A pandemic, ongoing recession, natural calamities and so on – it’s no wonder that we are all eager to bid adieu to 2020.
This year was all about schools and workplaces shutting down to promote a safer life at home, and it was a blessing in disguise for web series enthusiasts and streaming platforms alike, where the latter thrived because billions were binge-watching their favourite shows. And Netflix took the lead with countless new originals on its library that kept us busy in quarantine.
From psychological thrillers to rom-coms, from murder mysteries to reality series – this year Netflix’s library was renewed with brilliant shows that boast remarkable acting, cinematography and execution.
As we gear up to say farewell to this year, here’s a throwback to the best Netflix TV shows of 2020.
The Queen’s Gambit
Chess is one of the most challenging sports there are, and also the soul of this exceptional miniseries. For those who are not too familiar with the terms of the game, a Gambit means temporarily sacrificing a few pawns to gain control of the board
Based on a 1983 novel of the same name, this Netflix original follows Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy), who masters chess during her years growing up at an orphanage. While tranquillisers help her nail the game at first, she soon begins to struggle between her growing popularity as a prodigy and increasing reliance on drugs and alcohol.
The show was critically acclaimed by the audience, critics, and chess community alike. Furthermore, it became Netflix’s most-watched scripted series within four weeks of its release and quickly one the best Netflix shows of 2020. The original novel penned 37 years ago, is now on The New York Times’s bestseller list, queries regarding the sport have doubled on Google, and scores of new players have registered on Chess.com.
Its makers have not hinted at the possibility of a second season yet, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed.
This 2019 British comedy series explores the awkward yet essential topic of sex education for teens. While it debuted in 2019, Sex Education becomes a part of the highly recommended list of 2020 owing to its excellent second season which released this year.
In the first instalment, we are introduced to Otis, an insecure teenage boy who becomes a reluctant expert on the subject owing to his sex therapist mother’s bold at-home clinic. He then starts an underground sex advice business at school with his classmate Maeve.
While the first season is more light-hearted and explores the know-hows of budding teen sexuality, the second season follows a more serious approach by casting light on the importance of understanding and preventing sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
For now, fans may keep calm and wait for the third season which is slated for a 2021 release.
The Umbrella Academy
Given the current situation, our world needs an Umbrella Academy more than ever.
Based on a comic book series of the same name by musician Gerard Way, it follows a group of seven adopted sibling superheroes (since the dead one comes back as a ghost) who reunite to solve the mystery of their father’s death. Soon, their focus shifts to saving the world from an upcoming apocalypse which has been predicted by one of them.
Merging the and superhero genres with splashes of dark humour, this 2019 series launched its second season this year to positive reviews from fans.
The Umbrella Academy bagged two Emmy nominations in 2019 and has also been renewed for a third season. It stars Tom Hopper, Robert Sheehan, and Elliot Page — who plays Vanya and recently made headlines when he came out as transgender.
Matches are made in heaven, and a matchmaker’s job is to help people find their soulmate. This docu-series rests on the same premise and delves into the controversial concept of arranged marriages. Sima Taparia – India’s bigshot matchmaker – talks about her journey of helping cosmopolitan clients across the world find their better half.
From horoscopes to client criterion – Mrs Taparia’s spoke about the challenges she faced with a few picky and complicated people who wanted to settle down but at the same time refused to lower their expectations.
Humorous yet brainy, this one stirred a meme fest on social media upon its debut. While some did not add this one to their favourites owing to its ‘classist’ approach to weddings, others enjoyed it for being a refreshing and entertaining watch.
Time travel, wormholes, and countless mysteries – Netflix’s first-ever German language series has the perfect recipe that keeps the audience hooked to a screen.
In a fictional city of Winden, the unpleasant past of four families unravel when a child goes missing under mysterious circumstances. Over three seasons, their darkest secrets surface and clues about how they are related to each other. Furthermore, a time travel conspiracy unfolds – one that even hints at the existence of an alternate universe.
The show made its Netflix debut in 2017 and ended in 2020 leaving viewers awestruck with its visuals, acting and a complicated narrative.
Locke & Key
For the fans of mystery and horror drama, Locke & Key is nothing short of a visual treat.
When their father is murdered under unnatural circumstances, the three Locke siblings and their mother move to an ancestral home named Keyhouse. During their stay, the kids discover a peculiar array of keys that may reveal the secrets linked to their father’s death.
The Netflix original, which premiered in February 2020, is based on a comic book series of the same name and has already been renewed for a second season.
Revenge is a dish best served cold, and Itaewon Class uses it to lay the foundation of its protagonist’s ambitions.
This South Korean drama follows the life of Park Saeroyi, an awkward high school transfer student, who seeks vengeance for his father’s death and wrongful conviction when he locks horns with a business tycoon’s villainous son.
Spanning 15 years, this 16-episode series showcases an underdog’s quest to achieve too much with only a handful of resources. His determination and loyalty towards principles makes the show a must-watch for all.
While there’s no word on a second season yet, Itaewon Class has already achieved a benchmark of popularity by becoming the seventh highest-rated drama in the history of Korean cable entertainment.
Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez
A three-episode docu-series, this one places under a lens the life, conviction, and death of NFL star Aaron Hernandez.
Hernandez, who died by suicide at 27 while serving a life sentence, was convicted of first-degree murder of Odin Llyod. However, that was not the only crime on his résumé. Investigations hinted at his possible involvement in an array of other murders and activities. He was also believed to be closeted about his sexuality.
In a nutshell, the series turned every page of his life – from an abusive childhood to becoming a football star and his eventual descent into violence. It relies on recordings of Hernandez’s phone calls from prison to his mother and fiancée to prove his lack of remorse towards his wrongdoings.
Love is Blind
Meghan Markle found her prince charming when she agreed to go on a blind date, and Netflix reality series Love Is Blind gave millennials the same opportunity, but with a twist.
Thirty men and women take up the challenge of going on dates in separate ‘pods’ where they can only talk and do not get to look at each other. Over time, the gentlemen can decide if they want to get engaged to the woman they are talking to and only then can they see the face of their partner. It then escalates to meeting families and getting married. The question that remains is, ‘Is love blind?’.
The series took social media all over the world by storm and it’s already been renewed for a second and third season.
If you are intrigued by the British royal family, the reign of Queen Elizabeth II and the events that shaped their history, this Netflix original can be addictive.
The four-season series is based on a play titled ‘The Audience’ and chronicles the later half of the 20th century in Britain under the Queen. From her marriage to Prince Philip to her relationship with the first female prime minister Margaret Thatcher and the most recent one being Princess Diana and Prince Charles’s wedding – it’s four seasons of royalty revealed.
This year, we include The Crown on our highly-recommended list owing to its classic yet controversial approach to the late Princess Diana’s struggles. The episodes that depicted her turbulent relationship with the Prince of Wales were deemed problematic and forced the British government to request a disclaimer stating that it is a work of fiction. Netflix, however, turned down the request.
Slated for a 2022 release, the fifth season is all set to explore the Queen’s reign in the 21st century, and the final one is expected to showcase snippets from former Duke and Duchess of Sussex Harry and Meghan Markle’s royal exit.
One of the most expensive TV series in history, The Crown has earned multiple awards and accolades in its name for the acting, storyline, direction and cinematography. Screen Actors Guild, Emmys and Golden Globes – this series already has its name carved on a number of awards and is expected to continue the streak in its upcoming seasons.
(Main and featured image: The Crown/IMDB)
This story first appeared in Prestige Hong Kong.