by Julian Spivey
10. "Church and State" (Succession)
I think a lot of best TV episode of the year lists would have the devastating “Connor’s Wedding” as the final season episode of “Succession” on the list – and don’t get me wrong, it’s amazing with terrific performances by the three Roy kids especially – but I’m going to go with the penultimate episode of the show “Church and State,” which sees everyone joining for the funeral of family patriarch Logan Roy and the super honest eulogies from his brother Ewan, an Emmy-nominated performance from James Cromwell, the devastating breakdown of Kieran Culkin’s Roman Roy and the redemption of Kendall Roy, meanwhile everyone is working behind the scenes to either destroy the GoJo deal or make sure it goes through. It was a riveting hour of television, as so many of “Succession” episodes were.
9. "Teacher Conference" (Abbott Elementary)
I know ABC’s sitcom “Abbott Elementary” has only been on for two seasons but when we TV viewers are shipping two characters we want the show to put them together – even if we know deep down it might be a bit quick in the show’s run. There’s been no doubt since the show began that Quinta Brunson’s Janine and Tyler James Williams’s Gregory would be together but that doesn’t mean we were prepared for how darn cute things would get in “Teacher Conference.” The teachers are attending a conference – that feels like a work vacation for them – and when Janine and Gregory wind up having a few drinks together they begin to realize fully they have feelings for one another and with a little lack of inhibition engage in their first kiss – before, as is always the case in these “will-they-or-won’t-theys” realize what they’ve done and back away. Nevertheless, it’s likely the show’s cutest moment to date and proof Janine and Gregory are TV’s newest Pam and Jim.
8. "The Testi-Roastial" (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel)
Amazon Prime Video’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” has been one of my favorite shows on TV over the last half decade and it wrapped up its final season this year in a mostly positive way with a few duds thrown into the mix – but the best episode of the season and one of the show’s finest during its run was “The Testi-Roastial,” a true showcase for Alex Borstein’s Susie Myerson, the manager of comedian Midge Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan). The final season is told with flash-forwards that show us that Susie and Midge had a parting of ways later on in their career together and this episode reveals the reasons behind it – while also giving us a Friars Club roast to Susie, who went on to be one of the most successful managers/agents in the world of comedy. It’s a brilliant performance throughout by Borstein with the most touching moment showing how she was there for her old mentor Harry Drake (David Paymer) when he needed anyone in his life to do so.
7. "Elora's Dad" (Reservation Dogs)
The question of who Elora Danan’s (Devery Jacobs) father was and would we as an audience ever meet him always hung over the head of “Reservation Dogs.” It clearly wasn’t something that Elora ever seemed to be concerned about until she needed his signature on some paperwork to attend college. You don’t expect the meeting between Elora and her father, and it’s clear she just wants the signature and to bolt, to go very well but the show makes Rick, as played by guest star Ethan Hawke in terrific casting, likable from the start. He’s interested in learning about Elora and doesn’t make excuses for not seeking her out years before. His life hasn’t been easy but then again Elora grew up without a father and her mom died when she was just a baby. Still, the two seem to have an understanding and curiosity about each other, and the performances from Jacobs and Hawke, whom the entire episode focuses on, are terrific. The best thing about the episode for me is it’s written by Jacobs herself and shows just how in tune with her character she is and how many talents she also directed an episode in the final season. There aren’t enough superlatives for me to properly convey by appreciation of Jacobs and I hope we see her in some more great things and soon.
6. "Dead Man's Hand" (Poker Face)
The pilot, titled “Dead Man’s Hand,” for director Rian Johnson’s comedy mystery series “Poker Face” was the perfect way to set up this series that is both a throwback in general feel and its crime of the week “Columbo”-style procedural. Natasha Lyonne’s Charlie Cale works at a casino and has a gift (sometimes a curse) for being able to tell when people are lying. The casino’s boss played by Adrien Brody in the episode wants to use Charlie’s talent in a scheme but when she realizes he had her best friend killed she turns on him leading to her having to go on the run for the remainder of the season. Brody is always fantastic as a skeezy baddie and Lyonne instantly makes the audience fall in love with Charlie with her unique personality.
