The 10 best TV shows of 2023

Media empires, stressful kitchens, post-apocalyptic nightmares… our TVs have been jam-packed with incredible storytelling this year. Here are our picks of what you need to binge this Christmas to catch up.

The 10 best TV shows of 2023
Craig McLean

Staying in is the new going out, especially when TV is a wealth of wonders and going out costs so bloody much. That said: if you want to keep up with just-returned, consistently-top-notch spook drama Slow Horses (Apple TV+); the final episodes of swaggery cowboy melodrama Yellowstone (Paramount Plus); or go on another thrill-ride with the mighty Natasha Lyonne in Poker Face (Sky Max/Now), well, those streamer subscription fees add up. Meanwhile, here are the 10 other (okay, there’s 11) shows we couldn’t live without this year…

HBO / NowSuccession

What a show, what a final season, what an ending. After a COVID-caused sluggishness bedevilled series three, this year’s 10-part run was high-drama, high-stakes perfection. Every episode of this HBO juggernaut could have been a film. Every plot jump – Logan’s dead… already? Shiv’s pregnant? What the actual fuck, [name redacted] is the actual successor?! – was beautifully crafted, choreographed and acted. Succession was that rare thing for a top-rated drama: it knew to quit when ahead. Bravo, Jesse Armstrong and your crew of stellar, top-of-their-game players.

BBCSuch Brave Girls

Sneaking onto the BBC in the dreary days of late November, this is the sitcom as shitcom: a none-more-dark tale of mental anguish, suicidal ideation, deadbeat dads, mommy dearests and loser boyfriends. It’s also laugh-out-loud funny. Kudos to 29-year-old creator, writer and star Kat Sadler, and to her co-star and real-life sister Lizzie Davidson – and to their onscreen mum played by Louise Brealey – for making the funniest show of the year. Mining the siblings’ real-life personal traumas and challenges, they’ve turned the coal-black into a comedy diamond.


Feeling stressed this festive period? Maybe don’t watch Beef just yet, then. Netflix’s intense revenge drama begins with a bout of road-rage and soon escalates into a catastrophic, cataclysmic battle of wills between boujie entrepreneur Amy (stand-up-turned-actor Ali Wong) and builder Danny (The Walking Dead’s Steven Yeung). Each episode ratchets up the drama, each narrative beat twists the knife further, until – literally and figuratively – the house is on fire. At the same time, though, obsessive retribution never looked so stylish, nor was it played for so many bitter laughs. Genius.

Hulu / Disney+The Bear

Yo, cuz: any fear that The Bear might jump the bear by shifting the action in the second series from a cherished but dilapidated Chicago sandwich shop to the creation of a high-end restaurant were dispatched quicker than a small-plate starter. The Bear is scriptwriting as good as it gets, that ungainly genre “dramedy” at its very, very best. And that cameo-stuffed flashback episode, Fishes, which took us back to the Berzattos’ family Christmas and explained the root of the siblings’ – and their cuz’s – genetic traumas, might be the best hour of TV in 2023. But maybe don’t watch that this festive period, either…

BBCBoiling Point

…but if you can stand the heat, stay in the kitchen for Boiling Point. This four-part BBC adaptation of the original, single-shot feature (itself an adaptation of a steamingly intense short film) lost that no-cut gimmick but none of the grimly compelling tension. With Stephen Graham’s troubled chef Andy sidelined, it’s time for Vinette Robinson’s Carly to take the lead, trying to whip her brigade into shape and make a go of her “northern cuisine” restaurant. An aggy investor, troubled pastry chef, impoverished kitchen porter and pervy sous chef all conspire to crank up the temperature.

Apple TV+Hijack

Apple TV+’s sky-high concept thriller was daft, over-the-top and utterly, utterly addictive. When a bunch of geezer-goons take control of a flight from Dubai to London, there’s only one man onboard who can save his fellow passengers. “But he’s a business negotiator,” you say. Luckily that business negotiator is played by Idris Elba, here flexing his very special set of skills – and his brawn – to talk the hijackers down. With the seven, hour-long episodes tracking the real-time duration of the journey, this is a bingey indulgence well worth doing in a oner if you have a spare, sofa-stuck holiday day.

HBO / NowThe Last Of Us

The year’s best double-act was a grumpy daddy and a sullen teenager, yomping their away across a post-apocalyptic wasteland America “peopled” by mushroom-headed zombies. In this hit HBO adaptation of the blockbuster video game, Bella Ramsey (Game Of Thrones) was Ellie, the kid who might hold the key to ending the undead plague, Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian) the reluctant guardian tasked with shepherding her across America to… who knows what destiny. The second-best double-act? Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett’s survivalist couple, stars of a standalone ep, a pair whose love knew no bounds.

BBCColin From Accounts

Wonky title, wonky comedy gem. This low-key Australian show was a spring highlight on iPlayer. Written by and starring real-life couple Harriet Dyer and Patrick Brammall, it’s the shaggy-dog story of strangers bonded by their shared involvement in the maiming of a cute mutt they name Colin From Accounts. The path of romance doesn’t run smoothly, obvs, with much comedy arising from their decade-plus age-gap – the episode where her millennial mates run amok in his microbrewery is, like the party itself, a riot.

BBC / ITVThe Gold / The Long Shadow

Two notorious real-life British crime stories, two top-notch depictions of the lengthy, tortuous pursuit of the perpetrators. The Gold told the cracking story of the hunt for villains behind the Brinks-Matt bullion heist, a pacey drama full to the brim with ’80s “style” and a stellar performance from Jack Lowden as underworld heavy Kenneth Noye. The Long Shadow laid bare the stuttering, flawed investigation into the serial killer who became known as the Yorkshire Ripper. Honouring the victims, it also, rightly, dishonoured the ’70s coppers who couldn’t see past their own blinkered sexism.


The ghosts of Christmas past, present and future: the cult-turned-hit BBC sitcom from the artists formerly known as The Horrible Histories Gang bowed out this year after five series. Stay tuned, though, for another festive special that ties a bow on this perfect ensemble show. The idea of a perpetual afterlife trapped in a crumbling 17th century mansion with a bunch of weirdos never felt so warming.

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