TL;DR: I know tracking all the TV I watch is super nerdy, but it means that I can look at all 48 shows I watched and give you a list of recommendations!
Tracking all the television I watch has to count as one of the nerdier things I do. It also results in horrifying statistics like discovering that in 2023, I watched 420 hours of television across 48 shows. But, you know, fuck it. I love good storytelling, and we’re living through a golden age of TV. Here’s some of the best stuff I watched this year:
This show has a really simple premise: What if everyone in the world got super powers except you? Building from that gives the actors here a lot of room to play. Jen, who has no powers and is really frustrated about it, lives with her best friend Carrie, who has the power to channel the dead, which she uses at a law firm to resolve boring legal estate disputes. Carrie’s boyfriend Kash has the ability to rewind time slightly and is obsessed with starting a vigilante group. Oh, and then there’s the stray cat they adopt and name Jizzlord, who turns out to be a grown man whose power is to turn into a cat, but he got stuck that way for years and lost his memory. It’s so stupid and funny and full of good music and great outfits and Annie and I loved every minute of it.
All I needed to hear was “Natasha Lyonne in a murder mystery of the week” and I was on-board. When I found out it was created by Ryan Johnson (yeah, the Knives Out guy), I was even more on board.
The essence of the show is that Lyonne’s character has the ability to tell when people are lying to her, and a complete inability to accept that. Her most common line is “bullshit” when someone lies to her, whether it’s appropriate or not. She’s on the run from the mob, so every episode involves her arriving in a new location and getting a shitty job that pays cash, and somehow getting wrapped up in a crime. She knows she should leave it alone, but she can’t just walk away. Seriously, it’s so good.
You may have heard they made an anime remake of Scott Pilgrim will all the actors from the movie coming back to voice their characters. That’s charming and cute, but wasn’t enough to make me want to watch it until I found this out: Episode one closely tracks the movie with a few cute changes, ending with the fight between Scott and Matthew Patel, the first evil ex. But in the anime, Patel wins, shocking everyone. From that point forward, Ramona is the main character, and it’s an excellent way to revisit these characters with a bit more maturity and insight.
Years ago, my brother Sean and I were complaining about the lack of good Star Trek and Star Wars. These were worlds we loved, and wanted to spend more time in. Why were they just putting out one movie every few years? Let’s have more! Let’s have TV shows and multiple movies across multiple styles and genres! Where’s my Star Wars detective show? What about a Star Trek high school drama set at Starfleet Academy? Give me more!
Well, the years have been kind to us and both Star Trek and Star Wars now have multiple shows and movies. Star Wars nailed the “more” part, but Star Trek nailed the “multiple styles” part. We have an embarrassment of riches now. Picard is for the hardcore old-school fans, full of deep lore and references. Discovery is the next main Trek show, following the bridge crew of a new ship having new adventures (especially starting in season three, when they made the excellent decision to throw the ship into the distant future, where they’re not so hamstrung by continuity). Lower Decks is loving satire and homage to The Next Generation era. Prodigy is young adult animation and Voyager homage.
But Strange New Worlds might be my favorite of them all. More than any other show has ever done, they’ve successfully threaded the needle of making a show with the vibe of the original series, without the baggage. They gleefully diverge from canon when it makes sense, while also filling the show with little moments that will make long-time fans squeal.
Season one features a Vulcan body-swap episode, romantic tension between Spock and nurse Chapel, and loads of exploration and delight at finding new things. They’ve got plenty of great callbacks to the original series (including some dedicated recreations of scenery, lighting, and music), while also updating everything to reflect changes in culture since the sixties.
I seriously can’t recommend it enough. You can come in blind without knowing anything about Star Trek, or watch it as a long-time fan. It’s just genuinely great, and I hope they make a load of seasons.
In the same vein, Andor manages to deliver a big-time story to the Star Wars universe. We originally met Cassian Andor as a hard-hearted spy in Rogue One, and this series explores his backstory. Along the way, we get to see the changes happening across the galaxy as the Empire becomes more and more fascist, and how slow the population is to react. Andor himself is only grudgingly pulled into the resistance, and the story gives enough room to breathe and let us slowly explore how one man becomes radicalized. It’s dark at times, and refreshingly adult compared to the main films’ simplistic “good will triumph” vibe. Excellent TV, and exactly what Sean and I wanted more of — let people tell more stories in this world.