Without me ever really planning to, 2020 became the year I decided to watch TV. Like really watch it. This year has been a total rollercoaster myriad of many things, but along the way over the past few months, televisions shows became my one source of comfort. Somewhere along these past few months, I realized that I enjoyed television shows much more than movies — compared to the latter, they had a shorter runtime, which was great for my short attention span, but narrative arcs extended longer, which meant I had more time to become more emotionally invested in characters and plots and motivations and cliffhangers, and all the dizzyingly fun stuff that television had to offer. To sit down with a good television show was to engage in the purest form of escapism.
All that said, this quarantine has given me more time and reason than ever to sit down with a good television show (and I acknowledge my inherent privilege in being able to do this in itself), and without further ado, here are the best television shows I’ve discovered in quarantine.
- Reply 1988 (tvN, 2015)
When the quarantine began last March, one of the first few shows I began watching was the Korean drama Reply 1988, after much encouragement. And boy, am I glad I finally caved in. You could not get enough of the Ssangmundong squad. From narratives told through pop culture to the all-too-real teenage tribulations, Reply 1988 took hold of my heartstrings and just never let go.
2. Killing Eve (BBC America, 2018-present)
The best television series I’ve seen all quarantine. Possibly one of the best television shows I’ve ever seen. It’s hard to define exactly what genre Killing Eve falls in, but its signature dark and dry humor, incredibly attractive female leads, and killer fashion sense all but have me on my knees for the 4th season. I might just have to do a rewatch while waiting.
3. Russian Doll (Netflix, 2018)
What is it about forty-something women with dry, dark humor and fantastically wavy hair? Before I binged on Killing Eve, Natasha Lyonne’s 2018 masterpiece Russian Doll was one of the very first binges in the early eras of quarantine, and has since earned a rightful place on my favorite television shows list. Every episode brims with Natasha Lyonne’s whip-sharp wit and fantastic dialogue, but it’s the unabashed heart of its final episodes that really brings this masterpiece into the tiers of brilliance. Throw out all the time-loop plots you know; this one flies high above them all.
4. Little Fires Everywhere (Hulu, 2020)
Celeste Ng’s firecracker of a novel Little Fires Everywhere was one of the first few novels I read this year, so it was only natural that I saw the widely-buzzed about series right after. While not entirely matching the quietly incendiary spirit of its source novel, the series still delivers solid good hours of good television, mostly by its stellar cast led by Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon.
5. Touch Your Heart (tvN, 2019)
Was there ever a rom-com K-drama more perfect? Is there better chemistry in existence than that of Lee Dong-wook and Yoo In-na? tvN’s Touch Your Heart may be one of the most under-the-radar Korean drama series to ever exist, but that says nothing of its actual value. Romantic comedies have never really been up my alley — but this is the series that may just been the one that converted me. Sometimes the best-kept secrets turn out the most pleasant surprises.
6. The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix, 2020)
You’ve definitely heard of this one. Whether or not you watched the Netflix sensation that was The Queen’s Gambit, I’m one hundred percent sure you’ve at least encountered some image or clip of its main character Beth Harmon, she of the sleight-of-hand and the gently curled red hair and the impeccable fashion sense perfectly played to every minute detail by Anya Taylor-Joy. The Queen’s Gambit was pure, pleasurable escapism, the perfect antidote from all the craziness outside even for a few hours, and its practically perfect mixture of compelling storytelling, wonderful actors, and beautiful scenery made for some very, very satisfying viewing.
And there you have it. All of the TV shows mentioned above are a mere handful of the many, many shows I saw this year, but are what stand out the most and kept me sane in spite of everything, and if anything is a testament in itself to television as a valid art form, as well as its power to make us feel connected to fellow human beings, whether fictional or not. Cheers to that, for all we’ve been through this year.