5. "Forks" (The Bear)
The “Forks” episode coming directly after the “Fishes” episode of “The Bear” was WILD. There was so much chaos in “Fishes” and then “Forks” comes along with so much order that Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) is truly a fish out of water in this new setting where he’s been sent to an upscale fine dining restaurant for some much-needed education. When Richie spends much of the week cleaning and arranging forks he views it as punishment from Carmy (Jeremy Allen White) but by the end of the episode we as an audience and Richie understand the reasoning for the assignment – it’s to gain confidence in himself. It’s to make him see he’s not just a loser but has qualities that can make him truly successful in the restaurant business. It’s such a terrific performance from Moss-Bachrach and a wonderful character-building episode for Richie, who we’ve always loved despite his flaws.
4. "it takes a psycho" (Barry)
“it takes a psycho” is such a great episode of “Barry” in that it shows how incredible the supporting cast of the HBO series is without even the titular character appearing until the final seconds of the episode. In the previous episode, Barry Berkman (Bill Hader) had escaped from prison and this sets all of the others on edge, particularly Henry Winkler’s Gene Cousineau, who believes Barry is out to kill him for setting him up and getting him arrested at the end of season three. But the main performances I marveled at in the episode were those of Sarah Goldberg as Sally Reed, whose acting career has hit the skids due to her blowing up on a subordinate and it going viral and is now attempting to resurrect her career as an acting teacher and the tragic storyline involving Anthony Carrigan’s Hank and Michael Irby’s Cristobal when they differ on how to run their criminal enterprise – with Cristobal having wanted to go clean. Goldberg and Carrigan truly put on master classes in this episode.
3. "Deer Lady" (Reservation Dogs)
It’s always discomforting when a series that’s not a horror series, especially one that has many laughs, does an episode in the vein of a horror film – but I usually find them to be among the most riveting (like the Teddy Perkins episode of “Atlanta”) of a series when they do so. “Reservation Dogs” made the brilliant decision to tell the story of the Deer Lady, whom we first saw in season, and how she became this vigilante of justice against horrible men. When Deer Lady was a young girl she was kidnapped and taken to a boarding school to essentially de-native Natives, which was brilliantly shown by showrunner and writer of the episode Sterlin Harjo with the staff of mostly nuns speaking in garbled, unintelligible language because English wasn’t understood by the Natives. The harshness of the boarding school would lead to the death of some of its inhabitants and when the young girl’s friend is killed she makes her escape attempt and comes upon a magical deer in the woods who turns her into a spirit with the mission of putting an end to unsavory men. The performance of Deer Lady as an adult who never ages, played by Kaniehtiio Horn is at times chilling and at times, especially in her dealings with Bear (D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai), so warm and motherly. The “Deer Lady” episode of “Reservation Dogs” is not only one of the best episodes of television of the year because of the amazing performances and storytelling involved but also the fact that it shines a light – as the series was so adept at doing – of telling a story that’s too often untold.
2. "Long, Long Time" (The Last of Us)
When the third episode titled “Long, Long Time” of the first season of HBO’s horror drama “The Last of Us” aired early in 2023 I remember hearing and seeing raves about it being an instant classic and early candidate for TV episode of the year but not being a gamer – the show is based off a popular video game – or really a huge zombie genre viewer I didn’t know if I’d ever give the show a chance. I did in the final month of the year and, boy, am I glad I did. Not only is everything people said about this episode true but the first season of “The Last of Us” wound up No. 3 on my Best TV Shows of the Year list. “Long, Long Time” is mostly a stand-alone episode with the leads of the series only appearing at the end of the episode but the story it tells between two characters vaguely related to the story is maybe the most romantic on TV all year. Nick Offerman, known more for his comedy chops than his dramatic acting, plays Bill, a paranoid prepper whose paranoia has served him very well when a pandemic caused by fungus turns the public into zombies. But the life of a loner trying to survive the apocalypse can be a boring one, so when Murray Bartlett’s stumbles upon Bill’s compound, the typically recluse Bill eventually reveals himself as a bit of a softie and the two embark on a beautiful relationship throughout the years that’s told in an hour-long episode. It’s beautiful. It’s romantic. It’s tragic. But the script by showrunner Craig Mazin and wonderful performances by Offerman and Bartlett easily make it one of the most touching episodes of TV I’ve seen all year.
