The best TV of 2023 so far


Over its four series, Donald Glover’s always-excellent show seemed determined to stretch the parameters of what one programme could be. Sometimes a horror, sometimes Black Mirror-esque satire, sometimes straight-up rap comedy, it freewheeled not just through genres but also through casts, regularly branching off into episodes containing none of the core characters. For its final run, it opts for a less disparate approach, largely following Earn and co as they get dragged into extended family beefs, flee gunmen and enter a strange hole in the space-time continuum filled with ex-lovers. Not only is it the show’s most focused outing, but the finale is a masterpiece of nuanced, clever writing that leaves you questioning what you’ve just seen – and wondering whether you need to go back and rewatch all four seasons.


Sky Atlantic
In the battle of finales, Succession was always going to obliterate Barry when they aired on the same night. But Bill Hader’s treacle-black comedy about a hitman-turned-amateur actor has been overshadowed for too long. Things become almost unbearably bleak in the last season, and yet it remains as compelling as ever, complete with classic comedy moments (see Gene Cousineau’s narcissistic delusion that Daniel Day-Lewis wanted to play him in a biopic – brought wonderfully to life by Henry Winkler). It’s sometimes hard to believe each episode lasts just 30 minutes, with the finale alone being a tale of two halves. Part bloody shootout, part Hollywood satire, it’s a truly neat finish. As Barry himself puts it: “Oh, wow.”
What we said: “Barry deserves to go down as one of the best of all time.” Read the full review



There are car chases, shootouts, deaths and kidnaps in this tale of two Los Angeles residents whose lives become consumed by a spiralling feud that’s triggered by a road rage incident. But for all its high-octane, anger-fuelled action, there is humour, tenderness and – in Ali Wong and Steven Yeun’s outstanding performances – a tale of the ways deep, existential sadness can be overcome by the most unlikely of allies.
What we said: “Amid this entertaining chaos, there’s the thrillingly subversive suggestion that pelting it full-throttle down the rage super highway might be the most direct route to feeling alive again – whatever your therapist has to say.” Read the full review

Black Ops


It’s chock-a-block with gags, a tour-de-force of comic timing and definitely the funniest show you’ll see which shines a light on institutional racism in the police force. This sitcom from Famalam duo Akemnji Ndifornyen and Gbemisola Ikumelo takes the premise of two definitely “not street” community support officers forced to go undercover in a drug gang due to a lack of Black coppers – and turns it into one of the year’s most fantastic farces.
What we said: “Between the institutional racism, the institutional misogyny and the institutional homophobia, the Metropolitan police isn’t exactly steeped in hilarity. Can a new sitcom really mine some primetime BBC One belly laughs from the beleaguered institution? It’s a big ask, but the answer – pretty miraculously – is yes.” Read the full review

Blue Lights

On paper, this Belfast police drama provides a fresh twist on the genre by following three new recruits to the Police Service of Northern Ireland, with a couple of months of probation left to go. In practice, it breathes new life into a much-done style of TV by taking a bird’s eye view of a city still coming to terms with the legacy of the Troubles – and the problematic nature of policing it. Impeccably written characters, charmingly blossoming relationships between colleagues, and one of the most tragic TV deaths of the year give this gripping procedural the potential to become the next Line of Duty.
What we said: “This drama shares some of its DNA with The Responder, though it has a marginally less cynical edge, and a more complex political and historical landscape at its heart. It leaves so many tantalising threads just waiting to unravel. What’s real, and what is a setup? What counts as courage, and what is plain stupidity? By the end of the first episode, I’m engrossed.” Read the full review

Colin from Accounts


This Australian romcom from a real-life husband-and-wife duo is the sleeper hit of the year for very good reason. There’s a cute, injured dog on wheels, an absurdly novel way of introducing the romantic leads (nudity-based car accident, anyone?) and the kind of zippy dialogue that makes spending time with them a genuine joy. Its dry, downbeat humour is absolutely infectious and its characters feel like new friends. No wonder the likes of Imelda Staunton count themselves as fans.
What we said: “It is ordinary life with all the good lines jammed closer together.” Read the full review

