Binge and Repeat: The best of streaming tv from 2020

We’ve spent quite a lot of time watching television this year, for some of us devouring a new newries or an old favorite (raise your hand if you rewatched “The Office”) helped keep us sane during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here’s a list of our favorite series that we binged this year...which was admittedly hard to whittle down given that it seems like we watched some of these shows a decade ago...given that 2020 has felt like an exceedingly long year.

Unorthodox - Netflix

“Unorthodox” is a brilliant miniseries that if you haven’t seen, you really should watch it. It follows the story of a young woman named Esty who flees her Orthodox community to seek a different life. The drama does not seek to poke fun at or question the community Esty comes from, it merely seeks to show how she did not fit with her community as her culture prevented her from pursuing her musical dreams.

Esty’s story is compelling and beautiful as she finds her way in the world. Shira Haas, plays Esty with a heartbreakingly delicate and raw sensibility. Through Haas’ brilliant acting, Esty comes across as a courageous and brilliant woman who can hold her own as she stumbles through the world outside her community.

Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker - Netflix

The series traces Madam C.J. Walker’s life as she moves her family to Indianapolis to start her company, away from Addie’s shadow and finds some success until Addie follows her and tries to steal her customers. Audiences will watch as Madam C.J. Walker faces obstacles in getting investors, building her factory and expanding her company. The series also looks at her marriage, her relationship with her daughter Leila and her complicated relationship with Addie Monroe.

Octavia Spencer shines in this series and never misses a beat as her character plunges into the highs and lows of her career.

Normal People - Hulu

Sally Rooney’s best selling novel “Normal People” tells the story of Connell and Marianne, two Irish teenagers who have a complicated and profound connection with each other. Hulu’s adaptation carefully follows the book and brings the two withdrawn characters to life on screen as Connell and Marianne grow into adults together.

Hulu’s adaptation captures the delicate nuance of Rooney’s novel and masterfully brings the heavy tension between her characters to life without straying away from the source material.

Little Fire Everywhere- Hulu

“Little Fires Everywhere” crackles with volatile emotions in this series that focuses on motherhood, privilege and race.

Kerry Washington provides a tour de force performance as Mia, a mother with a secret, who will do anything to protect her daughter. Reese Witherspoon’s seething portrayal of a woman living a life she didn’t want complements Washington’s performance, but she certainly steals a scene or two of her own. Of the younger actors in this very talented cast, Megan Stott commands the screen with her raw portrayal of Izzy’s adolescent heart aches.

Upload- Amazon

People are always posing questions about life after death, but “Upload” certainly offers a fresh perspective on the afterlife.

The series is an amusing take on death and a digital afterlife, while the series revolves around extending life after a physical death, it does so in a cute and quirky way. Viewers should be warned the upload process the characters go through to reach their digital heavens is a bit disturbing. Other than that the series is a delightful and tech heavy series.

Woke - Hulu

On the verge of making his big break and having his comic strip syndicated, Black cartoonist, Keef is on Cloud 9. That is until he’s tackled by a cop and finds himself surrounded by officers aiming their weapons on him while putting up flyers for his speaking event at Golden Con. After being racially profiled, Keef becomes “woke” and begins hearing inanimate objects talking to him and joking about life as a Black man.

“Woke” is a hilarious and brilliant series as the comedy not only delves into racism and systemic racism, but it forces viewers to think about the humor in a different way.

Monsterland - Hulu

Hulu’s new series “Monsterland” is an anthology of horrific tales that asks viewers to decide if the monster is real or if the monster is human.

In each episode a different cast of characters faces some sort of hardship while also having an encounter with a supernatural element. Be it bodysnatchers, mermaids, angels or demons the series will leave viewers with chills and pondering their preconceived notions about monsters.

The series itself is unsettling and eerie instead of being excessively gory and packed with jump scares like many different horror series

The ensemble cast is absolutely phenomenal as the actors bring a menagerie of emotions and terror to life through their performances.

