10 best shows of 2023 — I watched a lot of TV and this is the cream of the crop

(L, R) Jeremy Allen White as Carmy and Ayo Edebiri as Sydney in The Bear season 2
(Image credit: Chuck Hodes/FX)

I watch a lot of TV — so much so that I started to count how many shows I watched in 2023 and got tired around 55 or so. One would think technology has advanced enough that it could just tell me the number, Black Mirror-style (which happens to be one of the shows I watched this year). 

I say this so you know that I’m pulling from a vast quantity of options to create this list of best shows of 2023. 

The ones that made the cut to the top 10 probably won’t surprise you. They are some of the biggest, most talked-about shows that aired or streamed on television. They can be found on most critics’ year-end lists. They probably made your own. 

They made me laugh, they made me cry, they made me scream and throw things. They had me rushing home to view live or binge-watching into the late hours. They made me think, learn, grow and appreciate.  Without further ado, here are my top 10 best shows of 2023. 

10. Party Down (Starz)

Left to Right: Tyrel Jackson Williams (as Sackson), Ryan Hansen (as Kyle Bradway), Zoe Chao (as Lucy), Martin Starr (as Roman Debeers), Adam Scott (as Henry Pollard) and Ken Marino as Ron Donald in Party Down season 3 episode 3

(Image credit: Starz)

Choosing the show that went into this slot was torture. As you can see in my honorable mentions list below, many worthy titles were left off. I finally decided to give into nostalgia, which this revival served up in trays. 

Thirteen years after Party Down was sadly canceled by Starz, it was brought back to life with original stars Adam Scott, Jane Lynch, Ken Marino, Megan Mullally, Martin Starr and Ryan Hansen all returning to strap on their bowties (Lizzy Caplan was unfortunately busy). It felt like the good days in the best way — hilarious, absurd, biting and snarky. Here’s hoping the party keeps going. 

Stream on Starz

9. For All Mankind (Apple TV Plus)

Masha Mashkova and Joel Kinnaman in For All Mankind season 4

(Image credit: Apple)

Every season of For All Mankind has gone on my year-end best-of list, and season 4 is no different. Things change — characters, settings, technologies, politics, presidents — but one thing remains the same: it’s enthralling to watch. 

No other show moves at such breakneck speed while slowly building plot and character blocks, all to be able to knock them down in spectacular fashion by the finale. Is it ridiculous that Ed Baldwin is still serving in space? Yes and I don’t care. His rapport with Danielle Poole is now so weighted by their shared history that I’m happy to suspend disbelief. After all, this is a show about imagination and what-ifs. 

Stream on Apple TV Plus

8. Poker Face (Peacock)

Natasha Lyonne as Charlie Cale in Poker Face

(Image credit: Evans Vestal Ward/Peacock)

Rian Johnson had already proved himself to be a master of mystery with Knives Out and Glass Onion before creating Poker Face. He’s been candid that watching Columbo during the pandemic inspired him to set out to make a “howcatchem” series rather than a “whodunit” like his movies. 

Johnson also made the canny move to partner with star Natasha Lyonne, whose magnetic earthiness suits this format so well. She makes it easy to root for Charlie while she flees her past in a Plymouth Barracuda, encountering colorful characters involved in strange crimes along the way. As Lyonne would say in Russian Doll, “What a concept!

Stream on Peacock

7. Slow Horses (Apple TV Plus)

Gary Oldman in Slow Horses

(Image credit: Apple)

Spy dramas are a dime a dozen, but Slow Horses is pure gold. That is largely due to star Gary Oldman, whose cantankerous, slovenly, out-of-favor Jackson Lamb is a treat to watch. Excellent writing gives Lamb plenty of zingers and putdowns to dole out, a variety of interesting characters to receive them and an intricately-built plot filled with twists and turns. 

Each season of Slow Horses has featured a different big mystery, though relationships and rivalries carry over to create a wonderfully complicated espionage stew. The third season has really paid off in that latter regard, as familiar faces pop up to add intrigue. 

Stream on Apple TV Plus

6. Jury Duty (Freevee)

Tom's Guide Awards 2023: Jury Duty

(Image credit: Amazon Freevee)

At the start of 2023, I would’ve bet good money that I’d never put a Freevee show on my best-of list. And I would’ve lost that good money. 

Jury Duty came out of nowhere, which perhaps added to the pleasure of watching it. It’s a crazy concept: take a real, unsuspecting person and make him believe he’s participating in a jury trial. Every aspect of the trial is fake — the judge, other jurors (including James Marsden as himself), lawyers, witnesses and courthouse workers are all actors. 

