Top 10 Best TV Shows Of 2020

Hulu Netflix shows

2020 will be remembered as the year of the pandemic. Right behind the pandemic should be television and how it captivated my life for 365 days. This past year, I’ve never watched more television in my life. Every week, a new TV show grabbed my attention and dominated my discussion within my social circles.

This is the first year where my list for top 10 TV shows was harder to make than my top 10 movies. That speaks volumes for me personally. As a result of the pandemic, I haven’t gone to a theater since February 2020, which is depressing. However, television filled my void admirably. I was willing to try more new shows because of my abundance of free time. There were so many tv shows to watch that I even missed out on notable programs like I May Destroy You and The Boys.

Below is my list for the top 10 best TV shows of 2020.

10. Devs (Hulu)

Devs FX on Hulu
Devs FX on Hulu

Can man play God? That’s one of the questions behind the sci-fi mystery, Devs. Set in San Francisco, a young software engineer (Sonoya Mizuno) named Lily works at the tech-giant, Amaya. When her boyfriend dies on the job, Lily investigates the company’s CEO, Forrest (Nick Offerman), which leads her down a dangerous but compelling path. Framed as a murder mystery, Devs dives deeper into themes of free will, determinism, and quantum computing. Many will be turned off by the show, but if you enjoy the work of Alex Garland (Ex Machina and Annihilation), Devs is a weird sci-fi thriller with a satisfying conclusion. Plus, it’s beautiful to watch.

9. PEN15 (Hulu)

My favorite premise on television belongs to PEN15. Co-creators Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle play 13-year-old versions of themselves in the year 2000 while being surrounded by actual teenagers. The show sounds silly and childish, but it’s a stroke of genius. The gag never loses its charm, and the show hilariously dives into themes of adolescence in their own charming way. I cringe for all of the right reasons. Don’t forget to set your away message on AIM before watching.

8. ZeroZeroZero (Amazon Prime)

Zerozerozero Season 1, Episode 7 Andrea Riseborough and Dane DeHaan CR: Stefania Rosini/Amazon Studios

Remember March? That feels like five years ago. Right before the world went to shit, ZeroZeroZero hit Amazon Prime video. The story centers around the cocaine trade and involves three groups: the Mexican cartel, the American brokers, and the Italian mafia. The story tracks how cocaine is shipped from Mexico to Italy. It’s a fascinating look into a corrupt world and how power is worth more than gold. Standouts from the show include Harold Torres as Manuel Contreras, a rising soldier in the Mexican army, and Dane DeHaan as Chris Lynwood, one of the cocaine brokers who battles Huntington’s disease.

7. Unorthodox (Netflix)

If Normal People did not air in 2020, then Unorthodox would be the show that moved me the most. Unorthodox plugs viewers into the ultra-Orthodox community in Brooklyn, NY. It’s here we meet Esty Shapiro (Shira Haas), an unhappily married teenager who decides to escape to Berlin and find her estranged mother. It’s a beautiful and delicate look into a world that at times, feels like a foreign country, not a neighborhood in Brooklyn. The brilliant Shira Haas is a star, and her captivating and emotionally-gripping performance is one of 2020’s best.

6. Dave (FXX/Hulu)

Hi, I’m Dave. The surprise of the year belongs to Dave, the fictionalized tale of Lil Dicky and his quest to become the best rapper in the world. Dave is borderline ridiculous at times with milk boards and shitty hikes. However, Dave is more than just dick jokes. It has subtle nuance and tackles real problems in a caring way, highlighted by the standout episode dedicated to GaTa’s bipolar disorder. The show really hit its stride towards the end with “Ally’s Toast,” and ended with one of my favorite scenes of the year. At the end of the day, Dave makes me laugh more than any other show on TV.

5. The Queen’s Gambit

The winner of the “show that came out of nowhere to captivate the nation” was The Queen’s Gambit. Somehow, a show about chess became the sexiest thing on television. The Queen’s Gambit chronicles the life of Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy), an orphan chess prodigy that strives to become the world’s best player in the 1950s and 19660s. As an average chess player, I was so captivated by the show that I found myself researching The Sicilian Defense and Queen’s Gambit. It’s as entertaining of a binge-watch as you’ll find all year. Anya Taylor-Joy is a captivating performer. From her stylish outfits to her killer instinct, Taylor-Joy has a magnetic look in her eyes that reminds me of a young Jennifer Lawrence and Emma Stone. I just want to hang out Beth and drink a cocktail over a game of chess. Buy your Taylor-Joy stock now.

