The beginning of the end of the Golden Age is bright and full of boundary-pushing dramedies.
Akhil Arora, a member of the Film Critics Guild and a Rotten Tomatoes-certified film critic with over eight years of experience
The golden age of TV is nearing its end. Mergers between Hollywood giants, layoffs across the board, downsizing budgets and obliviating content for tax write-off purposes, and months-long strikes for fair compensation—it’s clear that the streaming world will never be the same after 2023. It will result in fewer big swings and a lot more safer choices. Expect less lavish productions based on original ideas and more reliance on pre-established franchises such as DC, Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and The Lord of the Rings.
For now, though, things are thankfully unchanged. (As to how long that will be the case, who’s to say?) We got some great TV series this year. Interestingly, my list below is filled with dramedies—it has just one straight comedy, a satire that delves into the pursuit of fame that wrapped in 2023 with its third and final season. Speaking of satires and final seasons, in the former bucket, I’ve got a comedy-drama about a dysfunctional family running a media empire and another in the same vein set in an alternate history of 18th-century Russia.
There’s another period comedy-drama below that also ended this year, though that one is set in a different century and continent and follows a single mother of two pursuing stand-up. Apart from that, there’s a comedy-drama chronicling the pressures of running a kitchen, one about class and socioeconomic divides, and a case-of-the-week comedy-drama with a protagonist who can tell when you lie. Two of those débuted this year—one a miniseries and the other renewed for a second go.
That leaves three full-on dramas: a crime drama (in its final season) centred on a divorced granny cop, a (miniseries) drama about a steadfast mother and father grieving their son, and a post-apocalyptic drama (guaranteed for another season) following two survivors with a pseudo-father-daughter relationship.
I watched a lot of television over the past 12 months—it’s more or less my job, after all—and with the end of the year around the corner, it’s time for the customary countdown list. These are my top 10 TV series of 2023.
The man who has nothing and the woman who seemingly has it all clash in this hilarity. Fiery, in your face, always going the extra mile—of course, it’s got talking crows.
Killed off a lead character twice—sans any rebirths—as it embraced a revisionist female-driven future while being morose, laugh-out-loud, and delightfully over the top. Sadly, cut short (no fourth season), as it became one of the first victims of the tear running through Hollywood.
The Other Two
A joke-every-second trip across the road to fame that corrupts and hollows you out. No other show on TV portrays the emptiness of Hollywood and virtue signalling of celebrities better. Alas, portrayed, since it’s now over.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
The flash-forwards in the fifth and final season might have been a tad sentimental, but boy, did Mrs. Maisel know how to land the plane in the present. What an utterly boisterous finale, fitting for a show whose heart could never beat less than 200 times a minute.
Our beloved deconstructor of whodunnits—Rian Johnson—set the stage for this howdunnit, with a woman with an uncanny ability landing herself in bizarre situations week after week. (Or did the situation find her?) The show I most consistently looked forward to during its rollout.
The off-screen dedication to its cast is matched by the on-screen power of a mother and a grandmother trying to do right by her family, her city, and herself. No wonder things boil over. (I mean, it’s also the final season.) Enjoy your peace in the Himalayas—you deserve it.
Trial by Fire
It’s essentially India in a microcosm—an infuriating mix of dysfunctional judiciary, inept bureaucracy, little value of life, lack of accountability, and protection for the privileged. And in the middle of it all, two bereaved parents who drive each other and vow to never let go.
A sophomore run that dared to expand beyond the confines of the kitchen it was so successful in. As a result, we got the claustrophobic, stress-inducing ”Fishes” episode with the Berzattos at Christmas, and my favourite episode, “Forks”, stemming from it, too, as the one least bothered is pushed into giving a f••k.
Filled with gut-wrenching, heart-breaking moments throughout, with some precious heart-warming ones sprinkled in places. You know the creators are operating at their peak when the season’s best episode doesn’t even involve the two leads.
There were times I was disgusted and hoped everyone went to hell, and times when I was charmed and wanted nothing but the characters to live in bliss. But through it all, I couldn’t look away. The modern-day Game of Thrones twisted the knife in its rollercoaster finale, leaving us to deal with the horrific, shattered pieces.