At the beginning of 2020, we heard an astrologer say that it would be “a year like no other.” We thought they meant that in a good way. We were very, very wrong.
Getting to the end of 2020 has been a challenge similar to surviving 12 levels of Jumanji, and we did it, but not without a little help along the way.
In between murder hornets, monkeys overrunning cities in Thailand, political turmoil, and, oh yeah, let’s not forget the pandemic, we TV Fanatics did what we do best. We watched TV.
We binged dramas, comedies, and reality TV. We found new shows and revisited old favorites, and we’re not embarrassed to say that TV got us through this terrible, horrible, very bad year.
So, if you still need something to help you ride out the latest surge or simply want to find a great show you’ve never watched before, check out our list of binge-worthy TV that helped us survive 2020.
90 Day Fiance (TLC)
We found this show early into the pandemic, and there are so many spinoffs now, we’re still not fully caught up on it all! Some of the stuff that goes down is truly bizarre, even more so that it’s caught on cameras.
Virgin River (Netflix)
We were pleasantly surprised by this show. It features excellent acting, storylines, and truly stunning locations. Most of us didn’t get a vacation this year, but we did get to be in awe at all of the beautiful locations on this series.
Hart of Dixie (Netflix)
With Netflix losing this show in December, we figured it was a good time for a rewatch. It’s similar to Virgin River with some of the same storylines, but they are still distinctly different shows.
The Challenge (MTV)
Like 90 Day Fiance, we were late to the game with The Challenge.
Big Brother and Survivor have not been as exciting in the last few years, but The Challenge manages to blend the best parts of both shows.
Watching old seasons also shows how much the show has developed over the years.
Money Heist (La Casa de Papel) – (Netflix)
We’d heard a lot of good things about this series as it gained worldwide popularity after debuting on Netflix, but we didn’t know it was going to become our all-time favorite show.
It’s suspenseful and consistently keeps you on the edge of your seat thanks to the Professor, a mastermind leading a group of robbers in the biggest heist in history.
You’ll come for the thrills but stay for the amazing characters and relationships.
Money Heist led us into Elite, another Spanish-language murder mystery set in an exclusive private school in Spain. Think Pretty Little Liars meets Gossip Girl. It’s scandalous in the best possible way!
High Seas (Alta Mar) – (Netflix)
After we went down the Spanish-language drama rabbit hole, you’d think we would be fluent in Spanish by now! Our journey continued with another murder mystery set on a luxurious cruise ship in the 1940s.<P>
The set design and costumes are beautiful, but it’s the “whodunit” aspect that keeps us hooked, even with the comically over-the-top plot and stereotypical characters.
The Vampire Diaries (Netflix)
As long-time TVD fans, we began rewatching the series during quarantine, and we were surprised by how many plot lines we’d forgotten over the years. Honestly, we enjoyed it even more the second time around.
With so much free time on our hands, we finally got around to binge-watching Ozark and didn’t regret it one bit. It’s well-written, thrilling, and dark enough so that you never know what to expect. We’re still not over that season 3 cliffhanger!
Schitt’s Creek (POP, Prime Video)
The hype about this beloved series is real.
There’s something inherently comforting about watching the Rose family start the series, hitting a rough patch and go the entire show, finding community, happiness, themselves, and each other.
Schitt’s Creek was a little slice of escapism and a safe place.
Friday Night Lights (Peacock)
We spontaneously started a binge in the wee hours of the morning and couldn’t stop. It’s easy to understand why it clocks so many lists as one of the greatest series of all time. The Taylors are marriage goals, and it’s so easy to get wrapped up in the little town of Dillon, Texas.
They have some impressive game shots, and even if you’re not into sports or football, it’s a superb family drama. Our first official quarantine binge brought such joy that we’ve spent the rest of quarantine chasing the same high of what it felt like to watch this series. Texas forever, baby.
Absentia (Prime Video)
Revisiting Absentia has us hooked all over again!
Sometimes you need a suspenseful thriller with action scenes, and Absentia gave us all of that and more.