Dead Ringers

Prime Video

Rachel Weisz clearly had a blast playing identical gynaecologist twins Elliot and Beverly Mantel in this sex-swapped reimagining of David Cronenberg’s 1988 film. She’s two very different siblings (with the devilish Elliot letting Weisz revel in her wilder side) who have very different ideas about what they want to do with a proposed new birthing centre. The series dives into daring explorations of modern fertility and childbirth and doesn’t shy away from showing the reality of labour – which feels surprisingly radical in itself. There is a tense, clinical darkness throughout, but the razor-sharp writing is still wickedly fun.
What we said: “It is intimate and only as horrifying as an ordinarily bad birth might be. Imagine an unexpurgated and more stylishly shot One Born Every Minute. This aspect of Dead Ringers does feel invigoratingly new and, to use that horrible word Beverly loves so much, empowering – at least to me in the UK.” Read the full review


After 11 years of classy investigative drama, the Inspector Morse prequel’s final season wraps up all its loose ends with a fan-pleasing valedictory lap. There are Jags, real ales and the ever-growing sense of an investigator out of sync with the times he finds himself in. Its enigmatic last episode is the perfect way to say farewell to Shaun Evans as the titular sergeant, and set the character up for the melancholy alcoholism that characterises John Thaw’s portrayal – but not without the odd compellingly unanswered question, of course …
What we said: “Like being happily trapped for an hour and half with escapees from an Iris Murdoch novel.” Read the full review

Fleishman Is in Trouble


Adapted from the hit novel, this is ostensibly the story of Toby Fleishman (Jesse Eisenberg), a well-to-do family man in New York who is constantly being mocked by his trust fund friends for being just a doctor. He wakes one day to find his wife Rachel (Claire Danes) has disappeared. Is she at a yoga retreat, or has she abandoned their family for keeps? This bizarre mystery propels you through till the show hits its real crux: a harrowing look at the tedium of middle age and lives unfulfilled, thanks to a stunning performance by Lizzy Caplan. A rare treat that will very much hit home with those of a certain age.
What we said: “I demolished it in as close to one sitting as life these days allows, because it is as addictive as it is perceptive.” Read the full review

Frankie Boyle’s Farewell to the Monarchy

Channel 4
The caustic comedian’s takedown was perfectly poised in the TV schedules just six days before the coronation – and it pitched a molotov cocktail right into the heart of the institution. From gags about Prince Andrew that make you spit out your tea to the real reason Charles and Camilla never had kids – because different species cannot interbreed – the Scottish republican’s rant about the toxic dimwits trying to rescue a failing brand is unstoppable. Consider them a second-tier Succession, only without an ounce of slime-puppy charm.
What we said: “You’d think Prince Andrew would apologise,” says Frankie Boyle midway through a timely lament about what he takes to be the misogynistic, thick, inegalitarian non-entities of Britain’s monarchy, shortly before the fatuous institution’s continued existence is solemnised with Charles III’s coronation. “I apologise after consensual sex.” Read the full review

Happy Valley


Fans waited six years for Sally Wainwright to give us the third and final instalment of one of the best British TV shows of all time – and it didn’t disappoint. Sarah Lancashire returns on flawless form as weathered police officer Catherine Cawood, about to retire but still living under the threat of an incarcerated Tommy Lee Royce (the excellent James Norton) as she brings up his son/her grandchild Ryan. The strength of the show is, as always, in the finer details. From talk of Todmorden aliens to that confrontation in a Leeds cafe, we were treated to highlights including a meme-worthy comment about having stew for dinner and a final showdown in which Catherine tells Tommy: “That boy is a prince.” Once again, Wainwright delivers a writing masterclass.
What we said: “Brutal, tender, funny, compelling and heartbreaking to the last – there is nothing left to do now but look back on Happy Valley and bid all its denizens and their creator an awed farewell.” Read the full review

