It’s been a big year for TV, mostly because, well… we spent a good chunk of the year with little else to do aside from binge-watch boxsets, do puzzles and attempt to motivate ourselves to crack on with the ever-growing DIY list. So we thought we’d pull together a feature running through the TV shows that hooked us most this year – the things that got us through lockdown 2.0 (or was it 3.0?) and had us utterly gripped.
We put the question to you over on our Instagram stories – what exactly was the best thing you’ve watched on TV over the past 12 months? And the results were unanimous. There were just certain shows that you all adored and still couldn’t stop thinking about.
So, without too much more rambling on, here’s the list. There’s a good mix of different styles of show, depending on what your fave genre is, so there’s lots of inspo to get you through those long chilly, lazy days between Christmas and New Year.
Happy viewing! (And yes, these are in order of how many votes they received).
What? A period drama. Imagine Gossip Girl meets Downton Abbey.
Why is it great? Bridgerton, which is produced by Shonda Rhymes (who is behind the likes of Grey’s Anatomy annd Scandal), was the Christmas 2020 sensation that dragged its way into 2021. It was so wildly popular that it became Netflix’s most viewed show ever and a second season is already lined up for release next year. The story line focuses on the Bridgerton family and their tangled love lives and is as funny as it is sexy and utterly addictive.
Where to watch? Netflix. There’s eight hour-long episodes.
9. Line of Duty
What? A UK crime drama which focuses on corruption within the police force.
Why is it great? The sixth season of Line Of Duty landed earlier this year to much hype (it may even be the final season of the show ever). You’d need to watch the previous five seasons to get the story line but it’s a great easy and addictive binge watch. It follows the detectives in AC-12, whose job it is to uncover corrupt police officers. It’s less a classic whodunnit and instead something much meatier surrounding the politics of policing.
Where to watch? BBC iPlayer. All six seasons are currently available – most are six one-hour episodes long.
8. Mare of Easttown
What? A small town American crime drama.
Why is it great? Well firstly, it stars Kate Winslet as the main detective working a murder case and she is brilliant. She’s messy and real and you’ll get hooked just for her acting alone. The story follows a missing teenager and goes on to have some forget-to-breathe bombshell cliffhangers that have you staying up too late to gobble up another episode. It’s gritty crime TV at its finest.
Where to watch? Sky TV – there’s seven episodes in the first season which can be viewed now.
7. Ted Lasso
What? A sports comedy-drama.
Why is it great? It follows Ted Lasso, an American college football coach, who is hired to work with an English football team in an attempt by its owner to spite her ex-husband. The first 10 episodes aired last year to such high praise – it’s uplifting escapism TV as its finest – that the second season quickly followed this summer, with a third already on the way. An easy watch after a long ol’ day.
Where to watch? AppleTV+ which means you’ll need a subscription to watch.
What? A crime drama set on a navy submarine off the coast of Scotland.
Why is it great? It has a BRILLIANT cast. There’s Ygritte from Game of Thrones, DCI Arnott from Line of Duty, Adam from Sex Education and Alan from Peep Show. The story starts when a member of the navy is found dead on HMS Vigil and a detective from the nearest major police department is sent on board to investigate. It’s a standard whodunnit set up but the submarine set-up makes it extra intense and twisty.
Where to watch? BBC iPlayer – there’s six hour-long episodes.
5. Schitt’s Creek
What? A sit-com about a rich American family who lose everything and have to start over.
Why is it great? It’s the sort of TV show you can crash out in bed with after a long day and instantly feel some of the weight of the world just disappear. It’s funny, it makes for incredibly easy viewing and somehow you find yourself getting hypnotised by the characters and their chemistry and just, quite simply, fall for them. The supporting characters are just as brilliant as the main family of four. There’s six seasons to wade through – although the first one or two are a bit slow going!
Where to watch? Netflix – episodes are just under half an hour long.
4. Sex Education
What? A British comedy drama about college
Why is it great? The brilliantly inclusive cast and characters make this show, which although set in current day UK, has a weird and wonderful nostalgic vibe about it. The story line follows the students and their messy love and sex lives which involve everything from alien role play to douching. The third season came out this autumn – it covers serious and important subjects but is also so perfectly light-hearted and easy to watch at the same time.
Where to watch? All three seasons are on Netflix – episodes are an hour-long.
What? A hilarious black comedic take on money, power and family dynasty.
Why is it great? It makes you laugh in all the places you don’t expect to – proper snort-out-loud kinda stuff. The story centres around the Roy family and their media and entertainment business, which is the biggest in the world. Everything kicks off when the head of the family falls into poor health and the rest of them have to squabble their way through brilliant dysfunction and family drama.
Where to watch? Season three is currently airing on Sky Atlantic – find seasons one and two also on Sky.
What? A hard-hitting drama about abusive relationships.
Why is it great? Arguably one of the most breathtaking, tragic, brutal, devastating and important shows that Netflix have ever commissioned. It keeps you on edge the whole way through as you follow Alex and her two-year-old daughter attempt to leave the home they share with Alex’s abusive partner. It stars Andie MacDowell (Alex’s mum) and her daughter Margaret Qualley (Alex) who illustrate an unstable mother-daughter relationship with sheer brilliance.
Where to watch? All ten episodes are on Netflix.
1. It’s A Sin
What? A British drama which focuses on the 80’s AIDS epidemic.
Why is it great? The series is based on the writer’s experience of London life in the 1980s; not just the exuberance, pleasure and possibility that the capital offered, but also the homophobia, racism and, of course, the looming threat of AIDS. It’s a coming-of-age tale set to a banging ’80s soundtrack which follows three gay men and their incredible friendships. It’s beautiful and heart-breaking in equal measure.
Where to watch? All five episodes are on All 4.