1. "Fishes" (The Bear)
The stunt casting of so many famous faces for the “Fishes” episode of “The Bear” could’ve been such a distraction that it could have made for a disastrous episode. However, thanks to the always impeccable writing of showrunner Christopher Storer and Joanna Calo and the terrific performances of everyone involved “Fishes” would up being the most riveting episode of television for me in 2023. It’s a flashback episode that explains so much about Carmy (Jeremy Allen White), Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) and Natalie (Abby Elliott) as we’ve seen them over the first season and a half. Jon Bernthal, who briefly played the eldest brother Michael in season one, returns for a beefier (wasn’t intended as a pun, but sure let’s go with it) role showing off his larger-than-life personality. Jamie Lee Curtis appears as the matriarch of the family Donna, who has some depression that seems to run within the Berzatto family, Bob Odenkirk is there as Uncle Lee, Sarah Paulson as Cousin Michelle, John Mulaney as her husband Stevie and Gillian Jacobs as Richie’s wife Tiffany. There are so many fantastic scenes throughout the episode that I can say you’ll have to watch it to really enjoy but the two that stood out to me the most and truly made for the most stressful watch (why is it the super stressful episodes of “The Bear” are the best episodes on all of television these last two years?) were the dinner table feud between Michael and Uncle Lee with absolutely seething performances by Bernthal and Odenkirk and the subsequent freak out by Donna. When Emmy season comes around for the second season of the show expect the guest categories to be littered with names from this thrilling, stress-inducing, brilliantly written and acted episode.
What was your favorite episode of television in 2023?
by Julian Spivey
10. Guest Actors (Reservation Dogs)
The cast of “Reservation Dogs” over its terrific three-season run on Hulu was pitch-perfect and it would be a crime not to call out casting directors Angelique Midthunder and Jennifer Schwalenberg for their job bringing the talented actors together. What truly blew me away in the show’s final season this year was the terrific guest actors the show brought forth – some who had appeared in the series briefly before and others who hadn’t. Whether it was Graham Greene as an eccentric recluse who believes in aliens and struggles with his mental health, Kaniehtiio Horn as Deer Lady, a spirit in the form of a beautiful woman who seeks revenge on bad men for horrors of the past, Lily Gladstone as Hokti, Willie Jack’s aunt who’s in prison but Willie Jack looks up to for wisdom or Ethan Hawke as Elora Danan’s estranged father the entire season was filled with these wonderful, lived-in performances that made every second of the final season mesmerizing to watch.
9. Ego Nwodim (Saturday Night Live)
We as a pop culture society should be talking about Ego Nwodim in the same way we did about past female greats on the iconic sketch comedy show “Saturday Night Live” like Kate McKinnon, Cecily Strong, Kristen Wiig, Amy Poehler and others but for some reason, her terrific body of work still seems to be a bit under the radar. Nwodim is consistently among the best cast members on ‘SNL,’ but had the greatest moment of her time on the show toward the end of season 48 in the spring when she debuted the ridiculously wild Lisa from Temecula, who expects her meat thoroughly cooked and won’t put up with any nonsense. It was the hardest I laughed at watching television in all of 2023.
8. Con O'Neill (Our Flag Means Death)
There are many standout characters in Max’s pirate, LGBTQ+ comedy “Our Flag Means Death,” with the flashiest role going to Taika Waititi’s Blackbeard and many of the laughs going to Rhys Darby’s Stede Bonnet and much of the series focusing on their relationship. But the performance I couldn’t take my eyes off of in season two was Con O’Neill’s bastard of a pirate Izzy Hands, who was Blackbeard’s longtime right-hand man who wound up on his wrong side early on in season two to the point where it damn near killed him. The range of emotions felt by Izzy during the second season and the way O’Neill was able to portray them from his eyes and his witty repartee throughout the season had me realizing it was the best performance on the show. I’ll never forget his performance of “La Vie en Rose” in “Calypso’s Birthday.”
7. Natasha Lyonne (Poker Face)
Natasha Lyonne is one of a kind. Nobody quite looks like her and nobody quite sounds like her. Much of the time it’s like she has an old-school energy to her that feels like she’d be more at home in the noir era of the ‘40s than today. But these aspects worked brilliantly for her performance as Charlie Cale on Peacock’s fun comedy mystery “Poker Face.” Lyonne’s Charlie is something of a modern-day Columbo but uses her unique knack for being able to determine when people are lying to solve crimes wherever she goes. Lyonne being the only regular cast member of the show also means she has to carry a lot of the show’s load and play off of guest actors every episode but she does it with aplomb.
