TVObs Awards: Our Favorite TV Shows, Performances and Disappointments of 2023

Mrs. Davis S1E4 - Sister Simone stands straight in an elevator with a pigeon on her head

The Golden Globes are said and done and the Emmys are on the horizon, but who cares about all of that? It’s time for the most prestigious awards of the season, based entirely on the taste of TVObs staff, without any voting or anything!

Below you’ll find our favorite new shows of 2023, our favorite shows overall, what disappointed us, what we were sad to see go, and what we’re looking forward to in 2024.

Favorite New TV Show of 2023

Michael Suarez: The Last of Us, HBO

This show was my pick for the Most Anticipated TV Show of 2023, and it did not disappoint. I can’t say I’m a believer that everything good that isn’t a TV show or a film needs to be adapted into a TV show or a film, but when it does happen, I’m always curious as to whether those involved can pull it off, and Craig Mazin pulls it off. It doesn’t hurt that he had the video game’s writer and creative director, Neil Druckmann, along for the ride. Together, along with a top-notch cast and crew, they kept me coming back week after week. The standout episode is “Long, Long Time”, and what else needs to be said about it? I cannot wait for Season 2.

Bill looks on while Frank sits at a piano in The Last of Us
Photograph by Liane Hentscher/HBO

Ryan Kirksey: Beef, Netflix

Steven Yuen and Ali Wong taught us in 2023 that there can be beauty and rebirth out of ugly emotions like pettiness and anger. In Beef, Netflix’s surprise hit limited series, the conflict between Yuen and Wong led to some of the year’s best laughs and antics, but the shared trauma and unhappiness behind the emotions gave us some of the best moments of self-reflection and introspection that appeared on our screens.

Brien Allen: Mrs. Davis, Peacock

They stuck the landing.

That’s all you need to know. All I dare tell you, even. The less you know, the better.

This wonderfully bonkers show comes from showrunners Tara Hernandez (Big Bang Theory, Young Sheldon) and none other than Damon Lindelof (Lost, Watchmen). It’s a puzzle box show, as you might expect, but also part comedy, part drama, and tackling some of the bigger issues of philosophy and religion.

I just can’t say enough good things about this show, and yet I can’t say anything about this show. Just go watch it, OK?

HONORABLE MENTIONS: The Last of Us, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off

Caemeron Crain: The Curse, Showtime

Hey, did you like The Rehearsal? No? Well, probably don’t watch The Curse, then. But if you’re a fan of Nathan Fielder’s previous work and get excited about the idea of him teaming up with Benny Safdie, boy do I have a show for you!

The Curse is absolutely excruciating, but also incredibly funny (if you’re into this sort of humor). The direction and sound design are top notch, and so is the acting. Emma Stone might make you cringe more than Nathan Fielder does, which is saying something, but Fielder also shows that he has the acting chops to portray someone who’s not just a version of himself.

I went back through the year to make sure I wasn’t forgetting about anything, and while there were some other good new shows, I honestly don’t think anything will stick in my mind the way The Curse will. Here’s hoping for a Season 2!

Asher (Nathan Fielder) and Whitney (Emma Stone) sit next to each other in the premiere of The Curse on Showtime

Most Disappointing New or Returning TV Series in 2023

Michael: Secret Invasion, Disney+

Like last year, the most disappointing series I watched was a Marvel show. Some might say that I shouldn’t expect good things from shows like these, but I say that any show has the potential to be great. The set-up was intriguing enough, but the execution was boring and, at times, nonsensical. Olivia Colman was excellent, as always, and anytime I see Emilia Clarke in something, well, I pay attention. But Samuel L. Jackson and Nick Fury deserved better.

Ryan: Secret Invasion, Disney+

The abomination that was Secret Invasion could have been a result of the gross misuse of Kingsley Ben-Adir, the horrific AI-generated opening sequence, the disrespect of Agent Hill after the death of Cobie Smulders’ character in Episode 1, or the mind-bending idea to give Emilia Clarke’s G’iah a cocktail of several dozen superhero powers. All of those would make Secret Invasion a travesty. But the icing on the cake was the fact that none of it seemed to matter. Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury appeared a few months later in The Marvels and it was business as usual. A plot to take over the world by Super Skrulls doesn’t move the needle in the larger MCU anymore, I guess.

