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The 15 Best Returning TV Shows of 2023 So Far

Whether you love feuding families, stardom-chasing siblings, survival-of-the-fittest thrillers or savage satires of history, this year's best returning series have kept delivering.
By Sarah Ward
July 17, 2023
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By Sarah Ward
July 17, 2023
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For TV fans, 2022 was the year of finally. After a couple of years of hefty pandemic delays, so many stellar television shows finally returned. In 2023 so far, it's been the year of farewells. Again, plenty of ace programs have added extra episodes — but some of them, such as Succession, Barry, The Other Two, Servant and The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, dropped back in for their final runs, then said goodbye.

Revelling in the last glimpses of feuding families, actors-turned-hitmen, stardom-chasing siblings, eerie nannies and comedians — and maybe AFC Richmond, too — has only been part of the viewing landscape among returning TV shows this year, though. Thankfully, when our screens delivered more time with high schoolers lost in the woods, for instance, it did so with the promise of more to follow.

Elsewhere, the lineup of already-great series offering more instalments spanned everything from decade-plus comebacks to ridiculously brilliant sketches — plus shows about comebacks, dinosaurs, twisted technology, being trapped in a musical and more. Now that 2023 has passed its halfway point, we've rounded up the 15 best TV series that released another season between January and June. Binge them now if you haven't already.

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SUCCESSION

Endings have always been a part of Succession. Since it premiered in 2018, the bulk of the HBO drama's feuding figures have been waiting for a big farewell. The reason is right there in the title, because for any of the Roy clan's adult children to scale the family company's greatest heights and remain there — be it initial heir apparent Kendall (Jeremy Strong, Armageddon Time), his inappropriate photo-sending brother Roman (Kieran Culkin, No Sudden Move), their political-fixer sister Siobhan (Sarah Snook, Pieces of a Woman), or eldest sibling and now-presidential candidate Connor (Alan Ruck, The Dropout) — their father Logan's (Brian Cox, Remember Me) tenure needed to wrap up. The latter was always stubborn. Proud, too, of what he'd achieved and the power it's brought. And whenever Logan seemed nearly ready to leave the business behind, he held on. If he's challenged or threatened, as happened again and again in the Emmy-winning series, he fixed his grasp even tighter.

Succession was always been waiting for Logan's last stint at global media outfit Waystar RoyCo, but it had never been about finales quite the way it was in its stunning fourth season. This time, there was ticking clock not just for the show's characters, but for the stellar series itself, given that this is its last go-around — and didn't it make the most of it. Nothing can last forever, not even widely acclaimed hit shows that are a rarity in today's TV climate: genuine appointment-viewing. So, this went out at the height of its greatness, complete with unhappy birthday parties, big business deals, plenty of scheming and backstabbing, and both Shiv's husband Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen, Operation Mincemeat) and family cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun, Zola) in vintage form — plus an early shock, at least two of the best episodes of any show that've ever aired on television, one of the worst drinks, a phenomenal acting masterclass, a The Sopranos-level final shot and the reality that money really can't buy happiness.

Succession streams via Binge. Read our full review.

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BARRY

Since HBO first introduced the world to Barry Berkman, the contract killer played and co-created by Saturday Night Live great Bill Hader wanted to be something other than a gun for hire. An ex-military sniper, he was always skilled at his highly illicit post-service line of work; however, moving on from that past was a bubbling dream even before he found his way to a Los Angeles acting class while on a job. Barry laid bare its namesake's biggest wish in its 2018 premiere episode. Then, it kept unpacking his pursuit of a life less lethal across the show's Emmy-winning first and second seasons, plus its even-more-astounding third season in 2022. Season four, the series' final outing, was no anomaly, but it also realised that wanting to be someone different and genuinely overcoming your worst impulses aren't the same. Barry grappled with this fact since the beginning, of course, with the grim truth beating at the show's heart whether it's at its most darkly comedic, action-packed or dramatic — and, given that its namesake was surrounded by people who similarly yearn for an alternative to their current lot in life, yet also can't shake their most damaging behaviour, it did so beyond its antihero protagonist.