6. Nick Mohammed (Ted Lasso)
There were a lot of questions going into the final season of AppleTV+’s Emmy-winning “Ted Lasso,” but the one that probably stood out the most for me was what this show was going to do with Nick Mohammed's character of Nate Shelley. Nate was one of the many likable characters on the show for most of its first two seasons going from the soccer team’s kit man to an assistant in that span but toward the end of season two the show turned him into a baddie and for reasons that weren’t all that clear. But “Ted Lasso” was always very human and humane to its characters and the redemption of Nate in the final season and watching Mohammed play him in all sorts of facets – from villain, to falling in love, to gaining some much-needed confidence and turning into the best version of him we’ve seen all series was a lovely way to finish off his run on the show.
5. Nick Offerman (The Last of Us)
I realize that Nick Offerman has done drama before but it’s not something I’ve seen him do before. I loved him as the manly man Ron Swanson on “Parks & Recreation” and he often seems to play a version of this masculine, blue-collar character and he still did that in the wonderful “Long, Long Time” episode of HBO’s “The Last of Us,” which earned him an Emmy nomination (something he stunningly never received for playing Swanson) for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series, but he also showed us a more loving, romantic and softer performance than we’re used to from him and was amazing at it. In the episode, Offerman plays Bill, a paranoid survivalist whose paranoia has led to him surviving and truly thriving in a world gone to hell when a fungal pandemic strikes and turns people into zombies. But it’s a lonely life to lead and when Frank, played by Emmy-nominated Murray Bartlett, stumbles upon Bill’s compound they strike up a lovely relationship that lasts for many years. I won’t spoil how their story ends but it’s one of the loveliest performances of the year on television and a true candidate for TV episode of the year.
4. Sarah Goldberg (Barry)
HBO’s “Barry” was filled with terrific characters but I felt like Sarah Goldberg’s struggling actress Sally Reed was always an unsung hero of the show and she truly was its shining star in the final season. At the end of the show’s penultimate season, Bill Hader’s Barry Berkman is arrested when the authorities finally realize he’s a hitman involved in multiple deaths. So, the final season begins with Sally realizing that her boyfriend who she recently broke up with wasn’t who she thought he was, while also being at the lowest point in her career. Goldberg plays all of these feelings perfectly but her true starring moment comes late in the season when she’s reunited with Barry and living life on the run as a waitress in the middle of nowhere using her acting skills to truly live within the role. She also has one of the funniest moments of the year on TV – and one that speaks to her character so well – when she’s trying to show her acting student how a scene should be done and realizing she’s knocking it out of the park completely tries to steal the role right in front of her. I will never forgive the Emmy Awards for snubbing Goldberg for this final season.
3. Jeremy Strong (Succession)
Truthfully, most of the cast of “Succession” could be on this list. Sarah Snook, Kieran Culkin and Matthew Macfadyen specifically all had standout seasons and moments in the HBO drama’s final year. But Jeremy Strong’s Kendall Roy was always the one viewers felt would be the succeeder of his dad’s media empire and via Strong’s much-talked and written about ways of method acting he at times seemed to truly become this character. Strong completely owned every facet of Kendall from the many struggles with substances and depression to the feeling of knowing exactly what he’s doing to truly being a complete buffoon without much of a clue. Strong could knock scenes out of the park with his character’s vicious wit, while also conveying so much without saying a word at all, as he does in the devastating final scene and image of the series.
2. Jessica Williams (Shrinking)
Jessica Williams’s performance as Gaby, a psychiatrist who works with the lead character Jimmy Laird, on AppleTV+’s freshman comedy “Shrinking” was the single funniest performance on television in 2023. I hadn’t been too familiar with Williams's work as I’ve never really been a viewer of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” of which she was a longtime correspondent, but by God, she is a treasure. Her performance dealing with the grief of her friend Jimmy, who lost his wife about a year before, while also grieving herself as she was the best friend of said wife could’ve been super heavy – as could the show have been as a whole – but she’s able to pull so much joy out of the character with the greatest line readings and facial expressions of the series.
