10. Big Mouth
Continuing the trend of self discovery for these kids, the show avoided rehashing old issues and created some new challenges for the kids–from racial identity to fear of darker impulses and did it exceptionally well. The show has had a habit of placing characters together even for a short while, and this season had one of the most surprising and satisfying relationships the show has ever done. Not seeing it coming, but when it happened it felt like a no-brainer. All while still being laugh out loud funny, going between gross out humor and more intellectual humor with ease.
9. Ted Lasso
How this didn’t fall into cliches is still a mystery. Ted (Jason Sudeikis), an overly nice man who is pleasant to everyone, is coming to Britain to coach soccer even though he is a football coach and everyone thinks he will fail. There are so many strong characters in this show with so many dynamics at play. Be it Ted and Coach Beard’s (Brendan Hunt) fast talking banter, club owner Rebecca’s (Hannah Waddingham) biting sarcasm, yet growing friendship with everyone, to the delightful romance between bitter player Roy (Brett Goldstein) and model Keely (Juno Temple), with so many jokes and moments that keep popping into my head at random moments. Add to that a great finale that fit the show perfectly, and you have truly satisfying comedy.
8. The Queen’s Gambit
I still cannot process why this show works. Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) is an orphan teenage chess prodigy going through her life. This show constantly surprised me even when it felt like I should have seen what was coming. We do not get any great revelations out of Beth but just by watching her through it all little by little seeps in about her. These reveals continue to make her fascinating to watch, not just for her but by who becomes part of her life over time. The way people move around her and how she takes them in at different moments changes how we see what is happening and creates one of the most compelling characters to watch on TV this year
Kazuya is a college student who just got dumped, and in his despair, rents Chizuru and through typical anime problems they have to pretend to be dating. What made this work so well is Kazuya being so inexperienced in romance and his confusion about what he wants out of a relationship leads him to make mistakes that are understandable. That and showing how feelings change over time for numerous characters means that, even if the ending feels inevitable, the journey is worth it.
6. Kaguya-sama: Love is War
The story of Kaguya and Miyuki, who are two super smart high school students who continue to battle to get the other to admit to loving the other so they don’t have to, hasn’t lost its charm. The humor of the show is as sharp as ever and we are even given some new characters and some of the side characters are given more depth this season that expands the in-universe. With some of the best scenes of the show so far, I cannot wait to see what happens next.
5. Normal People
Intensity of feelings is what this show was all about and it delivered something fierce. Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Connell (Paul Mescal)’s ups and downs as a couple from high school into young adulthood was so intense I had to pause episodes all the time. Selling romance is hard: creating a feeling not just of physical desire but of what connects people–can be impossible to achieve and these two did it from the first time they looked at each other. It never dissipated. I have praised this show before so there is not much more to say, except that if you want to experience some of the most intense emotions on television look no further.
4. Better Call Saul
The show sold as watching how Jimmy McGill becomes Saul Goodman has in actuality always been an ensemble show. This season more and more we see why Rhea Seehorn is going down as one of the greatest Emmy snubs in all of TV history. She constantly surprises us with what she does with Kim Wexler, and makes what will happen to her one of the greatest mysteries that I think no one has any clear idea what the answer will be. Tony Dalton, literally added just last year, has become one of the most delightful characters on the show, where again it is unclear what will happen to him. Even Jonathan Banks as Mike, who seemed to be losing focus, came back stronger than ever this season, bringing new dimensions to who he will become. As we head into the last season, we should be seeing where most of these characters, who began in Breaking Bad, with little surprise, have become one of the most exciting mysteries of television.
3. Bojack Horseman
Ending a show on a high note is one of the toughest things to do and Bojack delivered. Watching Bojack’s ups and downs (mostly downs) has been a sobering and thoughtful experience through all of its seasons and here we had some of the darkest yet. Throughout it all we are never given easy answers to what would make Bojack a better person, if that is even possible. We follow him as he goes through his life and faces some things about himself and makes choices. They may not be the right choices, but we still cannot help but root for him even as we are cringing.
2. The Crown
The ability of this show to add new characters and change the actors after two seasons has been one of the most delightful surprises that this great show has accomplished. With Gillian Anderson as Margaret Thatcher capturing the intensity of the Iron Lady’s abrasive personality–seeing how she could command people and also offend the rest–made me actually feel sorry for her (a feat I thought impossible) when she is stuck with the royal family in Scotland. We also have Emma Corrin as Princess Diana as she captures the innocence and trauma of life with Prince Charles with a subtlety of her face has been one of the great joys of the TV year. While these two have taken more oxygen this year the rest of the cast is still doing great work as the show continues its deep dive into the humanity of people in extraordinary situations.
1. My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!
This is the show I most looked forward to each week. Its delightful lead character Catarina is a teenage girl who died and is now reincarnated as the noblewoman villain in her romance video game. Because she has played the game she knows it is her character’s fate to be killed or exiled for her mean behavior. To avoid this fate she comes up with plans and meets the romantic options and other female characters and, by genuinely being a nice person, she inadvertently makes them all fall in love with her but, being oblivious, never notices! This was so lovely and amusing, while also having some surprisingly emotional moments, that it made me so happy to watch each week. While not laugh-out-loud-funny, seeing Catarina navigate her new life and act silly and seeing everyone react to her always put a smile on my face.