Are Barry, his girlfriend Sally Reid (Sarah Goldberg, The Night House), acting teacher Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler, Black Adam), handler Monroe Fuches (Stephen Root, Succession) and Chechen gangster NoHo Hank (Anthony Carrigan, Bill & Ted Face the Music) all that different from who they were when Barry started? Have they processed their troubles? Have they stopped taking out their struggles not just on themselves, but on those around them? Hader and his fellow Barry co-creator Alec Berg (Silicon Valley, Curb Your Enthusiasm) kept asking those questions in season four to marvellous results, including after making a massive jump, and right up to the jaw-dropping yet pitch-perfect finale. Barry being Barry, posing such queries and seeing its central figures for who they are was an ambitious, thrilling and risk-taking ride. When season three ended, it was with Barry behind bars, which is where he was when the show's new go-around kicked off. He wasn't coping, unsurprisingly, hallucinating Sally running lines in the prison yard and rejecting a guard's attempt to tell him that he's not a bad person. With the latter, there's a moment of clarity about what he's done and who he is, but Barry's key players have rarely been that honest with themselves for long.

Barry streams via Binge. Read our full review.

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THE OTHER TWO

Swapping Saturday Night Live for an entertainment-parodying sitcom worked swimmingly for Tina Fey. Since 2019, it also went hilariously for Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider. Not just former SNL writers but the veteran sketch comedy's ex-head writers, Kelly and Schneider gave the world their own 30 Rock with the sharp, smart and sidesplitting The Other Two. Their angle: focusing on the adult siblings of a Justin Bieber-style teen popstar who've always had their own showbiz aspirations — he's an actor, she was a ballerina — who then find themselves the overlooked children of a momager-turned-daytime television host as well. Cary (Drew Tarver, History of the World: Part II) and Brooke (Heléne York, Katy Keene) Dubek were happy for Chase (Case Walker, Monster High: The Movie). And when their mother Pat (Molly Shannon, I Love That for You) gets her own time in the spotlight, becoming Oprah-level famous, they were equally thrilled for her. But ChaseDreams, their little brother's stage name, was always a constant reminder that their own ambitions keep being outshone.

In a first season that proved one of the best new shows of 2019, a second season in 2021 that was just as much of a delight and now a stellar third go-around, Cary and Brooke were never above getting petty and messy about being the titular pair. In season three, however, they didn't just hang around with stars in their eyes and resentment in their hearts. How did they cope? They spent the past few years constantly comparing themselves to Chase, then to Pat, but then they were successful on their own — and still chaotic, and completely unable to change their engrained thinking. Forget the whole "the grass is always greener" adage. No matter if they were faking it or making it, nothing was ever perfectly verdant for this pair or anyone in their orbit. Still, as Brooke wondered whether her dream manager gig is trivial after living through a pandemic, she started contemplating if she should be doing more meaningful work like her fashion designer-turned-nurse boyfriend Lance (Josh Segarra, The Big Door Prize). And with Cary's big breaks never quite panning out as planned, he got envious of his fellow-actor BFF Curtis (Brandon Scott Jones, Ghosts).

The Other Two streams via Binge. Read our full review.

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PARTY DOWN

Sometimes, dreams do come true. More often than not, they don't. The bulk of life is what dwells in-between, as we all cope with the inescapable truth that we won't get everything that we've ever fantasised about, and we mightn't even score more than just a few things we want. This is the space that Party Down has always made its own, asking "are we having fun yet?" about life's disappointments while focusing on Los Angeles-based hopefuls played by Adam Scott (Severance), Ken Marino (The Other Two), Ryan Hansen (A Million Little Things), Martin Starr (Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities) and more. They'd all rather be doing something other than being cater waiters at an array of California functions, and most have stars in their eyes. In the cult comedy's first two seasons back in 2009–10, the majority of its characters had their sights set on show business, slinging hors d'oeuvres while trying to make acting, screenwriting or comedy happen.

Bringing most of the original gang back together — including Jane Lynch (Only Murders in the Building) and Megan Mullally (Reservation Dogs) — Party Down keeps its shindig-by-shindig setup in its 13-years-later third season. Across its first 20 instalments as well as its new six, each episode sends the titular crew to a different soirée. This time, setting the scene for what's still one of the all-time comedy greats in its latest go-around, the opening get-together is thrown by one of their own. Kyle Bradway (Hansen) has just scored the lead part in a massive superhero franchise, and he's celebrating. Ex-actor Henry Pollard (Scott) is among the attendees, as are now-heiress Constance Carmell (Lynch) and perennial stage mum Lydia Dunfree (Mullally). Hard sci-fi obsessive Roman DeBeers (Starr) and the eager-to-please Ron Donald (Marino) are present as well, in a catering capacity. By the time episode two hits, then the rest of the season, more of the above will be donning pastel pink bow ties, the series keeps unpacking what it means to dream but never succeed, and the cast — especially Scott and the ever-committed Marino — are in their element.

