As 2023 comes to a close, let's take a moment for a final tribute to the year's standout television shows.


In a year marked by exceptional quality in the realm of television, the competition was fierce among an increasing number of contenders, both in traditional broadcasting and on streaming platforms.

Audiences were treated to a rich tapestry of genres, ranging from edge-of-your-seat thrillers to sci-fi and fantasy spectacles, comedies that kept us laughing, and innovative shows that blurred the lines of conventional categorisation.

While each of the top 10 series of the year could have been a strong contender for the No. 1spot, only one could emerge victorious. The winner, truly deserving of the accolade, stood out to team Continue reading for the concluding segment of our annual round-up.

(To read our full top 50, follow the links below.)

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10. EastEnders

Danielle Harold as Lola Pearce-Brown in a bed with Jamie Borthwick as Jay Brown watching over her in EastEnders.
BBC/Jack Barnes/Kieron McCarron

Available on BBC iPlayer

What a year it’s been in Walford, as EastEnders has gone above and beyond to give viewers new and old something extraordinary to sink their teeth into. When Chris Clenshaw took over the reins to the Good Ship Queen Vic, none could expect the stratospheric levels he’s taken EastEnders to. And now we’re living in this period, it’s simply divine.

In February, the BBC soap introduced a flash-forward to Christmas Day containing a dead body and a secret killer, prompting a 10-month mystery and endless speculation over whodunnit. It’s been an exemplary storyline tying in lots of different strands, including hard-hitting issue-based stories, before all culminating in the soap home, the pub. Sisterhood and community are at the heart of the drama, which has been magnificent and soapy from the start to that oh-so-brilliant ending.

It’s hard to believe that was only just one facet of EastEnders’ fantastic output this year, too, with iconic (and presumed dead) character Cindy Beale (Michelle Collins) making an almost surprise return to the Square, reinstating the Beales with her at the same time. On top of that, we’ve had Lola’s death, too, which deservedly won awards everywhere it was nominated. The talent on show night after night both on- and off-screen is remarkable, with young performers like Lillia Turner especially matching greats like Lacey Turner.

One struggles to think of another year EastEnders has been this strong. In fact, it’s difficult to think of a year a soap in general has flown this high. It’s just what the genre needed after being dismissed by many - no other TV format will give you as much as this one does, and we’re all richer for it. Soap is no longer a poor man’s drama. The episodes put out this year are among the biggest and best episodes of TV you’ll ever see. Don’t underestimate soaps ever again. – Helen Daly, Associate Editor

9. Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story

Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story

Available on Netflix

Shonda Rhimes’s first spin-off in the Bridgerton universe is proof that a new series based around some of the original series’s older characters can work very well. Queen Charlotte was a pleasant surprise for many, providing a swoon-worthy back story to the love between Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) and King George, which was initially just seen as a politically advantageous arrangement.

While also delivering some of the lines and glances that are almost perfectly made for social media fandoms, this multi-layered Netflix series made poignant statements on mental health, race and class, as well as retaining the not-so-perfect fairytale romance between the two royals, played by India Amarteifio and Corey Mylchreest.

Unlike Bridgerton’s notably steamier scenes, Queen Charlotte is altogether much more of a delightfully sweet watch that pulls you along gently for this young romance, but also acts as a testament as how to how far and wide the Bridgerton universe could grow. – Morgan Cormack, Drama Writer

8. Doctor Who

David Tennant and Ncuti Gatwa in Doctor Who
BBC Studios

Available on BBC iPlayer

We all love a TV comeback, but only Doctor Who could give us one like this - David Tennant, one of the best-loved actors to have ever played the Doctor, alongside actual national treasure Catherine Tate, back as Donna Noble. Potentially even more importantly, showrunner Russell T Davies, who ushered Doctor Who into a new age in 2005, is officially back in business.

The three 60th anniversary specials couldn’t have done the job better, celebrating the past of Doctor Who while also looking forward to the future, and introducing us to the Fifteenth Doctor, Ncuti Gatwa. They grew in confidence as they went, culminating in The Giggle, one of the best Doctor Who episodes in years, with Neil Patrick Harris clearly delighting in the role of the menacing Toymaker, complete with a spectacular Spice Girls dance number.

As the show turns 60, it’s about to be reinvented once again - and you have to admit, it’s never been more exciting to be a Doctor Who fan. Allons-y! – Louise Griffin, Sci-Fi & Fantasy Editor

7. Boiling Point

Available on BBC iPlayer

It’s not often that an independent film proves so popular that the BBC commission a sequel TV series, but Boiling Point is a pretty perfect case study for the format. While fans of the original film may have been slightly anxious to see how the Vinette Robinson-led four-part show would pan out, there was no need to be worried.

It was never going to be an easy feat to continue with Stephen Graham a little more in the shadows this time round, but Boiling Point is an example of a show that cultivates impressive acting talent from the ground up, something we need a lot more of in the TV landscape.

Across four hours, this spin-off shone a light on the people at the heart of the restaurant, complete with their dizzying highs and tragic lows, pulling you into storylines centred on addiction, poverty, self-harm and much more, and providing a window into the personal lives of this close-knit team. – Morgan Cormack, Drama Writer

6. The Sixth Commandment

Timothy Spall wearing a suit, with his hands clasped

Available on BBC iPlayer

The heartbreaking true story of the murders of Peter Farquhar and Ann Moore-Martin in the BBC’s The Sixth Commandment proved true crime stories can be handled sensitively in TV drama.

Starring Timothy Spall (Harry Potter) and Anne Reid (Last Tango in Halifax) as the victims, both actors gave devastating performances that really showcased their talent - which, of course, needed no introduction - while Éanna Hardwicke (Normal People) displayed superb range in portraying Ben Field, enacting his mannerisms and tone of voice to a tee.

