TV had a really good year. As opposed to movies, which were forced to fight pandemic panic to get us back into theaters, TV has remained a couch potato's paradise.
Counting down to No. 1, here are my picks for the year's 10 best TV shows:
Derived from a Marvel comic, this wildly imaginative series on Disney+ shows Elizabeth Olsen's Scarlet Witch dealing with her grief over losing her husband, Vision (Paul Bettany), by reliving their lives through the surface normality of such TV sitcoms as "I Love Lucy" and "The Dick Van Dyke Show." As weird as it is wonderful, "WandaVision" raised the bar by merging laughs with genuine, heart-piercing emotion.
9. "American Crime Story: Impeachment"
Based on Jeffrey Toobin's 1999 bestseller, Ryan Murphy's FX anthology series is gossipy, gripping, cunning, cruel, harshly hilarious and shockingly heartbreaking -- sometimes all at the same time. Beanie Feldstein as Monica Lewinsky and Sarah Paulson as Linda Tripp go beyond tabloid rumor to find the human side of two women who became national jokes.
This Netflix limited series, inspired by the memoir of Stephanie Land about female poverty in America, provides a star-making role for Margaret Qualley as a young mother who leaves her abusive boyfriend and supports her 3-year-old daughter by working as a maid, with no help from her eccentric mom, stunningly played by Qualley's actual mom, Andie MacDowell.
If you love musicals or especially if you don't, "Schmigadoon!" -- on Apple TV+ -- is just the devilish curveball you need to put a song in your pandemic-frazzled heart. It helps that you'll be laughing your head off while the series spins wickedly funny magic. Among a cast of all-stars, Cecily Strong, Aaron Tveit and "West Side Story" breakout Ariana DeBose are standouts.
They say this stinging comedy series is based on Joan Rivers, but the great Jean Smart finds her own way into the acerbic mind and grieving heart of a sharp Vegas stand-up comic who in mentoring a fresh young talent (Hannah Einbinder). Smart's character finds her way into making peace with her past and forging a new life in the present.
5. "Mare of Easttown"
HBO's compulsively watchable crime thriller stars a never-better Kate Winslet as a brilliant, small-town Pennsylvania detective trying to track down the murderer of a young mother. Mare is one of Winslet's classic creations. It's no wonder she and costars Evan Peters and Julianne Nicholson all won Emmys; Mare stays in your head and heart.
4. "The Underground Railroad"
From Oscar winner Barry Jenkins ("Moonlight") comes Amazon Prime's indelible and indispensable 10-episode take on Colson Whitehead's Pulitzer-winning 2016 novel about slavery and the continuing myth that it's been eradicated. South African actress Thuso Mbedu is powerful and piercing as a young slave who plans her escape from a Georgia plantation that doubles as a house of horrors.
3. "The White Lotus"
Mike White brought scenes from the class struggle to HBO in this brilliant satire of the rich enjoying their privileges at a Hawaiian resort, where the staff, managed by the stellar Murray Bartlett, copes with the demands of spoiled guests. As the most entitled of the bunch, guest Jennifer Coolidge deserves every award in the book. You'll cringe, but you'll also care -- a White specialty.
2. "Reservation Dogs"
Having New Zealand's Taika Waititi as co-creator with Native American showrunner Sterlin Harjo adds a touch of weird and wonderful to this acclaimed FX on Hulu series about life "on the rez" for four madcap Indigenous teenagers in rural Oklahoma who embark on a Quentin Tarantino-like crime spree to get to the promised land of California.
In its third and best season yet, this HBO juggernaut dwarfs the competition by getting funnier and fiercer with every episode. A volcanic Brian Cox leads the best ensemble cast on TV with Jeremy Strong, Kieran Culkin and Sarah Snook superb as back-stabbing siblings. Add the great J. Smith-Cameron and pricelessly funny teamwork from Matthew Macfadyen and Nicholas Braun as the immortal Cousin Greg and you have a rare series that always leaves you wanting more.