Party Down streams via Stan. Read our full review of season three.

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YELLOWJACKETS

For Shauna (Melanie Lynskey, The Last of Us), Natalie (Juliette Lewis, Welcome to Chippendales), Taissa (Tawny Cypress, Billions), Misty (Christina Ricci, Wednesday), Lottie (Simone Kessell, Muru) and Van (Lauren Ambrose, Servant), 1996 will always be the year that their plane plunged into the Canadian wilderness, stranding them for 19 tough months — as season one of 2021–2022 standout Yellowjackets grippingly established. As teenagers (as played by The Kid Detective's Sophie Nélisse, The Boogeyman's Sophie Thatcher, Scream VI's Jasmin Savoy, Shameless' Samantha Hanratty, Mad Max: Fury Road's Courtney Eaton and Santa Clarita Diet's Liv Hewson), they were members of the show's titular high-school soccer squad, travelling from their New Jersey home town to Seattle for a national tournament, when the worst eventuated. Cue Lost-meets-Lord of the Flies with an Alive twist, as that first season was understandably pegged.

All isn't always what it seems as Shauna and company endeavour to endure in the elements. Also, tearing into each other occurs more than just metaphorically. Plus, literally sinking one's teeth in was teased and flirted with since episode one, too. But Yellowjackets will always be about what it means to face something so difficult that it forever colours and changes who you are — and constantly leaves a reminder of who you might've been. So, when Yellowjackets ended its first season, it was with as many questions as answers. Naturally, it tore into season two in the same way. In the present, mere days have elapsed — and Shauna and her husband Jeff (Warren Kole, Shades of Blue) are trying to avoid drawing any attention over the disappearance of Shauna's artist lover Adam (Peter Gadiot, Queen of the South). Tai has been elected as a state senator, but her nocturnal activities have seen her wife Simone (Rukiya Bernard, Van Helsing) move out with their son Sammy (Aiden Stoxx, Supergirl). Thanks to purple-wearing kidnappers, Nat has been spirited off, leaving Misty desperate to find her — even enlisting fellow citizen detective Walter (Elijah Wood, Come to Daddy) to help. And, in the past, winter is setting in, making searching for food and staying warm an immense feat.

Yellowjackets streams via Paramount+. Read our full review.

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I THINK YOU SHOULD LEAVE WITH TIM ROBINSON

Eat-the-rich stories are delicious, and also everywhere; however, Succession, Triangle of Sadness and the like aren't the only on-screen sources of terrible but terribly entertaining people. I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson has been filling streaming queues with assholes since 2019, as usually played by the eponymous Detroiters star, and long may it continue. In season three, the show takes its premise literally in the most ridiculous and unexpected way, so much so that no one could ever dream of predicting what happens. That's still the sketch comedy's not-so-secret power. Each of its skits is about someone being the worst in some way, doubling down on being the worst and refusing to admit that they're the worst (or that they're wrong) — and while everyone around them might wish they'd leave, they're never going to, and nothing ever ends smoothly. In a show that's previously worked in hot dog costumes and reality TV series about bodies dropping out of coffins to hilarious effect, anything can genuinely happen to its gallery of the insufferable. In fact, the more absurd and chaotic I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson gets, the better.

No description can do I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson's sketches justice, and almost every one is a comedic marvel, as again delivered in six 15-minute episodes in the series' third run. The usual complaint applies: for a show about people overstaying their welcome, the program itself flies by too quickly, always leaving viewers wanting more. Everything from dog doors and designated drivers to HR training and street parking is in Robinson's sights this time, and people who won't stop talking about their kids, wedding photos and group-think party behaviour as well. Game shows get parodied again and again, an I Think You Should Leave staple, and gloriously. More often than in past seasons, Robinson lets his guest stars play the asshole, too, including the returning Will Forte (Weird: The Al Yankovic Story), regular Sam Richardson (The Afterparty), and perennial pop-ups Fred Armisen (Barry) and Tim Meadows (Poker Face). And when Jason Schwartzman (I Love That for You) and Ayo Edebiri (The Bear) drop in, they're also on the pitch-perfect wavelength.

