This year featured the end of many beloved shows and the beginning of others — all while two historic strikes transformed the entertainment industry.
Illustration: HuffPost; Photos: HBO, Netflix

At the start of this year, we didn’t really know about several of the developments that would end up shaping 2023 in TV.

Many of the best and most beloved shows ended (including “Succession,” “Reservation Dogs,” “The Other Two”); and two historic strikes in the entertainment industry brought much-needed attention to the workplace inequities facing the people who make the shows and movies we love, and the corporate greed undermining their work.

As TV keeps spinning forward into yet another period of uncertainty, we’re taking a moment to honor the shows that eerily reflected the wild year that was, gave us an escape hatch from it, made us feel all of the feelings — or, in many cases, all of the above.

“Beef” (Netflix)

Often when a new series attempts to engage with the current social climate, you get something like “Them,” where it’s all themes and no compelling plot or nuanced characters. “Beef” subverts that entirely by actually investigating its own themes and characters. Rage, the impetus of the action in showrunner Lee Sung Jin’s engrossing story, is not simply what it’s about but also what it is curious about. It moves beyond that to examine cultural traumas, marital stigmas and other aspects of humanity through two very different Asian American characters remarkably portrayed by Ali Wong and Steven Yeun. Like the road rage incident that triggers the plot, you just can’t look away. — Candice Frederick

Steven Yeun and Ali Wong in the Netflix series "Beef."
Steven Yeun and Ali Wong in the Netflix series "Beef."

“Succession” (HBO)

Over the years, I, along with my esteemed colleagues, have written probably tens of thousands of words on “Succession.” There’s no shortage of ways to analyze this show, where every scene is densely packed, every detail deployed with surgical precision. But it’s fitting that in a show known for its depth of dialogue and its command of language, the series finale ended with three largely wordless scenes of each of the Roy siblings (minus Connor, of course), right back to where they started, brutally bringing the show full circle. What else is there to say, other than one final “fuck off, be gone, bye bye” to one of the best shows on TV ever? — Marina Fang

“Jury Duty” (Amazon Freevee)

Few shows this year were as surprising and as delightful as the mockumentary series “Jury Duty.” The setup is that everyone on the show — the jurors, judge, bailiff, plaintiff, defendant and their lawyers — is played by an actor…except for the jury’s foreman, Ronald Gladden, who’s just a regular guy thinking he’s participating in a documentary about civic engagement. But instead of a bait-and-switch, “gotcha!” kind of show, “Jury Duty” is a celebration of Ronald, whose warmth and kindness toward his fellow “jurors” is honestly pretty inspiring, and is guaranteed to make you smile. — Fang

“The Bear” (FX/Hulu)

The Season 2 finale of “The Bear” could have ended in a moment of devastation: Carmy (Jeremy Allen White) trapped in a walk-in refrigerator, having a panic attack the night of his restaurant’s big opening. But instead, the final shot is actually of Sydney (Ayo Edebiri) in a moment of triumph, having steered the restaurant back from the brink of disaster. It’s those kinds of seemingly small but vital choices that made me love this show even more than I already did in its first season. Like the show itself, which got to be bigger and bolder in its second season, every major character got some beautiful moments of personal growth. — Fang

Sydney (Ayo Edebiri) and Carmy (Jeremy Allen White) in a scene from Season 2 of "The Bear."
Sydney (Ayo Edebiri) and Carmy (Jeremy Allen White) in a scene from Season 2 of "The Bear."
Chuck Hodes/FX

“The Last of Us” (HBO)

In adapting “The Last of Us” to TV, creators Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann made a wise choice to focus less on replicating the original video game itself and more about deepening the characters and story arcs. Anchored by wonderful performances from Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey, joined by a rich roster of unforgettable guest stars in standalone episodes, the series proves there are ways to make existing IP seem wholly original — and that there’s humanity even when the world is ending. — Fang

“Reservation Dogs” (FX/Hulu)

