The Top Shows (We Got Around to Watching) of the Year

James Gandolfini in closeup, start of The Sopranos.

In 2023, we mixed our streaming views with new and current stuff while also taking the TV time machine back a few decades.

We watched all of King of Queens. Caught up on The Morning Show. Continued to wait for more Yellowstone. We tried The Last of Us on our plane to Germany (en route to Italy) but it didn’t stick. We also enjoyed dipping back into Severance, and Inventing Anna. And we’ve gotten into even older network shows like Chuck and White Collar. We finally finished Ray Donovan, a great series but beware the raw sex and violence. However, once I whittled them down, none of those shows made my Top Seven.

Here are my (and some of Derek’s) top eight shows we watched this year. Year of release, notwithstanding. Why eight? Because I couldn’t decide on two more to get to ten, and five was too few!

Timothy Olyphant at the opening of The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.
Timothy Olyphant by Colson Griffith in Las Vegas.

8: Justified. (FX) (2010-1015)

This is the original. Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins elevate this show beyond a regular good-guy-versus-bad-guy western. The show was produced by Graham Yost, the Etobicoke-born screenwriter of movies like Speed and the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers. He’s the son of legendary TVO host Elwy, and although he also produces the Justified sequel (City Primeval), the original is far superior. Its story springboarded from tales written by Elmore Leonard about a US Marshall, Raylan Givens (Olyphant), who metes out his own brand of justice and chases a wily and complicated criminal (Goggins).

7. A Million Little Things. (ABC) (2018-2023)

A tight group of guy friends loses a member to suicide. It’s shocking and inexplicable. Or is it? While the friends try to figure out what happened and why, lives go on, relationships form and fall apart, and they keep closer tabs on each other. Each has been affected in a different way. The show challenges the idea of how well we can possibly know other people. I loved these characters so much and ugly-cried all through the final episode.

6. The Sopranos. (HBO) (1999-2007)

Derek had never watched this legendary mobster series while I’d only viewed it sporadically back in the day. A heartless (or is he?) mob boss who submits to therapy is still an unexpected marriage of ruthlessness and vulnerability. James Gandolfini is incredible as Tony Soprano. The supporting cast is exquisite. Simply a great show. And now we’ve seen the whole thing.

Bryan Cranston in front of a microphone at a TV industry convention

5. Your Honor. Showtime. (2020-2023)

Bryan Cranston could have walked away from Breaking Bad and retired. But he found another terrific role as a judge whose stellar career goes sideways. The story veers madly off in directions that are completely believeable and unpredictable – the best combination. Cranston is, once again, amazing. Sadly, the series ended after season two.

Close up of a smiling Keri Russell
Keri Russell by Assassin2005727

4. The Diplomat. Netflix. (2023-)

A general rule of screenwriting is that one page equals one minute of dialogue. Not this show. They must have five pages per minute for some scenes. There’s a lot of fast talking and it’s not your usual chatter. Keri Russell and Rufus Sewell star as a married couple. He’s a political superstar, she’s an ambassador, and when she’s promoted, he’s forced to take a back seat. All does not go well. This series is tremendously compelling.

3. Bosch. Amazon Prime. (2014-2021) & Bosch: Legacy (2022-)

Harry Bosch is another unforgettable character born in best-selling novels. Michael Connolly created him but Titus Welliver brings him to complex life in the series Bosch and Bosch: Legacy. Detective Bosch isn’t your typical – anything – and Welliver is a master. Mimi Rogers is great as lawyer Honey Chandler. Lance Reddick was also part of the cast before his shocking and untimely death this year.

Alan Ritchson speaking to an audience of Reacher fans in 2023.
Alan Ritchson (Reacher) by Gage Skidmore

2. Reacher. Amazon Prime. (2022-)

It was difficult – okay, impossible – to accept Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher on the big screen if you were a fan of the books. In Lee Child’s best-sellers, Reacher is a giant of a man, while Cruise is not. But the hit streaming series’ star, Alan Ritchson, is perfect. Reacher is ex-army military police, a man with a wide range of skills, aimless and alienated, but with loads of influential friends. All he owns is a toothbrush. He roams around, takes odd jobs, doesn’t worry too much about anything – oh – and he’s a vigilante who figures out and neutralizes dangerous and suspicious situations. Season Two just started streaming and Season Three is currently being produced. It’s Amazon Prime’s biggest hit.

The original cover of Daisy Jones and the Six features a model. The new cover has Riley Keough on it.

#1. Daisy Jones and the Six. Amazon Prime. (2023)

On a whim a few years ago, I bought the novel upon which this series was based. I couldn’t believe my luck. This was long before it was a Reese’s Book Club pick and I wouldn’t have known about that anyway. It’s a behind the scenes look at the lives, loves, music, and stardom of a short-lived but hugely successful band. Sam Claflin (Peaky Blinders) and Riley Keough lead an incredible cast and they do their own singing. (Claflin also masterfully loses his British accent.) This series was halted by the pandemic and finally became a massive hit just as Riley’s Mom, Lisa Marie Presley, died. We also loved the music, written especially for the show and released as an album. It’s like a music documentary but more serious than Spinal Tap. It’s also going to win a bagful of awards. We are about to watch it again from the beginning.

Happy viewing!

6 thoughts on “The Top Shows (We Got Around to Watching) of the Year”

  1. Great list! Lissa and I loved The Diplomat. We also watched Your Honour. It was a great role for Cranston and entertaining but ending the show was the right decision. Try to finish Severance if you haven’t already. And watch The Bear! It’s a quick binge and easily the best show of the year in my books.

    1. We did finish Severance and really enjoyed it. We watched a couple of episodes of The Bear and then forgot about it in the mix of everything else!! We’ll go back to it. It’s great. Thanks, Jay.

  2. Favourites of ours from the past year or two: Deadloch, Afterlife, Nat Geographic’s outstanding Great Rivers of the World, and especially Four Bedrooms, from Australia

  3. Just an observation: Not a single Marvel title in the list. It seems like a million years ago, but Andor was amazing (yes, a Star Wars show). And the second season of Strange New Worlds was strong (yes, a Star Trek series, I’m surprised myself).

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