I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson streams via Netflix. Read our full review.

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I HATE SUZIE TOO

Watching I Hate Suzie Too isn't easy. Watching I Hate Suzie, the show's first season, wasn't either back in 2020. A warts-and-all dance through the chaotic life, emotions and mind of a celebrity, both instalments of this compelling British series have spun as far away from the glitz and glamour of being famous as possible. Capturing carefully constructed social-media content to sell the fiction of stardom's perfection is part of the story, as it has to be three decades into the 21st century; however, consider this show from Succession writer Lucy Prebble and actor/singer/co-creator Billie Piper, and its blood pressure-raising tension and stress, the anti-Instagram. The unfiltered focus: teen pop sensation-turned-actor Suzie Pickles, as played with a canny sense of knowing by Piper given that the 'Honey to the Bee' and Penny Dreadful talent has charted the same course. That said, the show's IRL star hasn't been the subject of a traumatic phone hack that exposed sensitive photos from an extramarital affair to the public, turning her existence and career upside down, as Suzie was in season one.

Forget The Idol — this is the best show about being a famous singer that you can watch right now. In I Hate Suzie Too, plenty has changed for the series' namesake over a six-month period. She's no longer with her professor husband Cob (Daniel Ings, Sex Education), and is battling for custody of their young son Frank (debutant Matthew Jordan-Caws), who is deaf — and her manager and lifelong friend Naomi (Leila Farzad, Avenue 5) is off the books, replaced by the no-nonsense Sian (Anastasia Hille, A Spy Among Friends). Also, in a new chance to win back fans, Suzie has returned to reality TV after it helped thrust her into the spotlight as a child star to begin with. Dance Crazee Xmas is exactly what it sounds like, and sees her compete against soccer heroes (Blake Harrison, The Inbetweeners), musicians (Douglas Hodge, The Great) and more. But when I Hate Suzie Too kicks off with a ferocious, clearly cathartic solo dance in sad-clown getup, the viewers aren't charmed. Well, Dance Crazee Xmas' audience, that is — because anyone watching I Hate Suzie Too is in for another stunner that's fearless, audacious, honest, dripping with anxiety, staggering in its intensity, absolutely heart-wrenching and always unflinching.

I Hate Suzie Too streams via Stan. Read our full review.

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THE GREAT

Television perfection is watching Elle Fanning (The Girl From Plainville) and Nicholas Hoult (Renfield) trying to run 18th-century Russia while scheming, fighting and heatedly reuniting in a historical period comedy The Great. Since 2020, they've each been in career-best form — her as the series' ambitious namesake, him as the emperor who loses his throne to his wife — while turning in two of the best performances on streaming in one of the medium's most hilarious shows. Both former child actors now enjoying excellent careers as adults, they make such a marvellous pair that it's easy to imagine this series being built around them. It wasn't and, now three seasons, The Great has never thrived on their casting alone. Still, shouting "huzzah!" at the duo's bickering, burning passion and bloodshed-sparking feuding flows as freely as all the vodka downed in the Emmy-winner's frames under Australian creator Tony McNamara's watch (and after he initially unleashed its winning havoc upon Sydney Theatre Company in 2008, then adapted it for television following a BAFTA and an Oscar nomination for co-penning The Favourite).

In this latest batch of instalments, all either written or co-written by McNamara, Catherine (Fanning) and Peter (Hoult) begin the third season sure about their love for each other, but just as flummoxed as ever about making their nuptials work. She's attempting to reform the nation, he's the primary caregiver to their infant son Paul, her efforts are meeting resistance, he's doting but also bored playing stay-out-of-politics dad, and couples counselling is called for. There's also the matter of the royal court's most prominent members, many of whom were rounded up and arrested under Catherine's orders at the end of season two. From Sweden, exiled King Hugo (Freddie Fox, House of the Dragon) and Queen Agnes (Grace Molony, Mary, Queen of Scots) are hanging around after being run out of their own country due to democracy's arrival. And, Peter's lookalike Pugachev (also Hoult) is agitating for a serf-powered revolution.

The Great streams via Stan. Read our full review.

