The ten best TV shows of 2020

New Statesman critic Rachel Cooke chooses her top programmes of the year. 


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Once Upon A Time in Iraq (BBC Two)

For his extraordinarily powerful documentary series about the West’s interventions in Iraq, director James Bluemel should win all the prizes.

Quiz (ITV)

James Graham’s extended essay in crap Britishness, which came with a brilliant performance as the Coughing Major by Matthew Macfadyen.

This Country (BBC Two)

The Cotswolds with added chiaroscuro. How melancholy it was to say goodbye to the Cooper siblings’ pitch-perfect mockumentary.

[See also: The best TV of Christmas 2020]

Mrs America (BBC Two)

Bewilderingly underrated drama about Gloria Steinem, Betty Freidan et al, with Cate Blanchett giving it her all as their nemesis, Phyllis Schlafly.

I Hate Suzie (Sky Atlantic)

Alan Ayckbourn meets Heat magazine in Lucy Prebble and Billie Piper’s sui generis comedy drama about sex and the internet.

Hospital Special: Fighting Covid-19 (BBC Two)

The cameras were inside the Royal Free and Barnet Hospitals from day one of lockdown – and no one who saw the result will ever forget it.

I May Destroy You (BBC One)

Truth and chaos: Michaela Coel’s brave and sometimes exhilarating drama about consent announced her as a major force.

Normal People (BBC Three)

Sublimely intimate adaptation of Sally Rooney’s novel starring Daisy Edgar-Jones, Paul Mescal and a certain gold necklace.

The Crown (Netflix)

In which Emma Corrin steals the show as Diana and in doing so, brings Peter Morgan’s strange waxwork museum daringly back to life.

Industry (BBC Two)

Survival of the fittest: the precision and – yes – sheer majesty of this show about graduates at a City investment bank make it my drama of the year.

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Rachel Cooke trained as a reporter on The Sunday Times. She is now a writer at The Observer. In the 2006 British Press Awards, she was named Interviewer of the Year.

This article appears in the 11 December 2020 issue of the New Statesman, Christmas special

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