Created and written by Sarah Phelps, the four-part series is a lesson in how horrific crimes can be retold for audiences in a manner that doesn’t sensationalise, and instead respects those affected. – Katelyn Mensah, Entertainment & Factual Writer

5. Beef

Danny sat in his car with the window rolled down, screaming

Available on Netflix

Much like the road rage incident that kick-starts its plot, this series came out of nowhere and left a lasting impression. I’m not a particular fan of binge-watching – why can’t we just savour things? – but if ever there was a show that demanded such treatment, it would be Beef.

Masterfully orchestrated by creator Lee Sung Jin and his team, each episode brilliantly ricochets into the next, with petty acts of spite becoming life-ruining schemes. You just had to know what the next twist of the knife would be.

The premise wouldn’t work without its electric lead actors, who easily give two of the best performances of the year. That’s hardly surprising from Academy Award nominee Steven Yeun, but stand-up comedian Ali Wong was a genuine revelation in her first major dramatic role.

Of course, the genius scripts gave both stars opportunities to provide comic relief, but never undermined the high-stakes plot – indeed, one gasp-worthy moment in the second half is burned into my brain forever (and I wouldn’t have it any other way). – David Craig, Senior Drama Writer

4. The Bear

Jeremy Allen White as Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto and Ayo Edebiri as Sydney Adamu in The Bear
Chuck Hodes/FX

Available on Disney Plus

Of all the TV shows I’ve watched, I’ve never cared quite as much about any character as I do about the folks in The Bear.

After a tour de force first season, Christopher Storer’s comedy drama once again had me in the palm of its hand, as Carmy and his motley kitchen crew attempted to turn his late brother’s humble sandwich shop into a fine dining establishment. Its success, in large part, is down to just how real it all feels, and the sheer relatability of watching people who aren’t perfect, who make countless mistakes, but hell, they’re trying.

Their wins are my wins. Their losses cut me deep. I feel it all, which is testament to both Storer’s writing and an ensemble cast who never put a foot wrong in the tricky tonal grey area that is comedy drama.

And the guest stars! Oh, the guest stars. Having Oscar-winner Olivia Colman peel some mushrooms for a bit before exiting stage right is a flex that only a handful of shows could pull off. She was joined by Jamie Lee Curtis, Bob Odenkirk, Will Poulter, Sarah Paulson and John Mulaney, because who on earth would say no to The Bear?

Season 3 cannot come soon enough. – Abby Robinson, Drama Editor

3. Happy Valley

Sarah Lancashire as Catherine Cawood in Happy Valley, wearing police uniform and looking into the distance
Credit: BBC/Lookout Point/Matt Squire

Available on BBC iPlayer

Sally Wainwright’s final Happy Valley chapter aired after a seven-year hiatus, and managed to grip us in the exact same way as it did in 2014, in no small part due to Wainwright’s writing – and, of course, the stellar returning cast led by the formidable Sarah Lancashire.

This final season was a heady mix of emotion and nerves, being divided into a main and sub plotline but continually reminding us that Catherine Cawood (Lancashire) has and will stop at nothing to protect her teenage grandson from his criminal father. James Norton and Lancashire’s final monumental showdown scene may have divided opinion, but with it, Happy Valley proved that some of the simplest scenes – ie those with little more than a taser gun and a box of matches – are the ones that can grip you to the point you forget to breathe.

As one of the only primetime series this year to have stuck to a weekly release (rather than an iPlayer boxset), Happy Valley was also a reminder of the calibre of weekend television that our schedules have been crying out for. This was the perfect goodbye to Catherine and co. – Morgan Cormack, Drama Writer

2. Succession

The cast of Succession season 4.

Available on Sky

Is it any surprise that this came so high on our list? No, of course not, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t right.

Succession was a truly rare beast – a show which set out to tell one story, told it over four tightly-packed seasons which never once dipped in quality, stuck the landing, and then got out. The writing was phenomenal, keeping us on our toes and continuing to deliver those acerbic, cutting one-liners. The performances were astounding, with all seven of the central cast members and every supporting player bringing their A-game. The ending was both unpredictable and also felt utterly right, as though it were always meant to be.

Jesse Armstrong’s show seems destined to live on not just as an example of the best-of-the-best when it comes to prestige drama, but also as a monument to our times, a pitch-perfect satire which says more than a million op-eds ever could about what it means to live in 2023.

They may be the most despicable bunch of characters ever assembled on TV, but somehow still, we truly will miss the Roy family – and doesn’t that just say it all? – James Hibbs, Drama Writer

1. The Last of Us

Bella Ramsey as Ellie and Pedro Pascal as Joel in The Last of Us.

Available on Sky

Among the thousands of TV shows released every year, every once in a while there’s a masterpiece that stops the whole world in its tracks for a little while. HBO’s The Last of Us had plenty of obstacles in its way, from the video game adaptation 'curse' and the question of whether we really need another zombie show to a right hullabaloo about casting. But just a couple of episodes in, the critics were silenced and we all had to savour what a moment in TV history it was.

Episode 3, in particular, will be remembered for years to come, with Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett providing a simultaneously heartwarming and soul-crushing love story. But it was Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey, who have rightly been propelled into superstardom, that were the glue for the entire series, seamlessly taking on Joel and Ellie and breaking new ground with their flawed and loveable characters.

We haven’t even mentioned the rest of the incredible cast, the masterful storytelling, the glorious direction, the beautiful visuals, the spectacular soundtrack, and that jaw-dropper of an ending. But with just nine episodes, The Last of Us has already soared with the TV greats of the 21st century - and we can’t wait for more. – Louise Griffin, Sci-Fi & Fantasy Editor

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