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PREHISTORIC PLANET

When it initially arrived in 2022, becoming one of the year's best new shows and giving nature doco fans the five-episode series they didn't know they'd always wanted — and simultaneously couldn't believe hadn't been made until now — Prehistoric Planet followed the David Attenborough nature documentary formula perfectly. And it is a formula. In a genre that's frequently spying the wealth of patterns at the heart of the animal realm, docos such as The Living PlanetState of the Planet, Frozen Planet, Our PlanetSeven Worlds, One PlanetA Perfect PlanetGreen Planet and the like all build from the same basic elements. Jumping back 66 million years, capitalising upon advancements in special effects but committing to making a program just like anything that peers at the earth today was never going to feel like the easy product of a template, though. Indeed, Prehistoric Planet's first season was stunning, and its second is just as staggering.

The catch, in both season one and this return trip backwards: while breathtaking landscape footage brings the planet's terrain to the Prehistoric Planet series, the critters stalking, swimming, flying and tumbling across it are purely pixels. Filmmaker Jon Favreau remains among the show's executive producers, and the technology that brought his photorealistic versions of The Jungle Book and The Lion King to cinemas couldn't be more pivotal. Seeing needs to be believing while watching, because the big-screen gloss of the Jurassic Park and Jurassic World sagas, the puppets of 90s sitcom Dinosaurs, and the animatronics of Walking with Dinosaurs — or anything in-between — were never going to suit a program with Attenborough as a guide. Accordingly, to sit down to Prehistoric Planet is to experience cognitive dissonance: viewers are well-aware that what they're spying isn't real because the animals seen no longer exist, but it truly looks that authentic.

Prehistoric Planet season streams via Apple TV+. Read our full review.

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SERVANT

When M Night Shyamalan (Knock at the Cabin) earned global attention and two Oscar nominations back in 1999 for The Sixth Sense, it was with a film about a boy who sees dead people. After ten more features that include highs (the trilogy that is Unbreakable, Split and Glass) and lows (Lady in the Water and The Happening), in 2019 he turned his attention to a TV tale of a nanny who revives a dead baby. Or did he? That's how Servant commenced its first instantly eerie, anxious and dread-filled season, a storyline it has followed in its second season in 2021, third in 2022, and then fourth and final batch of episodes in 2023. But as with all Shyamalan works, this meticulously made series bubbles with the clear feeling that all isn't as it seems. What happens if a caregiver sweeps in exactly when needed and changes a family's life, Mary Poppins-style, but she's a teenager rather than a woman, disquieting instead of comforting, and accompanied by strange events, forceful cults and unsettlingly conspiracies rather than sweet songs, breezy winds and spoonfuls of sugar? That's Servant's basic premise.

Set in Shyamalan's beloved Philadelphia, and created by Tony Basgallop (The Consultant), the puzzle-box series spends most of its time in a lavish brownstone inhabited by TV news reporter Dorothy Turner (Lauren Ambrose, Yellowjackets), her celebrity-chef husband Sean (Toby Kebbell, Bloodshot), their baby Jericho and 18-year-old nanny Leanne Grayson (Nell Tiger Free, Too Old to Die Young) — and where Dorothy's recovering-alcoholic brother Julian (Grint, Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities) is a frequent visitor. That's still the dynamic in season four, which slowly and powerfully moves towards its big farewell. Dorothy is more determined than ever to be rid of Leanne, Leanne is more sure of herself and her abilities than she's ever been — in childminding, and all the other spooky occurrences that've been haunting the family — and Sean and Julian are again caught in the middle. Wrapping up with one helluva ending, Servant has gifted viewers four seasons of spectacular duelling caregivers and gripping domestic tension, and one of streaming's horror greats.

Servant streams via Apple TV+. Read our full review of season four.

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THE MARVELOUS MRS MAISEL

Here's how The Marvelous Mrs Maisel started: in New York City in 1958, Miriam 'Midge' Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan, I'm Your Woman) had become accustomed to waiting in the wings while her husband Joel (Michael Zegen, The Stand In) tried his hand at stand-up comedy. Then she took to the stage herself, and this blend of comedy and drama followed the revolutionary aftermath. Sometimes, that's brought highlights, including having her talent recognised by Gaslight Cafe manager Susie Myerson (Alex Borstein, Family Guy), taking her sets on the road and working her way up the comedy ladder. Sometimes, there have been costs, especially in her relationships. And always, right up to the show's fifth and final season that featured jumps forward to the 21st century, there was a battle that still sadly remains oh-so-relevant IRL: for women in comedy to be treated and seen equally.

