When 2020 began, the year showed promise. People were making holiday plans, going to work, and watching their favourite movies in the theatre. The second season of Sex Education had just released on Netflix. The comedy-drama series premiered on January 17 and received rave reviews for its consistent sensitive dealing of sexuality and sexual health. This was one among the earliest television shows to release, along with the enjoyable Bojack Horseman (the second part of the final season premiered on January 31).
March quickly rolled in and so did the nationwide lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Life changed as people remained holed up in their homes, watching shows they had never watched before to escape reality. And, there emerged a plethora of never-ending suggestions for new shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. While some were questionable, some seasons of existing series and new shows kept audiences hooked. As the pandemic progressed into late April, there were more interesting shows that stood the test of time. While it was sad that shows like The Good Place and Cheer ended, there was a silver lining as The Crown and The Boys were renewed for more seasons.
Silverscreen India brings a list of 13 TV shows that went beyond entertainment. These shows had great characters, captivating performances, fresh storylines, and most importantly, helped viewers sail through this difficult year.
- The Crown (2018-Present)
The fourth season of this hit show gained immense coverage during the pandemic as it focused on late Princess Diana and her relationship with the British royal family. This drama revolves around the rise of Queen Elizabeth II and the events that take place during her reign. The show tracks various historical events and the latest season focuses on the Queen’s relationship with former prime minister Margaret Thatcher (played by Gillian Anderson) and the entry of Princess Diana (played by Emma Corrin).
The Crown caused an uproar as the United Kingdom’s culture secretary wanted Netflix to add a fiction disclaimer at the beginning of each episode. However, Netflix refused to do so and stated that it was already clear that the series was a work of fiction. The controversies and theories about the royal family’s relationship with Diana make this season a must-watch.
Unlike the previous seasons, this one has darker undertones, making it a fitting watch for what this year has been.
- The Queen’s Gambit (2020)
Based on Walter Tevis’s 1983 novel of the same name, the story follows prodigy Beth Harmon who becomes a world-renowned chess champion, overcoming several obstacles. An orphan, she becomes dependent on tranquillisers to fuel her expertise and control over the game. The fast-paced nature of the plot, combined with terrific performances by the cast, make it a compelling sports drama and offers the rush of adrenaline that 2020 denied everyone. Interestingly, weeks after the release of the show, the sale of chess sets rose to a record high of 125%.
- Schitt’s Creek (2015-2020)
Praised by the critics for the cast’s performance and the treatment of the LGBTQIA+ community, Schitt’s Creek is a parody of the rich mixed with equal parts of emotional and poignant storytelling. Even as the show has been on air for almost five years, the sixth season of the series was especially well-received as the comedy and happiness showcased was much needed this year.
Schitt’s Creek was created by Dan Levy and his father Eugene Levy, who also starred alongside Catherin O’Hara and Emily Murphy in this comedy series. The show is about a rich family who loses everything after they are cheated by their business manager. Their only asset is Schitt’s Creek, a small town that the patriarch Jack bought for his son as a joke on his birthday many years ago. Schitt’s Creek may have ended but its positive and well-rounded characters are here to stay.
(Read the Silverscreen India review of Schitt’s Creek here)
- Killing Eve (2018- Present)
Killing Eve follows the story of Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh), a British intelligence officer who is given the task of capturing the brilliant but psychopathic assassin Villanelle (Jodi Comer). A comedy-drama series, the plot focuses on the cat and mouse game that the two protagonists engage in and their growing obsession with each other.
The third season premiered in April and concluded in the following month. The show’s highlights include complex characters, realistic handling of feminist topics, and the addictive relationship between Eve and Villanelle, which constantly has fans wondering “will they or won’t they?”. Due to the success of the show, it has been renewed for a fourth season that will premier sometime in 2021.
- Sex Education (2019- Present)
Set in Britain, this Netflix original series opened to rave reviews when it released in January 2019. Starring Gillian Anderson, Asa Butterfield, and Emma Mackey in the lead, this series has been praised for the way it has handled topics of sexuality, asexuality, sexual harassment, parental relationships, and friendships.
The story follows high school student Otis, who teams up with Maeve to reluctantly start an underground sex therapy clinic in their school’s abandoned bathroom. Despite being awkward and inexperienced, Otis gains a lot of knowledge about sex from his mother who is a renowned sex therapist. Apart from sensitively dealing with topics on sex, the series is also an enjoyable high school comedy that focuses on typical high school problems such as love, bullying, and maintaining friendships.
The second season came out before the pandemic and has managed to hold the audience’s attention due to its consistency in terms of both content and themes. With season two ending on a cliffhanger, Sex Education has fans eagerly waiting for season three to see how the comedy-drama series will pan out.
- Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story (2020)
This Hansal Mehta directorial venture has kept social media abuzz ever since the trailer was released. With the actors being propelled to fame overnight, this show has a rating of 9.2 on IMDB, beating other popular Indian shows like Sacred Games and Mirzapur.
Based on the story of late stockbroker Harshad Mehta, this SonyLiv series follows the journey of Harshad Mehta as he quickly becomes one of the most influential people in the Bombay Stock Exchange. This high is, however, short-lived as it is soon revealed that he orchestrated one of India’s biggest financial scams, leading to the infamous stock exchange crisis of 1992.
Despite the events taking place in the 1980s and 90s, this show has managed to resonate with the audiences due to its nostalgic visuals of Bombay, stellar performances by the lead actors Pratik Gandhi and Shreya Dhanwanthary, and the gripping storyline.
