This year, television made us laugh and cry. Sometimes we laughed until we cried. Sometimes we cried until we laughed.
There was a sympathetic sex therapist, a murder mystery in a Manhattan building, another whodunit set in a Hawaiian resort. And, of course, there was Ted Lasso.
Here’s the best of the best.
“Sex Education” • The Biggest Bad on TV this year wasn’t kit man-turned-“Wunderkid” assistant coach Nate from soccer sitcom “Ted Lasso.” Nor was it Ridgeway from fantasy historical drama “The Underground Railroad” or even one of the mean girls on the “Gossip Girl” reboot. No, it was Hope Haddon, the new headmistress at Moordale Academy on “Sex Education,” played by Jemima Kirke. And it is the utter charm of the rest of the Netflix show that made the third season flourish, even with an almost unwatchable villain.
For three seasons, “Sex Education” has done the dirty work of making sex real. Through teenagers, all messy and pimply and dramatic, sex became commonplace and not taboo. And with a warmth and love flowing mostly through the show’s sex therapist played by Gillian Anderson, “Sex Education” has done the unthinkable: It has talked about sex, baby.
“Inside” • Everyone was sick of COVID shows by about February, and rightly so. We were already living it; why watch it on TV, too? The one exception to that rule was Bo Burnham’s breathtaking comedy special “Inside,” filmed entirely in isolation as we watch the comedian dissolve into himself. The songs — and the hypnotic production — were as profound as they were funny, filled with an aching despair that yearned back to Burnham’s YouTube days, but with almost 15 years of self-reflection added to the mix. “Inside” is a claustrophobic and self-loathing look into the gaping abyss of our rapidly deteriorating reality. It’s Burnham at his best, even when he’s at his worst.