Of all the shows that aired their final seasons this year, it may have been hardest to say goodbye to “Reservation Dogs.” Its groundbreaking team of Native actors, writers, directors and crew also broke new ground stylistically, imbuing each episode with a sense of place, authenticity and specificity. But, to reference another show that memorably ended this year, “it made sense dramaturgically” to bid a fond farewell to our beloved Rez Dogs — Bear (D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai), Elora Danan (Devery Jacobs), Willie Jack (Paulina Alexis) and Cheese (Lane Factor) — as they head off into adulthood. “Reservation Dogs” was one of a kind, but it’d better not continue to be such a rarity on TV. — Fang

“The Morning Show” (Apple TV+)

This show has become quite the soap opera with its dramatic twists and turns, and I’m not mad at that at all. In Season 3, the embattled legacy news organization UBA faces a cyber attack that uncovers secrets its leaders have been trying desperately to hide. And it comes at the most inopportune time for UBA President Cory Ellison (Billy Crudup), who’s in the middle of trying to sell the network. Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Anniston are at the center of the series (though less of a duo in this season), but Nicole Beharie, whose performance in Episode 3 became a season highlight, steals the show. — Taryn Finley

“Shrinking” (Apple TV+)

I was surprised at how much I genuinely enjoyed this show. Starring Jason Segel, Jessica Williams and Harrison Ford, this comedy follows Jimmy Laird, a grieving widower disconnected from his daughter, friends and career as a therapist. He finds new purpose to get his shit together and show up for the people in his life while helping his clients with his unconventional practices. Season 1 was a hilarious and heartwarming ride as the characters unpacked personal traumas surrounding loss, divorce, distant relationships and PTSD. It’s the kind of unsuspecting show that will have you begging for a Season 2 soon after bingeing the first. — Finley

“Poker Face” (Peacock)

A Natasha Lyonne “Columbo”-esque series doesn’t sound particularly intriguing by that description alone. Sure, she’s fun to watch, but do we need a female edition of “Columbo?” No. But what many, including myself, might not have considered going into “Poker Face” is that Lyonne is such a quirky, natural performer that she’s become a genre of her own. It makes this crime-of-the-week detective series, chock-full of fabulously kooky guest actors like Ellen Barkin, worthwhile and surprisingly fresh. It could only come from the minds of showrunners Lyonne and Rian Johnson. — Frederick

“The Traitors” (Peacock)

“The Traitors” was a surprising delight of a reality competition show that I still think not enough people were talking about. The Alan Cumming-hosted series, based on the Dutch version called “De Verraders,” follows an immediately fascinating premise: a small group of players become traitors and must work together to sneakily eliminate the rest of the contestants. The cast included a mix of celebrities and non-public figures, who aim to make it to the final four after surviving several missions. “The Traitors” is a fun watch, filled with deception, excitement and the chance to root for some of your favorite reality show contestants. Here’s hoping Season 2 brings the same magic. — Evans

“Sex Education” (Netflix)

This series will always have such a special place in my heart; I feel like I grew up alongside the characters in “Sex Education.” Created by Laurie Nunn, the Netflix U.K. series follows 16-year-old Otis Milburn, son of sex and relationship therapist Jean Milburn, whose visibility skyrockets at school after teaming up with troublemaker Maeve Wiley to start a sex education clinic. Through the course of four seasons, we see Otis and his peers at Moordale Secondary School traverse the waters of identity, sexuality and relationships — romantic, platonic and familial — with such unvarnished truth. The show shines when it tackles and demystifies mature topics, using these young characters as vessels for the type of compassion we could have for one another. Time and time again, the show has done a superb job of approaching inclusivity and giving its Black characters full storylines. Truly a master class. — Ruth Etiesit Samuel

“The Other Two” (Max)