1. Ebon Moss-Bachrach (The Bear)
So, I had Ebon Moss-Bachrach’s performance as Richie Jerimovich on Hulu’s “The Bear” at No. 4 on my 10 Best TV Performances of 2022 list. I don’t typically like to feature the same performers and characters often on these lists – instead, hoping to showcase either new performances or unsung performances, but dammit if Moss-Bachrach’s performance as Richie wasn’t the best on TV this year. I can’t turn a blind eye to it. Richie for lack of a better word is a loser in season one of the show but at times he’s a lovable loser, one we feel is capable of more in life and we get to see that side of him in season two. In the flashback episode “Fishes,” we see Richie as a hopeful husband and future father wanting to better himself but never truly having gotten the opportunity or finding the right person to believe in him. That’s what’s led him down the road of becoming this loser and feeling sorry for himself. But in the very next episode, “Forks,” we see his transformation. He finds a group of people who believe in him – and ultimately it’s Carmy (Jeremy Allen White) who believes in him – and puts him through basically a crash course at a fancy restaurant to prove to him he can be a better man. It’s wonderful seeing this transformation through the performance of Moss-Bachrach and don’t worry, I’m sure Richie will always have some of that lovable loser in him. He just now has the confidence to go with it.
by Julian Spivey
10. Doctor Who (Disney+)
This might not be fair to some of the other great TV series I watched in 2023 to include what amounts to three one-hour 60th-anniversary specials of “Doctor Who” on my top 10 list – as I haven’t yet seen the Christmas special as of this writing which is essentially the debut of new Doctor Ncuti Gatwa (though he did have a role in the third of the specials) – but what the specials did was give me hope for the future of “Doctor Who” and wrap me up in the warm blanket of nostalgia. The nostalgia comes via Russell T. Davies returning to the series as showrunner and bringing back some fan-favorites in David Tennant as The Doctor and Catherine Tate as Donna Noble for the specials which I found all entertaining and one of which (“Wild Blue Yonder”) might even be an instant classic. The hope is still somewhat to be seen with what Davies can do with the series with Gatwa in the lead. Still, if the writing continues to be as entertaining as it was in the specials maybe Davies will right the ship that was shaky during the years with Chris Chibnall at the helm as showrunner.
9. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime Video)
Half of the shows on my top 10 this year ended in 2023, which I find remarkable because ending a series well must be one of the hardest things for a TV show to accomplish. It feels like much of the hoopla that surrounded the first two seasons of Amazon Prime’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” faded over the last three seasons – and I can somewhat see why (especially the third season) – but the characters always remained ones I wanted to spend an hour of an evening with, which is interesting because I feel like many of them would be grating in real-life. Showrunners Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino took a major chance in the final season when it came to the friendship/relationship between Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) and Susie (Alex Borstein), which was always the most fascinating aspect of the show, but it mostly worked out. Yes, the final season did have a couple of the show’s worst episodes – I’m thinking of the episode with the musical about sanitation specifically – but the highs like “The Testi-Roastial” and the series finale “Four Minutes” were strong enough to forgive the missteps.
8. Poker Face (Peacock)
Rian Johnson hit absolute gold with his series of ‘Knives Out’ movies, so when I heard he was bringing a similarly themed television show to Peacock I was pumped from the beginning. The decision to combine the murder mystery theme with a “case-of-the-week” serial a la “Columbo” was a nice throwback too. Then Natasha Lyonne comes along as the lead, truly the sole cast member of the series, to add levity and an air of uniqueness as only Lyonne can was just the chef’s kiss. Lyonne’s Charlie Cale can tell when someone is lying just by looking at them and constantly finds herself embroiled in murders and crimes everywhere she goes. The serialized style of the show allows for incredible guest casting and the first season alone featured wonderful performances by Adrien Brody, Judith Light, S. Epatha Merkerson, Nick Nolte, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and many others.
7. Succession (HBO)
Honesty time. I had never seen a single episode of “Succession” until after the series ended this year. Because I felt I needed to see it before the end of the year for a list like this and wanted to see it before the Emmy Awards air in mid-January I binged the entire four seasons. So, having seen four seasons in a row may have affected the show’s placement despite trying to focus solely on the fourth and final season for this list. The other thing about “Succession” is I can see why it's such a beloved series – it’s amazing. The acting is impeccable. The writing, led by showrunner Jesse Armstrong, is among the greatest in TV history. But at the end of the day, every single character on this show is despicable and I think that impacts the show's standing for me personally when it comes to making this list. For instance, is AppleTV+’s “Shrinking,” which I have one spot ahead of “Succession” on this list a better show than “Succession” from an objective point of view – probably not. But I sure as hell enjoyed it more. The Roy family will go down as one of television’s greatest families but it’s ultimately because of how much they all sucked and how terrific Jeremy Strong, Kieran Culkin, Sarah Snook, Brian Cox and co. were at portraying that.