4. The Mandalorian

In my best Carl Weathers’s voice, “Mando!” Star Wars has reached new heights due to The Mandalorian. The bounty hunter tasked with returning Baby Yoda aka Grogu is an absolute blast. Even if you’re not a diehard Star Wars fan, this show is so fun and compelling that viewers can learn the ways of The Force without seeing any of the movies. Every episode is a fun adventure from start to finish. Season 2 continued to highlight where this show can go conceptually, and thanks to the recent Disney+ announcements, The Mandalorian will continue to open new doors in the Star Wars universe.

3. The Last Dance

The MVP of quarantine was The Last Dance. Spending two hours every Sunday night for five weeks with Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls was one of the few highlights of 2020. From his rise in the 80s to his dominance in the 90s, The Last Dance brought fans on an emotional journey into the mindset of one of the most influential athletes of the last 100 years. When my mom and sister, who don’t play sports, are raving about a basketball documentary, then you know it’s fantastic. Jordan’s speech about winning and leadership is in my top ten scenes of the year.

2. Normal People

Normal People Hulu
Normal People / Hulu

The show that brought me to tears was Normal People, Hulu’s adaption of Sally Rooney’s novel about two young adults who fall in and out of love over the course of a few years. Normal People is one of the most heartbreaking and purest depictions of young love I’ve ever seen. It floored me both emotionally and mentally. The chemistry between Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones was undeniable. It’s the type of show that I will be thinking about for many years to come.

1. Better Call Saul

Better call saul
Rhea Seehorn and Bob Odenkirk in Better Call Saul / Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

This was an easy decision. The best show TV show in 2020 was Better Call Saul. Most shows start off great and plateau in the middle seasons before declining towards the end. With Better Call Saul, it’s quite the opposite. Vince Gilligan’s prequel to Breaking Bad has gotten better every year, culminating with a perfect fifth season. Every episode is like watching a masterclass on acting, writing, and directing. The show is so strong that most fans care more about the status of the secondary lead, Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn), than the titular character, Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk). Bob Odenkirk, Rhea Seehorn, Jonathan Banks, and Tony Dalton all deserved Emmys for their performances. In particular, Seehorn can arguably make the claim that she’s giving the best performance on television today. She’s that damn good. Better Call Saul is no longer in the shadow of Breaking Bad. They are finally contemporaries.

Quick shoutouts to shows that just missed the cut and shows I didn’t get a chance to watch.

Honorable Mention: How To with John Wilson, Lovecraft Country, Ramy, Sex Education, Dash & Lily, The Real Bros of Simi Valley, Outer Banks

Did Not Watch: I May Destroy You (will 100% watch), The Boys, The Undoing, Ozark (Season 3), The Crown, Ted Lasso, Mrs. America, The Good Lord Bird

Editor’s Note: The Queen’s Gambit was originally at 4 and The Mandalorian was at 5. After a terrific Season 2 finale, The Mandalorian moved up to 4 while The Queen’s Gambit moved back to 5

What shows are on your top 10 lists? Leave your thoughts in the comments or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

Quality, Not Quantity: How Hulu Became The Top Streaming Service In 2020

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What’s the best streaming service in 2020? I’m guessing that 80% of the answers would be Netflix. Frankly, I’m not surprised. In terms of the amount of content provided, Netflix is king. No one can match up with their giant library of movies and shows to go along with their original programming. However, if we’re judging quality instead of quantity, Hulu wears the crown.

Hulu is having a moment in 2020. Thanks to high-quality original and produced shows, Hulu’s original programming has been tremendous. Every week, a new critically acclaimed show debuts on the service. If some of these shows were seen by a wider audience on Netflix, Amazon, or Disney+, they’d be gigantic hits.

Speaking of Disney, Hulu received a giant boost to their programming with the addition of the FX. “FX on Hulu” includes FX produced shows that were originally scheduled to air on the network, but after the Disney acquisition, those shows premiered streamed on Hulu. In sports, it’s like when a smaller market team gets a star player. Pretend that the Toronto Raptors are Hulu and Kawhi Leonard is FX. That partnership ended with a championship in 2019.

Hulu has produced some of my favorite programs of the year. Devs, the sci-fi murder mystery from Alex Garland, was as beautiful as it was addicting. Normal People, which was co-produced with BBC Three, moved me to tears and depicted one of the most accurate portrayals of millennial first love. Dave*, the surprise show of 2020 from the rapper, Lil Dicky, was fun, charming, and surprisingly full of depth as it balanced penis jokes with mental health depictions. Other noteworthy shows from Hulu that debuted in 2020 are Mrs. America, High Fidelity, Little Fires Everywhere, and The Great. All of the aforementioned shows have a score of 70 or greater on Metacritic besides Dave, which has a score of 64.