- Mirzapur 2 (2018- Present)
Starring Pankaj Tripathi, Ali Fazal, Rasika Dugal, and others, Mirzapur shows the story of a businessman, who secretly runs an arms and drugs business, and is the most powerful man in Mirzapur. It delves into the world of power struggles, bitter rivalries, corruption, and lots and lots of violence.
The first season was released in 2018. The release of the second season was marred by controversies as social media users wanted to boycott it due to Fazal’s anti-CAA stance. Mirzapur 2 was expected to not perform well. Despite this, the show opened to rave reviews, due to its intense and consistent storyline and action-packed scenes. Revenge and crime dramas never cease to excite audiences and Mirzapur 2 does justice to that.
- Brooklyn 99 (2013- Present)
Brooklyn 99 is one of those shows that have consistently outdone themselves with every season. Known for its diverse casting, relatable plotlines, and easy comedy, it has become popular with audiences. Like with every other season, season seven of the police comedy show picks up after a cliffhanger. With the 99 precinct’s captain Raymond Holt being demoted to a beat cop, the remaining police officers have to adjust to a new captain. They are also conflicted about how they should treat their former captain.
Upholding its reputation, the show provided much-needed humour and wit during the pandemic. Known for its sensitivity and inclusivity, some of the episodes have tackled issues like sexual harassment and racism. However, in lieu of the Black Lives Matter protests that took place in USA in June, the show was called out for its police propaganda. Critics pointed out that the series showcases all their leads as fair and good cops. While the actors have given some sort of acknowledgment to the criticism, the creators have decided to rewrite the entire script for the upcoming season in the wake of the movement.
- Bandish Bandits (2020- Present)
Classical Hindustani singer Radhe and pop star Tamanna meet and they hit it off. Despite their contrasting personalities and polar opposite interests in music, they embark on a journey of self-discovery together. Things are not made easy as she is answerable to corporate record labels and he, to his guru and grandfather. The show boasts of a strong cast- Naseeruddin Shah, Ritwik Bhowmik, Shreya Chaudhry, Kunal Roy Kapoor, and Atul Kulkarni.
Bandish Bandits is a refreshing story that packs soulful music (composed by Shankar, Ehsaan, Loy), picturesque scenes with themes of love, devotion, and self-discovery. Bandish Bandits’ breezy and heartwarming storyline is exactly what this year needs.
- The Mandalorian (2019- Present)
Set in the Star Wars universe, the show is about a lone warrior and bounty hunter who travels in the outer galaxy, far from the reaches of the New Republic. The show is set after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the New Order. Written by Jon Frevau, The Mandalorian was nominated for an Emmy in the best drama series category. The Mandalorian does not just nail the Star Wars experience but it also has a really good script that makes one of the most unforgettable shows of the season.
While the show might be hard for non-Star Wars fans to follow, its visuals and poignant plots make it hard to ignore. The themes of parenthood (as seen in the relationship between the Mandalorian and the Child that he sets out to protect) and good vs evil. This year has been demoralising and difficult to navigate and this show serves as a reminder of the things that are most important in an entertaining manner.
11. The Boys (2019- Present)
With most Marvel and DC films releases being pushed to next year, The Boys might just be the superhero content to keep fans afloat this year.
Developed by Supernatural’s co-creator Eric Kripke, The Boys is a show that delves into the dark reality where superheroes abuse their powers and are controlled by a giant corporation. A group of vigilantes known as ‘The Boys’ get together to restore balance. Led by Billy the Butcher (Karl Urban), The Boys have to take on 7, whose leader Homelander is a Superman-esqe hero. However, underneath his larger-than-life persona, he is an evil, narcissistic man.
The second season of The Boys has more violence and bloodbath. Filled with riveting performances from the main cast, the show sticks to what it does best- it is loud, in-your-face, and breaks down everything that might be wrong with the superhero genre. With action-packed scenes and grey characters, the universe of The Boys offers just the amount of creativity and excitement for the audiences.
(Read the Silverscreen India’s review of The Boys here)
12. I May Destroy You (2020- Present)
Touted by Vox and The Guardian as the best show of 2020, I May Destroy You is a British dark comedy and drama series starring Michaela Coel. The show has been written by Coel, who loosely based it on her experience with sexual assault.
Twitter author Arabella’s life is turned upside down after she is sexually assaulted and tries her best to come to terms with it. The show takes on issues of social media, racism, sexual abuse, and consent. Every episode shows a way in which a person’s consent is violated and how they handle it.
I May Destroy You stands out because of its wit and ability to handle dark situations in a realistic manner. Just like this year, I May Destroy You is all about survival and moving forward at your own pace.
(Read the Silverscreen India review of I May Destroy You here)
13. Dark ( 2017- 2020)
Dark is a German science fiction horror that strings elements of time travel, fantasy, and mystery together. Two children go missing in Winden. Their disappearance leads people to uncover the town’s mysterious and horrific secrets. Four families that are linked to the children’s disappearance uncover their unsavory past and realise that they are all somehow connected to the town.
With supernatural elements, complicated time loops, and unending twists and turns, Dark quickly rose to become one of Netflix’s most popular mysteries. Concepts like quantum entanglement and alternating realities are usually hard to grasp but the show’s intense and original plot makes it an addictive watch.
The third and final season of the show premiered in June and focused on an apocalypse, familial ties, romantic relationships, and the never-ending debate on free will vs determinism. With heavy symbolism, stellar acting and a gripping story, the final season of Dark kept viewers on the edge of their seats and has them debating the show’s ending even after six months.