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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Caroline Darney and FTW Staff

Best Television of 2023: Why we loved these 21 shows from Lessons in Chemistry to Succession

As 2023 winds down and 2024 looms on the horizon, it’s time to look back at the year that was in pop culture. We asked our staff to pick their favorite movies, music and television from the past year, and now we are sharing it with you.

The rules are pretty simple: it had to have released in the calendar year 2023. For television, just one episode had to air for the first time over the last year. To be clear, this list isn’t necessarily the best of the year, it’s our favorites. 

MORE: Best of 2023: Why we loved these 20 movies, from Asteroid City to Oppenheimer

It was a really solid year for television, especially on Apple TV+ and HBO. Let’s get to our favorites.


“I AM THE ELDEST BOY!” Like the games in a season of sports, every episode of Succession felt like a true event last spring, which is a rare occurrence in television in 2023 with the prevalence of streaming, where everyone watches things on their own time. With Succession, you felt compelled to tune in every Sunday night to catch up with the Roy Family in real time, mostly so you wouldn’t have the show spoiled for you and so you could understand all the memes that came out of it. In its final season, Succession was emotional, dramatic, shocking, anxiety-inducing, thought-provoking and incredibly funny. I’m not sure we’ve ever seen an episode of television like “Connor’s Wedding” where the series made an unexpected hard turn and then barreled toward its finale. I’m also not sure I’ve ever seen an air-clearing between two people like the one we got from Tom and Shiv in “Tailgate Party,” and I’m not sure an episode of television has ever been as bone-chilling and brilliant on the topic of democracy like “America Decides.” Somehow, more than two decades after The Sopranos aired, Succession found new ways to create ground-breaking prestige television on HBO and immediately made a case for it to be included on the network’s Mount Rushmore alongside shows like The Wire and Veep. — Mitchell Northam


I don’t want to be dramatic, but the second season for Loki was nearly perfect. Its finale was equal parts devastating and fulfilling, and Tom Hiddleston and Owen Wilson once again shone on screen together. The addition of Ke Huy Quan was an utter delight. Loki ended up being not only one of the best Marvel offerings of the year, but one of the best Marvel offerings, full stop. — Caroline Darney

Reservation Dogs

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the year was how much I fell in love with every aspect of Reservation Dogs and I enjoyed it so much that the minute I finished it, I immediately ran it back and watched the whole series again. All of the kids who starred in this show were fantastic and this season, each of them got to flex their muscles a bit and showcase their own talents as actors. I’m a sucker for Richard Linklater so my favorite episode was the “Dazed and Confused” tribute in Episode 5. But I was just as blown away by several other moments in the show including the beautiful Ethan Hawke cameo and plenty of other smaller moments throughout the season. I would recommend this show to anyone and everyone. — Bryan Kalbrosky

The Bear

Season 1 of this FX drama had all of America saying “Yes, Chef” but it was the second season this year that took the show into the realm of Peak TV. The harrowing hour-long Christmas episode “Fishes” left viewers too stunned to speak but it was the follow-up episode “Forks” that may go down as the best single episode of TV in 2023, a remarkably tender story about the healing power of dignity. — Matt Scalici

Justified: City Primeval

Having Raylan Givens back made the Justified revival more than worth it, as this sequel series honored the legacy of the original show while finding new ways to liven its tone. Also, that ending scene made us want to run through a wall and leaves us begging for more. — Cory Woodruff


Dave Filoni made a bold statement with the first two episodes of Ahsoka: This is very much a sequel to Rebels, and if you’re a fan of his Star Wars animated shows then that was welcomed news, and if you hadn’t seen them it was on you to catch up. There was no hand-holding here, no over-explaining and no needless exposition. This was a show for the hardcore fans, and it picked up where Rebels left off and threw us into another adventure with Ahsoka, Sabine, Huyang and Hera. Along the way, fans were reunited with Grand Admiral Thrawn, introduced to new characters like Baylan Skoll and Shin Hati, and got more familiar with previously fringe characters like Morgan Elsbeth. It featured incredible acting, from Rosario Dawson to Hayden Christensen (!) to the late Ray Stevenson. The show ended with many questions unanswered, but it was the first time Filoni really got to cook in live-action with the creativity and storytelling fans experienced in his animated shows. I can’t wait for the next show or movie that Filoni helms that features these characters. — Mitchell Northam 

Winning Time

Winning Time was one of the most underrated shows of the past few years and from a pop culture perspective, its sudden cancellation was one of the biggest tragedies of the year. As a sports site, we were fully invested in the success of this show and we were lucky to see some absolutely phenomenal performances from the likes of John C. Reilly and Jason Segel before the plugged was pulled. I wish this show got to chronicle the Lakers dynasty the way Netflix’s The Crown has done as much with the royal family and I can only hope another network gives it a shot because this brilliant L.A. period piece, which filmed basketball as well as I’ve ever seen, deserved better. — Bryan Kalbrosky


