At the beginning of 2023, I set up a note on my phone called “2023 Media” and made a goal to record every TV show I watched (and every book I read) over the course of the year. I was motivated by a desire to remember what I consumed and how I felt about it – in part to avoid re-watching or continuing shows I didn’t love and in part so I could pass along my favorites when asked for recommendations.
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I read more than I watch TV, mostly due to our stage in life. We have a six year old who is staying up a little later now, and I like to be in bed with a book around 9:00. That leaves a scant hour for watching TV a few nights of the week. For that reason, I’m fairly picky about what I watch. By “picky” I don’t necessarily mean that I’m a snob about quality but more that I aim for comfort.
I don’t do excessive violence or fantasy, and my favorite shows are often of the Masterpiece variety – a good period drama with great costumes, better interiors, and British accents. I also, oddly enough, love British detective series like Happy Valley and Line of Duty and will give most of that genre at least one chance.
I wanted to write this post for myself as a journal of sorts so I could remember what I watched and how I felt about in in 2023. I wrote similar posts years ago and have fun revisiting them. And, I also wrote it because I enjoy discovering what shows and movies my friends and family love and arguing over our favorites.
My Favorite Limited Series Watched in 2023
My first list is comprised of limited run series rather than seasons of longer running multi-season shows. I don’t think I’m alone in preferring these one season shows of roughly six to eight episodes over movies. It’s rare that I will even watch a movie now, and in fact, I only watched one movie in all of 2022 (Coda) and one non-kid movie in 2023 (Lady Chatterly’s Lover) because I prefer series so much more.
I did not read the novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid before binging Daisy Jones, which was my favorite limited series of the year (and the first one we watched). It was immediately engrossing with all of my favorite elements – period sets and costumes, music, and fantastic chemistry. This was the show I thought about all year, and while I rarely re-watch television, I have been wanting to rewatch this series from start to finish from the minute it ended.
I resisted watching this Bridgerton spin off at first, but once I started I was totally hooked. If you are a Bridgerton fan, then Queen Charlotte is a must-watch for the background and history behind all of your favorite characters. I’m looking forward to season 3 of Bridgerton even more now, though it will be hard pressed to top season 2.
I know this series got mixed reviews, but I enjoyed it – specifically the complexity of Lizzie Caplan’s (love her) character. This was a series where the cast really made it worth watching. I am roughly the same age, within a year, of the main characters, and that helped make it more relatable and interesting. Claire Danes rarely disappoints, and I thought she was fantastic as the misunderstood Rachel.
This was the series that got me to push for a Hulu subscription. It had been recommended by multiple people, and it ended up being the rare show that I would stay up late (I mean really late) binge watching because I just couldn’t look away. Raw, poignant, heartbreaking, and ultimately hopeful, I definitely recommend it if you like slow moving relationship dramas.
When I was in college and just after, I read and re-read Catch-22 at least three times, annotating it and devouring it. I lent that paperback to a former boyfriend who was a forest firefighter in Oregon, and it was ultimately lost in flames when his camp burned down. I finally bought myself a new copy a few years ago and started another re-read. When I saw the series popup on Hulu, I knew I would watch it even though a television interpretation is never as good as the book. The cast makes this series, particularly Kyle Chandler as Colonel Cathcart, but the actor Christopher Abbott as Yossarian is my new celebrity crush. I’m not sure if there’s a season 2, but if there is, I’ll be watching.
Speaking of screen adaptations that don’t do justice to the book, we binge watched All the Light We Cannot See on Netflix this Fall. I had zero expectations for my enjoyment of the series (which is so short as to be really just a very long movie) because, like most readers, I loved this book so much. If you take the show on its own without consideration of the novel, it is exceptional. Mark Ruffalo is a dubious Frenchman but other than that, the cast is excellent and the sets are incredible. Just set aside any hope you have that the plot will follow the book 1:1.
Also watched…Anatomy of a Scandal, The Confessions of Franny Langton, One of Us (Brit Box), A Confession (Brit Box), Inside Man (Stanley Tucci), Bad Sisters (Apple +).
My Favorite TV Seasons Watched in 2023
We watched quite a few seasons of ongoing shows in 2023, wrapping up more than one show that were all time favorites of mine. These are in no particular order, but I particularly loved the shows closer to the top of the list and would definitely recommend them.
