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Our Top 10 Series Discoveries of 2020

In a year we all watched unfold as a far-off collision from behind glass windows, we found comfort, inspiration and adrenaline in these 10 fictional and not-so-fictional television series.

1. Schitt’s Creek, Created by Dan and Eugene Levy

A wealthy family goes bankrupt and has to move to ‘Schitt’s Creek’, their only remaining asset; a small town they had once bought as a joke. This transformative journey of a rich and conceited family is perfectly plotted and paced through the show’s 6 seasons, with each character having been fleshed out impeccably, with empathy and depth, for their own individual ‘riches-to-rags’ story. Who would’ve thought that a show which wasn’t picked up by any channel, other than Canada’s little-known CBC, would become such a cult classic only 5 years later!

Streaming on Netflix

2. Paatal Lok, Directed by Avinash Arun and Prosit Roy

Paatal Lok tells the story of a cynical inspector tasked with investigating a high-profile assassination attempt, that leads him into the violent and dark realm of India’s underworld politics. Alternating between the high society of New Delhi and the notorious UP badlands, the show’s powerful writing, achingly realistic characters, and gritty albeit expertly-done cinematography makes for an excellent shot from Amazon Prime.

Streaming on Amazon Prime.

3. Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story, Directed by Hansal Mehta

Are lala, risk hain to ishq hain!’ (Where there’s risk, there’s love!’) forms the crux of this series, which is the fictionalised version of the very real account of ‘India’s biggest financial scam,’ which was led by financial trader Harshad Mehta, the ‘Big Bull’ who took the Indian stock market by its horns and brought it to a grinding halt. Aligarh director Hansal Mehta and son Jay Mehta deliver a meticulously researched, and completely engrossing show. A stellar cast (with Gujarati theatre and film actor Pratik Gandhi making his Hindi debut), an ear worm of a title track, with Gujarati catch phrases and idioms as dialogue punctuating its characters’ slippery slope, Scam 1992 certainly made for one of our most edge-of -your-seat watches this year.

Streaming on SonyLiv

4. Mrs. America, created by Dahvi Waller

In a world of increasingly polarised ideas of good vs. bad, men vs. women, the right vs. the left, Mrs. America tells the dramatised true story of conservative anti-feminism leader, Mrs. Phyllis Schlafly. Set through the 1970’s, during the hay days of the American feminist movement and the era of the ERA (the Equal Rights Amendment), the 9 episode mini-series, starring a magnetic Cate Blanchett as Schlafly, is as as charming and insidious as its titular character, slowly revealing the conservative modus operandi, while (ironically enough) also highlighting the feminist roots of its most anti-feminist heroine.

Streaming on Disney+ Hotstar

5. Homemade, Created by Fabula, The Apartment Pictures

The weight of the restlessness, the anxiety, the isolation, and the uncertainty we all felt through quarantine, during the heart of the Covid-19 pandemic, is lifted spectacularly by this Netflix short film anthology. Bringing together 17 of the world’s top world cinema filmmakers including the likes of Paolo Sorrentino, Nadine Labaki, Gurinder Chaddha and Ana Lily Amirpour, it also marks the directorial debuts of actresses Maggie Gyllenhaal and Kirsten Stewart. The 6-10minute long films were all made during the initial 3 months of lockdown and delve into everything from everyday musings and child's play to the philosophical titbits of common minds. Although the films themselves aren’t cinematic masterpieces, they are comforting and original, and restored our faith that art can be made in and out of the most difficult circumstances.

Streaming on Netflix

6. Challenger: The Final Flight, Created by J.J. Abrams

J.J. Abrams' limited series examines the 1986 Challenger Space Shuttle tragedy in which a U.S. spacecraft exploded in plain sight of earth, killing all seven of its crew-members, which included a high school teacher. The series is buoyed by its genuine empathy for its subjects, and balanced and fair depiction of the facts - an emotional, gripping and humbling watch, one which left us in awe of the human spirit at a time when it’s ugliest sides were rearing their heads all over the world, all over the internet.

Streaming on Netflix

7. Trial By Media, Created by George Clooney, Steven Brill and Jeffrey Toobin

Deeply-researched, neatly-structured, and scarily relevant today, this limited series revisits 6 cases from the American criminal justice system, in which the media narratives unfolding outside the courtroom ended up playing a vital role in their fates within. The series covers both famous as well as lesser known cases, ranging from corporate fraud to racially motivated police violence to rape, and is both brutally unforgiving and dizzyingly enlightening as it unravels the intricate, claustrophobic relationship that the media and the legal system share in the land of the free.

Streaming on Netflix

8. I May Destroy You, Created by Michaela Cole

I May Destroy You is one of the most powerful dramas to have hit our screens in 2020, reliving the narrative of sexual assault without a single false note anywhere. When Arabella (Michaela Cole) is out for a break that turns into a night-out, the morning after comes back to her in bits and pieces, painting a hazy picture of rape. Written and acted with incredible depth, the drama doesn’t shy away from high levels of complexity, taking us through the different forms of consent and starting the conversation around our responsibilities towards ourselves as well as those around us.

Streaming on Disney+ Hotstar

9. Pushpavalli, Created by Sumukhi Suresh (Amazon Prime)

Pushpavalli, an awkward and shy college student decides to move to Bangalore after the love of her life Nikhil Rao, a man she accidentally met at an organic food convention. There’s only one problem; he doesn’t know or care. How far will you go for love? Or perhaps, as is evident in Pushpavalli’s case, for validation? Created and enacted by comedienne Sumukhi Suresh, who, armed with a charming and funny supporting cast, strikes an uncomfortably hilarious balance between the desperate and the dark, creating a deliciously complex and rare character for the Indian content space; a female stalker.

Streaming on Amazon Prime

10. Normal People, Directed by Lenny Abrahamson and Hettie Macdonald

Normal People tells the story of two youngsters, Marianne and Connell, who become passionately intertwined with one another, through school, college, and later adult life. Exquisitely crafted and brilliantly acted, the show takes you for a gradual roller coaster ride through the evolving relationship between two people who find both complexity and comfort in each other. And the soundtrack will surely stay with you after finishing the show; because you won’t be able to digest it ending after just 12 episodes!

Streaming on BBC iPlayer

Having transcended its physical limitations and ‘idiot box’ reputation to become the cool, unstoppable persona we now call ‘streaming' series, episodic content is also a format whose rise to popularity itself, has been one of the defining features of 2020. And although the influx of content - the good, the bad, and the ugly - has been tremendous, we picked shows that got us thinking and made an indelible impact on how we view life and the world. But this is just our list of shows; 'picture, abhi baaki hain, mere dost!'

Stay tuned for our list of top movies of 2020, which we'll be unveiling next week!



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