The Atlantic’s 15 Best TV Shows of 2020 – The Atlantic

Chess Study

Also noteworthy: Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich (Netflix)

TIMELY POLITICAL DRAMA: MRS. AMERICA, FX ON HULU

The success of Mrs. America is partly a matter of its prepositions: The shows examination of the failed passage of the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s takes place both within the womens movement and beyond it, looking by turns inward and outward. It is the story, most directly, of Phyllis Schlafly and Shirley Chisholm and Gloria Steinem (and Flo Kennedy and Bella Abzug and Betty Friedan and many others) cooperatingand often competingto realize their own varied visions of the future. But it is also a parable about historys untidiness. Selectively fictionalized in its dialogue and epic in its sweep, Mrs. America could have read as historical iconography: big, broad, just a little bit cartoonish. Instead, the show shines in its smallness. It cares above all about the banalitiesquirks of personality, accidents of circumstancethat shape human events just as readily as the glossier stuff does. As it plays with its own perspectives, the series considers what it means to live in the difference between inside and outside, inclusion and exclusion, intimacy and surveillance. The effect is aptly destabilizingan exploration of progress and backlash that understands how the one can become the other. M. G.

Read: Were living in Phyllis Schlaflys America

FISH-OUT-OF-WATER SHOW: TED LASSO, APPLE TV+

Ted Lasso is the happiest of mediums: The sitcom about an American football coach brought on to lead a British soccer team is charming but not smarmy, smart but not pedantic, heartfelt but clear-eyed too. I find myself describing the show to those who havent watched it as humanewhich I realize is a weird quality to associate with a sitcom, but which I think might also be, at this particular moment, the best one there is. In a time when toxic masculinity is the stuff of daily headlines, the show is incisive, and insightful, about manliness. In an era of poisonous partisanship, it offers a nuanced celebration of teamwork. Ted Lassos 10 perfectly paced episodes are studies, like Ted himself, in the art of under-promising and over-delivering: They seem to be about soccer, but theyre about more than sports. They center on an American, but care deeply about everyone on the team. The exceptions, here, are the rule: Silly but witty, wacky but wise, brilliant in a way that is almost stealthy, Ted Lasso is a sitcom that delivers much more than comedy. M. G.

Also noteworthy: Emily in Paris (Netflix)

Read: The new comedy of American decline

DOMESTIC COMFORT: SELLING SUNSET, NETFLIX

This year, Ive thought a lot about the spaces were all occupying, about how small elements of home design can have significant consequences, as my colleague Megan Garber wrote way back in March. My obsessive interest in what home (and neighborhood) design can mean for different peoples experiences of the pandemic led me to a certain television phenomenon: the deliciously messy real-estate reality series Selling Sunset.

Like many shows about the vapidness of the ber-wealthy, Selling Sunset is best at its most ridiculous moments. In one memorable sequence, the shows most ostentatious agent, Christine, suggests staging a themed open house for one of her clients. The client cautiously agrees, noting that shed like something low-key, only for Christine to suggest that they throw a Burgers & Botox party. The thrill of Selling Sunset isnt just in hearing Christine say such ridiculous words aloud, though; its in knowingand then seeingthat most of the firms Hollywood clientele will eat them up. H. G.

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The Atlantic's 15 Best TV Shows of 2020 - The Atlantic

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