 50-something Joel (Pedro Pascal) throughout the first season of The Last of Us. In a world as dark and dangerous as the one viewers see onscreen, measured humor goes a long way.

Humor is one of the many tools that series creators/writers Craig Mazin (Chernobyl) and Neil Druckmann (designer of the videogame the series is based on) use to build layered characters to tell a heartbreaking, yet inspiring story filled with loss, hope, determination, and redemption. And it all revolves around Ellie and Joel.

Pascal positively shines as Joel, perfectly balancing the physical aspects of the role with an emotional heft that’s hard to pull off in a character who is a man of action and few words. But the breakout star of The Last of Us is Ramsey. The actor, who was a scene stealer as Lady Mormont in Game of Thrones, is a wisecracking badass and certain to be a fan favorite. Together, the duo make a team that’s easy to root for and more importantly, care about. Complex characters combined with stellar acting, a wonderfully paced story, and an emotionally engaging plot make The Last of Us a brilliant series that is now the template all other videogame-to-TV adaptations should follow. —Terry Terrones

1. Succession

Created by: Jesse Armstrong
Network: HBO

Watch on Max

Loyalty and betrayal once again form the backbone of HBO’s drama in its fourth and final season, but it’s all on a continuum; the Roy siblings have been infected with the push-and-pull rhythms of their father, and each time they come together, it’s only a prelude to screwing each other over, and each time they screw each other over, it’s only to tighten again. On the surface, they are selfish, unsympathetic human beings; deep down, as creatures who have been molded by caprice and limited by cruelty, who could be more sympathetic?

The brilliance of Succession is that you ache each time the worm turns; this is not repetitive, it never feels inevitable, and it’s only afterward that you see the insidious pattern. A show that can often look like a comedy, since it has the funniest writing on TV, is at its heart one of the darkest dramas imaginable, because it slowly reveals the constraints at the heart of our existence; everything we dream, but can never do… every way we’ve been permanently stunted before we ever had a choice in the matter.

On that note, while we’ll mourn the show’s end, there’s something to be said for getting out before the patterns become more explicit and less surprising. They could write funny dialogue and convincing plot twists for ages, but to quit now is to ensure that the shocking freshness never wears off. —Shane Ryan

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