Usually shows featuring the talents of “SNL” alums could go either way — they’re either mediocre to bad like “Kenan” or terrific yet short-lived like “I Love That For You.” Thankfully (and bittersweetly), “The Other Two,” helmed by former “SNL” writers Sarah Schneider and Chris Kelly, falls into the latter category. The deeply sarcastic Hollywood satire is a series that is catapulted by the ready-to-go-there central performances of Heléne Yorke and Drew Tarver as self-involved siblings and underachievers. At first glance, “The Other Two” coasts on its ability to zing you with one self-deprecating remark after the next. But at its core, it’s a show that understands that the lines between failure and stardom, as well as decency and cruelty, is sometimes almost too blurry to decipher. And boldly, it said, why bother? — Frederick

Brooke (Heléne Yorke) and Cary (Drew Tarver) in "The Other Two."
Brooke (Heléne Yorke) and Cary (Drew Tarver) in "The Other Two."

“Justified: City Primeval” (Hulu)

It’s not like we particularly needed a new “Justified” series. The 2010-2015 show is still as sharp as it was a decade ago — and it ended pretty perfectly. But “City Primeval,” adapted from several other tales in Elmore Leonard’s crime fiction toolbox, slickly builds off the already established character, U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant). It smartly challenges him in a new city, a new era and new batch of gangsters in an unfamiliar place: the Black AF city of Detroit. It is such a ride. — Frederick

“The Horror of Dolores Roach” (Prime Video)

Think “Sweeney Todd,” but with empanadas instead of Mrs. Lovett’s meat pies, they said. That’s an alluring premise, for sure. But that’s just about where the similarities between the iconic Broadway show and showrunners Dara Resnik and Aaron Mark’s horror series end. Anchored by Justina Machado’s titular performance that’s a delicate dance between maniacal and sadly desperate, the canceled-before-its-time revenge “The Horror of Dolores Roach” is a treat in more ways than one. Blending genre with humor and mixed with themes of gentrification and recidivism in brown communities, the show had all the ingredients of a massive hit. — Frederick

Dolores Roach (Justina Machado) and Luis (Alejandro Hernandez) in "The Horror of Dolores Roach."
Dolores Roach (Justina Machado) and Luis (Alejandro Hernandez) in "The Horror of Dolores Roach."
Courtesy of Prime Vdieo

“Survival of the Thickest” (Netflix)

Michelle Buteau is a delight any time she graces your screen with her wit and charisma. So it’s no surprise that her Netflix TV series “Survival of the Thickest” was an easy and entertaining watch. The series stars Buteau as Mavis, a 30-something stylist who is navigating a breakup and trying to pursue her big career goals. The show is a breath of fresh air, presents a new look at what it means to come of age and offers so many hilarious moments and even a few thoughtful scenes that made me hold back tears. It’s the rare comedy centering a Black woman of size in a compelling and relatable TV series — and its watchability makes it a surefire bet to return to in the future. — Evans

“Never Have I Ever” (Netflix)

Crazy Devi, how I love and will miss you so. Created by Mindy Kaling, “Never Have I Ever” stars Tamil Canadian Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as Devi Vishwakumar, a first-generation Indian American teen who returns to high school after the traumatic death of her father. Through four seasons, we saw Devi traverse through grief, flings, and a whole bunch of firsts. Now, I’ll admit: she was out of pocket many, many, many times on her journey at Sherman Oaks — and I vehemently opposed the very predictable ending that was Devi pursuing a relationship with Ben. But by the end of it all, we saw so much growth & introspection from her and her mother, Nalini. The show was much less about Devi shedding her status as a member of the U.N. (i.e., “unfuckable nerds” in Ben’s eyes) and a lot more about what it means to come into your own & come to terms with yourself. — Samuel

“Snowfall” (FX/Hulu)

