Best TV Shows of 2024 So Far

Credit -

In its first five months, 2024 has been what a sports commentator might euphemistically describe as a rebuilding year for TV. The actors’ and writers’ strikes that brought Hollywood to a standstill last summer and fall have, of course, left gaping holes in the calendar. But the more permanent problem is a chaotic contraction in the streaming economy that has left executives scrambling to cut costs (perhaps by canceling your favorite show) and grow revenue (which is why you can now watch Sex and the City on Netflix as well as Max), as the future of second- and third-tier players like Paramount Global and AMC Networks remains precarious at best.

On the business side, a sort of Ship of Theseus-style recreation of linear TV’s broadcast model and cable bundles seems to be in progress—which might not be the worst thing for consumers. The question is: Will this budget-friendly shift mean a dearth of great shows? Well, they’ve certainly been fewer and farther between this year, as so many of the debut series currently filling in for delayed seasons of returning favorites have disappointed. Yet, as always, shining exceptions abound: a stellar adaptation of an instant-classic contemporary novel, a masterpiece historical epic set in 17th century Japan, long-awaited new seasons of two standout streaming comedies, a buzzy Netflix crime thriller that actually lives up to the hype. We might be waiting quite a while for the industry to stabilize, but at least we’ll have plenty to watch in the meantime.

Here are the year's best offerings to date.

Baby Reindeer (Netflix)

I watch a lot of TV, but I’ve never seen another show quite like Baby Reindeer. For this dark, British crime dramedy, creator and star Richard Gadd—like Michaela Coel and Phoebe Waller-Bridge before him—adapted his own one-man Edinburgh Fringe Festival show into a strange, bleakly funny, searchingly insightful series based on his experiences as a survivor of rape and stalking. An initial encounter between Gadd’s Donny, a bartender who moonlights as a mediocre standup comic, and Martha (Jessica Gunning), the lonely woman who will become his stalker, sets off a crisis of psychosexual self-reflection that forces Donny—who is by no means an uncomplicated victim—to confront the horrors he’s spent years trying to repress. As gadflies like Piers Morgan make a point of missing this Netflix breakout’s humanist point, pitching sideshow tents around the real people whose alleged crimes it fictionalizes, Gadd's surprise smash continues to fuel crucial conversations about men as victims of sexual violence.

The Big Cigar (Apple TV+)

Hollywood loves a revolutionary. The Big Cigar is both a depiction of that fraught affinity and a cannily self-aware product of it. Chronicling the fugitive Black Panther Party co-founder Huey P. Newton’s (André Holland) escape from the U.S. in 1974, with the help of Easy Rider producer Bert Schneider (Alessandro Nivola), the series is, at once, a stylish action thriller, a dark odd-couple comedy, a nuanced portrait of a misunderstood radical, and a journey into the soul of a movement fracturing after years of internal power struggles and government persecution.

Boarders (Tubi)

Just when you think TV has exhausted every possible premise for teen dramas set inside the gilded cage of privileged adolescence, a show comes along and makes that familiar backdrop feel new. This British import, streaming in the U.S. as a Tubi original, follows five Black scholarship students whose admission to a posh, extremely white boarding school is a ploy to counteract a noxious new story about its bratty students. The performances, by a fresh-faced young cast, are wonderful. And creator Daniel Lawrence Taylor balances timeless coming-of-age storylines with sharp observations about the intersection of class, race, and academic excellence, yielding a secondary-school saga that feels substantive but is also lots of fun to watch.

Expats (Amazon)

The Farewell filmmaker Lulu Wang makes a stunning transition to the small screen with this perceptive and poignant adaptation of Janice Y.K. Lee’s novel The Expatriates. While Nicole Kidman is the marquee star, leading a strong ensemble cast as a wealthy American mother in Hong Kong who is unraveling a year after her little boy’s disappearance, the standout performance comes from Ji-young Yoo as a floundering young woman whose aimlessness puts her on a collision course with Kidman’s character. Gorgeously shot and provocatively engaged with the politics of its setting, Expats weaves a story of Westerners abroad that never loses sight of the people, policies, and economic realities that make their relatively charmed lives possible.

