Top TV of 2023

A few small-screen favorites from the year in review

By Zach Hagadone
Reader Staff

More than a few cultural observers have opined that we’re living in a “Golden Age of TV,” and that may be true, but those same observers have been saying the same thing since around the time of the second season of Game of Thrones, a dozen years ago.

I propose we’re simply living in an Age of TV, considering how many shows there are to choose from streaming on so many platforms and how much time we’re willing to devote to them.

While the writers’ strike in 2023 put a pause on programming for a time, Variety still reported that there were so many small-screen offerings to choose from that its critics only agreed on a single series to include in their 19 top picks for 2023 (Gen V).

I’m no slouch when it comes to boob tube consumption, but looking at Variety’s list, I could only identify a few that I’d seen over the past year. A couple of them are in the list below, but generally these were the highlights of my 2023 viewing — as well as a few fond goodbyes to favorite series that reached their final episodes.   

The Last of Us (Max)

Based on the popular video game series, this was a show that just kept on giving. Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey absolutely tore up the screen as the central characters, who must fight for safety in a world overrun by fungus-infected zombies and their scheming, murderous fellow survivors. While the premise of the show is pretty rote (zombie apocalypse, etc., etc.), The Last of Us layered on episode after episode filled with tension, pathos, heart and real drama. Not to mention it was as gorgeously filmed and choreographed as it was expertly acted. This might have been my favorite of the year.

Gen V (Amazon Prime)

For the uninitiated, this is a spinoff of the superheroes-gone-bad series The Boys, which imagines how horrible it would be if superheroes actually existed in the real world, with all their not-so-super human impulses. In Gen V, that premise is extended to up-and-coming “supes,” who are created and trained in a special school. Gen V takes the cynical heart of The Boys and ratchets it up with all the complexities inherent with hormonal youngsters. Not for the faint of heart; but, if you can stomach the gore and deviant carnality, it’s a subversive takedown of the superhero ethos.

The Righteous Gemstones (Max)

This series is an epic sendup of the world of big-money televangelism, revealing (and reveling in) the profound moral decay behind those who make morality their business. To wit: The Gemstone family has founded an international mega-church corporation, but bickering through a swamp of greed, ambition and deviance are its children, their significant others and extended family members, who are all rotten to the core. At turns deadpan and outrageous, it’s a devilishly incisive critique of hypocrisy in the name of the Lord.   

Poker Face (Peacock)

In this series, Natasha Lyonne plays a wise-cracking, beer-swilling, cigarette-puffing former-casino employee on the run from her boss after a series of unfortunate events. Twist: she has the mysterious ability to always, always, know when someone’s lying. While trying to evade the big-bad’s henchmen, she encounters various criminal situations in which her superpower is (almost always reluctantly) deployed to crack the case. It’s a witty, creative and twisty vehicle in which Lyonne’s comedic genius takes the wheel and runs hell for leather.

Cunk on Earth (Netflix)

If Philomena Cunk didn’t exist, we would have to invent her. Lucky for us, British comedian Diane Morgan already did with the mockumentary Cunk on Earth, which purports to cover the sweep of human history but ends up spoofing everything from the subjects it supposedly covers to the experts it features and the entire notion of such “big history” television presentations. Morgan is drop-dead hilarious in her character of Cunk, bumbling through every minute of every episode with gleeful abandon and, rather than coming off as a total dunce, blindsiding “civilization” with some under-the-radar zingers.  


A number of my favorite series in recent memory met their finales in 2023, including Succession (Max), Ted Lasso (AppleTV), The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Prime) and The Crown (Netflix). Among them, I found the endings of Succession and Ted Lasso most fulfilling — though for completely opposite reasons. For real, the final episodes of those two shows (not unlike the characters who populated them) couldn’t be more at odds in tone, content or context. Marvelous Mrs. Maisel wrapped itself up leaving me feeling nostalgic and even a little wistful. Finally, The Crown brought itself into (or close to) the current era of British royal family history less and less successfully over the final season. As for the last scene, it’s probably a good thing Queen Elizabeth II isn’t around to see it, much less hear about it. 

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