Only Ronald Gladden thinks this is a real case. I can’t blame him for being duped; I often forgot and I went in knowing it was all made-up! What makes Jury Duty so good is that it never mocks Ronald but instead portrays him as a hero.

Stream on Freevee

5. The Last of Us (HBO)

Pedro Pascal as Joel and Bella Ramsay as Ellie in The Last of Us

(Image credit: Liane Hentscher/HBO)

I’ve never played the game, let’s get that out of the way. I went into The Last of Us with little prior knowledge except that it was based on a video game, which set my expectations very low. A competent zombie drama on par with the first seasons of The Walking Dead would’ve been acceptable. 

Instead, I was transfixed by a post-apocalyptic love story. Or, I should say stories. There was the parental one between Joel and Ellie, as well as the standalone romance between survivalist Bill and his partner Frank. The fungus may be rampant and unstoppable, but so is the human heart. 

Stream on Max

4. Reservation Dogs (FX on Hulu)

Reservation Dogs season 2 cast

(Image credit: FX)

Some of television’s greatest shows went under-recognized, at least by audiences and awards bodies. Throughout its three seasons, critics far and wide have been hailing Reservation Dogs as a coming-of-age masterpiece that highlighted indigenous voices. It’s criminal that viewership and buzz remained so low and that the show only received one Emmy nomination. 

Well, fine. Reservation Dogs can remain a secret among us cool kids. Our exclusive club can hold to ourselves the sometimes-goofy and sometimes-witty comedy, the heart-tugging but never sappy drama, the subtle yet superb performances and the view into a unique community. 

Stream on Hulu

3. Beef (Netflix)

(l to r) Ali Wong and Steven Yeun in BEEF

(Image credit: Netflix)

Let the verdict from my Beef review stand: “One of the best shows of 2023, BEEF uses sharp humor to explore the dark emotions of anger, helplessness and betrayal. Ali Wong and Steven Yeun deliver searing performances as the feud between their characters escalates into a wild ride filled with amusing twists and shocking turns.” 

Beef begins with a simple premise: a road rage incident in a suburban parking lot. From there, though, it revs up into a revenge tale that’s both absurd and totally relatable. Beep beep.

Stream on Netflix

2. The Bear (FX on Hulu)

Jeremy Allen White and Ayo Edibiri in The Bear season 2

(Image credit: FX on Hulu)

Yes, chef! The dramedy cooked up a somewhat quieter second season that expanded and deepened the characters as they faced the high stakes of opening a new restaurant. 

Overall, season 2 was less ulcer-inducing, though the holiday episode “Fishes” was maybe the most stressful thing I’ve ever seen. As good as that was (so many cameos!), the best thing The Bear did was give Sydney, Marcus and even Richie significant standalone storylines that sent them out into the world to learn and grow. The show was richer for it. I can’t wait to see what the third course brings. 

Stream on Hulu

1. Succession (HBO)

(L to R) Sarah Snook as Shiv, Kieran Culkin as Roman and Jeremy Strong as Kendall in Succession

(Image credit: David Russell/HBO)

Logan Roy’s death was baked into the title and the premise of Succession from the start. Even so, when it finally occurred in the middle of the final season, it was still somehow shocking. His adult children had schemed and scraped and clawed at one another to take his place one day. But when the day finally came, they were left disoriented and adrift. Their attempts to buck up and backstab their way to the top position were tragicomically fascinating. 

HBO has owned Sunday nights for decades and Succession’s last run proved why. Every week was a feast of brutally funny dialogue and god-tier performances that begged to be discussed on social media. That’s why it’s my No. 1 boy show of 2023.

Stream on Max

Honorable mentions (in alphabetical order):

  • Abbott Elementary (ABC)
  • How to With John Wilson (HBO)
  • Only Murders in the Building (Hulu)
  • The Other Two (Max)
  • Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story (Netflix)
  • Shrinking (Apple TV Plus)
  • Silo (Apple TV Plus)
  • Somebody Somewhere (HBO)
  • Starstruck (Max)
  • The Traitors (Peacock)

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Kelly Woo
Streaming Editor

Kelly is the streaming channel editor for Tom’s Guide, so basically, she watches TV for a living. Previously, she was a freelance entertainment writer for Yahoo, Vulture, TV Guide and other outlets. When she’s not watching TV and movies for work, she’s watching them for fun, seeing live music, writing songs, knitting and gardening.