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20 shows that got me through 2020

I have been more grateful for television than ever this year. 2020 has felt like a fever dream and one long slog. 

My mind gets hazy when I look back on my life since January.

I somehow managed to go on a trip to Vancouver, graduate from college, move and start a job writing for a weekly newspaper. However, when I look back, it’s difficult to measure my year through those experiences. Like many people, I have felt like I’ve been floating through the months just waiting to get to 2021. 

Luckily, I had plenty of TV to keep me company. I don’t see my year measured in the things I did, because I really didn’t do a lot. I see chunks of my year dedicated to different shows though. I’ve found myself remembering different moments of my life this year through what I was watching at that time instead, and goodness there were a lot of them.

Here are 20 shows (in chronological order) that got me through 2020:

Peaky Blinders

Image by BBC

Available on Netflix

It’s hard to believe I started my year watching “Peaky Blinders” because that feels like decades ago. However, I think there’s a poetic irony that I started 2020 with this BBC period drama about a family of gangsters in Birmingham, England.

The story starts in 1919, and the series takes the audience on a journey with the Shelby family through the highs of the ‘20s and the lows of the ‘30s as they try to expand their “family business” in hard times –– just like the ride 2020 has taken us on.

I started my new year binge watching this show, sipping whiskey with my parents and pretending I was a British gangster with my own cool peacoat. Oh, take me back.


Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist

ZOEY’S EXTRAORDINARY PLAYLIST — “I’ve Got The Music In Me” Episode 102 — Pictured: (l-r) Skylar Astin as Max, Lauren Graham as Joan, Jane Levy as Zoey, John Clarence Stewart as Simon — (Photo by: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC)

Available on Hulu

My year took a different, happier turn when “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” premiered on NBC Jan. 7. My best friend Zack introduced me to it, and I won’t be able to thank him enough for bringing this light into my life. It’s perfect. 

The show centers around Zoey’s life as she gets the power to hear people’s “heart songs.” In other words, she occasionally hears people’s thoughts and feelings through musical numbers. All the songs are covers of popular ones while she navigates her relationships between friends, family and love interests.

I laughed. I cheered. I pumped my fists angrily. I sang. I cried. I felt so many emotions while watching this story unfold, but the biggest thing I felt was hope. The times I spent eagerly awaiting its episodes remind me of the excitement I had for this year, and that’s pretty cool even if it’s sad to look back on.


The Good Place

THE GOOD PLACE — “Patty” Episode 412 — Pictured: (l-r) William Jackson Harper as Chidi, Kristin Bell as Eleanor, Jameela Jamil as Tahani, Ted Danson as Michael, D’Arcy Carden as Janet, Manny Jacinto as Jason — (Photo by: Colleen Hayes/NBC)

Available on Netflix

Keeping up with another NBC show is “The Good Place” (I guess I had a type last January). Its final episode aired Jan. 30, and I binge watched all of it as soon as it was released. I watched this show twice this year in very different moments of my life, and I was able to get something different out of it both times.

When I watched it last January for the first time, I was pumped. I loved getting to see Eleanor Shellstrop’s antics in the afterlife. It was fun, addicting, made me laugh and made me feel hopeful and excited for 2020 in very much the same way “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” did.

I picked this back up in November to help with stress over the U.S. presidential election, because I just knew it would help ease my mind about the world. Thankfully it did. I even wrote a story about it.


Westworld

Image by HBO

Available on HBO

I watched “Westworld” season three when it aired on HBO last March and April. I was so into this season and I was predicting things left and right. This was also the time my college classes went online because of COVID-19 striking the U.S. Since this was the beginning of social distancing and quarantining, I had so much pent up energy.

I threw myself into this show, analyzing all the details. I feel like I wrote an essay about this season for one of my classes, but my brain is still foggy about that time. I do know, however, that season three is my all time favorite season of this sci-fi series. I’m glad I had something so complex and dystopian to keep my mind busy at the beginning of the pandemic.


Outer Banks

Image by Netflix

Available on Netflix

Outer Banks was released April 15 on Netflix, and this is where my TV show watches become more “trendy.” I pretty much needed whatever entertainment content I could get my eyes on at this point (I still would’ve watched “Outer Banks” even without the pandemic though). 

This show was the perfect teen drama, mystery story I needed. I got eye candy, a mysterious treasure-hunting plot and the complexities of the socioeconomic gap. I was also still living at home with my parents and fortunately my dad liked this show just as much, if not more, than me.

Now I just need season two please and thank you.


