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Best Of

The Best TV of 2024 So Far

From satires to historical epics to broadcast comedies, here are the contenders for the most outstanding shows of the year.
  • Clockwise: True Detective: Night Country, Extraordinary, Interview With the Vampire. and Abbott Elementary (Photos: HBO/Hulu/AMC/Disney; Primetimer graphic)
    Clockwise: True Detective: Night Country, Extraordinary, Interview With the Vampire. and Abbott Elementary (Photos: HBO/Hulu/AMC/Disney; Primetimer graphic)

    At Primetimer, we like to wait until at least the vernal equinox to even begin to think about declaring the best TV offerings of the year. We've learned from previous (recent) experience that what glimmers in the snow may not hold up to the summer's heat. And with streamers and networks blowing up the release schedules of old — though, hey, at least they've started scaling back, sort of — it's become increasingly difficult to keep up with shows, even ones we've been meaning to return to or check out for the first time.

    But the truth is, the timing for these superlative round-ups never really feels right: Either you miss out on a chance to champion some brilliant-yet-underrated series, or you rave about a show you haven't finished watching that might let you down by the end. Even now, we run the risk of looking like we've overlooked The Acolyte and The Bear, but we like to take the Television Academy route and base our picks on the majority of a season (and Carmy isn't even back in the kitchen yet!). At some point, though, you just have to let it rip — on that note, here are the best shows of 2024 so far.

    True Detective: Night Country, HBO

    premiered January 14, 2024

    True Detective: Night Country spawned weeks of discourse and bad-faith criticism, but there's no denying that showrunner and director Issa López had a specific vision for the anthology's fourth season. It wouldn't be completely accurate to say she executed it with flying colors; rather, she did so in shades of darkness, using the phenomenon of "polar night," a weeks-long stretch without daylight, to inform the tone and content of the central mystery. A chilling sense of horror — sometimes of the supernatural variety, and sometimes all too human — accompanied Liz Danvers (Jodie Foster) and Evangeline Navarro's (Kali Reis) investigation, which culminated in a series of reveals that reinforced the season's overarching themes about violence against Indigenous women and corruption. That sense of cohesion ensured Night Country was more than just a gender-swapped take on Season 1, and it bodes well for the fifth season, which will see López and a new set of detectives take on a fresh mystery. — Claire Spellberg Lustig

    Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Prime Video

    premiered February 2, 2024

    It's not easy to recreate the fiery chemistry Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt brought to the 2005 film Mr. & Mrs. Smith, but Donald Glover and Maya Erskine are up to the task. The actors put a unique spin on spy duo John and Jane Smith, who, in the series reboot, are assigned to pose as a married couple by their mysterious, all-knowing agency.

    While their glamorous, high-risk missions send them gallivanting across the globe, where they cross paths with a host of powerful figures — played by a long list of guest stars, including John Turturro, Michaela Coel, and Ron Perlman — the espionage becomes secondary to the real feelings that develop between them. Centering the intimate, day-to-day realities of John and Jane's relationship over their spy work gives the leads an opportunity to flex their dramatic chops in between moments of levity, allowing creators Glover and Francesca Sloane to play with genre conventions. The finale's cliffhanger ending suggests a different espionage-to-relationship-drama ratio moving forward, should the show be renewed for a second season, but we'll always have an initial run of eight episodes that find love in places you'd least expect it. — CSL

    Abbott Elementary Season 3, ABC

    premiered February 7, 2024

    Anyone who thinks there’s nothing funny left on network TV clearly hasn’t experienced the epic highs and lows of teaching at Abbott. Season 3 took a big risk shaking things up with Janine’s (Quinta Brunson) temporary departure for a district job, but ABC’s mockumentary sitcom didn’t lose its magic.