Brien: History of the World Part II, Hulu

I remember watching the movie History of the World Part I at the drive-in when I was a kid, and then of course, endlessly quoting from it with my friends for the next year or so. As we did with all the Mel Brooks classics, like Spaceballs and Blazing Saddles. Given that, I had high hopes for this follow-on series that was teased to us 42 years ago.

This time around though, it just didn’t work for me. There were moments, like the song “F— the North!” from the Civil War sequence, that have a little space rented out in my mind. Some of the short bridging sequences were funny too. But the long form stories that carried through all the episodes just fell flat. They weren’t that funny. This might have been better off being a movie, trimmed down to a crisper 92 minutes like its predecessor.

DISHONORABLE MENTIONS: Star Trek: Picard Season 3, Secret Invasion

Mel Brooks wears a dark suit and extends a hand to introduce History of the World Part II in the trailer for the show

Caemeron: Black Mirror, Netflix

There was a time when I would have ranked Black Mirror in my top five of favorite TV shows, but I’m afraid that’s no longer the case. It’s not all Season 6’s fault. Season 5 was already a step down from the show’s previous heights.

But I didn’t really feel like this most recent season even felt like Black Mirror anymore. It was pretty good television for the most part, but if Charlie Brooker is no longer into exploring the ways in which technology can bring out the darkness of the human soul, then perhaps he should move on to another project. I don’t really see myself watching any of these episodes again.

Favorite Overall TV Show of 2023

Michael: Mrs. Davis, Peacock

Mrs. Davis felt tailor-made for me. It’s hard for me to state just how perfectly co-creators Damon Lindelof and Tara Hernandez sculpted this thing, but from the epic opening (revealed later to not be so epic) to the heart-warming final scene, I was there for all of it. Betty Gilpin as Elizabeth (sorry, Simone) gives the performance of a lifetime, honestly. The absurd combination of genres to ultimately tell a story of media consumption and human connection makes me wonder how it all came together so well. In fact, I completely understand if others didn’t like, or even hated it. It’s definitely not for everyone. However, if you love weird, original storytelling mixed with fantasy, sci-fi, romance, comedy, adventure, spy thrillers, and family drama, this is the show for you. It certainly was for me.

Ryan: The Bear Season 2, FX on Hulu

In my recap of The Bear Season 1 before Season 2 came out, I (stupidly) wondered if the show would ever be able to recreate the magic of the first season if the plot was about building a restaurant instead of the chaos of running a restaurant. The Bear exceeded all expectations with a character-driven season that also had us on the edge of our seats for things like a gas-line balloon test. The Bear, led by Jeremy Allen White and Ayo Edebiri, is the best thing going on television, and “Forks” was the best overall episode of the year.

Carmy and Sydney watch The Beef sign come down in The Bear Season 2 premiere
Photo Credit: Chuck Hodes/FX

Brien: Foundation Season 2, Apple TV+

The first season of Foundation had a lot to love, but there was a lot to be critical of as well. The story of the actual Foundation, (very) loosely following the classic novels by Isaac Asimov, was actually the low point, painfully trope-filled and poorly written. The tacked-on story following the Genetic Dynasty of the Galactic Empire was everything the main story was not, but impressive enough to call it a draw overall.

The sophomore season raised the bar and brought all storylines up to it this time. The writing was tight and purposeful, with nice payoffs in later episodes if you are paying attention in the earlier ones. I was a little skeptical after Season 1 that this could really last for the planned eight seasons, but now I can see the beginnings here of a sci-fi classic.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 4, Wolf Like Me Season 2

Caemeron: Barry, HBO

When Barry first came out, I figured it would be funny because Bill Hader is funny. That prediction panned out, but I didn’t predict that in its final season I would start asking myself where it ranked in terms of my favorite shows of all time.

