This first full year of pandemic was brutal. But you know what wasn’t brutal? Television.
So. Much. Goodness.
We are at a place we’ve never been in history: a critical mass of Black television. And it’s glorious and wondrous and long-overdue. There’s still much work to be done. We haven’t hit a saturation point where we can’t possibly keep up with Black television. But we are finally at a place where we can make informed choices. We no longer have to watch everything in order to ensure we get anything. So yea, this list won’t include any of Tyler Perry’s shows or BMF or the very good, but not quite good enough stuff on AllBlk (formerly Urban Movie Channel).
But as always, this will likely be the blackest list you’ll read. There are still far too few Black television critics and far too many White male critics in love with the same 6 or 7 shows.
But before we get to the full list, let’s discuss a few honorable mentions…
Chucky – Batshit crazy and delightfully surprising nearly the whole way through. I could have done with about three or four flashbacks less than what we got though.
David Makes Man – Not since Killer Landry in Friday Night Lights has a show fallen so far from Season 1 to Season 2. I understand what the show was trying to do. But it was not enjoyable or interesting to watch – except when Akili McDowell and Arlen Escarpeta were onscreen. This was McDowell’s show and it should have stayed his show.
Disney+ MCU Shows – Flawed, but eminently watchable, the non-WandaVision shows were mostly undone by an inability to know how many episodes worth of story each one needed. Falcon and the Winter Soldier needed 10, Loki and Hawkeye probably needed at least one or two more episodes each.
Hacks – I didn’t love this as much as critics. But there’s no denying how great Jean Smart is in the lead role.
Never Have I Ever – I appreciate the show’s doubling down on making the Devi unlikeable. Teens are terrible and Never Have I Ever is clear as hell about that.
On My Block – As delightful as ever, but not sure that Season 4 earned its existence. There was something beautiful about the Season 3 finale, which suggested that pre-teen friendships don’t survive into high school. Still – Brett Gray is a star and should get all the roles.
Pose – Shamelessly manipulative and beautifully acted, Pose‘s final season was designed mostly to get Emmy nominations despite not earning a single moment (because the deeply unwise time jumps robbed us of any ability to see how these characters grew during the 10 years or so the show covers) other than Pray Tell’s death.
Stargirl – Boundlessly light and yet found a way to go to the darkest of places in Season Two.
This Is Us – Long in the tooth, but still incredibly good. Mandy Moore and Justin Hartley should have two or three Emmys by now, but the Emmys are deeply stupid so…
With Love – Snuck in at the end of the year and gave us three winning performances from actors we hadn’t seen be this charming before – Rome Flynn, Mark Indelicato & Emeraude Toubia.
Yellowjackets – I will always watch Christina Ricci. Yellowjackets is her best project in years.
Now let’s jump to the full top 20…