With other creative industries sidelined or figuring out how to proceed once the COVID-19 pandemic hit our shores, television has leapt even closer to the center of the cultural conversation. It makes sense, after all, given that TV is the medium that keeps us company in our lives at home — a place where many are spending vastly more of their time nowadays. But the shows from the first half of this challenging year we’ve chosen to spotlight here may not be those that caught the most attention from a newly socially-distanced public. Instead, many of them are programs that made less noise and attracted less attention than flashier entries; they’ll be shows you’ll want to catch up with, over a day-long binge or a week of sustained viewing, with as this year grinds on. Like “The Last Dance”? Check out “Lance,” an ESPN documentary with all the access but none of the mythmaking, as it looks into the tainted legacy of the disgraced and very candid ex-cyclist Lance Armstrong. Elsewhere, HBO’s “Betty” provided a glimpse of a New York that’s presently just beyond its residents’ grasp, with all the freedom and passion of teens learning to do something they love. And “Feel Good,” less heralded than other Netflix entries, was an elegantly-constructed tale of two people figuring each other out. In a year in which, for many, there’s never been as much free time or as many demands on one’s attention all at once, these shows provided stories well worth sinking into.
Best TV Shows of 2020 (So Far)