Barry Season 4 is transcendently good, and consistently hilarious. I know black humor isn’t for everyone, but Bill Hader shows himself to be an absolute master of the genre. And, somehow, he manages to pull it off in a way that apparently works for people who don’t get the joke and think the series has veered into drama.

As I watched this final season of Barry and revisited previous seasons, I got to thinking about how incredibly efficient the show is. There’s no wasted space in this series. The same could be said of The Bear, and I honestly grappled with which show to give this award to. If you wanted to say that The Bear was the best show of the year, I couldn’t argue with you.

HONORABLE MENTION: Baby Billy’s Bible Bonkers

Barry as Clark, wearing glasses and looking up from a chair
Photograph by Merrick Morton/HBO

Favorite Performance in a TV Show in 2023

Michael: Speaking of Betty Gilpin, I will watch her in anything, and simply put, she should be constantly working on the big stuff. She can seemingly do it all in front of the camera, and it’s kind of incredible to see a performer do drama, comedy, and action so well, sometimes all at once. If the show as a whole hadn’t been so great, I would say she was the best thing about it. Actually, scratch that, she was the best thing about Mrs. Davis, and that’s saying a lot.

Ryan: Nick Offerman, “Long Long Time,” The Last of Us, HBO

Being able to pivot from playing an emotional piano rendition of Linda Ronstadt’s “Long Long Time” to setting traps for government “jack-boot fucks” to becoming downright orgasmic while eating strawberries for the first time in 15 years is what earns Nick Offerman (and his on-screen partner Murray Bartlett) the performance of the year. The Last of Us’ wildest experiment ended up being its best moment and an instant all-time great episode of television.

Brien: Harris Dickinson, A Murder at the End of the World, FX on Hulu

A Murder at the End of the World was my Most Anticipated show for last year’s awards. Being the long-awaited return of The OA showrunners Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij, the entire fan base had high hopes. Unfortunately, I have to say that the series did not live up to our expectations. I wasn’t so aggrieved that I named in Most Disappointing this year, but it was a contender.

One highpoint, though, was the flashback storyline following the protagonist, Darby Hart, solving an earlier murder mystery with fellow amateur sleuth Bill Farrah, played by Harris Dickinson. This turned out to be the real mystery of the show, as Bill starts out seeming to be kind of a jerk to Darby, and little by little we begin to piece together what really happened and why. His performance as both young Bill and present-day Bill turns out to be the heart of the series.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: David Tennant (Doctor Who / Good Omens), Freddie Carter (Kaz in Shadow and Bone)

Bill stands in a room in front of a window
CR: Chris Saunders/FX

Caemeron: Ebon Moss-Bachrach, The Bear, FX on Hulu

I feel like this is a dark horse entry, but for my money it doesn’t get better than Ebon Moss-Bachrach’s performance in Season 2 of The Bear. Of course “Forks” put him over the top, as it provided a kind of quiet conversion for Richie, but in a sense I think that exemplified the theme of the whole season. And Ebon Moss-Bachrach sells it perfectly.

Going back to Season 1, I wasn’t always sure how I felt about Richie, but coming out of Season 2 he feels like a fully fleshed-out human being who I care about deeply.

I know many might not even choose Moss-Bachrach for the best performance in this show, and that’s fair. But I’m giving it to Richie. Good job, cousin.

Most Painful TV Show to Part With in 2023

Michael: Ted Lasso, Apple TV+

I felt like I was in the minority when watching Season 3 of Ted Lasso. Life got in the way, and I ended up watching the final season after the series finale aired. So much of what I read online seemed negative. As I watched the series wind down, I became confused. Aside from the fumble of having Keeley learn to be more assertive by having her be basically used by a billionaire, I loved this season more than the previous two. Season 1 is near-perfect, but Season 3 is where everything comes together. When we leave Ted in that final shot, as The Flaming Lips’ “Fight Test” begins to play, I knew I had finished one of the great finales to one of the great series of modern television. I’m happy the show ended on its own terms, even as I’ll miss everyone, including, dare I say, Nate.