*Dave airs weekly on FX. However, Dave has benefited from streaming on Hulu, becoming FX’s highest-ranked comedy series ever.

Before the past year or so, when I personally thought of Hulu, two things came to mind: The Handmaid’s Tale and ads. “The show with the red capes and white caps?” Yes, that show. What The Handmaid’s Tale has on its side is history since it’s the only drama series from a streaming service to win Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series. Plus, the show stars Elisabeth Moss, who could very well be the pound-for-pound best television actress of the 21st century thanks to roles on The West Wing, Mad Men, Top of the Lake, and The Handmaid’s Tale.

Despite the success and popularity of The Handmaid’s Tale, Hulu is known as the streaming service with ads, which unfortunately scares people from subscribing. Hulu has a live tv service, but setting that aside, there are two options: Hulu with ads at $5.99 per month and Hulu with no ads for $11.99. I’m not here to tell you to choose one over the other. I personally subscribe to Hulu with ads and it really doesn’t distract from my viewing experience. For someone with a small bladder, the ads serve as built-in bathroom breaks during my binge sessions. However, I could see the ads being a minor disruption for those used to other services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, or Disney+. Don’t let the minor disruption hinder you from accessing some of television’s best shows.

If you can look past a dystopian show about procreation and a streaming service with ads, then you’ll see that Hulu’s quality, not quantity, shine, making it the top streaming service in 2020.

What’s your top streaming service in 2020? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Normal People Review: Heartbreaking Depiction Of First Love Is One Of 2020’s Best Shows

Normal People Hulu

In the sixth episode of Normal People, Connell (Paul Mescal) and Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones) spend the afternoon at a friend’s pool party. The duo had been exchanging heartfelt gazes at each other throughout the entire episode, but neither one wants to make a move. When Connell finally swims over to Marianne on the edge of the pool, his arm wraps around her side while he gently kisses her shoulder. For one brief moment, the world stops for Connell, who constantly struggles to express how he feels, and Marianne, who believes she’s not worthy of real love. No words are said, but their silent embrace speaks volumes.

These moments of love and affection are prevalent throughout Hulu’s Normal People, the terrific adaptation of Sally Rooney’s best-selling novel from 2018. Normal People depicts the relationship between Connell and Marianne from secondary school through college in Ireland. In the beginning, Connell is the popular star athlete from the blue-collar family that struggles to make ends meet. Marianne is the outspoken and opinionated social outcast from a wealthy family who fails to acknowledge her existence. The two strike up a relationship but decide to keep it a secret in order to preserve Connell’s popularity.

Although Connell and Marianne come from two different families and societal groups, the young lovers see each other in their purest form. Society perceives Connell as a dumb jock and Marianne as an entitled brat. However, Connell views Marianne as a beautiful, free-spirited thinker while Marianne views Connell as an intelligent, heartfelt gentleman. Time stands still when the lovers are together. Connell and Marianne look at each other like it’s the first time they’ve ever seen real beauty. They don’t see flaws; they see perfection.

Their strong, emotional connection strengthens in the bedroom thanks to the chemistry between Mescal and Edgar-Jones, two stars in the making. Their first sexual encounter starts out awkward since Marianne is a virgin while Connell has is not. However, the awkwardness turns to pure admiration as the two lock eyes and form a bond that cannot be broken. For the first time in their lives, they experience what true love is all about. Both try to find new sexual partners in their later years, but quickly learn that they can never truly lose themselves in the moment with other people. These tense, masterful sex scenes are works of art and make the audience question if they’ve ever experienced what it truly means to “make love.”

Like most relationships, things are never easy. When Connell and Marianne head to the same college, the roles reverse. Marianne becomes a social butterfly and while Connell elects to be the loner who struggles to find his place. However, their love never disappears even though they continue to be a victim of bad timing. Marianne spends time in Italy and Sweeden and experiments with new sexual partners while still feeling dissatisfied with her life, especially from her family. Connell struggles to fit in at college and battles a serious case of depression after tragedy strikes. Despite their arguments and differences, Connell’s and Marianne’s love for each other never disappears. They lean on each other in their darkest times which culminates in a heartbreaking scene involving physical and emotional abuse towards the end of the series.

Thanks to brilliant performances from Mescal and Edgar-Jones, Normal People stands out as one of the best shows of 2020. It’s one of the purest depictions of young, first love that you’ll ever see. Their love is complicated, but the show is perfect.

What did you think of Normal People? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow. All episodes of Normal People can be streamed on Hulu.