The 11 best TV shows of 2023

Nerdette’s Greta Johnsen talks to TV critics from Vulture and The New Yorker about the shows that stood out this year.

The Best TV Shows of 2023. A collage of characters from TV shows that include Fellow Travelers, Deadloch, The Bear, and more.
Photoillustration by Mendy Kong/WBEZ / WBEZ
The Best TV Shows of 2023. A collage of characters from TV shows that include Fellow Travelers, Deadloch, The Bear, and more.
Photoillustration by Mendy Kong/WBEZ / WBEZ

The 11 best TV shows of 2023

Nerdette’s Greta Johnsen talks to TV critics from Vulture and The New Yorker about the shows that stood out this year.

WBEZ brings you fact-based news and information. Sign up for our newsletters to stay up to date on the stories that matter.

Despite two historic writers’ and actors’ strikes, there was a lot of TV to watch this year. Nerdette host Greta Johnsen turned to two experts to weigh in on their favorites: The New Yorker TV critic Inkoo Kang, and Kathryn VanArendonk, TV critic for Vulture.

In putting together her list, Inkoo says she “looked for shows that pushed the medium,” and Kathryn agrees. She also argues that her own list is “as much a portrait of me as a critic as it is a portrait of TV this year.” After all, criticism is always deeply subjective! These two each brought their three favorite shows, al ong with a show they wished had gotten more attention. Greta chimes in with some of hers, too.

🎧 Click the red “listen” button for Greta’s full conversation with Kathryn and Inkoo.


Reservation Dogs (Hulu) 

Reservation Dogs. The teen stars of Reservation Dogs walk in a group towards the camera.
Shane Brown / FX

This show about a group of teenagers on a rural reservation in Oklahoma is a comedy, but Kathryn says, “it is also very very intensely emotional and sad to the point of full body weeping.” 

The third and final season of the show takes the top spot on Kathryn’s list this year. “Please please please go out and watch it,” she says.

The Bear (Hulu)

The Bear. Ayo Edibiri as Sydney writes on a pad in a restaurant kitchen.
Matt Dinnerstein / Hulu

The second season of this character-rich, Chicago-based restaurant comedy/drama “somehow managed to be both critically beloved and pretty popular,” says Kathryn. “It does something that is one of my most favorite TV things: It really only exists in TV spaces. It doesn’t exist in books or film in the same way. You can do these single character stories for different episodes. And they have their own whole little worlds.” 

Inkoo and Greta loved this one too. “For me,” Inkoo says, ”it is a show about how these people understand they work in a toxic workplace, and they are trying to figure out how to create a new workplace with the same people by bringing out the best within them.” As for Greta, she says, “I just found myself weeping by the end of a great number of those episodes just because I was so touched.”

Deadloch (Prime Video) 

Deadloch. Detectives in the show Deadloch are on the beach at a crime scene.
Amazon Prime

This raunchy, Australian buddy cop series is set in an old fishing town that also boasts a lesbian arts colony and its original indigenous people. It’s a rare comedy that also takes gender politics and conversations around colonialism seriously. Kathryn says she could not stop laughing.

It’s also an excellently-plotted mystery! “It does all of the red herring twists and turns that you want,” Kathryn says.

Beef (Netflix) 

Beef. Ali Wong holds a gun at a phone and looks mysteriously off camera.
Courtesy of Netflix

Two strangers, played by Ali Wong and Steven Yuen, get into a road rage incident that escalates into an all-out, chaotic feud. Ultimately, the two characters “realize that these strangers are the only people that they can truly confide in and can truly show the darkness within them and be accepted for it,” says Inkoo.

Its setting in Los Angeles’ Korean community adds another dimension to the series. “It was really fun to take a step back and think about where it fits into Asian American pop culture as a whole.”

Succession (Max) 

Succession. The Roy siblings put grotesque foods into a blender together.
Sarah Schatz / HBO

The final season of Succession, about an aging media mogul who must decide which of his arguably inept children will take over the empire, was one of the most talked-about shows of the year. Greta chose it because of its pitch-perfect blend of absurdity and humor. It is also closely tethered to stories of real-life media families. “It was really really fascinating watching Succession play out at the same time as all of the Murdoch and Fox News drama,” says Inkoo.

