by Mike Hale | New York Times | November 29, 2023
TV in 2023 was like synchronized swimming. Below the surface, there was roiling and churn. The writers’ and actors’ strikes wiped out much of the production year. The hangover from the corporate binge on streaming platforms led to cancellations and cutbacks. A number of hall-of-fame series left the air, with no clear plan of, as it were, succession.
But above the waterline, the dance went on. As usual, it was challenging to whittle down my year-end list to 10. (So I picked 11.) As usual, I am listing it in alphabetical, not ranked order. As usual, I made it a rule not to repeat shows from the previous year, and as usual, I broke that rule. (I couldn’t not include “Reservation Dogs.”)
And as usual, I probably missed stuff: I have the same number of hours in the day as you, even if I spend more of them in front of a screen. Herewith, the best of what I did see, for your catching-up pleasure. Even if Peak TV is dead, Off-Peak TV should keep us plenty busy.
Best International Shows
It cannot be overemphasized: The wild proliferation of series, especially imported ones, makes the word “best” at the top of any list a hazy approximation at, you know, best. Here are 10 shows from outside the United States, in alphabetical order, that I particularly enjoyed in 2023.
‘A Spy Among Friends’ (MGM+)
This languorous yet nail-biting variation on the espionage thriller dramatized the end of the friendship between Kim Philby, the British spy who was a double agent for the Soviets, and Nicholas Elliott, the fellow spy sent to bring Philby home and then suspected of treason himself when Philby escaped. Written by Alex Cary (“Homeland”) based on Ben Macintyre’s book, it was a smart and complicated puzzle play and an icy dissection of the British class system; most of all, it was a tour de force for Guy Pearce as Philby, Damian Lewis as Elliott and Anna Maxwell Martin as a fictional agent caught in the middle. (Streaming on MGM+)
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