Hacks (Max)

What if you finally got the career you’d always dreamed of, at an age when most people are transitioning into retirement? This is the dilemma that haunts Jean Smart’s comedy doyenne Deborah Vance in the perennially wonderful Hacks’ series-best third season. No longer just an insanely wealthy Vegas stalwart, QVC staple, and camp icon, Deborah—after a crucial push from a comedy writer several decades her junior, Hannah Einbinder’s Ava—is suddenly stand-up’s hottest ticket. But her triumph is diluted by a lifetime’s worth of regrets. Meanwhile, Ava seems to be flourishing, with a starlet girlfriend and a job on a late-night show, but secretly yearns to collaborate with Deborah again. Funny, prickly, and sneakily tender, their reunion fuels a season that makes the most of Smart and Einbinder’s perfectly calibrated chemistry,

Jerrod Carmichael Reality Show (HBO)

When a celebrity turns to reality TV, it’s usually either an exercise in self-promotion or an act of desperation. The comedian Jerrod Carmichael had a very different reason for allowing cameras to follow him around at the height of his fame: he wanted to capture the truth of who he is, no matter how unflattering. The experiment is a resounding success—which is to say that Reality Show paints a vividly complicated self-portrait. From fraught relationships with his parents (Carmichael’s devout Christian mother struggles to accept her gay son, while his dad remains tight-lipped about his decades of infidelity) to his seemingly compulsive cheating on a boyfriend, the series dives deep into its subject’s psychology. At a moment when so much comedy leans on self-righteous preaching or performative offensiveness, Carmichael’s candor is refreshing.

Shōgun (FX)

Now that executives are growing stingy with their original-content dollars, Shōgun (a project that predates the industry’s current crisis) is a dazzling reminder that big bets really can pay off. TV’s second adaptation of James Clavell’s 1975 tome, which traces the uneasy alliance between an English mariner (Cosmo Jarvis) and the embattled Japanese lord (Hiroyuki Sanada) whose nation he stumbles into, combines stunning visuals and remarkable acting, elaborate set pieces and profound explorations of such timeless themes as honor, faith, loyalty, and culture clash. Elevated by Anna Sawai’s haunting performance as the brilliant, tragic heroine Toda Mariko, this epic isn’t just the best thing on the small screen in 2024; it’s also, according to FX, the network’s most-watched show ever. In fact, FX recently announced that it’s working with Clavell’s estate to extend what was supposed to be a miniseries for an additional two seasons. Whether creators Justin Marks and Rachel Kondo can avoid the pitfalls of other adaptations that strayed from their source material (Game of Thrones, Big Little Lies, The Handmaid’s Tale) remains to be seen. But for now, it’s worth celebrating the near-perfect season of TV they’ve already given us.

The Sympathizer (HBO)

A spate of literary adaptations has transformed TV into a sort of audiovisual bookshelf, with results that are, more often than not, uninspired. But HBO’s The Sympathizer does right by Viet Thanh Nguyen’s Pulitzer-winning novel, set in the immediate aftermath of the Vietnam War, as our protagonist (Hoa Xuande), a communist double agent of biracial heritage, reluctantly follows the South Vietnamese general he’s been surveilling to exile in the U.S. Director and executive producer Park Chan-wook brilliantly translates the book’s violence, suspense, and satire to the screen, adding many inspired surreal touches, without drowning out its subtler ideas about identity, political commitment, and the pointlessness of war. The series’ greatest act of poetic license is to cast Robert Downey Jr. in multiple roles as various faces of American imperialism.

The Traitors (Peacock)

Peacock’s mega-popular reality competition, which sequesters some 20 cast members in a Scottish castle for an elaborate game of Mafia, got off to a relatively slow start in a second season populated entirely by celebrity contestants. Reputations preceded many reality veterans, leading to a few early eliminations that threatened to stymie the intrigue. But then Phaedra “I Do Too Much Because You Do Little” Parks stepped up her Traitor swagger, Season 1 fan favorite Kate Chastain made a delightful mid-season return, Big Brother legend Dan Gheesling spectacularly self-destructed as a Traitor, and a clique of Faithfuls that Phaedra dubbed “the Peter pals” fomented a whole lot of in-group/out-group drama. Even those of us who weren’t thrilled with the winners had to admit that The Traitors is just about as good as reality TV gets.

We Are Lady Parts (Peacock)

The debut season of Nida Manzoor’s lovable and ferocious comedy series about an all-Muslim, all-female punk band in London felt like a Peak TV miracle. Three years later, the streaming gold rush has ended, but We Are Lady Parts is back with another six episodes of electric indie-music mayhem. Season 2 sees the band wrestle with the trappings of micro-fame: Gen Z upstarts are stealing their schtick, industry insiders are circling, there’s a constant hum of social media commentary in the background, and the pressure to earn money just keeps mounting. Manzoor strikes an ideal balance between humor, conflict, and sisterhood; group storylines and each distinctive character’s individual struggles. The show’s music is as great as ever, too, with original tracks supplemented by covers ranging from Nina Simone to Britney Spears.

Contact us at