6. Shrinking (AppleTV+)
“Shrinking” might only be No. 6 on my list of best shows of 2023 but I can say without a certainty that it was the single funniest show I watched all year – which is wild considering four of the shows ahead of it on this list are billed as comedies. “Shrinking,” created by Bill Lawrence, Jason Segel and Brett Goldstein, stars Segel as a widower psychologist Jimmy who has essentially been a zombie drinking, drugging and whoring his way through life in the year since his wife’s death, while ignoring fathering his high school aged daughter. The first season of “Shrinking” sees Jimmy adapting some hands-on but wildly unprofessional methods in helping out his clients, which leads to friendship with one and eventually trouble with others. The cast of “Shrinking” is pitch-perfect with Harrison Ford showing he can do comedy as the surly Dr. Paul Rhoades, Jimmy’s mentor, Jessica Williams in the year’s funniest performance as fellow psychologist Gaby, Lukita Maxwell as Jimmy’s daughter Alice, Christa Miller as the hilarious overbearing neighbor Liz and Luke Tennie as the patient turned friend, a vet with anger issues. “Shrinking” will likely fill a gap for “Ted Lasso” fans, another AppleTV+ series, as a comedy with some heavy topics involved and a lovable cast of characters who keep you smiling.
5. Barry (HBO)
HBO’s “Barry” was always dark – it’s a show about a hitman after all – but I think along the way some of the audience forgot that or either the humorous aspects of the series were so funny (and when the show was funny it was the funniest show on TV) they honed in on them more than the darkness behind the titular character. The way the show ended seemed to turn some of the audience off – but I felt like the show, at least when it came to most of its characters (it’s debatable if Henry Winkler’s Gene Cousineau got a deserving ending) ended as they should have. The performances of the final season – especially Sarah Goldberg’s as Sally (damn you still Emmys!) – were stellar, while Bill Hader who directed the entire final season showed that he could be one of today’s best auteurs if he wants to be.
4. Ted Lasso (AppleTV+)
The backlash to the final season of AppleTV+’s comedy “Ted Lasso,” which had won the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series its first two years and is nominated again for season three, surprised me. No, I didn’t think the final season was quite as great as the first two, but I still thought it was good enough to be my fourth favorite series of the year and this cast of characters is one I’m always going to be game to hang out with. Maybe people wanted Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) and Keeley (Juno Temple) to end up together? Yes, I did too. Maybe people didn’t want Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis) to leave the team? I understand, but it was truly what the character needed to be happy. I felt most of the characters got the endings they deserved and I was very pleased by the redemption given to Nate (Nick Mohammed) after taking an abrupt heel turn at the end of season two.
3. The Last of Us (HBO)
“The Last of Us” was the most surprising show of 2023 to me. I didn’t expect to enjoy it – hell, I wasn’t even going to watch it until so many critics and friends raved about it that I felt I couldn’t put it off any longer. I’m not a gamer and the series is based on the successful game of the same name about a pandemic caused by a fungus that effectively turns people into zombies. The show sees Joel (Pedro Pascal), a character with a tragic and troubled past, hired to escort teenager Ellie (Bella Ramsey) across the country when it turns out she’s immune to the virus and might be the key to turning around society. The performances by Pascal and Ramsey are brilliant and the huge supporting cast of guest actresses and actors give amazing showcase performances throughout the season.
2. Reservation Dogs (Hulu)
“Reservation Dogs” is everything great that television can be. For three seasons, showrunner Sterlin Harjo and his crew gave us a look into a community that we have never seen before on American television – the modern lives of Indigenous Americans. The bulk of “Reservation Dogs” is told through the four teens Elora Danan (Devery Jacobs), Bear (D’Pharoah Woon-A-Tai), Willie Jack (Paulina Alexis) and Cheese (Lane Factor) and that main cast is terrific but the final season truly branched out a bit more and spotlighted the entirety of this little Oklahoma community with terrific guest spots and side stories that shown how important tradition and community is to these folks. I couldn’t get enough and feel like the show could’ve continued without suffering in quality – but Harjo made the decision to quit while he was ahead and I respect it as “Reservation Dogs” truly ended with three seasons of perfection.