    This season deepend its focus on friendships and new dynamics: Jacob (Chris Perfetti) roomed with Melissa (Lisa Ann Walter) while strengthening his friendship with Gregory (Tyler James Williams), Barbara (Sheryl Lee Ralph) and Ava (Janelle James) unexpectedly brought out interesting sides to each other, and the district characters definitely spiced things up. The show’s humor also reached new heights — “Smoking” delivered too many zingers to count, and “Double Date” was on par with The Office’s famously uncomfortable “Dinner Party.” However, the biggest highlight was undoubtedly Gregory (Tyler James Williams) and Janine finally, finally crossing over the will-they/won’t-they threshold in the season finale, a development that came at the perfect time. — Kelly Martinez

    Shōgun, FX

    premiered February 27, 2024

    2024 TV needed an epic, and Rachel Kondo and Justin Marks answered the call with Shōgun, an adaptation that’s at once meditative and action-packed. Though it’s based on James Clavell’s book of the same name, which already inspired one miniseries, Shōgun charts its own distinct path, diverging from the middling white guy who’s all too often at the center of stories about non-Western cultures to more fully explore feudal Japan. Characters like Lady Mariko and Lord Toranaga come to the fore, as much because of Anna Sawai and Hiroyuki Sanada’s astounding performances as the series’s powerful writing.

    But more than just give the TV season a much-needed boost, Shōgun helped keep communal viewing, which has waxed and waned over recent decades, alive — the memes and the discourse flew throughout its 10-episode initial run (which has now been extended). This transportive series is a true modern classic: a critical hit and a crowd pleaser. — Danette Chavez

    Mary & George, Starz

    premiered March 5, 2024

    Long live the horny historical drama. Julianne Moore is a force to be reckoned with in Mary & George, D.C. Moore's dramatized look at Mary Villiers' (Moore) successful effort to mold her son George (Nicholas Galitzine) into King James' (Tony Curran) lover. As this description suggests, the show doesn't skimp on sex, but, like his titular characters, Moore wields it carefully. Instead of engaging in voyeurism for voyeurism's sake, he uses lust to explore the shifting power dynamic within James' court, and, as the season progresses, between this insatiable mother-son duo.

    Moore and Galitzine navigate Mary and George's push-pull with ease, playing up the conflict between their characters' awareness that they need one another — as a woman in 17th-century England, Mary's future will always be tied to a man, while George lacks the political savvy to maintain his status as the King's closest confidante on his own — and their growing resentment of this fact. Their exploits propel the limited series toward a bombastic conclusion, although viewers familiar with the sordid history of the Jacobean court won't be too shocked when the finale reaches its climax. — CSL

    Extraordinary Season 2, Hulu

    premiered March 6, 2024

    The Boys may have just returned, but this year’s smartest superhero send-up actually premiered months ago. Emma Moran’s Extraordinary is just that: an exceptionally astute skewering of the caped IP extensions that have steamrolled more creative endeavors, wrapped up in a soulful coming-of-age story.

    It’s easy to look at the core quartet — hilariously unaware Londoners played by Máiréad Tyers, Sofia Oxenham, Bilal Hasna, and Luke Rollason — and assume that the “age” being explored is one’s twenties. Though there’s a sharp Gen Z bent to the humor and quandaries, Extraordinary doesn’t limit its storytelling to any one generation. Moran is determined to explore the broader human condition: the transformative power of grief; the ways in which our stumbles and victories shape us; all while showing great compassion and exasperation for her characters. If you want a witty superhero allegory, you’ll find it here. But if you push yourself like Jen (Tyers), you’ll uncover so much more. — DC

    Under the Bridge, Hulu

    premiered April 17, 2024

    True-crime adaptations are always challenging to pull off sensitively, and the harrowing story of Reena Virk (Vritika Gupta) — a 14-year-old girl from British Columbia who was murdered by her peers in 1997 — is certainly no exception. Under the Bridge creator Quinn Shephard and showrunner Samir Mehta approach the subject matter with care and nuance, challenging viewers to “hold empathy” for the teens even when it’s extraordinarily difficult.

    Lily Gladstone and Riley Keough’s chemistry lights up the screen, but Under the Bridge belongs to the young cast members — Izzy G. in particular is genuinely terrifying as Kelly Ellard, and casting actual teens makes it more jarring. Although the series (based on the book by Rebecca Godfrey) feels somewhat unfocused at times as it tries to balance fiction and facts, it’s ultimately one of the most haunting takes on adolescence since Sharp Objects. — KM

    Big Mood, Tubi

    premiered April 19, 2024

    TV is packed with great duos, especially female friends ready to take on the world together. Mary and Rhoda, Kate and Allie, Daria and Jane, Abbi and Ilana — though they’re from different eras, they all shared enviable friendships. With Big Mood, Camilla Whitehill has added a new duo to this canon, and introduced the next great millennial comedy.

