As we’re putting out a list of the best TV shows of the year so far, the writers of these TV shows are still on strike for better wages. The state of television has been weird for awhile as streaming services keep rolling out “content” with no marketing, canceling shows after one season, erasing shows from platforms, and axing the ones that are 90 percent through production.
Our mid-year TV list contains a lot of great television on it. Despite the unfortunate state of the industry right now and for the foreseeable future, there’s no denying it’s been a great year for TV so far. There won’t be another moment — at least for a while — where two of the greatest shows of the past decade end on the same night, one right after the other. If you were watching both the final seasons of Barry and Succession, then you had one hell of a two-month TV schedule.
In this list, you’ll find some of the best TV available right now. From captivating finales to incredible one takes and memorable one-off characters to surrealist nightmares and classic detective romps, this is the kind of TV we live for. Its writers deserve our attention and an equitable share of the success of these shows. Not just these shows, but every show on a network or streaming service.
10. The Bear (Season 2)
Season 2 of The Bear toned down the onslaught of stress from Season 1 and instead offered a melancholy, thoughtful story about what it means to pursue something you love despite the requisite of failure. Jeremy Allen White remains superb while the supporting cast, including Ayo Edebiri, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, and Lionel Boyce, are given greater moments to shine with episodes dedicated to their character’s personal journeys. The series delivers on visual storytelling (note the ever-present clock in the room counting down) with standout episodes including “Fishes” and “Forks” which offer some of the most claustrophobic and, conversely, liberating stories of the series. [Allyson Johnson]
9. The Other Two (Season 3)
The third and final season of the hilarious The Other Two went for broke as Cary (Drew Tarver) and Brooke (Heléne Yorke) transformed into the very worst version of themselves. A relatively tranquil finale helps balance the mayhem that transpires in the remainder of the season, demonstrating the writer’s incredible balancing act of both skewering the ego and ambition that goes into “making it” in the entertainment industry while allowing their characters to remain human. With commentary that runs the gamut of criticizing Disney’s faux pas for LGBTQ+ representation to Hollywood’s obsession with child actors once they turn 18, the series maintains a sharp bite through the end. MVP as always goes to the incredible Molly Shannon as the family matriarch. [Allyson Johnson]
8. Daisy Jones & the Six
Music. Love. Rock & Roll. Prime Video’s thrilling mini-series Daisy Jones & the Six has it all and more! The captivating journey following a band through its highs and lows was an incredible watch throughout its 10-episode run. The show hit the right notes across the board, from its costumes to the writing. It captured the free-loving vibe of the 60s and 70s thanks to its clothing, set designs, and props; it easily channeled the era and pulled us into the past. Riley Keough, Sam Claflin, and Suki Waterhouse and the rest delivered stellar performances because of strong scripts and character arcs. And we can’t forget the music! Daisy Jones & the Six had a perfect catalogue of original songs—some of which are saved in my Spotify playlist to this day. [Justin Carreiro]
7. Jury Duty
Jury Duty takes a “regular” person and places them into what they believe to be real jury duty proceedings. But it’s actually a carefully scripted series of increasingly outlandish events. The series shines by focusing on the small moments of kindness shown by its main “character” and victim, Ronald Gladden, who is reality TV gold. He’s like just another character on a comedy like Parks and Rec.
There’s a perfectly casted ensemble around him who are a delight. The final stroke of genius is dedicating the final episode to Ronald’s reaction to the revelation that he’s been on a TV show the entire time. Jury Duty is lightening in a bottle. [Jose Cordova]
6. Poker Face
Rian Johnson (Knives Out) loves a good murder mystery, and with his series on Peacock, you get 10 whole case-of-the-week episodes to luxuriate in. Centered around protagonist Charlie Cale, played by Natasha Lyonne, Charlie somehow encounters murders wherever she goes. She’s not a cop or a PI, but she has a unique superpower—she can tell whenever anyone is lying.
It’s a delightful twist that has the always-on-the-run Charlie meeting new people—often played by notable guest stars such as Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Stephanie Hsu, Hong Chau, and Adrien Brody—and calling bullshit when she hears that first significant lie. From there it’s a race to figure out who committed the murder, how they did it, and a way to prove it. Make room Columbo, Charlie’s on the case. [Linda Maleh]
The inherent catharsis of a show about therapists seems obvious. Shrinking, Apple TV+’s brainchild from Ted Lasso scribes Bill Lawrence and Brett Goldstein, will have you laughing and crying all at once. Stars Jason Segel and Harrison Ford have never been better, creating an unexpected and heartwarming duo as therapists dealing with personal crises in and out of the office. (Costars Jessica Williams, Christa Miller, and Lukita Maxwell are among Shrinking‘s excellent, hilarious supporting cast.) A meditation on grief, an exploration of office dynamics, and a love letter to your next-door neighbors, Shrinking shines as one of 2023’s sweetest shows. [Claire Di Maio]
4. Barry (Season 4)
The last season of Barry took risks in tone, structure, and style. By doing so, Bill Hader and Alec Berg created a gorgeous and terrifying final curtain for Barry, Gene, Sally, Fuches, Hank, and Cristobal. No matter how dark it got (and it got dark, dark), Barry always remembered that comedy and tragedy exist together. There’s absurdity in death, and violence isn’t like the movies. While it’s tough to see one of television’s best shows of the past decade come to an end, it’s been a horrifying and exhilarating pleasure to tune into Barry every Sunday. [Katey Stoetzel]
3. Abbott Elementary (Season 2)
Once again, Quinta Brunson and her talented team deliver an extremely well-crafted season of television with the breakout comedy series Abbott Elementary. In the second half of Season 2, go-getter Janine blossoms as a second-grade teacher with her fellow cohorts in an underserved Philadelphia public school. Barbra’s previous student wants to turn Abbott into a charter school but the teachers at Abbott make their school the best for their students with creative mural projects and field trips to the Franklin Institute. In lesser hands, these storylines may come off as a cheesy after-school special. However, Brunson knows how to tackle these topics with compassion, depth, and tons of laughs. [Phylecia Miller]
2. Succession (Season 4)
After four incredible seasons, everyone’s favorite satirical dramedy ended on a high note. Throughout Succession’s run, siblings Kendall, Shiv, and Roman fought for their father’s media empire and, by extension, his love and attention. Though it’s great to watch the rich nepo babies pick up and fumble the ball each episode, it’s not until the death of their patriarch, Logan, that everything goes into high gear. Will Kendell finally step up and live up to his potential? Or will one of her siblings snatch the crown before he least expects it? Fortunately for fans, critics, and casual viewers, creator Jesse Armstrong gives one hell of a satisfying conclusion. [Phylecia Miller]
1. The Last of Us
Despite facing initial ‘apocalypse fatigue,’ HBO’s The Last of Us not only turned in amazing performances from leads Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey but also featured some of the best one-off episodes in a season of television. Episode 3 “Long, Long Time” perfectly expanded on two video game characters, creating a devastatingly lovely gay love story with Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett). Other notable episodes like “Left Behind,” “Endure and Survive,” and “When We Are in Need” made The Last of Us fun to tune into every week but the core relationship between Pascal’s Joel and Ramsey’s Ellie made us stay. [Katey Stoetzel]
Featured images courtesy of Hulu, HBO, Prime Video, Peacock, Apple TV+, and ABC
Feature image illustration by Katey Stoetzel