From 'Tiger King' to 'The Crown': 10 TV shows that helped us get through 2020

As far as entertainment goes, this was the year of TV, with most of the world relegated to the sofa

(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 4, 1997 Chicago Bulls player Michael Jordan sticks out his tongue as he goes past Jeff Hornacek of the Utah Jazz during game two of the NBA Finals at the United Center in Chicago, IL. The immense global success of the documentary "The Last Dance" amid the coronavirus lockdown has boosted sales of collectibles related to NBA icon Michael Jordan, some of which are trading in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. - 
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This was a year mostly spent indoors. As the coronavirus pandemic took hold and our sphere of existence was bound to the few square metres of our homes, many of us started finding ways to make our time indoors more enjoyable and productive.

Some of us read those classics we'd been meaning to for years or broke the spines of new releases. Others learnt how to make bread, picked up a new instrument or became seasoned Monopoly players.

But most of all, we watched TV. As far as entertainment goes, 2020 was the year of the telly, especially considering how the pandemic forced many cinemas across the world to close. As such, we take a look at 10 shows released this year that helped us get through 2020.

'Tiger King'

This undated photo courtesy of Netflix shows Joseph "Joe Exotic" Maldonado-Passage with one of his tigers. Amid a constant swirl of grim coronavirus news, the surreal tale of a gay, mullet-wearing private zookeeper who calls himself "Joe Exotic" --  now in prison for murder-for-hire -- has captivated a nation stuck on the couch. 
"Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness" -- featuring a menagerie of big cats, wacky employees and misfit lovers -- is part "Animal Planet" and part "Breaking Bad." And it's all true. - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / NETFLIX" - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as Joe Exotic, poses with one of his tigers. AFP

Coronavirus-related restrictions were beginning to be implemented across the world when Tiger King premiered on Netflix in March. The scandalous and dangerous world of big cat conservationists and collectors immediately reeled in the attention of millions. It's easy to see why.

The eight-episode documentary series was filled with the kind of drama you'd be hard-pressed to find even in the most overstuffed of soap operas, except it was real. From death threats and murder-for-hire to polygamous relationships, drug lords and personality cults, Tiger King could not have come at a better time to distract us from the world-changing effects of the pandemic.

'The Last Dance'

This sports documentary has an almost Shakespearean plot curve that focuses on Michael Jordan's last season with the Chicago Bulls. The 10-episode series, which debuted on ESPN in April before becoming available on Netflix in July, fuses archival footage with interviews with basketball personalities including Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman.

The documentary series was praised by critics for its storytelling pace and rhythm. However, according to ESPN, the show received some criticism from the basketball community with sources close to Pippen saying he was "wounded and disappointed by his portrayal".

'Never Have I Ever'

Maitreyi Ramakrishnan in 'Never Have I Ever'. Netflix
Maitreyi Ramakrishnan in 'Never Have I Ever'. Netflix

A teen comedy drama created by The Office star Mindy Kaling and screenwriter Lang Fisher, Never Have I Ever is a thoroughly original telling of what it is like growing up as a first-generation Indian-American.

The coming-of-age series is partially based on Kaling's life growing up in Boston. It focuses on a 15-year-old girl as she struggles with the death of her father and a socially disastrous freshman year in high school.


This image released by Hulu shows Ramy Youssef in a scene from "Ramy." Nominations for the next Emmy Awards will be announced on Tuesday, July 28. (Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu via AP)
Egyptian-American actor Ramy Youssef in 'Ramy'. AP

With its down-to-earth humour and refreshing take on what it's like being a practising Muslim in the US, Ramy immediately caught the attention of many when it debuted on Hulu last year. The second season was released this year, bringing on Oscar-winning actor Mahershala Ali.

The series has been praised for the way it introduces western audiences to varied perspectives from those with roots in the Middle East, and it won its creator Ramy Youssef the award for Best Performance by an Actor In a Television Series – Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes last year.

'Space Force'

Panned by critics but seemingly loved by audiences, Steve Carell's return to comedy tells the story of the people tasked with creating Space Force, the ridiculed sixth branch of the US Armed Forces.

The show may not be one of the most impressive to come out this year, but is still worth mentioning for its offbeat, awkward telling of the attempt to put American astronauts on the Moon again.

'I May Destroy You'

Devastating, witty, funny, honest and dark, I May Destroy You is perhaps one of the sharpest shows to come out this year, with an amazing performance by the show's creator and lead actress Michaela Coel.

The comedy-drama is set in London and tells the story of a young woman who seeks to rebuild her life after being sexually assaulted.

'The Boys'

The show returned for its second season this year with a gory, action-­filled, not-too-flattering look at the world of superheroes. With a menagerie of flawed characters and a storyline with more twists and turns than a silly straw, it is easy to see why the series is loved by critics and audiences alike.

Showing on Amazon Prime, The Boys continues telling the story of a group of outcast superheroes who are hunted by a multibillion-dollar conglomerate that represents celebrity superheroes and hides their dirty secrets.

'The Crown'

The fourth season of the Netflix Original drama chronicling the life of Queen Elizabeth II was released last month. And it didn't take long for it to become a magnet for controversy for the way it depicts the British royal family, namely Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana – whose character made her debut in the show this season – and their tempestuous relationship.

The controversy reached its climax when the UK's Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden told The Daily Mail that the show's producers should make it clear that The Crown is a work of fiction.

"It's a beautifully produced work of fiction, so as with other TV productions, Netflix should be very clear at the beginning it is just that," he said last month. "Without this, I fear a generation of viewers who did not live through these events may mistake fiction for fact."

Netflix soon responded saying it saw “no need” to add the disclaimer to the series.

'The Queen’s Gambit'

The show that made chess glamorous, The Queen's Gambit – based on the Walter Tevis novel of the same name – tells the story of an orphaned chess prodigy as she becomes a celebrity in the world of the game while battling a drug and alcohol addiction.

The Queen's Gambit became Netflix's most-watched scripted miniseries a mere four weeks after its release. With soaring production value and a stellar performance by lead actress Anya Taylor-Joy, the show is definitely one of the most interesting to come out this year.


Last month, Netflix released its first Egyptian Original series, Paranormal, setting a milestone for thrillers produced in the Arab world. The show is based on the bestselling novel series of the same name by the late Ahmed Khaled Tawfik, who is hailed as the first contemporary horror and science-fiction writer in the Arab world.

The story, set in the 1960s, centres on haematologist Refaat Ismail who tries to uncover the truth behind a series of supernatural events. A spooky ride with plenty of blood-chilling scenes, Paranormal is definitely one of the most impressive shows to come out this year, especially considering the standard it sets for Arabic-language thrillers.