Apple TV+ needs to hire me to do marketing for their shows, because it doesn’t feel like anyone heard of this Idris Elba-led thriller. Hijack tells the story of — shocker — a hijacked plane, but it’s full of drama, tension and intrigue. Elba is fantastic, of course, but there are enough twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seat. — Caroline Darney


We’ve all been there. That one [expletive] cut you off on the road. You cussed them. You cursed them and their family and friends to the deepest pits of hell. And at least for a couple hours, you couldn’t let it go before finally and mercifully calming down. Now, what if you really wanted revenge? What if this incident of road rage became a vendetta? This is the entire premise of Beef, an enthralling drama about class conflict and what happens when people wholeheartedly pursue lives they realize they never wanted in the first place. Both Steven Yeun and Ali Wong have built remarkable careers as performers. Their dual lead performance here takes the cake in an all-too-relatable tale. — Robert Zeglinski


Good news, everyone! Futurama’s newest revival series reminded us of why we loved these space-happy characters to begin with, with the new episodes combining the elements that you’d recognize with some nimble 2020s satire. — Cory Woodruff

Jujutsu Kaisen

It’s been awhile since a season of television has rocked me as hard as the Shibuya Incident arc has. No fan-favorites have been safe in this absolutely destructive — physically and emotionally — season from the hit anime, with the heightened stakes matched by the gorgeous animation and incredibly well-crafted fight sequences. — Mary Clarke

Slow Horses

A show that probably hasn’t gotten as much national buzz as some others, Slow Horses is simply a delight to watch. Gary Oldman is fantastic, the humor is biting and the main plot is always entertaining. It’s a show I look forward to watching every week. — Ben Fawkes


First of all, this is all my husband’s fault. I am not a big TV show watcher because when I get involved with a show, I get INVOLVED. So, I usually avoid them because whether the show is reality television or a drama, I’m now INVESTED. Anyways, I let him convince me to watch Swarm and in the first episode somebody was murdered without warning. Then, I had SO many questions that I had to watch the next episode. And the next episode. And the next. Now, I’m all in on this murderous drama series about an obsessed fan who invokes shades of Beyonce’s “bee hive”, and I can’t look away. That’s my long winded way of saying if you haven’t seen this show, do yourself a favor and grab the wine before you watch. You’ll need it to calm your nerves. Happy watching though! — Meghan Hall

Jury Duty

The best way to watch Jury Duty is to know absolutely nothing about it before you watch it because then you get to slightly experience the rollercoaster ride that our protagonist went on over the course of the season. It was a delightful, hilarious experience to see the absurdity of this scenario play out as perfectly as it did and there were some moments that you would only believe if you saw it happen for yourself. — Bryan Kalbrosky


Barry concluded its four-season run with some of its strongest episodes, capping Bill Hader’s macabre industry satire with the venomous glee that made it such a must for its run. Stephen Root won MVP for this final bow. — Cory Woodruff


As a musical theatre enjoyer, Schmigadoon! has been such a delight. After the first season tackled classic musicals such as The Music Man and Oklahoma!, season two dives into the more mature, gritty musicals like Sweeney Todd and Chicago. The cast remains an absolute joy to watch as they sing and dance through reimagined iconic musical tropes and songs. — Mary Clarke

The Last of Us

This is one of the best video game adaptations out there, and Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey are a big part of that. It’s an emotionally devastating watch week in and week out. Episode 3, “Long, Long Time,” is one of the best episodes of television ever made, not to be dramatic. Things wrapped up a little messily, but overall one that can’t be missed. — Caroline Darney

Scott Pilgrim Takes Off

A faithful adaptation of a cult classic, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off brings back its constellation of stars to tell the finest animated story of the year. Just like the original film, this cartoon romp is rife with color, self-aware humor, and utterly wonderful animation. More importantly, it subverts its own original story in a way that promises the world and delivers. I’m still so mad (frustrated?) it consisted of just eight half-hour episodes. But maybe this deservedly becomes a holiday tradition down the line. Hopefully Michael Cera and Co. are down for even more adventures in the Pilgrim universe. — Robert Zeglinski

The Righteous Gemstones

The Righteous Gemstones brought the house down with maybe the show’s best season yet, a delightful satire of dysfunctional family and corporate faith that brought us a phenomenal Steve Zahn villain. What more can you ask for? — Cory Woodruff

Abbott Elementary

This was the year that Abbott Elementary solidified its status as the best sitcom on TV right now and I don’t think it’s particularly close. This cast doesn’t have a weak link anywhere, it’s good for several laughs per episode and (forgive my sincerity) the overall message of the show gives me the warm and fuzzies every time I watch it. — Bryan Kalbrosky

Lessons In Chemistry

I wasn’t kidding about Apple TV+. No nonsense Elizabeth Zott (the wonderful Brie Larson) is a scientist facing the sexism of the early 1950s. She meets fellow scientist Calvin (the utterly charming Lewis Pullman) and her life changes in incredible and unpredictable ways. It’s an adaptation of a book by Bonnie Garmus, and it’s gut wrenching in more ways than one. Oh, and Pullman needs to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a romcom star IMMEDIATELY.  — Caroline Darney

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