2021 Calvins: Best TV Show
By David Mumpower
April 1, 2021
I don’t know about you, but I’ve watched a LOT of television lately. Oh, stop lying. You have, too.
We didn’t have any other choice. Once Coronavirus shut down society, our televisions were all that kept us sane... or at least sane-adjacent.
Historians will remember 2020 as transformational in terms of how we consume media. The world was already trending toward streaming services.
Now, a torrential downpour of content means that Disney+, Netflix, and HBO Max have become integral parts of our life.
Our selections for Best TV Show reflect this dynamic. Only three programs were available via conventional means, and two of them are HBO shows.
In the future, we’ll think of them as HBO Max programs more than pay cable programming. So, that leaves a single AMC title as keeping cable alive.
What’s that, you say? AMC+ is now a thing? Okay, umm, I guess that’s it for network and cable television. They’re officially dead to us.
To drive this point home, our favorite television series this year isn’t even from a streaming service you know.
Last year, Apple TV+ announced that some NBC Sports commercials about soccer would inspire a full-length program.
I’m not joking when I say that some BOP members – especially me – mocked this idea repeatedly... right up until we fell in love with the show.
Ted Lasso as a character and television show proved to be the ultimate counter-programming for 2020, a nightmarish year.
The optimistic sensibilities of the characters meshed perfectly with the underlying premise that humanity functions best when we treat each other with respect.
Jason Sudeikis stars as the ultimate nice guy, a football coach in a struggling marriage. He takes a job across the Atlantic to give his wife some space.
When Lasso arrives, his lack of cynicism astounds the people who are confident he will fail. Over time, he wins them over and brings out their best.
I realize how this sounds on paper, but I fell victim to that trap, too. When I finally watched Ted Lasso, I experienced the kind of joy that’s rare in storytelling today.
There was a moment at 3 a.m. where I could have stayed up another 90 minutes to watch the rest of the series... and I was sorely tempted. It’s that good.
In a time of turmoil, Ted Lasso delivered hope and inspiration. You should watch the first season immediately and tell all your friends. They’ll thank you for the act of kindness.
Despite my gushing over Ted Lasso, it didn’t win this category by much. Longtime BOP favorite Better Call Saul somehow delivered its best season yet.
The key is Tony Dalton's ascension as Lala Salamanca, the smartest of the terrifying Salamanca crime family.
With Dalton’s rise, Saul needed to raise his game... but he didn’t get it done. Instead, Kim Wexler stepped up as the heroine we needed to combat Lala.
The suspense of the final three episodes took our breath away.
Everybody expects Wexler’s story to have a sad ending, but I half-expect her to lead a crime syndicate by the end. She’s a badass on a gripping show.
Our next two selections star damaged female protagonists, only one of whom dated the Joker.
BOP’s staff adored the nuanced progression of The Queen’s Gambit, legitimately one of the best shows that Netflix has ever done.
Yes, we were horrified by the thought of an orphanage drugging teenagers, but that’s apparently something that happened.
Also, we’re a collective of nerds. So, it’s nice to see Chess getting some love.
Meanwhile, we fell head over heels in love with Harley Quinn. This shockingly violent, wildly sexual animated cartoon somehow features the best gay romance ever on television.
I know! We were shocked by this revelation, too!
Harley Quinn's evolution as a character surpasses anything we’ve seen on a live-action program in recent memory.
Why can’t DC movies be as good as Harley Quinn? Anyway, you can catch up with both seasons on HBO Max, which thankfully renewed it for another year.
Finishing in fifth and sixth place are an action show set in the Star Wars universe and... corporate Hell?
I’m obviously referencing The Mandalorian as our fifth nominee. The most recent season expanded the story enough that several spinoffs are in production.
The other show is Succession, which continues to demonstrate that rich people hate everybody... but especially their closest relatives. It’s dark and twisted, but we’re hopelessly addicted.
Kaley Cuoco claims another spot in the top seven with The Flight Attendant, her passion project. It tells the story of a drunken flight attendant who falls for a dead guy.
I don’t know how to make this sound less creepy, but their relationship continues after he’s dead. So, yeah.
The latest seasons of The Crown, Umbrella Academy, and Insecure round out our top ten nominations this year.
The Crown added Gillian Anderson to a fabulous cast that already included BOP fave, Olivia Colman, triggering fireworks for us.
Speaking of which, Umbrella Academy started with humanity's end and worked its way back from there.
As for Insecure, Issa Rae continues to delight. We recently learned that it would film its last season, and The Crown’s coming to an end, too.
So, there's an opportunity available for the next generation of television shows. We're looking at you, WandaVision! It wasn't eligible for this vote, if you're wondering.
Some eligible titles that didn't quite earn nominations are Dark, Star Trek: Picard, The Boys, The Eddy, Normal People, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and The Last Dance.
Interestingly, Tiger King didn’t earn a single vote, meaning that we watched it but really didn’t like it.
||Better Call Saul
||The Queen's Gambit
||Flight Attendant, The