Sex Education was my surprise favorite show during Covid, and I eagerly looked forward to Season 4. This series opened my naive, elder Millennial possibly Gen Xer mind, in many ways over the course of its run, and Season 4 pushed me ever further. While painfully uncomfortable at times, I think this show is an absolute treasure, and I will miss it. I loved the ending of the series, and I will forever miss the exterior views of that house and Gillian Anderson’s personal style.
I liked season 1 of The Bear, but I loved season 2. Jeremy Allen White was my favorite character as Lip in Shameless, and he is even better as Carmy. The episode where Richie is “punished” by being sent to work at a high caliber fine dining establishment was one of my favorite episodes of television ever. I thought about it for days and discussed it with multiple family members and friends.
That episode was followed ever so closely by the Seven Fishes episode with Jamie Lee Curtis in her absolute element. As someone of Italian heritage whose family celebrates the seven fishes on Christmas Eve annually, this episode was excruciatingly anxiety inducing in an all too familiar way.
By the way, my seven fishes recipe this year was particularly good.
Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has been a favorite show of mine since it’s debut, with it’s costumes and interiors and humor. In some ways, the last season was satisfying and in other ways disappointing. Spoiler alert – we never learn who Midge’s additional husbands were. I wish there had been one or two additional seasons planned because it did feel a little rushed at the end, like the writers were trying to wrap everything up with a neat little bow on limited time. One more season would have been nice. It took me a while but when it dawned on me that this was really just an epic love story (or two), I appreciated the ending so much more.
This was the show that made me recognize Mindy Kaling as a genius. I don’t fangirl and would be hard pressed to think of a celebrity that I’d want to meet other than Mindy. I never thought I would love a teen romcom as much as I love this show, and I was so sorry to see it come to a close. This is the show I recommend to anyone looking for something light and funny but with more depth and dimension than a typical network sitcom. I can’t wait to see what Mindy does next and am eagerly awaiting the new season of Sex Lives of College Girls.
We watched season 3 of Slow Horses along everyone else, and it was a fan favorite among most of my extended family. I know we were all watching it for Gary Oldman’s dry wit and disgusting personal hygiene. Kristin Scott Thomas is another favorite of mine, and I continue to enjoy her character’s cunning and strategery. That being said, season 3 felt a little rushed to me compared to season 2 and could have used two or three more episodes to fill out the backstory. As I mentioned above, I don’t love excessive violence and generally hate action movies. The last two episodes felt very much like that, but I’ll be back for season 4.
We were late to the game with Reservation Dogs, but once we started it, I was hooked. Poignant, funny, and often uncomfortable, this show deserves every award it received. Looking over this list, I never thought that my favorite series of the last few years would be about teenagers, but Reservation Dogs tops my list of must-watch TV with its portrayal of modern day life on a Native American reservation.
Season 3 travels back in time to provide backstory on the excruciating history of child abuse perpetrated by the government and the Catholic church on Native Americans while providing context and depth to the overall plot. I loved how the creators brought the characters’ journeys full circle with the series’ conclusion.
World on Fire (Masterpiece) had a long break between its first and second seasons that made me worry it was never coming back. I was so excited for the second season of this WWII period drama which features a cast of characters with intersecting and overlapping storylines. My only complaint about this show is that there aren’t enough episodes per season, and we have to wait too long to find out what happens next. Perfect for fans of Land Girls, another too short-lived Masterpiece series set in WWII Britain.
This was the season that I finally bought into The Morning Show as worth spending my time on. I actually wanted to know what would happen next, and I didn’t despise every character quite the way I did in past seasons. John Hamm playing opposite Jennifer Aniston didn’t hurt either. I found the episodes that forced us to relive Covid particularly painful, but it was worth getting to the other side. Looking forward to next season.
Also watched…Top Chef Season 20, The Bay Season 3 and The Tower Season 2 (both on Brit Box).
I thought 2023 was a good year for me for television, and I plan to continue being selective as to what I choose to watch. I’m looking forward to new seasons of several favorite shows, hopefully sooner rather than later. If you have any recommendations, I would love to hear them in the comments.