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Best TV Shows of 2023: Giving the Small Screen a Tweak

A Spy Among Friends

by John Anderson | The Wall Street Journal | December 5, 2023

It wasn’t a regular year, this 2023. Writers were on strike; actors were on strike. “Succession” lurched into the grave. Martha the Medicare Lady was making people crazier than they already were. And you know what? Shingles doesn’t care.

That said, I had assumed that this retrospective examination and contemplation of TV in the year ’23 was destined to be about the new. The novel. The innovative. Which is counterintuitive, to be sure: Television is a medium—or an industry, or whatever it is—that seems passionately dedicated to the idea that viewers don’t want to feel too passionately about anything, or have their equilibrium disturbed or their worldview assaulted. Hence the flourishing business of game shows, “unscripted” celebrity-reality series and nonfiction programming about serial murderers, which are always comforting to those of us not being murdered.

Celebrate the fresh, I thought ambitiously. But in surveying what I’d seen over 2023 (you can’t see everything; that hasn’t changed), the shows that really popped were series I’d seen before, even if they did put a tweak on their own winning formulas.

‘A Spy Among Friends’ (MGM+)

It feels necessary to circle back to “Slow Horses,” however, because its U.K. milieu was a blessed plot, sceptered isle and throne of Mars from which sprung old stories in new bloom. The Kim Philby tale, of longtime Communist infiltration of British intelligence in the postwar years by the Cambridge Five, was the basis of “A Spy Among Friends,” which featured Guy Pearce as Philby and Damian Lewis as fellow agent Nicholas Elliott. The real-life case, massaged somewhat in “A Spy Among Friends,” was resurrected again in factual form during one of my favorite nonfiction films of the year, “The Pigeon Tunnel,” which was built around documentary master Errol Morris interviewing author John le Carré. Some may have thought Le Carré remained an elusive commodity even after the very civil grilling by Mr. Morris. But just because someone is enigmatic doesn’t mean he isn’t entertaining.

Read the rest of the original article at The Wall Street Journal