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I’m excited to begin my look back at 2020 with this list of my favorite TV series of 2020!

While I usually like to restrict my lists to TV series that aired new episodes during the previous year, this year I’d like to begin with some Honorable Mentions that didn’t.

The Leftovers — One of my very favorite shows that I watched this year was The Leftovers, which aired on HBO from 2014-2017.  I’d avoided the show previously, because I’d been burned by Damon Lindelof’s previous show, Lost, and because the heavy subject matter of this series felt so dour I wasn’t sure I wanted to put myself through watching it.  But after being cajoled for years by friends and family to give this show a try, I finally did.  I am so glad I did!!  The Leftovers, overseen by Mr. Lindelof and Tom Perrotta (who wrote the novel upon which the first season of the show was based), is a masterpiece.  This three season show is nearly perfect in almost every respect.  It’s breathtakingly original, filled with adventurous storytelling and twists and turns I could never in a million years have predicted, and that left me exhilarated as a viewer.  It’s a deeply moving character piece, filled with incredible characters — so many of whom I quickly grew extremely attached to — played by extraordinary actors.  The series is heartbreaking and emotionally wrenching, but also funny and joyous as well.  It’s dazzlingly original.  I’m so glad to have seen it.  I can’t wait to watch it all through again.  (Click here for my review of The Leftovers season one.)

For the first several months of 2020, I found myself watching quite a number of terrific 2019 shows that I hadn’t gotten to by the time I wrote my 2019 lists.  Here are some of my favorites:

Russian Doll — This Groundhog Day remix was gloriously terrific.  It was emotional and moving and also riotously funny.  It featured a dazzlingly compelling lead performance by Natasha Lyonne (who co-created the series with Leslye Headland and Amy Poehler).  I loved the complex, twisty-turny narrative, and I was delighted by how well all the pieces fit together in the end.  I loved how uplifting this often-times dark show was, in the end.  This was one of the very best shows I watched in 2020.  (Click here for my full review.)

Undone — This deliriously fun and weird animated series, created by Kate Purdy and Raphael Bob-Waksberg, is a beautiful, complex character study of a deeply broken young woman, and at the same time it is a gloriously mind-bending sci-fi tale.  Like Russian Doll, I found Undone to be both deeply … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Undone

Amazon’s gorgeous, emotionally rich animated series Undone centers around a young woman named Alma (Rosa Salazar), who feels stuck in the mundane routines of her every-day life.  When her younger sister Becca announces her engagement, Alma begins to spiral into insecurity and frustration and loneliness.  After a car crash — the result of her running through a stop sign — lands her in the hospital, Alma begins seeing visions of her dead father (Bob Odenkirk).  He begins to teach Rosa shamanistic techniques to untether her mind from her linear reality, allowing her to experience different moments in her life and explore her past, and that of her father’s.  Has Alma taken the first steps into connecting with her family’s Nahuatl roots and learned how to see time and the universe in an entirely new way?  Or is this all in her head, and she is sinking into the schizophrenia that destroyed her grandmother?

I adored Undone.  This eight-episode series is a beautiful, complex character study of a deeply broken young woman, and at the same time it is a gloriously mind-bending sci-fi tale.  Both aspects of the series work wonderfully and enhance the other.  The series was created by Kate Purdy and Raphael Bob-Waksberg and directed by Hisko Hulsing.  (Mr. Bob-Waksberg created Bojack Horseman, and Ms. Purdy was a writer and producer on that show.)

Even without the sci-fi elements, Undone would be a deeply entertaining and moving series.  I loved the way the show slowly and carefully allowed us to peel back the layers of Alma’s personality and history.  Alma is incredibly well-developed as a three-dimensional protagonist.  She is deeply flawed, and the series doesn’t shy away from frankly depicting her poor decisions and upsetting, selfish behavior.  At the same time, the show never condemns her for those choices.  And while in the hands of less-skilled storytellers these choices might have turned off the audience, I found that they only rendered Alma even more interesting and sympathetic a character.  I couldn’t help but connect to how human and real she seemed.  Rosa Salazar’s phenomenal performance was rich and nuanced; she floored me with her work time and again over the course of these eight episodes.

Undone was created through rotoscoped animation.  Actors performed the scenes on a soundstage, and then that footage was used as the basis for the show’s gorgeous animation.  (Click here to read more about the process.)  The result is a unique and dazzlingly beautiful show.  The approach is perfect for executing the show’s regular dips into mind-trips and other brain-bending scenarios.  As co-creator Kate Purdy points out in that article: “We thought the show should be live action [at first]… but then if you … [continued]