High Desert

Apple TV+

Fresh from her villainous turn on last year’s hit Apple TV+ show Severance, Patricia Arquette takes the lead in this lighter, zanier and trippier comedy-drama. She plays Peggy, an affable drug dealer in California who is busted by the FBI. Ten years later, she is a recovering addict working as a can-can dancer at an Old West theme park and grieving her mother. She soon realises that she wants to become a private investigator and demands to be taken under the wing of crooked PI Bruce Harvey (Brad Garrett). Their first case: the mysterious goings-on of “Guru Bob”. Brilliant fun.
What we said: “My overriding thought when watching Patricia Arquette’s magnificent turn in High Desert is: ‘This is what it would be like if a Jennifer Coolidge character was real.’ Which I think is, overall, a compliment, and for Arquette and her writers a triumph.” Read the full review

I Think You Should Leave With Tim Robinson

There is nothing else on TV like this absurd 15-minute sketch show. Its skits are delightfully disorientating – careening off in utterly wild directions until laughter intermingles with shock. In its third season, it serves up just as many moments of hysteria, guest stars including Jason Schwartzman, Fred Armisen and The Bear’s Ayo Edebiri and something totally new: the odd moment where things actually work out OK for Robinson’s OTT characters. One of TV’s funniest shows, bar none.
What we said: “Its opening pair of sketches alone offer four separate heaving, helpless belly laughs; the sort of laugh that forces you to pause and rewind the episode because your laughter blew through a handful of other jokes. I’ve sat through entire seasons of television that haven’t made me laugh as much as I Think You Should Leave manages in three minutes. It is an incredible, extraordinary achievement.” Read the full review


BBC Three

James Norton, Big Zuu and some of the blackest humour you’re ever likely to come across – the third series of Tim Renkow’s comedy continues its feat of being a truly distinctive TV proposition. This time round, Tim (played by Renkow) dips his toe into the water of romance, bringing a more touching side to the usual brutality of the humour. Yet again, it’s groundbreaking, totally fresh television, not least because it convinces James Norton to play himself – then asks what would happen if he were cast as a disabled French jazz drummer.
What we said: “Much like Alma’s Not Normal, Jerk shows that the BBC is still capable of getting behind comedy that pushes at the edges of mainstream humour. It doesn’t feel sanitised, or overly considered. Despite its new romantic streak, or perhaps because this is Jerk doing romance, it often still feels close to the bone, which is what it does best. I am glad there is even more of it to squirm at.” Read more

Jury Duty

From taking the blame for James Marsden’s toilet-blocking poo to proudly stepping up as the foreperson, Ronald Gladden proves himself to be a TV hero in this documentary about a group of people on jury duty in the US. Except, well, it’s actually a setup in which Ronald is the only person not in on it (even Marsden plays an “asshole” version of himself). There are endless excruciating moments – Noah pretending to be racist, David’s “crutch chair” – but Ronald remains a good egg throughout and is totally worthy of the wad of cash he inadvertently wins at the end. What’s more, the behind-the-scenes episode showing exactly how they got away with such an elaborate prank reveals just how easily the whole thing could have gone wrong. Impressive work.
What we said: “I am on my third re-watch of Jury Duty now, and each time I notice new, beautiful little details that make me gasp at the sheer logistical thrill of them pulling this off.” Read more


Channel 4

It’s easy to become disassociated from daily grim statistics – even if they do remind us how outrageously unjust life is. The strength of documentaries like this one from Paddy Wivell is in showing us the people behind those numbers. Wivell’s focus is on the record number of children growing up in the UK care system, and letting a handful of those at the heart of it – teenagers, parents and care workers – tell their stories. Some mistakes are admitted, others are not realised. Some relationships are reconciled, others are forever broken. And when personal situations are put in the wider contexts – poverty, mental health, housing – it’s clear that there is nothing black and white about all of this. It’s utterly heartbreaking but, with the young people showing such strength of character, there is hope too.
What we said: “Much of British society would look briefly at some of these subjects’ past behaviour and dismiss them. But Wivell – who questions his interviewees with a startling lack of the normal film-maker formality, having evidently won their trust – sees past their bullish exterior.” Read the full review

Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland

Marking 25 years since the Good Friday agreement largely ended the Troubles, this documentary series is so much more than a journey through the decades that defined such a bloody era of conflict. It lets the people who lived through it – and continue to live with the legacy of it – tell their very personal testimonies about each significant, and perhaps seemingly insignificant, event that happened. Archive footage also helps to bring the reality of long-lived fears even more into focus. Everybody should watch this.
What we said: “By marking how the Troubles affected individuals, Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland finds profound wider truths.” Read the full review


Apple TV+

Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne in Platonic.
Blowing off steam … Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne in Platonic. Photograph: Paul Sarkis/Apple

Drunkenly collapsing into convenience store shelves full of wine bottles, accidentally snorting ketamine in a toilet stall, somehow destroying an entire garage – Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne’s comedy about two middle-aged people rekindling a youthful friendship could easily have been mediocre slapstick. It is, however, much more than that: a charming look at the power of companionship (even if that sometimes involves blowing off steam by stealing a lizard named Gandalf) and a wry take on one of TV’s big preoccupations this year: how to cope when you feel penned in by midlife in the 21st century.
What we said: “Platonic does a lot of lovely and rarely seen things. It doesn’t denigrate marriage, although it acknowledges its peaks and troughs. It gives an equally meaty, equally comic, but emotionally resonant, part to its male and female star (both of whom are brilliant in their solo scenes, and whose chemistry together is even more of a joy to watch). It gives time and space to an undervalued and overlooked stage of life. It says that friendship is vitally important, that it comes in many forms and that it needn’t be complicated or ruined by the intrusion of sex.” Read the full review

Poker Face

Sky Max

Poker Face.
Ludicrously watchable … Poker Face. Photograph: Peacock/Evans Vestal Ward

It’s hard to think of many more exciting prospects than Knives Out’s Rhian Johnson doing a murder-mystery series that’s a homage to case-of-the-week style detective shows like Colombo – and which stars Natasha Lyonne. Judging by this hugely entertaining, twisty, daftly enjoyable show, there’s a very good reason for that. From its masterly feature-length opener to ludicrously watchable episodes about murderous retirement-home pensioners, it’s a riot that’s packed with stellar guest star performances by the likes of Adrien Brody, Chloë Sevigny and Rhea Perlman. Fingers crossed for a second season.
What we said: “All the episodes are fun, and working a lighter and more clearly comic scene than Columbo et al. Lyonne is as mesmerising as ever, perhaps all the more so for not being quite as effortfully and obviously turned up to the max as she was at all times in Russian Doll.” Read the full review

Race Across the World


The epic reality show that’s by now a modern classic has its most engrossing outing yet, with a cracking cast who by the end practically yank out the heartstrings. Watching our couples attempt to make their way across the wilds of Canada without phones and with minimal cash is as exhilarating and poignant as a kayak ride on Waskesiu lake. From Monique and Ladi’s tearjerking father-daughter bonding (and hilarious steel-pan chat) to Trish and Cathie revealing why they had to take this trip, it’s both an emotional gutpunch and a gobsmacking adventure to vicariously go on. If only it wasn’t three days till the next ferry …
What we said: “The secrets and tensions within relationships, magnified then inevitably resolved on the journey, are what make Race Across the World a top-tier reality show, and this year’s cast could be the best ever.” Read the full review


Sky Atlantic
At this point, it’s not exactly a newsflash to say that the fourth season of Jesse Armstrong’s media dynasty drama is excellent TV. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. From the relentless zingers (“Your earlobes are thick and chewy, like barnacle meat”) to compelling performances (all the awards for Kieran Culkin, please) and a finale we’ll be talking about for years, this isn’t just one of the best shows of the year. It’s one of the best of the decade.
What we said: “A drama set in the heart of darkness, with comedy set round to illuminate its inescapable, eternal depths. Gather your strength for one last look into the abyss.” Read the full review

