In June, when we released our ranking of the best shows of the year so far, it seemed entirely plausible that our year-end list wasn’t much different. It was a few months after the start of the pandemic, when it was unclear when television would be able to resume production, if at all, and how much material networks and streamers had stored before quarantine. If the answer to either of these questions was wrong, we would assume that the last three or four months of the year would be devoid of interesting programming.
Instead, the fire hose content of the past few years has simply slowed down to become a soothing shower, offering enough quality sets to fill more than half of a revised top 10, and eight shows in total. on this reinforced top 20.
Several of the comeback shows are rated differently from each other than they were in June. It’s a reflection on how some of them lingered more strongly in the months following their release, but also on the fluidity of these types of lists by nature. The top ranked show was always going to be the top ranked show, but at least half of the series would go up or down a bit depending on when that compilation was released. It’s a group that includes both dependable veterans at the end of or near the end of their races, and notable debuts from untested creators; series on the constraints of aging and those on the chills and terrors of adolescence; shows America’s difficult past and those who imagine what our future might hold. In a strange and often maddening year, it was great to have a television like this to turn to.