There was no shortage of brilliant shows on TV in 2020 that kept us entertained, on the edge of our seats, thrilled or just made us feel warm and fuzzy inside. Here are 20 shows broadcast in 2020 which you can watch for the first time if you’ve missed them, or view once again should you like to enjoy them from the start.
I Hate Suzie - Sky Atlantic
Billie Piper stars as Suzie Pickles, the former teen pop sensation whose life and career fall to pieces after uncompromising pictures of her are leaked when her phone is hacked.
This semi-autobiographical tale created by Piper and writer and producer Lucy Prebble is shocking, funny and heartbreaking. An uncompromising and unsettling wild ride.
What they said: ‘A bruised, bold and ultimately brilliant piece of television, it starts with an extended nervous breakdown and never lets up from there.’ Metro
All Creatures Great and Small - Channel 5
This new adaptation of James Herriot’s much loved veterinary stories was one of the feelgood hits of the year.
The lovingly-crafted Yorkshire period drama was the perfect tonic in uncertain times and delivered record ratings for Channel 5. Comforting and entertaining in equal measure.
What they said: ‘Piles on the charm without ever getting cloying … The sense of warmth and community feels nigh on irresistible.’ Daily Telegraph
Des - ITV
David Tennant was truly chilling in ITV’s grimly compelling three-part drama about one of Britain’s most notorious serial killers, Dennis Nilsen.
Des followed the arrest and subsequent trial of Nilsen, who was responsible for the murder of at least 12 men between 1978 and 1983. Not for the faint hearted, this true crime drama stayed with you long after the final credits.
What they said: ‘Top-level casting and mesmerising storytelling collide in this … fascinating study into the darkest abyss of a human mind. Triumphant.’ Digital Spy
Taskmaster - Channel 4
It was a landmark year for Taskmaster which switched to Channel 4 after five years and nine series on Dave, and said farewell to its old home in the best possible style by winning a Bafta.
Featuring very funny people doing very silly things, all under the auspices of Alex Horne and the Taskmaster himself, Greg Davies, the show is now back for its 11th series. Nonsense has never been more fun.
What they said: ‘Charming, batshit, hilarious, determinedly low stakes, entirely absorbing and restorative throughout … A delightfully daft diversion from the world.’ Guardian
Gangs of London - Sky Atlantic
Brutally violent and utterly gripping, Gangs of London follows a pre-eminent crime family whose grip on the capital bloodily unravels when their ruthless patriarch is murdered.
Co-written by Gareth Evans and Matt Flannery, Gangs of London combined compelling drama with brilliantly executed, no holds barred action. Not for the faint hearted.
What they said: ‘Represents the pinnacle of the genre: loud, fast and nasty. A pure dopamine hit.’ Guardian
Meet The Richardsons - Dave
Married comedians Jon Richardson and Lucy Beaumont play exaggerated versions of themselves in this mockumentary set in their Hebden Bridge home.
Packed full of celebrity cameos, it’s hilarious and entirely relatable (well, all apart from the bit about being invited to Jonathan Ross’s Halloween party).
What they said: ‘Its depiction of the niggling frustrations of married life are spot-on.’ Chortle
The Great British Bake Off - Channel 4
It was another year of amazing bakes and record ratings for Channel 4’s Great British Bake Off.
The much-loved show, which added presenter Matt Lucas to its recipe, cooked up its biggest ratings since moving to Channel 4 and has just finished another celebrity edition in aid of Stand Up 2 Cancer.
What they said: 'The tensest finale yet and a heart-warming winner … A British institution.’ iNews
Save Me Too - Sky Atlantic
Lennie James’s gripping mystery about the search for his missing daughter turned murderous in this acclaimed sequel to his 2018 hit, Save Me.
James created, wrote and stars in this story of a man desperately trying to put his life back together, picking up 17 months after the end of the original.
What they said: ‘Powerful, thrilling and beautifully observed … a gem.’ Radio Times
The Emily Atack Show - ITV2
Emily Atack tackles the trials and tribulations of modern life with a winning combination of stand-up, sketches and killer impressions.
With the biggest audience for a female-led stand-up show in 2020, each episode of the series dealt with a different topic relevant to young women, including dating, image, and growing up.
What they said: ‘A mix of belly laugh-inducing stand-up and sketches … Emily Atack would be great fun on a night out.’ Belfast Telegraph
Grayson’s Art Club - Channel 4
There was no shortage of innovative programming to emerge out of lockdown but none of it was quite so creative as Grayson’s Art Club.
Turner Prize winning artist Grayson Perry encouraged the nation to get creative and unleash their imagination in the best performing of Channel 4’s #stayathome ‘Academy’ programmes with more than one million viewers per episode.