The Marvelous Mrs Maisel

Prime Video
Amy Sherman-Palladino proves that sometimes a fan-pleasing finale with a happy ending is the best way to go. As Midge Maisel gives her comedy career one last shot as a writer on The Gordon Ford Show, each episode also serves up flash forward scenes for us to piece together the rest of the story. But no matter where the comedian ends up, this show has always been about the journey. The moment Midge takes one final risk and steals the microphone to perform her boldest – and funniest – set yet is her at her most marvellous. The look of pure pride on Susie’s face makes it impossible to watch with dry eyes.
What we said: “It’s not my place to feel proud of Midge and Susie, and yet I do. I want to grab a bar stool and cheers a martini with them. This isn’t the best season, but it is absolutely the right one. It is ending at exactly the appropriate moment, and these last episodes are the finest ode to what’s been a fabulously funny and exquisitely produced series.” Read the full review

The Last of Us

Sky Atlantic

There’s no question that this HBO series is the best video game adaptation ever put to screen. But the tale of ex-marine Joel escorting medical miracle Ellie through a pandemic-ravaged US is so visceral, moving and heart-in-the-mouth tense that to describe it as such is almost to damn it with faint praise. You know it’s an incredibly written apocalypse show when the most impressive achievements are the relationships at its heart: from the understated beauty of Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey)’s burgeoning father/daughter-esque relationship to Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett’s poignant standalone episode about love in the end times. Gorgeous, tense, soul-stirring television.
What we said: “It manages to find humanity in the ruins – and that makes it worth the hardship. Pascal is great, but Ramsey is phenomenal. She is funny, sullen and sharp, retaining a slightly awkward teenage physicality. Her performance is so authentic and believable that it doesn’t feel like a performance at all. Watching the pair’s relationship develop and deepen is desperately moving.” Read the full review

The Lying Life of Adults

Fizzing with adolescent energy, curiosity and frustration, Elena Ferrante’s coming-of-age story was massively overlooked when it quietly dropped on Netflix at the start of the year. Set in 90s Naples, it follows teenager Giovanna who lives a comfortable life with her liberal middle-class academic parents. She soon forms a new friendship with her estranged, brash but bold aunt Vittoria, living in a rundown part of Naples she never knew about. Giovanna starts to see life outside her bubble and navigates adult relationships and loyalties, sex, politics, class divides and everything else we muddle through as a teen.
What we said: “As always, Ferrante has impeccable insight into the complex psychology of teenage girls, and Giovanna’s attempts at self-discovery, as she tries on and discards various identities, are painfully familiar and universal, even if the Neapolitan setting may not be.” Read the full review

Wild Isles

Bees riding broomsticks! Trees talking to each other! Gross footage of slug penises! Attenborough’s decision to focus his majestic programming on the British Isles is a delight – conjuring up awe at the nature we all too often take for granted. Be it adorable voles feeding their babies or slow-mo footage of horses kicking seven shades out of each other, he has created yet more landmark TV. Here’s hoping the rumours about this being his last on-location show aren’t true …
What we said: “Oh, isn’t it lovely to have a new David Attenborough series for a cosy Sunday evening. And one so close to home! For the next five weeks, Wild Isles offers an unparalleled look at the spectacular, miraculous and unique natural world of Britain and Ireland. It is a stunning portrait of breeding orcas, golden eagles, foxes and dormice; woodlands, meadows and rivers. Just beautiful.” Read the full review



Just when you thought this show couldn’t get any more ludicrous, serial killer Joe winds up in London for this fourth season – and pushes “so bad it’s good” TV into a new realm. Penn Badgley clearly has a hoot playing a redemptive, less murderous version of Joe, who gets a job as an English professor and reluctantly joins the aristocratic world. But soon, bodies start to pile up around him, and he wants to get to the root of it all. The aggressively blatant swipes at the British class system are hilarious and, quite unexpectedly, accurate. Each episode seems laced with amphetamines, full of outrageous twists, turns, reveals and dialogue. It’s so silly, it’s very funny and yet it’s a lot cleverer than it gets credit for.
What we said: “The cast is inconsistent, the satire is shallow, plot lines materialise out of nowhere and are unceremoniously dropped with jarring frequency, and its largest twist is laughable. And yet, it is perfect.” Read the full review