Ryan: Succession, HBO

Not all empires last forever, even if you are the impenetrable Logan Roy. Season 4 of the smash hit Succession gave a final tour de force of unexpected shocks, twists, laughs, and paranoia that made us wonder just how far the show goes in reflecting real life. The end of Succession also gifted each character on the show the one thing they all likely deserved: misery. Much like the supernova that was Brian Cox’s Logan Roy, Succession was a flash of brilliance that was with us for only a short time and is unlikely to be repeated for many, many years.

Kendall stares at the sea, defeated
Photograph by Courtesy of HBO

Brien: Let the Right One In, Showtime

This one broke my heart. Let the Right One In is one of my favorite vampire movies of all time, and this TV series took the premise to new and interesting places. The core of that premise is a girl vampire, Eleanor, frozen forever at the age of 12, befriending an outcast young boy, Isaiah. From there, the series explored all the ways in which having a vampire in one’s life can affect parents, siblings, and friends.

The series takes a little bit of time setting up the premise, so if you do take my advice and watch it despite the cancellation, give it until Episode 5. That one pays off everything that was set up prior to it in wonderful and unexpected ways. Then each one of the five remaining episodes shocks and surprises, as all the storylines converge on an amazing ending. Shame on Showtime for cancelling this one; it had so much potential.


Caemeron: Winning Time, HBO

I don’t know what HBO was thinking in releasing Winning Time Season 2 when they did. It was the opposite of basketball season, and in the middle of a SAG-AFTRA strike that meant that no one could promote it.

I don’t think you have to like basketball to enjoy this show, to be clear. The cast is incredible and the style of the series is just a ton of fun. Indeed, I can’t think of a show I had more fun watching in 2023, and it was a blast talking with Ryan about it on The TV Obsessive Podcast.

Alas, the show was cancelled, meaning that a series about the rise of the Lakers ended with them losing to the Celtics. It’s a lot like if The Empire Strikes Back was the last Star Wars movie they ever made. (And sorry for the spoiler, but we are talking about actual basketball history here).

Jerry Buss (John C. Reilly) lays in the center of a basketball court in Winning Time S1E1
Photograph by Warrick Page/HBO

Most Anticipated TV Show of 2024

Michael: Severance Season 2, Apple TV+

Where the heck is this show? Whether answers come or not, I miss the characters. 2024 looks to be another mess of a year, but if I can get my Severance fix within the next 12 months, I’ll be satiated.

Ryan: 3 Body Problem, Netflix

Mostly under the radar since their controversial (and mostly reviled) ending of Game of Thrones, D.B. Weiss and David Benioff are back with their adaption of the 2007 novel by Liu Cixin. Weiss and Benioff are dealing with a complete work of fiction for this series (and not an unfinished project like Game of Thrones), so their vision along with a Netflix budget should be able to weave a masterful tale of haunting decisions made that impact multiple generations.

Brien: Cobra Kai Season 6, Netflix

There are so many great shows lining up for next year. Both the Alien and Blade Runner franchises have TV series in the works. Daredevil returns in Daredevil: Born Again. The much-acclaimed 3 Body Problem is being turned into a series (again—there is already a Chinese series). But the standout for me, the one I am most eagerly awaiting, is Cobra Kai.

This will be the sixth and final season of Cobra Kai. This goofy wonderful show has been firing away on all cylinders for a solid five seasons. Every single one of those seasons has been a joy to watch. The perfect mix of nostalgia, comedy, drama, and over the top fight scenes. I’m sad to see it end, but I’m also glad to see them going out on top of their game. I expect this one to be epic.

Caemeron: Severance Season 2, Apple TV+

There’s no release date yet, but all indications are that we should get Severance Season 2 at some point in 2024. The first season was great, and I struggle to think of any show I look forward to more (including those that aren’t going to air new episodes this year).

Mark and Milchick dance around the office in Severance
Apple TV+/Screenshot

So that’s it for the 2023 TVObs Awards. Let us know what we missed, or snubbed, in the comments!

Written by TV Obsessive

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *