This page contains Metacritic's official list of the 20 best-reviewed first-year TV series (including limited series) debuting in the United States between January 1, 2023 and December 31, 2023. Shows are ranked by Metascore (an average of grades from top professional critics on a 0-100 scale) prior to rounding based on scores as of December 19, 2023.
Any programs with fewer than 7 reviews are excluded. One-off TV specials and made-for TV movies are also excluded.
#20: 79 Dead Ringers (Prime Video)
A gender-swapped, present-day adaptation of David Cronenberg's 1988 film, Amazon's six-episode limited series Dead Ringers comes from Emmy nominee Alice Birch (Normal People) and stars an excellent Rachel Weisz as unusually close twin gynecologists Beverly and Elliot Mantle. When they're not pushing the boundaries of medical ethics while trying to modernize women's health care, you might find them sharing drugs, lovers, and more. Poppy Liu, Michael Chernus, Britne Oldford, Jennifer Ehle, and Emily Meade also star, while directors include Sean Durkin (Martha Marcy May Marlene) and Karyn Kusama (Jennifer's Body).
"All of Birch's delicate, even dangerous work would have largely been for naught had she not nabbed Weisz. Playing Beverley and Elliot with a sharp, intimidating level of commitment, the actress is riveting and wondrous." —Barry Hertz, The Globe and Mail
Stream it at Prime Video
#19: 79 Justified: City Primeval (FX)
Timothy Olyphant returns as U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens in a welcome sequel to FX's acclaimed Elmore Leonard-inspired series Justified. Adapted specifically from Leonard's book City Primeval: High Noon in Detroit (but altered to make Givens the main character), the sequel picks up eight years following the events of the Justified finale, with Givens now living in Miami with his teenage daughter (played by real-life daughter Vivian Olyphant) but drawn to Detroit by a chance encounter. There, he becomes entangled with the violent criminal known as The Oklahoma Wildman (Boyd Holbrook) as well as the latter's attorney (Aunjanue Ellis). City Primeval comes from Dave Andron and Michael Dinner, who both worked on the prior series, and the cast also features Vondie Curtis Hall, Marin Ireland, and Norbert Leo Butz—as well as a surprise or two that we won't spoil here.
While City Primeval was originally billed as a limited series, there have been hints that another season (or a second miniseries) could happen, though there is certainly nothing definite yet.
"'City Primeval' doesn't merely justify its existence, it makes one wish that FX could find a way to insert Raylan Givens into other Elmore Leonard books in the future. He's that rich and complex a character. 'Justified' may not officially be back, but let's hope that Raylan sticks around for a while." —Brian Tallerico, The Playlist
Stream it at Hulu
#18: 79 The Lying Life of Adults (Netflix)
The earliest 2023 show on our list—it debuted in the first week of January—the latest Elena Ferrante adaptation was a hit with critics, much like The Lost Daughter and My Brilliant Friend before it. Adults is a six-episode, limited series take on the author's recent novel set in 1990s Naples. Like My Brilliant Friend, it's an Italian-language coming-of-age story, though this one centers on girl named Giovanna (newcomer Giordana Marengo) who must navigate two sides of Naples as she enters adolescence: the upper crust familiar to her childhood, and the vulgar lower class where she reunites with an estranged aunt after falling out with her father.
"As coming-of-age stories go, Ferrante is one of the greatest storytellers ever to live, and this adaptation doesn't just succeed on its own merits, but on hers as well." —Shane Ryan, Paste Magazine
Stream it at Netflix
#16 (tie): 80 Mayflies (Acorn TV)
It was a 2022 release in the UK, but the BBC's two-part limited series adaptation of the novel by Andrew O'Hagan didn't arrive in the U.S. until this fall. Like the book, Mayflies follows a man dying from cancer (Tony Curran) as he recruits his lifelong best friend (Line of Duty's Martin Compston) to accompany him on one final trip—to an assisted suicide facility in Switzerland.
