Even without the theater, television has helped many of us lazy buffoons get through this insanely stressful 2020 thus far. Without new shows like Gangs of London (from the man who created THE RAID) or Solar Opposites (from dudes who make RICK AND MORTY), I don’t know if we’d be as comfortable staying inside away from the hordes of Karens who will stop at nothing to get their hair and nails done. Here are my top 10 shows of 2020 so far:
#10. LOVE IS BLIND – Season 1
Look, I’ve watched The Bachelor. I’ve watched it more times than I’d like to admit, but after experiencing Love is Blind, I’m never watching another reality dating show. This was a trainwreck, in the greatest ways imaginable. Netflix took all of these random singles and dumped them into your typical reality show house, but the only way they were allowed to “date”, is by talking to their potential husband or wife without ever seeing them until AFTER they propose. It’s an insane concept and on paper it shouldn’t work, but seeing these idiots say they’re in love after spending a day talking to someone else without ever seeing them – is hysterical. What’s even better is how the series follows the couples that get engaged so we can see them unravel in the most extreme and devastating ways. The show is explicit, hilarious, awkward and above all else, one of the best binge-worthy series I’ve seen in years. This is what happens when you take away our cellphones – we turn into emotionally stunted psychopaths. I loved it.
#9. THE OUTSIDER – Season 1
Stephen King’s novel was creepy as Hell, but The Outsider TV adaptation did a tremendous job towing the line between the horror and thrills of this murder mystery/monster hunt. The opening episodes are exhilarating and at times, beyond disturbing. I thought I was watching a spin-off from the IT franchise for a while until the pieces started coming together (even then, still sorta like IT, but that’s OK). It works and it works VERY well even though the series may have had 2 too many episodes by the time it wraps up. Ben Mendelsohn was a fantastic choice to play the lead, because we’re all so used to seeing him portray the heel, but I love when we cast a gruff, ass-holish type to play the dude we’re supposed to root for. He pulls it off superbly, as does the supporting cast, featuring a shocking performance from Jason Bateman. This is True Detective set in the Stephen King universe and that’s more than enough reason to dive in.
#8. RICK & MORTY – Season 4
Network: Adult Swim
Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon took their time to deliver us season 4 of Rick & Morty (still airing by the way) but of course it was worth the wait. So far we’ve seen horny dragons, snake jazz and just recently two alien facehuggers sucking the love off each other while strapped to the faces of our two leads. It’s been bizarre and absolutely nothing has come together like fans have anticipated with lingering and still un-answered plotpoints from last season, but it doesn’t matter. Because this show always goes for the unexpected and it never gives the fans what they WANT – it delivers what we NEED even though we weren’t sure what that was exactly until we saw Snakes travelling through time to kill Snake Hitler.
#7. RUN – Season 1
From the creative team who brought us the strongest and most powerful love story of this generation – FLEABAG, comes the HBO series RUN (still airing). I thought I knew what I was going to talk about with RUN until this week’s recent episode where the show turned from being this quirky comedy on a train, to something that would make the showrunners of FARGO proud. This shit is wild, uncomfortable and above all else, entertaining as Hell. The dialog feels genuine, the concept is genius (two former lovers make a pact that if one of them texts “RUN” to the other, that they would respond with the same and run away together, abandoning their current lives). This may be the biggest surprise of 2020 so far, especially after recent events have transformed the series into something absolutely horrifying. I don’t actually know what this show is about anymore, but I can’t wait to see what happens next because so far I’ve been unable to predict ANYTHING. Shit is wild.
#6. HUNTERS – Season 1
Network: Amazon Prime
Hunters is a show about Jewish assassins killing Nazis on American soil in an alternate Post WWII 1970’s USA. It features Al Pacino as the head of this task force and an incredible supporting cast of performers who are all delivering some of their finest work to date – Logan Lerman (this dude should be a Marvel hero by now right?) especially. But it’s breakout star Greg Austin, who plays the young Nazi hitman Travis who steals the entire first season with some of the most twisted villain work I’ve seen all year. Hunters is a heavy show, and features so many holocaust flashbacks and insane SAW-like murder games that the Nazis put their prisoners through, that it can feel a little depressing for the first half of the show, but the pulpy comic-book feel of Hunters toes the line between its serious subject matter while still entertaining fans with enough Tarantino-inspired violence that it really works in the end. The series also features two of the most insane plot twists of any season finale that you’re likely to see – EVER? Hunters isn’t what I expected, but stylistically it’s one of the best shows on television and I was absolutely hooked.