What they said: ‘A life-affirming testament to creativity and human resilience … Powerfully uplifting.’ iNews
Rob and Romesh Vs - Sky One
This odd couple series features comedians and best mates Rob Beckett and Romesh Ranganathan travelling the world taking on various challenges in the world of entertainment and sport.
It’s a fascinating glimpse into rarefied worlds - across three series they have gone from ballet to top-level basketball, via art, golf, and drag - but mostly it’s just laugh-out-loud funny.
What they said: ‘You have to admire their bravery … [Rob and Romesh] a chemistry that works.’ The Arts Desk
Long Lost Family - ITV
No series puts viewers through the emotional wringer quite like ITV’s Long Lost Family.
Fronted by Nicky Campbell and Davina McCall, the family reunion show returned in 2020 with two special episodes helping foundlings track down the people who abandoned them as babies. Hankies at the ready.
What they said: ‘Uplifting and life-affirming, it’s heartening that human interest stories can be told so sensitively. Packed a punch.’ iNews
Big Zuu’s Big Eats - Dave
Grime artist and self-taught chef Big Zuu is one of the freshest and most original talents in the TV cookery firmament.
Joined by his school friends Tubsey and Hyder in their trusty travelling food truck, Big Zuu serves up tasty post-show dishes for comedians including Jimmy Carr and Jamali Maddix.
What they say: ‘The grime MC and chef’s approach to food in his show Big Zuu’s Big Eats is so fun that it makes him the comedian’s food truck operator of choice.’ The Guardian
Adult Material - Channel 4
Channel 4’s Adult Material ventured inside the world of the porn industry from the point of view of a mum-of-three who has worked in it her entire adult life.
Lucy Kirkwood’s acclaimed dark drama about the career and home life of Jolene Dollar (Hayley Squires) had both laughs and big shocks. Unforgettable and occasionally uncomfortable viewing.
What they said: ‘A messy and mesmerising look at the porn industry … A truly original drama.’ iNews
Breeders - Sky One
You don’t have to be a parent to appreciate Sky One’s Breeders, starring Martin Freeman and Daisy Haggard, but it helps.
A comedy about the unrelenting pressures of parenthood, Freeman created Breeders with Simon Blackwell and Chris Addison. And like The Thick of It, on which the latter two both worked, it’s very sweary and very funny.
What they said: ‘Smart, spiky and hilarious … a parenting sitcom with bite.’ Radio Times
Honour - ITV
Keeley Hawes starred in this docudrama about 20-year-old Banaz Mahmod who was murdered in 2006 by five members of her own family.
This heart-rending two-part drama focussed on the police investigation into the so-called ‘honour killing’ and the role played by DCI Caroline Goode, who was awarded the Queen’s Police Medal for her work.
What they said: ‘A chilling reminder of how society failed to protect a young woman from harm … Makes for haunting television.’ Guardian
Escape to the Farm with Kate Humble - Channel 5
Kate Humble welcomed cameras onto her working farm in remote Monmouthshire for the first time in this Channel 5 documentary series.
A fascinating insight into life on the farm where the presenter has been growing produce and breeding livestock for 10 years, it was a glorious breath of fresh air with beautiful landscape, high drama - and lots of animals.
What they say: ‘The televisual equivalent of kicking off one’s muddy Wellingtons and slipping into a warm bath … only makes us adore Kate Humble more.’ Daily Telegraph
Paul O’Grady: For the Love of Dogs - ITV
Of all Paul O’Grady’s many visits to Battersea Dogs & Cats Home for his much-loved ITV series, last year’s episode was particularly memorable.
Now back with a new series on ITV, this ‘Back in Business’ special followed the charity in a race against time to find homes for dogs and cats before it closed to the public because of the pandemic.
What they say: ‘An adorable inside look how Battersea tackled Covid-19 … Paul O’Grady is in his element.’ Telegraph
Deadwater Fell - Channel 4
David Tennant starred as a doctor who becomes the prime suspect when his wife and three children are killed in a house fire.
Devastatingly compelling, Deadwater Fell put totally believable characters at the heart of a storyline which is sometimes too awful to contemplate.
What they said: ‘It is fictional, but conveyed with such intensity that it seems more vivid than real life murders … Hard to take your eyes off it.’ Independent
The Cockfields - Gold
Joe Wilkinson’s comedy about a son taking his girlfriend to meet his family on the Isle of Wight for the first time was as relatable as it was hilarious.
Wilkinson starred in and co-created the sitcom, with an all-star cast including Sue Johnston, Diane Morgan, Nigel Havers and the late Bobby Ball. This Gold comedy perfectly captured the foibles, frustrations (and fun) of family relationships.
What they said: ‘Tender moments and a sparkling script … The Cockfields was the injection of big-hearted comedy I didn’t even realise I’d been waiting for.’ Mirror