Hailing from Gilmore Girls and Bunheads mastermind Amy Sherman-Palladino, The Marvelous Mrs Maisel's cast has always proven a dream — Tony Shalhoub (Flamin' Hot), Marin Hinkle (Jumanji: The Next Level), Kevin Pollak (Willow) and Caroline Aaron (Ghosts) also feature, and Jane Lynch (Party Down), Luke Kirby (Boston Strangler) and Stephanie Hsu (Joy Ride) as well — and, unsurprisingly, its writing, too. Indeed, there's nothing quite like Sherman-Palladino-penned dialogue, which Brosnahan especially is a natural at nailing its rhythms. The period detail has consistently been impeccable, but this wouldn't be the hit it is (or have Golden Globes and Emmys to its name) if it didn't also mean something. It should come as no astonishment that Joan Rivers was one of the inspirations for the series, and that it is equally hilarious, heartfelt and finely observed, with its guiding writer, director and producer's charms in abundance.

The Marvelous Mrs Maisel streams via Prime Video.

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TED LASSO

It wasn't simply debuting during the pandemic's first year, in a life-changing period when everyone was doing it tough, that made Ted Lasso's first season a hit in 2020. It wasn't just the Apple TV+ sitcom's unshakeable warmth, giving its characters and viewers alike a big warm hug episode after episode, either. Both play a key part, however, because this Jason Sudeikis (Saturday Night Live)-starring soccer series is about everyone pitching in and playing a part. It's a team endeavour that champions team endeavours — hailing from a quartet of creators (Sudeikis, co-star Brendan Hunt, Detroiters' Joe Kelly and Scrubs' Bill Lawrence), boasting a killer cast in both major and supporting roles, and understanding how important it is to support one another on- and off-screen (plus in the fictional world that the show has created, and while making that realm so beloved with audiences).

Ted Lasso has always believed in the individual players as well as the team they're in, though. It is named after its eponymous American football coach-turned-inexperienced soccer manager, after all. But in building an entire sitcom around a character that started as a sketch in two popular US television ads for NBC's Premier League coverage — around two characters, because Hunt's (Bless This Mess) laconic Coach Beard began in those commercials as well — Ted Lasso has always understood that everyone is only a fraction of who they can be when they're alone. That's an idea that kept gathering momentum in the show's long-awaited third season, which gave much to engagingly dive into. It starts with Ted left solo when he desperately doesn't want to be, with AFC Richmond owner Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham, Hocus Pocus 2) desperate to beat her ex Rupert Mannion (Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Anthony Stewart Head) new team, and with the Greyhounds' former assistant Nathan 'Nate' Shelley (Nick Mohammed, Intelligence) now coaching said opposition — and with changes galore around the club. It ends with more big moves after another astute look at the game of life, whether or not it returns for season four.

Ted Lasso streams via Apple TV+. Read our full review.

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SCHMIGADOON!

For fans of Key & Peele, the fact that Keegan-Michael Key can do anything won't come as a surprise. In 2023, proving that statement true has seen the comedian and actor voice Toad in The Super Mario Bros Movie, and also return to the realm of singing and dancing in Schmigadoon!. What would it be like to live in a musical? That's been this Apple TV+'s central question since it first premiered in 2021. Key stars opposite the also ever-versatile Cecily Strong (Saturday Night Live) as a couple, Josh Skinner and Melissa Gimble, who are simply backpacking when they suddenly find themselves in the wondrous titular town. The duo were hoping to fix their struggling relationship with a stint in nature, but instead step into a 24/7 Golden Age-style show — a parody of Brigadoon, clearly — that helps them work through their feelings, discover what they truly want and see a different side of life.