Although you can make connections between the show and American news media, the plot is wholly original and unpredictable. “There is shockingly little of that on TV now and so it is so lovely when we get those moments,” says Kathryn.


I’m A Virgo (Prime Video) 

I'm A Virgo. The giant protagonist points down to a crowd of people.
Courtesy of Amazon Prime

This satirical comedy comes from Boots Riley, the director of the 2018 film Sorry to Bother You. The protagonist, Cootie, is a 13-foot-tall teen whose family shields him from the world as a form of protection. A group of teen activists then discovers him and coaxes him out of hiding. 

“This is a really fascinating approach to talking about race and the way that families have to raise Black children,” says Kathryn. It’s also a wild, surreal ride. “It is one of those shows that you watch and you just think, ‘thank god somebody paid somebody to make this sort of thing.’”

Scavengers Reign (Max) 

Scavengers Reign. One of the animated characters from the TV show looks straight at the camera. She has a furrowed brow and a concerned gaping mouth. The background is a spaceship.
Courtesy of Max

This sci-fi animated series follows the stranded crew of a damaged airship as they fight to survive on a hostile planet. Inkoo was “floored” by this show, which she says is full of “imaginative leaps.” 

“The selling point, at least for me, is that the flora and the fauna that they come up with on the show are so entirely original,” says Inkoo. She only found out about the series a week before this Nerdette conversation, and she hopes other folks discover it too!


Fellow Travelers (Showtime) 

Fellow Travelers. THe cast of the show are set in a 1950s room. It's dark and moody.
Courtesy of Showtime

Out of all of the shows this year, Fellow Travelers is “the one show that I feel most passionately about,” says Inkoo. This historical drama begins during the Lavender Scare in the 1950s, when queer people were being sought out and pushed out of the U.S. government. Based on the novel by Thomas Mallon of the same name, the show follows two political staffers who attempt to keep their love affair a secret over the course of decades. Plus, Inkoo calls the show, “hands down the sexiest show on television this entire year.”

For All Mankind (Apple TV+) 

For All Mankind. An astronaut moodily looks at the camera. She is wearing a headset and a uniform.
Courtesy of Apple TV+

The fourth season of this alt-history involves a labor fight on Mars, a Russian spy subplot, and a scheme to steal an asteroid. “If you don’t love space stuff, you’re going to love it. If you love space stuff, you’re gonna love it,” says Greta.

There’s so much to love about this show: created by sci-fi veteran Ronald D. Moore, along with Ben Nedivi and Matt Wolpert, every episode has an excellent prestige TV arc. Plus, each season leaps ahead ten years, which might feel gimmicky, but in this case proves to be fascinating. “The opportunities for character development in a show that’s that narratively ambitious is really exciting,” says Greta.


Wrestlers (Netflix) 

Wrestlers. Wrestlers stand in the ring with their arms in the air in victory. A crowd surrounds them. It's dusk.
Courtesy of Netflix

Inkoo admits she knows very little about sports or wrestling in particular, but she was “absolutely riveted” by this docuseries. From Greg Whitely, the creator of Cheer, Wrestling follows a wrestling league in Ohio that is on the brink of economic precarity. “There’s a human spark that Greg Whitely is able to bring out of his subjects,” says Inkoo. Plus, “this one is just gorgeous to look at.”


Starstruck (Max) 

Starstruck. The main character and creator of Starstruck nervously holds a cake.
Courtesy of Max

The British series Starstruck follows the ups and downs of the romance between Jessie and her movie star love interest, Tom. “I didn’t think enough people talked about the third season this year,” says Greta. Rose Matafeo, who created the series and stars in it, is hilarious and charming. “Yes there are a million romantic comedies out there, but this one is so genuinely tender and funny and so much about friendship as much as it is about any relationship.”

Greta Johnsen is the host of Nerdette. Anna Bauman is Nerdette’s producer.