Television of the Year: 2023

From Golden Balls to road rage, via scams and party boats, our critic picks her 10 favourite series of the year

December 23, 2023
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Illustration by Vincent Kilbride


Fisher Stevens’s four-part documentary about the life and times of Golden Balls himself is a great watch. It’s a portrait of David Beckham, of course, who is a more complex person than the tabloids ever gave him credit for, but it’s also a trip back through the celebrity culture of the 1990s, as well as an intimate portrait of his marriage to Victoria and how their partnership managed to survive under such intense public scrutiny. Worth watching to be reminded of what they wore at their wedding alone.

Dreaming Whilst Black

A new sitcom co-created by and starring Adjani Salmon as Kwabena, a black filmmaker struggling to get his work made, make ends meet and juggle his personal life. It’s genuinely funny and has a pleasingly surrealist tilt, featuring sequences of Kwabena’s daydreams and nightmare scenarios alongside the real events of his life, navigating excruciatingly awkward interactions with his white colleagues and deciding what selling out might mean for a black filmmaker trying to make it in a white-dominated media landscape.

Succession, Season 4

Succession needs no introduction, and this fourth and final season was a triumphant end to the series. All the hallmarks of what people have loved about Succession are here: conniving and backstabbing, merciless one liners and several lifetimes’ worth of familial resentment. The episode on the party boat is some of the most gloriously well-written television I’ve ever seen, and it’s a delight to see these performers given such good material with which to say goodbye to their characters.


This show is what would come staggering out the other side if you slammed the car of Jackass into the brick wall of Panorama. Two telemarketers discover that their New Jersey call centre is part of a billion-dollar scam that goes all the way to the top. This documentary series, which spans 20 years of chaotic investigation and office hijinks, is overflowing with larger-than-life characters and scratches an itch I’ve certainly had; the itch that asks, “What the hell is going on with the people on the other end of the phone when you get scammed?”

The Bear, Season 2

The Bear follows Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto, an ex-Michelin chef who returns to his hometown of Chicago to take over the family’s sandwich shop after his brother’s suicide. The first season, in which Carmy (Jeremy Allen White) fought to turn the shop’s fortunes around and get its decidedly un-Michelin staff to step up their game, was all shouting and punching and fighting fires. This second season is a different beast, but no less compelling. These episodes are more gentle, an intimate look at the lives of the staff in the run-up to re-opening the shop as a fine dining establishment—with the exception of one truly fantastic episode depicting a chaotic Berzatto family Christmas of the past which could stand as a film in its own right.

The Last of Us

I was sceptical about this, fearing it would be a flat cash grab. The Last of Us began life as a video game, following a man and a girl travelling across an America ravaged by a pandemic, dodging zombies and post-apocalyptically desperate people along the way. The game is good, and thankfully the show is good too. I’m not usually one for zombie stuff, but this one won me over with great performances from Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey in the lead roles—as well as a heartbreaking standalone episode starring Nick Offerman, showing that his range extends well beyond what you might have seen of him in Parks and Rec.

Dead Ringers

I am going to be honest here. I found this almost unbearable because I’m a horror wimp, and because I once watched the original film by David Cronenberg in a windowless hostel room in Tokyo, thinking it was a comedy, and subsequently had nightmares about baroque gynaecological tools. Nevertheless, I can see through my fingers that it is very good, and people who have more backbone than I do have told me that they rate it highly. Where Jeremy Irons played the identical twin gynaecologists who take turns having sex with their patients in the original, in this six-episode Amazon Prime series they are played by Rachel Weisz. Stylish, unnerving and a case where gender-swapping the lead roles is artistically productive rather than just a gimmick.

Fleishman is in Trouble

The HBO adaptation of Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s hit 2019 novel of the same name. Jesse Eisenberg plays Toby Fleishman, whose world begins to unravel when his wife Rachel, Clare Danes, suddenly disappears. All of the major characters are played by actors you remember from roles when they were much younger (others include Josh Radnor, Adam Brody and Lizzy Caplan), which makes this meditation on the shock of suddenly finding yourself middle-aged all the more effective


Two strangers, Amy and Danny, come across each other in their cars when they are having really bad days. This chance meeting—and the incident of road rage that follows—triggers an increasingly horrifying series of events as Amy (Ali Wong) and Danny (Steven Yeun) both seek to take their revenge on each other. Tightly plotted and very bingeable, the series is about anger, existential despair and the terrible things people do in the heat of the moment.

The Curse

The Curse, a collaboration between Nathan Fielder and Benny Safdie, is a Marmite show, for sure. If you found Fielder’s other shows, like Nathan for You, too cringe-inducing, you won’t like it. If you found the Safdie brothers’ Uncut Gems too nerve-wracking, you won’t like it either. It’s difficult viewing, but well worth it, in my view. It’s about a couple, played by Fielder and Emma Stone, who are trying to get their TV show about flipping environmentally sustainable houses in a deprived neighbourhood made. It’s an effective satire of white saviour do-gooding, but becomes much more—and much, much weirder. The finale is astonishing.