The best TV shows of 2023
15 December 2023, 14:56 | Updated: 15 December 2023, 17:33
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From The Last of Us and Succession to Gen V and beyond, here's our picks for the best TV of 2023.
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Another year of iconic TV has come to a close and 2023 has truly delivered on all fronts.
Pedro Pascal as an apocalypse dad, Pedro Pascal as a space dad, a raunchy-yet-unexpectedly-emotional Bridgerton prequel, teenage girls engaging in some heavy cannibalism, an exploding penis, Will Poulter as a tattooed pastry chef, pure reality excellence courtesy of the Selling Sunset and OC agents, Kim Kardashian actually being good at acting, "I'M THE ELDEST BOYYYY!"... And so! much! more!
But which shows ended up making it onto our Best of 2023 list? Here's your answer... Here are the 20 best TV shows of the year, as voted for by the PopBuzz team.
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20) The Devil's Plan
Tucked into the depths of Netflix is The Devil's Plan, the South Korean reality game show that pits some of the most intelligent minds in entertainment, law, social media, and beyond against each other in a twisting battle of wits, nerve, alliance and strategy. While some reality game shows fall victim to predictability, tropes, and orchestrated drama, The Devil’s Plan keeps viewers on their toes just as much as the contestants, where plot twist after plot twist will leave you questioning everything. What sets The Devil’s Plan apart is the contestants' abilities to understand the mind-bending tasks they are set, constantly battling to outsmart one another and stay three steps ahead in a mental battle of the titans. Warning: other reality game shows will be held to this high standard after watching. - Emily Beard
Swarm has one of the most chilling and disturbing storylines we’ve seen in recent years, mainly because it was clearly inspired by real life events involving Beyoncé and the Beyhive. Aside from Dre (Dominique Fishback) going on an obsession-fuelled killing spree, we saw Billie Eilish as a cult leader, Paris Jackson as a stripper, and Rory Culkin in a shock full-frontal scene whilst eating strawberries. This show left us with some serious shit-posting anxiety and many unanswered storyline questions… Was it just a dream? Did she get arrested after storming the stage? Did she really get in the car with Ni’jah? And of course "Who’s your favourite artist?" (A question I might never answer truthfully again). Thanks Janine Nabers and Donald Glover for altering my brain chemistry 4 eva. – Tia Owomoyela
18) Fellow Travelers
Matt Bomer and Jonathan Bailey playing star-crossed lovers in an epic gay romance and political thriller? What more could you want. As soon as Fellow Travellers was announced, anticipation was high and the series more than lives up to the hype. Not only is it a gripping, sexy, drama but it's also the kind of show that will move you to tears. Hawk and Skippy are flawed, complex, three-dimensional characters that you can't help but root for, and Matt and Jonathan are nothing short of sublime. – Sam Prance
17) The Fall of the House of Usher
One thing about Mike Flanagan: He’s always gonna deliver a banger. For his last outing with Netflix, Flanagan assembled his own acting Avengers to form one of his best casts to date to take on a dark and twisty adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s iconic works. Incredible production, a healthy amount of signature Flanagan jumps scares and stellar performances all round, but it’s undoubtably Carla Gugino’s standout turn as the shape-shifting Verna that takes the cake here. Whatever Mike Flanagan does next, we WILL be sat and we WILL be streaming. – Katie Louise Smith
16) Sex Education
We’ll start by acknowledging the elephant in the room: this was not everyone’s favourite Sex Education season. Sure, it wasn't perfect but there was so much to love about the show’s final run. The decision to introduce several new characters, and a change of school, kept things fresh and the storyline between Abbi and Roman broke new ground for representation of trans relationships in mainstream media. Though we’ll never forgive the writers for denying us a happy ending for Otis and Ruby, there were better outcomes for the shows most endearing characters, Maeve and Aimee. One of the best British comedy shows of the last decade, we’ll miss these characters and the technicolour world they live in immensely. – Woodrow Whyte
15) One Piece
It goes without saying that the move from a manga classic to live action adaptation is a treacherous road to cross. So consider us high relieved – nay hyped – when Netflix’s One Piece adaptation excelled at crossing over mediums. It's a tall order to please the immense amount of fans of the best selling manga series in history, but thanks to a close collaboration with original creator Eiichiro Oda, and a huge episode budget, the One Piece series was given the care and coins it deserved in order to do it justice. Impeccable casting paired with skilful makeup/costuming and great CGI immerse viewers into the fantastically weird and lovable world of Monkey D. Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates. With season 2 officially on the way, it’s not a ~stretch~ to say we’re excited for what’s to come. – EB
What makes Yellowjackets special is not simply all the blood curdling gore and bone-chilling mystery of the woods that make for an uneasy haunting atmosphere, but that the show tells this through a realistic and grounded lens of female friendship and sisterhood. While the situations the women are in are highly surreal, the relationships and dynamics the Yellowjackets are forced to face are sometimes so real and horrifying, that you wonder whether it's the realities of the female experience, not the woods, that are the real horror. This season features stellar performances from the whole cast, in particular Sophie Nélisse, and a soundtrack packed with a roster of perfectly executed '90s musical classics that will have you racing to create a playlist faster than Coach Ben hotfooting it away after setting the cabin on fire. With the impact of one major actor not returning for the next season, and the mystery of the antler queen still unsolved, we can’t wait to see what the mystery of the woods will bring in season 3. – EB
13) Lessons In Chemistry
Adapting a novel into a series is risky business. More likely than not it will fall short of expectations and fail to live up to the version of the book readers imagined in their heads. However, Lessons in Chemistry is a triumph in every sense of the word. The show perfectly captures the world Bonnie Garmus created, and Brie Larson is incredible as Elizabeth Zott. The series is about a chemist who starts a popular cooking show in the '50s but you don’t need to have an interest in chemistry or cooking to become obsessed with this gem of a show. – SP
12) Poker Face
After mastering the big screen comedy-murder mystery with Knives Out and Glass Onion, Rian Johnson took one look at the TV landscape and said: "You guys are in a crisis... I’m on my way." Led by the genius Natasha Lyonne, Poker Face follows Charlie, a waitress-slash-human lie detector, who finds herself caught up in a Vegas murder mystery. After setting up the high stakes storyline in the first episode, each following episode features a self-contained unsolved crime (an homage to the classic mystery-of-the-week shows) that Charlie attempts to unscramble before she has to skip town again. It's funny, it's sleek, it's stylish and packed to the brim with iconic guest star after iconic guest star. 10/10, would recommend. – KLS
11) Only Murders in the Building
The longer a show lasts, the more likely it is that the writing will start to lag and get repetitive to the point where you tune out. Season 3 of Only Murders in the Building is excellent, though. Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez remain the perfect oddball trio, and additional performances by the likes of Paul Rudd, Meryl Streep and Ashley Park breathe new life into the show. With another expertly-crafted mystery to boot, there are few comedies more enjoyable than Only Murders on TV right now. Did Meryl and Ashley's 'Look for the Light' end up in my Spotify Wrapped this year? Maybe so! – SP
10) Gen V
Being the first spinoff from The Boys, Gen V had a lot to live up to. In a franchise known for pushing comedic boundaries and shocking its viewers, Gen V truly ticks every box. This series introduces us to Vought International Godolkin University, where our main girlie Marie Moreau (Jaz Sinclair) is learning to control her powers. There, she teams up with a group of supes-in-training to uncover some extremely unsavoury secrets about the university, all while living a college experience, full of sex, drugs and, erm, violence. Only time will tell if The Boys season 4 can make my jaw drop even further than Gen V... because nothing is beating that infamous "cocksplosion" scene in episode 4. Whew chileeeee! – TO
9) The Summer I Turned Pretty
The world may have been divided over Team Conrad and Team Jeremiah this summer but everyone was Team The Summer I Turned Pretty. Building on the drama of season 1, season 2 beautifully explores heavy topics like grief and family politics all while keeping us entertained with the best TV love triangle of the decade so far. New characters like Skye add further dimension to Jenny Han’s world, and Lola Tung grounds the entire show with a brilliant performance as our chaotic and loveable teen icon Belly. Oh, and the soundtrack? No other TV show comes close. – SP
8) Abbott Elementary
Following an award winning season 1, Abbott Elementary delves further into the fictional lives of the teachers at Abbott and gives us even more reason to obsess over them. From the hilarious one liners to epic guest roles by the likes of Taraji P. Henson, it’s impossible not to laugh and cry while watching this show. The bit about Barbara confusing Black and white celebrities? TV gold. Perhaps, best of all, season 2 goes all out on the will-they-won't-they Janine and Gregory romance. Never in my life have I wanted two characters to end up together like this. – SP
7) Jury Duty
Jury Duty is a must watch. The not-quite-reality-series finds a documentary crew follow a court case from start to finish but there’s a twist: Every single person in the court room is an actor except for one person, Ronald Gladden – and he has no idea that it’s all fake. As the most unhinged and chaotic court case unfolds around him, viewers watch as Ron patiently rolls with the punches and processes everything in real time. The premise of Jury Duty is so simple, it’s kind of crazy how no one thought about doing it before. The hilarious group of improv actors are incredible, but it’s truly Ron, who turns out to be one of the nicest, kindest, most supportive guys ever, who makes the show so brilliant and surprisingly heartwarming. Ultimately, though, Jury Duty exists to serve as one very important reminder: James Marsden is an international treasure. – KLS
If there was an Emmy award for ‘outstanding cliffhangers in every episode of a season’, then Beef would undoubtedly be the champion. Just when you think Amy and Danny’s road-rage fuelled feud cannot get any worse, the drama escalates to another level of insanity. Houses burn down, children are abducted, a woman is split in half by the door to her panic room for heaven’s sake, and yet here I am HOWLING with laughter throughout the entire thing. Am I sick and twisted in the mind? Maybe. But, in reality, this is the result of a brilliantly original story with truly remarkable, award-worthy performances, especially from the leads Ali Wong and Steven Yeun. Smart, shocking and hilarious, a perfect piece of television. – WW
5) Queen Charlotte
In a world in which franchises are continually expanded for the sake of money, it's become increasingly rare for spin-offs to actually be good. And yet, dear gentle reader, Queen Charlotte is GREAT and potentially even better than its origin series. Like Bridgerton, Queen Charlotte has a central romance that will leave you gasping for air with how visceral it is. It also takes the time to fully explore the history of its subjects, and the dialogue in every scene is award-worthy. I need someone to tell me "I will stand with you between the heavens and the Earth. I will tell you where you are," on a daily basis. – SP
4) The Bear
When beloved series The Bear returned for a second season, it could have been make or break for Carmy and his fellow chefs at 'The Original Beef of Chicagoland'. Could the show live up to the lightning in the bottle that was season 1? Thankfully, where so many shows struggle upon returning for a second season, The Bear thrived more than Richie when he finally admitted he was a Swiftie (IYKYK). While season 1 unravelled the mystery of Mikey’s death and dove deeply into Carmy’s psyche on a close, personal level, season 2 returned on a much wider scale. It weaved an intricate tapestry of personal backstories for the whole restaurant team, had a show-stopping roster of cameos (Jamie Lee Curtis... can you literally say 'mother'?) and delivered vivid, globetrotting backdrops so masterfully shot that they will make you contemplate abandoning everything to move to Copenhagen to become a pastry chef alongside Will Poulter. The Bear season 2? Yes Chef! – EB
3) The Newsreader
Set in 1980s Australia, against the backdrop of a newsroom where personal meltdowns regularly threaten to derail live bulletins, The Newsreader is the best show you’ve probably never even heard of. At the heart of the impeccably written series is the relationship between newsreaders Helen Norville and Dale Jennings, brought to life by Anna Torv and Sam Reid who both deliver masterful performances deserving of so (!) much (!) more (!) recognition and attention. The supporting cast are phenomenal too. Season 2 ups the ante in every way possible, and the end of episode 5 in particular features one of this year's most jaw-dropping "OMFGGGGGGG" TV moments courtesy of Helen and one of those the aforementioned meltdowns. (For those familiar with the 'Motherquake' phenomenon, it’s an all out 9.9. It's iconic. Astronomically iconic. Anna Torv devours.) At six episodes long, it's just the right amount but also nowhere near enough at the same time. Season 3 can't come soon enough! – KLS
Succession pulled out all the stops in its final season, and if you thought season 3’s betrayal-of-biblical-proportions would be the most devastating thing to ever happen to the Roy siblings, you’d be so fucking wrong. Succession season 4 gave us everything: Ludicrously capacious bags, Shiv in full Girlfailure mode, the great 'Underlined or crossed out?' debate, chaotic business trip to Norway, a Meal Fit For A King, Gerri!, outstanding writing, incredible career-best performances, and a shock character death that will be talked about for decades to come. Some might argue that season 2 and 3’s unforgettable finales remain the show's most explosive and brutal, but that final board vote and the result that followed? That packed the worst punch of all. Succession has always been a Shakespearean tragedy and in the end, it was a finale fitting for the tragic Roy siblings. Succession is, without a single shred of doubt, one of the greatest TV shows of all time. And if you don't agree, you're just not a serious person. – KLS
1) The Last of Us
For TV lovers, there’s no better feeling than realising the show you’ve been ridiculously hyped for is better than you could have ever imagined. The Last of Us was that show in 2023 – and it was spectacular.
Managing to balance the delicate line of delivering shot-for-shot nods to the original game, while also bringing something new and fresh to the table by expanding and elevating various characters, relationships and key moments, TLOU set the bar for all future video game adaptations. (That bar is now very, very high.)
After an absolutely heart-thumping first episode, The Last of Us rammed its tendrils down our throats (RIP Tess x) and did not let go. Episode 5 and episode 8 deserve a shout out here but episode 3, the unexpected-yet-welcome detour featuring Bill, Frank and their beautiful, devastating love story, is by far and away the best episode of the season, quite possibly the best episode of the year, and one of the greatest stand-alone episodes of all time.
Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey are outstanding, successfully capturing the essence of what made fans fall in love with Joel and Ellie’s dynamic in the original game, while also elevating it in their own way. They’re so perfectly matched it’s wild to think they never even had a chemistry read prior to filming.
And then there’s the roster of impressive supporting players and guest stars… Murray Bartlett and Nick Offerman! Lamar Johnson and Keivonn Woodard! Gabriel Luna! Merle Dandridge! Anna Torv! Melanie Lynskey! Storm Reid! The legend herself, the OG Ellie, Ashley Johnson, for Christ’s sake! (Casting Ashley as Ellie’s mum? Perfection.)
Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann now face the mammoth task of adapting the vast storyline of Part 2 into a successful follow up season. We are NOT ready for what that may or may not include (if you know, you know), but we have faith that another banger is on the way. – KLS
🏆 Stranger Things 4 (2022)
🏆 It's A Sin (2021)
🏆 I May Destroy You (2020)
🏆 Euphoria (2019)
🏆 Queer Eye (2018)