The Wilds- Netflix

Amazon’s new series “The Wilds” follows a group of teen girls who survive a plane crash and wait for rescue on a small island. The drama begins as one of the girls, Leah, tells investigators about the crash and how the girls made it to the island. When asked if the experience was traumatic for her, the teen swiftly responds that being a teenage girl is traumatic. While this might sound a tad over the top, this segues into the show’s drama as each episode revolves around one of the eight girls and about their lives before the island and their time trying to survive it. This propulsive teen drama will also appeal to more mature demographics as this survival experiment unfolds in a gripping and captivating fashion.

The Queen’s Gambit - Netflix

Who knew that watching people play chess could be so riveting? Evidently Netflix did as “The Queen’s Gambit” became one of the most talked about dramas this year. “The Queen’s Gambit” is a captivating series that takes the quiet game of chess and spotlights the ferociously competitive nature of the game, but it’s Beth’s life story that really gives the audience something to sink their teeth into. An orphan and child prodigy hooked on drugs, Beth’s story only becomes more grim after gaining fame within the chess world. Anya Taylor-Joy provides a spectacular performance as Beth as she brings a decade’s worth of the character’s life to the screen with ease. Taylor-Joy plays the awkward teen and glamorous champion without missing a step and shines as the camera zeroes in on Beth’s floundering moments.

Never Have I Ever - Netflix

Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher created “Never Have I Ever,” Netflix’s sassy coming-of-age series about Devi, an Indian American girl trying to recreate herself after a rocky start to high school. As Devi starts her sophomore year she wants to shed the previous year’s baggage, which includes her father’s abrupt death at a school concert as well as her temporary psychosomatic paralysis that landed her in a wheelchair for a few months. The series follows Devi as she avoids and begins to work through the grief of her father’s death with flair and humor. Notably the teen’s story is narrated by the famously aggressive tennis star John McEnroe which makes the series even funnier.

Shows cancelled far too soon:

High Fidelity - Hulu

I know reboots/remakes can be a hard sell with audiences at times, but this adaptation of “High Fidelity” was perfect. Zoe Kravitz provided a spectacular performance as Rob, the heartbroken record store owner and the diversity in this series was so refreshing. In a series that so easily could have fallen into a self-pity pitfall, “High Fidelity” provided a vast range of emotion and laughs as the characters spit musical history tidbits. This cancellation was an absolute gut punch.

Teenage Bounty Hunters - Netflix

The Netflix series about a pair of privileged Atlanta teens living a double life as bounty hunters sounds absolutely ridiculous, however the execution made this strange premise a must watch...and yet the streaming service decided to cancel it after leaving viewers on a cliffhanger. Not cool, Netflix, not cool.

Honorable mentions:

Tiger King - Netflix

Was “Tiger King” good? I’m still on the fence about that. Was it bizarrely entertaining? Absolutely. What other docu-series features polygamy, tigers, a murder plot, a potentially murdered spouse, a presidential campaign and the oh so quotable phrase “hey there all you cats and kittens”? It’s been months and I’m still perplexed by the series, but hey we’re still talking about it so it certainly deserves an honorable mention.

The Great - Hulu

Hulu’s eccentric story about a young Catherine the Great is certainly captivating and colorful, but this parodied depiction of Catherine’s very real coup against her husband is amusing if not a bit drawn out. The characters feel a bit too whimsical at times, however that could have more to do with the writing than the performances provided by the cast.

Love, Victor - Hulu

The series acts as a spin-off of the film “Love, Simon” and tells the story of a young man coming out at the same school Simon did. “Love, Victor” is a sweet story about the harsh realities of coming to terms with who you are and taking steps toward self acceptance. Victor’s character has a huge journey as he grows from timidly typing the words “I’m like you” to Simon to verbally owning his identity.

Locke & Key - Netflix

Family legacies should come with instructions, or in the case of the Locke family - a warning label. The Netflix series tells the story of the Locke children who discover a set of magic keys after moving to their recently deceased father’s family estate. As the children learn to use the keys they discover that their whimsical discoveries are tied to an eerie past their father wanted to keep a secret.