“Snowfall” ended this year with its sixth season, with Franklin Saint (Damson Idris) at the lowest of lows. He’s drunk, living in squalor and damn near all by himself. His mother Cissy (Michael Hyatt) is incarcerated because she killed a former CIA operative, his father Alton (Kevin Carroll) is dead, his girl left him and the only person left standing is his best friend Leon (Isaiah John). In the end, Franklin’s desire to be a man on top who has conquered poverty, police violence and other ills of the late ’80s proves to be a feat just out of reach. The series, co-created by the late John Singleton, Eric Amadio and Dave Andron, ended with a legendary nod to Singleton’s seminal work “Boyz n the Hood.” As Franklin and Leon take a walk to a corner store, they pass a film shoot in production, where audiences can see likenesses of the cast and crew of the 1991 film. What a fitting tribute to Singleton, to connect his big start with his critically underrated final project. — Evans

Janine (Quinta Brunson) and Gregory (Tyler James Williams) in a scene from ABC's "Abbott Elementary."
Janine (Quinta Brunson) and Gregory (Tyler James Williams) in a scene from ABC's "Abbott Elementary."
Gilles Mingasson via Getty Images

“Abbott Elementary” (ABC/Hulu)

“Abbott Elementary” seems to forever be a joy to sit down to watch. Its second season boasted a ton of laughs and great comedic performances from its ensemble cast. What’s also great about Season 2 is we were delighted with a full-season order of 22 episodes. Fans who have been shipping Janine (Quinta Brunson) and Gregory (Tyler James Williams) finally got a glimpse of a little romance between the duo. The series also addresses some real-life issues around funding for public schools as Abbott faces a threat from a neighboring charter school. In February, “Abbott” will return for its third season and fans are more than ready for the next school year to begin. — Evans

“High on the Hog” (Netflix)

Many people already understand that a lot of food comes from a variety of cultures, but some meals and recipes have been embraced by certain cultures that have made them their own. Black food is no less complex with its own unique stories. So, it’s nice to see a series like “High on the Hog,” inspired by Jessica B. Harris’ book of the same name, explore that with compassion and humanity. In its first season, the docuseries astounded by toeing the line between denser food academia discussion and cultural reflection throughout each engaging and nearly one-hour episode. With its second season, host and food journalist Stephen Satterfield delves even deeper into his personal history and its connections to the journey of Black food across the globe. Peppered with stirring testimonies and candid conversations throughout, “High on the Hog” remains one of the most slept-on shows right now. — Frederick

“Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields” (Hulu)

Reframing pop culture icons that were bruised by the public sphere years ago has become the basis for many celeb documentaries today. Some come off as little more than cinematic press releases that not-so-subtly only serve to plug whatever project the subject is about to drop. But director Lana Wilson’s “Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields” has no pretense. From the very beginning of the docuseries, it’s felt that the titular model and actor has nothing to lose and not much more to gain from detailing her story of professional triumph, exploitation, sexual assault and familiar joy — beginning as a child star to present day. Candid, emotionally exposed, heartfelt and funny, this isn’t another one of those docuseries. And to call it a survivor story would be just as reductive. Rather, it gently encourages both Shields and the audience to grapple with our convictions, our memories, our hypocrisies and our participation in this thing we call exploitation. — Frederick

“Single Drunk Female” (Freeform/Hulu)

There’s no shortage of depictions of messy young people on screen (“Big Mouth” and “Sex Education” immediately jump to mind). But what makes so many of the newer offerings so interesting is that they help annihilate societal taboos, truths too many of us still today work so hard to hide. That includes the unsettling statistics of alcoholism and alcohol-related deaths among young adults. Showrunner Simone Finch’s “Single Drunk Female” — another good show that was canceled — directly brought attention to that issue with a sincere portrait of a young woman’s (Sofia Black D’Elia) sobriety journey, inspired by Finch’s own story. Beyond that, though, the show consistently delved into the broader messiness of young adulthood, extending to the loved ones we hurt through our own mistakes and the wounds of self-deprecation. Through its razor-sharp exploration of self-despair, “Single Drunk Female” is especially good when it peers inside the lives and tribulations of a diverse group of characters across ages, races, gender identities and more. It will most definitely be missed. — Frederick

“30 Coins” (Max)