Normal People

Image by Hulu

Available on Hulu

So many shows were released in April, and it was a beautiful time. I was living at home with my parents, frantically trying to get assignments done with people around and I was binge watching “Normal People” as soon as it came out April 26 in the U.S. 

This Irish drama produced for BBC Three follows Marianne and Connell, who come from different backgrounds in a small Irish town, as they weave through each other’s romantic lives and grow up. It’s a very spicy, sexy, romantic series that made me so angry at times. There were so many “will they/won’t they” scenes that had me hooked. 

This show gets really dark too, and it spends a lot of time showing how these characters deal with their mental health. It also breaks away from the norm by not romanticizing romantic relationships. Marianne and Connell go through a lot, and while it broke my heart a lot of times, it was always nice to see how they’d come together.


Never Have I Ever

Image by Netflix

Available on Netflix

Here’s yet another show I was addicted to last April. I took a tiny break from having my heart wrenched out in “Normal People” to have it revived again from “Never Have I Ever” when Netflix released it April 27. I have so many feelings and opinions about this series that I could write an entire essay about it, but I’ll save that for another time. 

On the shallow surface, it’s about Devi Vishwakumar trying to date the hottest boy in school, Paxton Hall-Yoshida, while working to beat Ben Gross with better grades than him. However, when that plot is pulled back, the story is really about a first-generation Indian-American teenager grieving her father and navigating a complex relationship with her mom and cousin. 

The story weaves between Devi’s mourning and her awkward romantic relationships, because she doesn’t want to deal with the negative emotions that come with facing how she’s actually doing. I need more of this story.

Luckily it’s renewed for season two and should be coming back in 2021.


The 100

Image by The CW/Warner Bros.

Available on Netflix

Things are taking a rough turn for this next show. I debated putting “The 100” on this list because of how upset this final season made me. It didn’t help me deal with 2020 at all. It just made a bad year worse. However, after thinking about it more, there was no way I could curate a list of shows that got me through 2020 without including it.

“The 100” seventh and final season premiered May 20, and I remember everything I did that day (I had just bought a couch for my new apartment and was speeding home to make it on time). I ate leftovers I couldn’t care less about and drank white wine in my Bellamy Blake mug while wearing my #BellamyKru t-shirt. That was the beginning of the end, my dear friends. Six years of loving this show led to its demise and my crushing spirit.

While “The 100” preached nihilism in a world that needed peace and hope, it got me through the year in its own very turnaround way. It was something to look forward to. It was something to keep my mind on and analyze (find my “The 100” reviews on Bri’s Binge here at the Planet). None of this credit goes to the actual season though. It goes to the cast and crew for building characters I fell in love with and wanted to see through all the way to its poorly executed end.

I also got to meet the cast in Vancouver at the beginning of the year when they were filming it, so I’ll always have those moments to be thankful for. 


New Girl

Image by Fox Broadcasting Company

Available on Netflix

When I wasn’t agonizing over “The 100” last summer, I was watching “New Girl.” Its humor, lightheartedness and Winston Bishop (my favorite character hands down –– I’ll fight people on this) were a much needed break from stress and monotonous days. 

I used to watch this sitcom with my parents, and I remembered loving it. Sometimes we just need to step away from things that seem out of our control, take a deep breath and watch something we already know we’re going to enjoy.

“New Girl” is about a quirky woman who ends up moving into an apartment with three men after a breakup. It’s hilarious with a great cast.


Schitt’s Creek

Image by POP/CBC Television

Available on Netflix

I stayed on the sitcom train and jumped on the bandwagon by watching “Schitt’s Creek” last summer. A friend from college recommended this to me, and I’m so happy she did. This show is *chef’s kiss. I’m starting to realize that I sought out fun sitcoms last summer in-between my “The 100” weekly viewing, and it all makes sense. I needed as many funny, happy things I could get.

“Schitt’s Creek” surprised me, because I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. A college class ruined sitcoms for me, so this show shattered my expectations.


Cursed

Image by Netflix

Available on Netflix

I’m a nerd for anything King Arthur, so when Netflix released this retelling of the classic story, I was immediately intrigued. Yes, it’s full of tropes, but I think that’s exactly what I needed this year. I was able to sit back, relax and enjoy this great cast.

While most Arthurian legends center around Arthur, Lancelot, Guinevere and Merlin, this one is all about Nimue. It’s really an essay about how people in power destroy the lives of minorities just because of some differences. My many favorites of this series included the strong, woman lead (played by Katherine Langford), the cast’s diversity (Devon Terrell played Arthur), the Weeping Monk’s storyline (played by Daniel Sharman) and Gawain having a strong role (played by Matt Stokoe).

This helped me get through last summer and I talked all about it with my mom, so that was a fun bonus.


Teenage Bounty Hunters

TEENAGE BOUNTY HUNTERS (L to R) ANJELICA BETTE FELLINI as BLAIR WESLEY and MADDIE PHILLIPS as STERLING WESLEY in episode 102 of TEENAGE BOUNTY HUNTERS Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2020

Available on Netflix

This Netflix Original Series was everything and more. It’s all about two teenage sisters from a Republican household in the south getting roped into being bounty hunters. They start working on bounties, because they need a way to pay their dad back on the vehicle they crashed, and they end up being brilliant at it in so many wacky ways.

It’s easy for shows with the action-packed premise to feel unrealistic and out-of-touch with its younger audience it’s trying to appeal to, but “Teenage Bounty Hunters” nailed it on the head. The girls were standing up for their progressive beliefs in a very conservative area while cracking jokes with each other, relating their bounty hunts to pop culture moments while still holding each other accountable when they hurt each other.

It’s fun, hilarious, action-packed, emotional, real and insightful. Everyone go watch it.


Julie and the Phantoms

JULIE AND THE PHANTOMS (L to R) JEREMY SHADA as REGGIE, MADISON REYES as JULIE, OWEN JOYNER as ALEX, and CHARLIE GILLESPIE as LUKE in episode 107 of JULIE AND THE PHANTOMS Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2020

Available on Netflix

If there was one show that got me through 2020, it was “Julie and the Phantoms” on Netflix. It’s perfect and was exactly what I needed just in this terrible year but all the time. I already wrote a list of all the reasons people should watch it, so I’ll try to keep this short. 

I started watching it just a little after it came out Sept. 10 and rewatched it almost religiously through mid-November. I’ll still occasionally pop an episode on when I’m having a bad day (episode seven “The Edge of Great” is my favorite). It’s easily become my comfort show.

People may think of it as a children’s show, but it’ll always be a family show to me instead –– trust me, there’s a difference. It’s a family show, because everyone can relate to it. Each character is unique and complex. I laughed. I swooned. I sang. I bit my nails in nervous anticipation. I cried. “Julie and the Phantoms” has everything worthy of a good series, and now I just need more. Please and thank you.


Home for Christmas

Image by Netflix

Available on Netflix

This Norwegian Christmas show is so fun. I started watching it in November and then returned to it this month when the second season was released. It’s such a fun, youthful take on the holiday genre. I tend to think of Christmas movies and shows as traditional, wholesome and something you can watch with children and your parents. However, I’ll definitely not be watching this with my family besides maybe my older sister.

In “Home for Christmas,” Johanne starts a 24-day search to find a boyfriend for Christmas in order to stop her family’s insistent comments on her relationship status. Terrible dates, sex, awkward family dinners and emotional confusion ensue.

I definitely wasn’t planning on getting into this show as much as I did. I just thought it was going to be a nice, festive way to pass the time. Well, I should’ve known myself better than that, because by the time season two rolled around I was on the edge of my seat to see who she would end up with. Jonas is definitely the superior option if you ask me.


Grand Army

Image by Netflix

Available on Netflix

After enjoying all the fun I had with “Home for Christmas,” things took a dramatic turn with Netflix’s “Grand Army.” This is an incredibly heavy show, and I had to watch it in short bursts because I couldn’t handle binge watching it in one go. It took a lot out of me. However depressing though, it’s important. 

“Grand Army” revolves around a group of five high school students who attend Grand Army, the largest public high school in Brooklyn. The first episode is about the school going into lockdown because of a local bomb threat. It then dives into so many things like terrorism, sexual assault, racism, homophobia, the dangers of the socioeconomic gap, mental health and so much more in these nine episodes.

This is a tough show to watch so I won’t be going around rewatching it anytime soon, but I do wish people talked about this more.


The Queen’s Gambit

THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT (L to R) ANYA TAYLOR as BETH HARMON in THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT. Cr. CHARLIE GRAY/NETFLIX © 2020

Available on Netflix

Oh goodness I love “The Queen’s Gambit” so much. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time I watched it. This Netflix limited series was released Oct. 23 and it quickly gained popularity –– it’s still on the U.S. top 10 –– and for good reason.

It’s dark and dramatic without feeling hopeless. The cast is incredible. The storyline about Elizabeth chasing her dream of being the best chess player in the world is captivating for someone (me) who doesn’t know the least bit about the game. I was mesmerized by this.

