We’re in the final quarter of 2023, and barring the debut of a few more big new TV shows between now and the end of the year that could shake things up, we’re in a position to start looking back and identifying the series that burned brightest over the course of the year — that is, the TV shows that made the biggest impact on us. The best of the best.
Among the great TV shows that 2023 has brought us, this year has seen the premieres of everything from HBO’s The Last of Us to Shrinking on Apple TV+, Peacock’s Poker Face, and much more. Granted, choosing the best is largely a subjective endeavor, but what you’ll find below is a list of five TV shows that critics, for now, think outrank all others over the course of 2023. Is your favorite on the list?
The top-ranked TV shows of the year
All of these TV shows, by the way, have perfect 100% scores on Rotten Tomatoes. And they range from critically acclaimed Apple dramas to emotional Hulu series — as well as a fan-favorite police drama from the BBC.
#5: Drops of God
At #5 at the moment is this quiet, contemplative gem from Apple TV+ based on a bestselling Japanese manga series that builds a Succession-style narrative around the passing of a fictional wine expert.
His passion has triggered an inheritance battle between his estranged daughter Camille, who knows absolutely nothing about wine, and the expert’s brilliant student Issei. In other words, it’s the daughter versus the son he never had. A series of tests is devised, such that the ultimate winner will inherit the wine expert’s vast estate. All in all, this is a beautifully shot, emotionally devastating show that will take your breath away — and which is meant to be savored, like a rare bottle of wine.
With shows like Silo, Severance, and especially Foundation (based on Isaac Asimov’s beloved series of novels, Apple TV+ is increasingly establishing itself as the go-to streaming source for top-tier science fiction. With a cast that includes Lee Pace and Jared Harris, the show revolves around a mathematician’s prediction of doom for the Galactic Empire.
Apple debuted Season 2 this summer, and here’s what the streamer had to say about it by way of the official summary: “More than a century after the season one finale, tension mounts throughout the galaxy in Foundation season two.
“As the Cleons unravel, a vengeful queen plots to destroy the Empire from within. Hari, Gaal, and Salvor discover a colony of Mentalics with psionic abilities that threaten to alter psychohistory itself. The Foundation has entered its religious phase, promulgating the Church of Seldon throughout the Outer Reach and inciting the Second Crisis: War with (the) Empire.”
Hulu’s critically acclaimed Reservation Dogs, created by Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi, tells the story of a quartet of indigenous teenagers in rural Oklahoma. It’s thus grounded in the dynamics of the marginalized Native American community, but there’s also a universality herein that encompasses young people simply trying to determine their own identities — while breaking free from circumstances that constrain them.
From a Rotten Tomatoes user review of the show, “With the exception of the series ending, there’s nothing I can say negative about this show. The characters, their stories, and development were all equally flawless. This is the perfect show.”
#2: A Small Light
We’ve now got just two more shows to go. At #2 on our list, this National Geographic miniseries tells the story of a secretary named Miep Gies who, during Germany’s invasion of the Netherlands amid World War II, helps her Jewish employer Otto Frank and his family go into hiding. The show, which premiered on National Geographic in May of this year, is also available to stream on Disney+ and Hulu.
The Rotten Tomatoes critics’ consensus summary raves about Bel Powley, who plays Gies: Her “arresting performance burns bright in A Small Light, a sensitive portrait of heroism in the face of an all-encompassing tragedy.”
Finally, the top-rated show of 2023 (so far) is this British crime drama, set in the fictional town of Calder Valley, which follows a police sergeant named Catherine Cawood.
I’ve never been much from police procedurals, but Happy Valley is something much more than that — a character study of this woman, as she navigates the demands of her work with the West Yorkshire Police while also dealing with personal life and challenges at home. She’s deeply committed to the idea of justice, and she also finds herself caught up in a web of corruption and personal vendettas, making this complex, well-plotted series an intense yet satisfying watch.