Stana Katic is fabulous, and it kept me on the edge of my seat and captivated.
Sometimes you want to see what everyone is raving about, and Pose is worthy of its accolades. It introduced us to a world we weren’t the most familiar with, and it was fascinating to watch a series with a backdrop of fighting an epidemic 30 years ago amid us battling a pandemic now. It has compelling characters, truly underrated stars, an amazing soundtrack, and great storytelling that will make you laugh, cry, and reflect.
Who knew so much delicious drama would be found in a women’s correctional facility in Australia? We never expected to fall down that particular rabbit hole, but we got stuck in an Australian drama loop on Netflix after Wanted, and Wentworth was the best binge of all.
With shocking deaths, twists, murder, and scandal, there’s never a dull moment on Wentworth. The characters’ evolution is stunning, particularly in showing women as multifaceted, complex, and flawed. And Pamela Rabe deserves all of the awards!
The Unicorn (CBS/CBS All Access)
Chosen families are instant catnip for all the feels, and The Unicorn nails the modern sitcom with so much heart and emotion without too much cheese or annoying laugh tracks.
The family Wade and his daughters find in their close friends and neighbors after losing Wade’s wife will warm your heart.
And during a time of social distance, it simply feels good to watch a series that beautifully showcases human connection, love, and overcoming grief and difficult times with the help of one another.
Say I Do (Netflix)
In this heartwarming series, three gay men will make you fall in love with them as they help carefully chosen couples put on their dream weddings.
We learn so much about Thai, Jeremiah, and Gabriele with every case they take on, and they learn things about themselves too, so their personal growth and expression makes the show feel intimate and makes them feel like your friends by the end.
And the couples each have stories that will reduce you to tears. You root for each one after hearing their story, and you become invested in them having the wedding of their dreams. But you also discover that it’s so more than cakes and dresses. The trio gives the couples much more than a wedding.
It’s a feel-good show that picks you up and gives you faith in the beauty of humanity. So it was the perfect distraction from everything going on.
Julie and The Phantoms (Netflix)
If you had told me a tween show about ghosts would be one of the greatest shows of 2020, I would have laughed. There’s a reason why this show resonated so well with people of all ages and demographics. It’s so hopeful and pure.
Despite the focus on grief and loss, the show is never dour or depressing.
The Phantoms are a perfect and healthy depiction of male friendships, and Julie is a beautiful, talented force of nature who deserves to lead. The chemistry between everyone is perfection, and they feel like a real band. The music is fantastic and has made its way to my Playlist along the way.
The Babysitter’s Club (Netflix)
TBC is an adaptation done right. They brought a beloved book series from our childhood to life and made it current, fresh, and relevant today while maintaining that sense of nostalgia and capturing the magic of the decades-old series.
The series covers many relevant topics and does it well without once feeling forced or preachy, and the diversity of the cast is refreshing.
It’s must-see TV for all ages, with a perfect blend of escapism, nostalgia, and inspiration.
Once Upon A Time (ABC/Netflix)
Once Upon a Time is just such a great mess of a horrible yet wonderful show. It’s so screwed up, but really hard not to love, even while we hate it, and it’s nice to see stories about hope, family, and good versus evil right now.
Burden of Truth (Hulu)
Because seeing Kristin Kreuk on my screen always makes me happy, and because it’s such a great, underrated story. Legends of Tomorrow
This is another mess of a show that really has it’s [email protected]## together. It’s hilarious and heartwarming, a total surprise.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Hulu)
Because it’s always a good time to binge Buffy, as it is a show that never disappoints, and it still holds up to this day!
New Girl (Netflix)
It is short and fun, and a lot better the second time. People were as screwed over financially during its hey-day as they are now, and while the episode where Jess and CeCe try to campaign for Hilary Clinton is a little hard to take, given everything, the rest holds up.
This is good, old fashioned, TV comfort food at its finest. It’s 11 seasons (over 250 half-hour episodes), so there’s plenty to watch. It’s flaws come mainly from the era in which it was filmed (the 1970s to 1980s), but it’s fascinating to see how the tone and characters change from season 1 to season 11.