This show not only helped get me through this year, but it has helped so many others. I loved coming back to my apartment after work and being able to focus my attention on this. I was able to spend time predicting plot lines, analyzing shots on the screen and getting too emotionally invested in its characters. The ending was also perfect and gave me all the closure I craved. 


The Great British Baking Show

Image by Channel 4

Available on Netflix

I absolutely love “The Great British Bake Off” (“The Great British Baking Show” in the U.S.). It makes my heart so warm. It’s the perfect comfort show for the holiday season, especially the holiday special. The holiday special that featured bakers from previous seasons and then the cast of “Derry Girls” inspired me to do more Christmas baking and actually start watching “Derry Girls,” which I’ll get into more a little later.

It’s really nice having dramas to keep my mind buzzing this year but it’s also nice having light-hearted baking shows to focus on. It reminds me that there are good people out there. I live alone so I spend all my time either at my apartment, the office or going to the grocery store. Besides the people I interview for my other job, I haven’t been able to interact with too many people right now. That’s why “Bake Off” has been really refreshing and relieving to me.


Lovesick 

Image by Channel 4/Netflix

Available on Netflix

I got really into UK shows this winter because I’ve been incredibly disappointed in the U.S. with how it’s handled social issues and the COVID-19 pandemic. UK shows have really been an escape for me and there are so many to get caught up on.

“Lovesick” has been on my Netflix queue for over a year, and I finally decided to watch it. It’s a British sitcom about a man in his 20s, Dylan, who finds out he has chlamydia and sets out to contact every woman he’s had sex with. With just three short seasons, each episode is about a different woman. The episodes feature flashbacks that tie into Dylan and his flatmates’ lives in present-day and his current relationships. 

I know this may sound like a strange premise for a show, but I promise it’s so fun. We also get to follow the love lives of Dylan’s friends through the flashbacks and it’s immusing piecing everything together and seeing what makes these characters tick. I also just love British humor and a good accent.


Derry Girls

Image by Channel 4

Available on Netflix

I’m sticking with the UK theme with my next binge watch of 2020. So after I watched “The Great British Bake-Off” holiday episode that featured the “Derry Girls” cast, I knew I wanted to give this series a go. I had already promised myself to watch “Lovesick” though so I ended up watching these two series at the same time, switching between the two based on whatever my mood was in.

This show follows a group of teenagers who attend an all-girl Catholic school in Derry, Northern Ireland, in the ‘90s. This time in Ireland was called The Troubles and Northern Ireland Conflict because of the ethno-nationalist conflict between Protestants who wanted to stay part of the UK and Catholics who wanted to break away and join the National Republic of Ireland. This was a very violent time, especially in Derry where the show takes place. 

This makes the series so interesting to watch, because it’s not about The Troubles. It’s about this group of four girls and their guy friend (who also goes to the all-girls’ school) trying to navigate school, family and dating. They couldn’t care less about the conflict. There will be shooting or loud, military marching bands on the streets and the girls will be complaining about how they’re so loud and can’t study for an exam. Anyway, it’s hilarious and I love it. 


Tiny Pretty Things

Image by Netflix

Available on Netflix

I’m onto my final show of 2020, and I’ve managed to break away from British TV (*gives myself an applause*). I started watching “Tiny Pretty Things” on Netflix because a celebrity recommended it on his Instagram story, and it’s great. My first thought was that it resembles “Pretty Little Liars” so much. It’s wild. There’s a mystery we have to uncover with characters we don’t trust and so many relationships all in the setting of a dance academy in Chicago.

So here’s what we have to figure out. The best dancer at the school was pushed off a four-story building. Who did it? Why did they do it? Who are they in cahoots with? Also, she’s still alive and is currently in a coma at the hospital. What will happen when she wakes up? Oh, all the questions.

I’m getting really into this show and it reminds me of all the things I loved to watch in high school and college. It’s bringing me back, and I think that’s really special. I will admit that it’s a strange series to watch around the holiday season though.

OK, folks, that’s all I have for you. What series got you through 2020? Let us know in the comments below.

Brianna Taggart

Brianna Taggart gets way too emotionally invested in TV shows and loves to bring her love of stories and writing to her work in journalism. She has two degrees in journalism and communication from the University of Minnesota Duluth and works full time at a weekly newspaper in Minnesota. When she’s not covering community news, she’s covering entertainment for Bri’s Binge right here on the Daily Planet.

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