    Big Mood’s mix of despair and hope about the future is a quintessentially millennial quality, but the fraying friendship at its core transcends generations and genres. Maggie (Nicola Coughlan, who might be 2024’s TV MVP) and Eddie (Lydia West, giving her co-star a run for her money) are best buds with fleeting ambitions, and as they face ever greater obstacles, their co-dependency comes into sharp relief. But unlike the Girls we once wished would just break up already, it’s easy to see why they cling to each other: they have no one else. Whitehill’s humanistic approach to Maggie and Eddie’s evolving relationship makes for stirring drama, which she intersperses with biting humor and flights of fancy in one of TV’s most well-balanced comedies. — DC

    Hacks Season 3, Max

    premiered May 2, 2024

    While we’re on this track, Hacks is undeniably a comedy, and not just because of its runtimes and FYC campaigns. Series co-creators Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs, and Jen Statsky aren’t aiming for guffaws per second; instead, they layer trenchant observations upon trenchant observations about fame, aging, and compromising for your art, combining “a-ha!” moments with the “haha” ones.

    Season 3 proves the doubters wrong, both those who were certain that there was nothing left to explore in Deborah (Jean Smart) and Ava’s (Hannah Einbinder) relationship and those who feel the series should strive for more of the acerbic absurdism of fellow Max comedy The Other Two. One of the best things about Hacks is its determination to move at its own pace; tensions will always rise, as Ava and Deborah’s professional and personal lives grow increasingly entangled, threatening to strangle them both. When it feels like the show has committed to edging viewers, a spot-on joke or cameo undercuts the friction — but never a moment too soon. Just like in stand-up, it’s a matter of delivery. And Hacks nails it every time. — DC

    Pretty Little Liars: Summer School, Max

    premiered May 9, 2024 (ongoing)

    Quality teen dramas (at least, ones that aren’t axed after one season) are rarer these days, but Max’s Pretty Little Liars: Summer School is a bloody delight. The Max drama, part of the PLL universe that began with ABC Family/Freeform’s adaptation, ramps things up in its sophomore season and strikes an impressive balance between classic high school shenanigans (summer flings, part-time jobs, breakups, the works) and high-stakes horror as the girls face the wrath of a new villain, Bloody Rose. While Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Lindsay Calhoon’s creation can feel a little campy and Riverdale-esque at times (and hey, we’re not complaining!), the series also manages to be genuinely scary and unsettling — it just might be the first successful teen-slasher show. — KM

    Interview With the Vampire Season 2, AMC

    premiered May 12, 2024 (ongoing)

    Sophomore slumps, like paying bills and going to work, are of no concern to the immortals of Interview With the Vampire. The second season of Rolin Jones’ series, based on Anne Rice’s book of the same name and her Vampire Chronicles more broadly, knows how to take your breath away while also giving its story room to breathe. With terrific performances and a penchant for gory and overtly queer storytelling, this rococo drama commands attention.

    And yet, Jones’ lush adaptation is practically a hidden gem, at least, compared to other genre shows. Recently, there’s been an uptick in pleas from critics to just start watching this show already, especially if you prefer your vampires in the midst of existential crises instead of covered in sparkles, and can handle a steady flow of (fake) blood while Jones and his team expose humanity’s lack of humanity. Don’t let them go unheeded! If any show can help AMC reclaim its reputation for innovative television, it’s Interview With the Vampire. — DC

    We Are Lady Parts Season 2, Peacock

    premiered May 30, 2024

    When Nida Manzoor’s effervescent comedy returned after three long years, it was with greater pathos. True to its cheeky name, We Are Lady Parts remained irreverent and heartwarming in Season 2, but the band’s shenanigans as they tried to make the most of their momentum were laced with longing, either for a lover, a mentor, or just some empathy from younger generations that are always talking about empathy.

    From the beginning, We Are Lady Parts has defied Hollywood storytelling conventions, centering Muslim women’s agency and desires instead of conflating them as a monolithic other or otherwise reducing them to tragedy. The buoyant first season was a balm, but the second is a shot in the arm: a wake-up call for artists and really anyone who can’t and won’t stay silent in the face of atrocities. Maybe that should be the song of the summer. — DC