#5. WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS – Season 2
The opening episode of the second season for What We Do In The Shadows (still airing) might be my favorite of the series and features a guest performance so funny, that I would absolutely be comfortable proclaiming this role to be the best thing that Haley Joel Osment has ever done. Yes – suck it Sixth Sense, suck it Silicon Valley, suck it all. Osment, without spoiling too much, turns into a rabid zombie-like monster (OK maybe that spoils it a little, but it doesn’t matter). Seeing Osment run screaming from room to room and then hiding under Guillermo’s bed to try and bite his ankles made me laugh to the point of tears. I’m still blown away at how great this series is and it’s so rare that a show lives up to the film it’s based on, but much like FARGO on FX, What We Do In The Shadows is actually better as a TV show than it was as a film (and it was a great movie). Watch out for Nadja’s new doll too – one of the creepiest and best additions to any series this year…
#4. TIGER KING – Limited Series
The entire world has seen it but that doesn’t mean that all popular things are bullshit, because Tiger King absolutely lives up to the hype. This docu-series about Joe Exotic (and all these other insane rare animal collectors) is one of the wildest things you’ll ever see. Ever – and that includes your real life people, because Tiger King is 100% real and 100% batshit crazy. You’d wonder why they needed so many episodes to tell this story, but after binging through them all, you’ll be craving more immediately. I found myself googling “Tiger King Updates” for days after watching the show. It’s probably the best documentary ever made in long format (Bowling for Columbine is the best feature length doc ever made still). Yes it’s that impressive and a saga that is so ripe for an adaptation, that they cast Nicolas Cage in it as soon as they could. You will witness death, mayhem, tigers biting people’s arms off, all that fun stuff: Tiger King is the most refreshing and realistic look at white-trash culture in the USA – of all time.
#3. BETTER CALL SAUL – Season 5
In its penultimate season, Better Call Saul has reached the quality level that Breaking Bad was at by the end of its fourth penultimate season. In other words, holy shit guys, Better Call Saul is just as good as Breaking Bad was when it was at its best (seasons 4/5). Actor Tony Dalton’s breakout performance as the series’ big bad Lalo, is easily one of 2020’s strongest performances (give that dude an Emmy). Dalton stole every single scene he was in and managed to deliver a performance so memorable that he kind of consumes the series in the best of ways. You never know if he’s about to joke with you, or try to shoot you in the face and that makes him one of the scariest and most captivating characters of the series. There’s also an episode that takes place in the desert with Saul and Mike that will go down as one of the franchise’s finest moments – easily ranked up there with great Breaking Bad chapters like Ozymandias.
#2. SOLAR OPPOSITES – Season 1
Justin Roiland and Mike McMahan have created a new animated series that may look, sound and feel tonally just like Rick & Morty (another show they both work on still) but because of their very wise and unusual creative choices, Solar Opposites manages to pull off being a TV show that can stand on its own merits. Solar Opposites is WILD. Not only is the series about a family of aliens trying to fit in with a planet that hates them, but it goes to such dark and crazy places that you’re constantly thrown for a loop. There’s an entire subplot where the alien children have been shrinking and kidnapping various humans that angered them, where they stack them into this massive “wall” in their room where they are forced to survive in this tiny “Honey I Shrunk The Kids-esque” nightmare sequence where they wear LEGO pieces as armor, are forced to live on pieces of candy etc. It’s the craziest shit you’ll see all year and that storyline is what has helped propel this show to a higher spot than Rick & Morty even. Give this show a chance – it’s awesome and I hope it continues for a long ass time. Those eight episodes flew by way too fast.
#1. GANGS OF LONDON – Season 1
Gangs of London is a crime series with story ambitions so high that they eclipse complex series like Game of Thrones and The Sopranos, but also features some of the craziest and most explosive action sequences ever put to film. The series is the brainchild of director Gareth Evans (who made THE RAID films) so I was expecting some glorious brutality, but even then I was not prepared for the carnage that was about to hammer me over the head for nine insane episodes. The show stars Joe Cole and newcomer Sope Dirisu (who is my favorite breakout TV star of 2020 overall) but in the end it’s actually an ensemble story in the vein of The Wire, as we constantly bounce back and forth between these various criminal gangs who run London but all Hell breaks loose when one of the leaders is murdered, causing a gangwar and all kinds of violent crazy shit that was nearly impossible to predict. There’s an episode (number 5) which focuses solely on a killsquad hunting down some thugs at a farmhouse that was completely unexpected but by the end of the most action-packed hour of TV since The Long Night on Game of Thrones’ final season, I was stunned by what I had just seen. I’ve never witnessed so much unbridled chaos in my life. Evans himself directed that masterpiece of television and by the end of season one, if you aren’t sold on this being the best new show of 2020, then we can’t be friends.