2023 in Review: The Ten Best Television Shows of the Year

This was a big year for finality in television. A lot of amazing shows ended, and most of them stuck the landing perfectly. Similar to how packed 2023 was for film, there was a lot of good TV, and I think it's worth highlighting what the best of the best was this year. From reboots to adaptations to the end of several drama epics, here are the ten best shows released in 2023—and five honorable mentions.

10. Poker Face

For better or for worse, Poker Face creator Rian Johnson loves subversion. (Star Wars fans will tell you it's for the worse.) His love of detective stories with his Knives Out series is obvious, so it's a logical next step that he would take the genre to television...and it's a success! Natasha Lyonne excellently plays an eccentric but likable lead, and its anthology structure keeps it trying new things. Some episodes are significantly better than others (episodes five, seven and nine are awesome), but even the worst ones are solid takes on the murder mystery genre, and all of them are quite fun.

9. Scott Pilgrim Takes Off

Finally, a good modern reboot! As much fun as a 1:1 animated remake of classic action-comedy comic Scott Pilgrim would be, to take such risks by moving the story in new directions and possibly alienate a good amount of the fanbase takes guts. And yet, they did it! On top of the animation being stylish and stellar, Takes Off is full of great development for its source material's under-seen characters. The film's cast comes back to voice their characters and everyone does a good job—it's really everything a Scott Pilgrim fan (who's open to change) could want.

8. The Last of Us

Having never played the game it was based on, I had no expectations for The Last of Us. Do I have a bit of positive bias towards this series because I have nothing to compare it to? Maybe. But that doesn't stop this from being really, really good and going far beyond the overplayed conventions of the zombie genre. Beyond the nuance in the strong performances of Bella Ramsey and Pedro Pascal, there's a lot of thought put into how the world operates, and it pays off as more of the horrific place reveals itself. Well made, superbly acted, and depressingly well written—tight, cruel and exciting, everything a good post-apocalypse story should be.

7. I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson (Season 3)

With his lengthily titled sketch comedy, Tim Robinson seems fixated on turning everyday occurrences into surrealist nightmares populated by screaming, emasculated psychopaths, and nowhere will you find louder and funnier psychopaths than in the show's latest season. Season three has some of the show's most popular and best sketches ("Drive Thru" and especially "Designated Driver") while also having its most underrated ("Silent Show" and "Talk About My Kids"), but it also has the most consistent output so far and the most unhinged performances by both Robinson and his guest stars. Its absurdist comedy probably isn't for everyone, but it's on this list, so it's clearly for me.

6. Barry (Season 4)

Kicking myself just a little that I ranked it this low, because while the final act of Bill Hader's brutal comedy-crime spiral has its issues, it's still Barry, and is therefore one of the most exciting and creative shows on TV. Hader takes the stage one final time as its deeply troubled title character tries to abandon his criminal past despite how undeniably evil he is, and it's nothing short of magical. The show's climactic writing brings out the best performances from its actors. Its bold narrative choices don't always work, but when they do, they produce some of the best content the show has ever had.

5. The Righteous Gemstones (Season 3)

I didn't expect this one to be over Barry. Creator Danny McBride's megachurch satire pushed itself hard this year and it paid off in dividends, delivering the show's funniest, most well made, and emotionally charged season to date. From mainstay characters like Tim Baltz's pathetic husband to newcomer Steve Zahn's backwards villain to, of course, Walton Goggins's musical uncle, everyone is in top form here, and the strong writing and filmmaking culminate in a fantastic and moving finale. If the major theme of McBride's works is narcissism, then this sprawling story about family feuds and duplicity may just be his magnum opus.

4. Succession (Season 4)

The pettiest possible conclusion to the pettiest show on TV. The saga of the Roy siblings closes with the most tragic and hateful season to date, but also its best-acted and -plotted. The first half slowly unfurls into the second's miserable, unstoppable collapse, and the finale is essentially just watching a car crash and a funeral at the same time. Sure, it still has that Succession brand of dark and angry humor, but the majority of it is hard to watch if you care even a little about its characters. It's almost—almost!—the best conclusion to a fictional show of the year, and after half a decade of relentlessly good drama and pain, it earns the acclaim.

3. Snowfall (Season 6)

And the empire falls into the sea. When Franklin Saint (Damson Idris) got into the cocaine game, there was no chance of a happy ending. The final season of Snowfall, a show that has cemented itself as one of the most underrated crime dramas of the past decade, knows this, and it makes a meal of the collapse of Franklin, his CIA rival, and his family. It never quite reaches the heights of season three's cat-and-mouse and four's explosive gang war, but it combines them—and throws in some Greek tragedy for good measure—to create a haunting final act, capping with a finale that was easily my favorite episode of the year.

2. The Bear (Season 2)

The beauty of second seasons is that there's always room to improve. Many shows take this as an excuse to get lazy, but the scrappy debut of restaurant drama The Bear evolved into something unforgettable the second time around, and television is better off for it. Every character is developed further, every aspect of filmmaking has been expanded, and the extended episode count allows for powerful excursions like "Fishes" and "Forks," right under the Snowfall finale for some of my favorites this year. The Bear's world is chaotic and dysfunctional, but at its core, there's real power in how its characters change and mature, because when you're at a crossroads, you can stay the same or you can grow—even if some of these characters choose the former.

1. How To with John Wilson (Season 3)

And then you've finished growing. There may never be another show like John Wilson's oddball docu-dramedy, and maybe that's for the best. The ability to see the world with an objective eye and then reshape it in the editing room is a rare but powerful one, and Wilson delivers for a third and final time with another life-changing three hours of TV. A bigger scope hasn't ruined his awkward charm, and his editing and storytelling have somehow gotten even better. From coast to coast, Wilson captures the beauty in the strangest parts of humanity in a way that I've never seen from media, and while it couldn't last forever, oh, how I wanted it to. It was an honor to watch your movies, John. Thank you.

Honorable mentions:

Beef

Gen V

I'm a Virgo

Inside No. 9 (Season 8)

Swarm

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Sam Layton

Sam Layton is a Chicago suburb native that's trying his best to make a career out of his (probably unhealthy) habit of watching too much television. When he's not working as the Third Coast Review's current sole TV reviewer, he's making his way through college or, shockingly, watching too much television.