For those who have never seen it, M*A*S*H is a sitcom that follows the doctors and nurses of an Army hospital set during the Korean War in the 1950s. It is funny, poignant, serious, and anti-war. Characters change, grow, come and go, and even die when you least expect it.
Even if you’ve watched it in reruns, the Hulu version is a treat because it has many of the scenes that were previously cut for added commercials. And this show still holds the record for the most-watched series finale of all time with 105 million LIVE viewers back in 1983. Nothing else even comes close.
The Great British Baking Show (Netflix)
Known as The Great British Bake Off in the UK, there are 11 wonderful seasons to indulge in with so many delectable biscuits, breads, and cakes that we can probably blame this show for our quarantine 10 (okay, 20 if we’re honest.)
From Mary Berry to Prue Leith, from Mel and Sue to Noel and Matt, this show is as much about style as baking. You’d think that watching amateur bakers vie for the top prize would get boring season after season, but somehow it never does.
We even attempted to make several of the delicious desserts ourselves. Some came out pretty darn good, while others were a complete disaster, but no matter what they looked like they were still tasty (hence, our Covid 20.)
Scott and Bailey (Hulu)
Think Cagney and Lacey but updated, British, and so much better.
A crime procedural with two female yet distinctly different perspectives. Even most of their bosses are by-the-book and female, but there’s no us-against-them, boys-against-girls vibe here, and the fact that many of the main characters are female is something you won’t even notice as you continue to watch the series.
The crimes are compelling, and many take more than one episode to wrap up. It’s a genuinely gripping crime drama, and once we began, we couldn’t stop watching until it was done.
His Dark Materials (HBO, BBC One)
They really brought the books to life. If you grew up with this series, then the onscreen version does not disappoint. It’s a phenomenal remaining of this world, and the acting is also stellar.
Single Parents (Hulu)
Tragically cut off after only two seasons, but what a two seasons — a light series with a fun and relatable premise and a great cast. The adults were great, and the kids were surprisingly not annoying and full of well-developed personalities.
Upload (Prime Video)
Robbie Amell is more than just that guy who died in the Arrowverse. This show is fun, deep, and the ships have so much chemistry. It’s a weird future to think about, but it’s a fun one to watch.
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (YouTube)
We were late to the party with this show, but it’s so good that we rushed through the whole thing.
Fans of Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice would be hard-pressed to find a better modernization, plus they give Lydia the character development we always wished she had.
The Wilds (Prime Video)
What a ride!! It’s an amazing show about friendship and faith in others that comes under the guise of young adult entertainment. There is backstabbing, and there are secrets that take a disparate group and bonds them forever.
The undercurrent is a mystery with motivations that are still unrevealed. Yay for the much-earned renewal!!
Queen’s Gambit (Netflix)
Some were dragged kicking and screaming into a show about, of all things, chess. But it was so much more than that! The set design and costuming alone were worth the adventure.
Add in compelling characters and an understanding of a world foreign to most, and it’s a win on every level with performances that leave you tingling.
The Umbrella Academy (Netflix)
No freshman slump here! The Umbrella Academy sent the show back in time. It allowed for every character to grow in ways they wouldn’t have been able in the present.
The time-traveling allowed the show to visit historical events that are still relevant today. And the cliffhanger? Holy moly! We can’t wait for Season 3.
Boston Legal (Hulu)
One of the very best shows of all time is available to stream, and you need to take the time to do it. Do you think television today does justice to bromance? You ain’t seen nothin’ like the bromance between Alan Shore (James Spader) and Denny Crane (William Shatner). Their friendship is one for the ages.
That it’s nestled in a show with an irreverent take on politics and the law that explores issues still timely today without a single hoot for PC culture, but never doing anyone wrong is key to its brilliance.
Now it’s your turn, TV Fanatics. Hit that big, blue, SHOW COMMENTS button down below and tell us what TV got you through 2020.
C. Orlando is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow her on Twitter.