You’d have to be game to watch a show like “30 Coins.” It deals with demonic pregnancy, zealots, romance, possessed priests — and somewhere in the middle of all of that is a whole subplot around evil capitalism. In other words, it’s a series with a lot on its mind. Now in Season 2, showrunner Álex de la Iglesia still manages to engage audiences in a genre feast that imagines a Spain overwrought with corruption that can only be nullified by a wayward exorcist, two determined lovers and a group of conspiracy theorists. With the addition of an American billionaire opportunist (Paul Giamatti) this year, the stakes got even higher — and more relevant. — Frederick

“Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal” (Netflix)

It was impossible to escape news of the Alex Murdaugh trial at the top of 2023. Murdaugh, who was found guilty of murdering his wife Maggie and his son Paul, is a member of a prominent family in South Carolina’s low country. Like Max’s docuseries “Low Country: The Murdaugh Dynasty,” which was released in 2022, Netflix’s “Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal” unpacks the long legacy of legal influence of the family of attorneys. The timing of Netflix’s three-part docuseries, however, was perfect for newshounds and true-crime obsessives who were curious about the trial but wanted firsthand accounts without listening to hours of court proceedings. “Murdaugh Murders” offered an intense history lesson on Murdaugh’s numerous financial scandals, mysterious deaths in Hampton County, South Carolina, and the tangled web of deceit woven by one uber-powerful family. — Evans

“Power Book III: Raising Kanan” (Starz)

Season 3 of “Power Book III: Raising Kanan” has just started, but it’s clear fans are in for a ride over the next several episodes. “Raising Kanan” is the standard-bearer for talent and storytelling in the “Power” universe, with ever-superb performances from its ensemble cast, including Patina Miller, Malcolm Mays, London Brown, Omar Epps, Mekai Curtis, Hailey Kilgore and Joey Bada$$. With Kanan (Curtis) seeking a bit of independence from his mom, Raq (Miller) — and fans clamoring for Kanan to unite with his teenage friends Ghost and Tommy — there’s no telling where the rest of the season will take us. But fans will be along for the high-octane journey. — Evans

Meredith Marks, Monica Garcia and Whitney Rose in "The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City" on Bravo.
Meredith Marks, Monica Garcia and Whitney Rose in "The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City" on Bravo.
Brett Colvin/Bravo via Getty Images

“Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” (Bravo/Peacock)

If you thought “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” would fizzle after the high-pitched drama of Season 3, you’d be incorrect. In Season 4, Mary Cosby returns with some of the best one-liners in Housewives history; Monica Garcia, a former friend of Jen Shah, shows all first-time housewives how to come in hot and win over fans, at least for a moment. Meanwhile, Angie Katsanevas crashes the girls trip at the beginning of the season, and ultimately Heather Gay and Whitney Rose seem to rekindle their relationship and end the drama. Lisa Barlow keeps up her narcissistic persona that is truly only fit for reality TV — while trying to repair her friendship with Meredith Marks. And Marks, well, Marks had one of the most memorable moments of the season so far, with all the “rumors” and “nastiness” that she’s supposedly holding on to about Angie K. RHOSLC very quickly made its intentions clear this season: it was going to be fun, messy and addictive — and it has been the exact kind of fun that all housewives franchises should be. — Evans

“Special Forces: World’s Toughest Test” (Fox/Hulu)

The most intriguing element of “Special Forces: World’s Toughest Test” is the perfectly random group of recruits the series manages to pull in. Season 2, which premiered on Fox in September, featured Olympic gold medalists Erin Jackson and Bode Miller, reality stars Jack Osbourne, Savannah Chrisley and Tom Sandoval, and even dancer-singer Jojo Siwa. The recruits are trying to pass a version of the special forces selection test, which includes several high-risk obstacles and tasks. But unlike other reality competition shows, contestants aren’t racking up points or trying to climb a leaderboard; the show is a matter of will and determination. Audiences witness the recruits fail and prevail throughout several tests. It is as heartfelt as it is anxiety-inducing, even while you’re just sitting at home watching. — Evans

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