That was season one. In season two, Josh and Melissa start back in the real world, married, in their medical jobs and going through the motions. In their malaise, a return trip to Schmigadoon! beckons; however, when they stumble upon it again, the place isn't quite the same. Instead, they're now in Schmicago. And, instead of 40s and 50s musicals, 60s and 70s shows are in the spotlight — including the razzle dazzle of Chicago, obviously. What a ball this series has, including with a jam-packed cast that includes Dove Cameron (Vengeance), Kristin Chenoweth (Bros), Alan Cumming (The Good Fight), Ariana DeBose (West Side Story), Jane Krakowski (Dickinson), Martin Short (Only Murders in the Building) and Tituss Burgess (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) — and with ample thanks to creators Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio (the Despicable Me films).

Schmigadoon! streams via Apple TV+.

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BLACK MIRROR

When Ron Swanson discovered digital music, the tech-phobic Parks and Recreation favourite was uncharacteristically full of praise. Played by Nick Offerman (The Last of Us) at his most giddily exuberant, he badged the iPod filled with his favourite records an "excellent rectangle". In Black Mirror, the same shape is everywhere. The Netflix series' moniker even stems from the screens and gadgets that we all now filter life through daily and unthinkingly. In Charlie Brooker's (Cunk on Earth) eyes since 2011, however, those ever-present boxes and the technology behind them are far from ace. Instead, befitting a dystopian anthology show that has dripped with existential dread from episode one, and continues to do so in its long-awaited sixth season, those rectangles keep reflecting humanity at its bleakest.

Black Mirror as a title has always been devastatingly astute: when we stare at a TV, smartphone, computer or tablet, we access the world yet also reveal ourselves. It might've taken four years to return after 2019's season five, but Brooker's hit still smartly and sharply focuses on the same concern. Indeed, this new must-binge batch of nightmares begins with exactly the satirical hellscape that today's times were bound to inspire. Opening chapter Joan Is Awful, with its AI- and deepfake-fuelled mining of everyday existence for content, almost feels too prescient — a charge a show that's dived into digital resurrections, social scoring systems, killer VR and constant surveillance knows well. Brooker isn't afraid to think bigger and probe deeper in season six, though; to eschew obvious targets like ChatGPT and the pandemic; and to see clearly and unflinchingly that our worst impulses aren't tied to the latest widgets.

Black Mirror streams via Netflix. Read our full review.

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HUNTERS

Call it a conspiracy thriller. Call it an alternative history. Call it a revenge fantasy. Call it another savage exploration of race relations with Jordan Peele's fingerprints all over it. When it comes to Hunters, they all fit. This 70s-set Nazi-slaying series first arrived in 2020, following a ragtag group determined to do two things: avenge the Holocaust, with many among their number Jewish survivors or relatives of survivors; and stop escaped Third Reich figures who've secretly slipped into the US from their plan of starting a Fourth Reich. The cast was stellar — Al Pacino (House of Gucci), Logan Lerman (Bullet Train), Tiffany Boone (Nine Perfect Strangers), Jeannie Berlin (Succession), Carol Kane (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Lena Olin (Mindhunter) and Australia's own Kate Mulvany (The Clearing) among them — and Get Out and Us filmmaker Peele executive produced a gem as he also did that same year with Lovecraft Country. And, when it wrapped up its first season, it did so with one mighty massive cliffhanger: the fact that Adolf Hitler (Udo Kier, Swan Song) was still alive in 1977.

Returning for its second and final batch of episodes three years later, but largely moving its action to 1979, season two of Hunters sees its central gang initially doing their own things — but unsurprisingly reteaming to go after the obvious target. Jonah Heidelbaum (Lerman) is living a double life, with his new fiancee Clara (Emily Rudd, Fear Street) in the dark about his Nazi-hunting ways, but crossing paths with the ruthless and determined Chava Apfelbaum (Jennifer Jason Leigh, Possessor) ramps up his and the crew's efforts. Knowing this is the final go-around, the stylishly shot series wasn't afraid of embracing its OTT leanings, tonal jumps and frenetic camerawork, and always proved entertaining as it hurtles towards its last hurrah. The best episode of the season, however, is one that jumps back to World War II, doesn't focus on any of its main stars and is as clever, moving and well-executed as Hunters has ever been. If the show ever gets revived in the future, which it easily could, more of that would make a great series even better.

Hunters streams via Prime Video.

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Looking for more viewing highlights? We picked the 15 best new TV shows of 2023, too. We also keep a running list of must-stream TV from across the year so far, complete with full reviews.

And, you can check out our list of film and TV streaming recommendations, which is updated monthly.

Published on July 17, 2023 by Sarah Ward
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