1. The Bear (Hulu)
I don’t like to be boring by having the same No. 1 show two years in a row – but I couldn’t give this honor to any other show in 2023 than “The Bear.” As great as the first season of showrunner Christopher Storer’s little series about an award-winning chef who takes over the family Chicago beef restaurant and tries to transform it into something greater with a rag-tag team of misfits was the second season was arguably even better with such rewarding episodes as “Honeydew,” “Fishes,” “Forks” and “The Bear,” all perfect episodes. The show also fleshed out Abby Elliott’s Natalie and gave Lionel Boyce’s Marcus a standout episode to go with the continuing fascinating performances of Jeremy Allen White, Ayo Edebiri and Ebon Moss-Bachrach. I don’t know how this show could get any better than these first two seasons have been but I’m greatly anticipating what Storer and crew have for us in season three.
What was your favorite TV show of 2023?
by Julian Spivey
May December – Netflix – Friday, December 1
Director Todd Haynes’s latest drama “May December” is already being hailed as one of the best movies of 2023 and just yesterday took home Best Screenplay for Samy Burch and Best Supporting Actor for Charles Melton at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards. The film, loosely inspired by American teacher Mary Kay Letourneau who had a relationship with a young student whom she eventually married, stars Natalie Portman as an actress who travels to Georgia to meet a controversial woman (played by Julianne Moore) she is set to play in a film, who had a long relationship with a husband, played by the aforementioned Melton, whom she first met as a minor. Portman, Moore and, especially, Melton are all receiving Oscar buzz for the film.
John Lennon: Murder Without a Trial – AppleTV+ - Wednesday, December 6
“John Lennon: Murder Without a Trial,” a three-part docuseries, that examines the murder of music icon John Lennon and the investigation and conviction of his killer Mark David Chapman debuts on AppleTV+ on Wednesday, December 6. The docuseries, narrator by Emmy-winning actor Kiefer Sutherland, is supposedly the most in-depth look into the murder and court case with interviews from witnesses of the murder, attorneys on the case and close family friends of Lennon.
Mr. Monk’s Last Case – Peacock – Friday, December 8
I’m almost embarrassed about how giddy I was when I heard Det. Adrian Monk would be returning for a TV movie earlier this year. It’s titled “Mr. Monk’s Last Case,” premiering on Peacock on Friday, December 8, but I hope if things go well it won’t necessarily be the real last case but maybe a harbinger of more specials to come. Monk is played by the exquisite Tony Shalhoub who won three Emmy Awards for his performance of the top-notch detective suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) during the original dramedy that aired on the USA Network from 2002 to 2009. The made-for-TV movie reunites the entire cast from the last few seasons of the series, including Traylor Howard, Ted Levine and Jason Gray-Stanford. It’ll be a welcome sight to see how Monk navigates the modern world.
Maestro – Netflix – Wednesday, December 20
“Maestro” is clearly actor/director Bradley Cooper’s passion project as he’s spent years working on this biopic of legendary American composer Leonard Bernstein and his relationship with his wife Felicia Montealegre, which is the follow-up to his 2018 directorial debut and Best Picture-nominated “A Star Is Born.” Cooper takes on the role of Bernstein with Oscar-nominated actress Carey Mulligan playing Montealegre. The film, which is produced by Netflix, will make its debut on the streamer on Wednesday, December 20 after a short run in select theaters and is sure to be one of the big awards contenders of 2023.
Doctor Who: The Church on Ruby Road – Disney+ - Monday, December 25
“Doctor Who” has entered its most recent era by bringing back a leader from a past era in showrunner Russell T. Davies and it’s already off to a nice start with the first of the show’s 60th anniversary specials, which also brought back familiar faces in David Tennant and Catherine Tate reprising their roles as The Doctor and Donna being a lot of fun. Two more 60th-anniversary specials are coming this month with “Wild Blue Yonder” dropping on Disney+ on Saturday, December 2 and “The Giggle” on Saturday, December 9, but it’s the return of the Christmas Special that most interests me because that will be the true start of the next era with Ncuti Gatwa taking over the role of The Doctor in “The Church on Ruby Road.” I’ve always loved the “Doctor Who” Christmas specials but we haven’t had one in quite some time as the show’s previous showrunner tried his own thing with New Year’s specials instead – I know, I know it’s only the difference of a week – but there’s just something so right about “Doctor Who” on Christmas Day. I can’t wait to see how this new era of ‘Who’ mixing a new cast with a veteran showrunner turns out.