"Tender, to a fault, Mayflies poignantly captures life's terminal evanescence." —Nick Hilton, The Independent
Stream it at Acorn TV
#16 (tie): 80 Everyone Else Burns (The CW)
The last time we included a CW show in our year-end roundup was ... well, our records don't go back that far. Of course, it's not really a CW show but a British production that received excellent reviews when it first aired on the UK's Channel 4 in January and did so again when it reached the U.S. this fall. The comedy stars Simon Bird (The Inbetweeners, Friday Night Dinner) as the head of a family that has joined an apocalyptic religious sect in Manchester, England.
In fact, it may not be a CW show for long: The scaled-back network pulled the series from its lineup after just three episodes aired—despite the fact that it was previously renewed for a second season.
"Easily the fall's best original scripted series." —Rob Owen, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Stream it at CWTV.com
#15: 81 Bill Russell: Legend (Netflix)
Jeffrey Wright and Corey Stoll narrate Netflix's two-part examination of the life of NBA star Bill Russell, who won a record 11 championships while a member of the Boston Celtics (among other basketball accomplishments) and was a political activist off the court. Sam Pollard's documentary includes Russell's final interview, recorded shortly before his 2022 death.
"As much fun as the documentary is — and it's a wonderful tribute to its subject — this is a series that is not content to just shut up and dribble. It has a lot to say and, like Bill Russell, it doesn't care if the viewer finds offense in the truth." —Odie Henderson, Boston Globe
Stream it at Netflix
#14: 81 Telemarketers (HBO)
Produced by the Safdie brothers and Danny McBride (among others), HBO's often comedic three-part true-crime documentary comes from amateur filmmaker Sam Lipman-Stern along with Adam Bhala Lough. Twenty years in the making, the series originates in a series of video recordings made by Lipman-Stern while working at a shady New Jersey call center whose executives were engaged in pretty much every type of nefarious, illegal, or seedy behavior you could think of (including a billion-dollar scam). It's a wild exposé that critics have compared to documentaries like American Movie.
"Telemarketers is one of the most exciting documentaries I've seen in years. Effortlessly dodging, and sometimes subtly parodying, every maudlin cliché of the true-crime genre." —Judy Berman, Time
Stream it at Max
#13: 82 Bargain (Paramount+)
Likely the most under-the-radar title on this list, Bargain is a six-episode South Korean thriller (streaming on Paramount+ since late October) based on an award-winning short film by Lee Chung-hyun (The Call). There's certainly a lot going on—men are lured to a hotel where they are caught in an organ trafficking ring, but then must fight for their survival after a massive earthquake—but critics praised its complexity, intensity, and satirical elements, with some reviewers deeming it superior to Netflix's Korean hit Squid Game.
"Everything about 'Bargain' is skillfully unhinged, with developments unfolding like new video game levels. Director/writer Jeon Woo-Sung's expansion on a short film delivers on numerous counts, packing in more nonstop action and plot surprises than anything I've seen this year." —Randy Myers, The Mercury News
Stream it at Paramount+
#12: 82 Scott Pilgrim Takes Off (Netflix)
Netflix's eight-episode anime series is based on both the Scott Pilgrim graphic novels by Bryan Lee O'Malley and their 2010 feature film adaptation and comes from O'Malley along with BenDavid Grabinski. Seeing the film first is not a requirement; the anime functions equally well for newcomers and longtime fans, and the latter will find that the new series moves in unexpected directions. That said, virtually the entire film cast returns here to voice their characters one more time, with the roster including Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, Anna Kendrick, Chris Evans, Jason Schwartzman, Alison Pill, and Brie Larson.
"Scott Pilgrim Takes Off has cajones, and thank god for it. The show could have been serviceable nostalgia bait, but instead, it delivers a deeply satisfying eight-episode arc, in turn setting a new standard for what legacy sequels can accomplish." —Jonah Krueger, Consequence
Stream it at Netflix
#11: 82 Cunk on Earth (Netflix)
This British mockumentary series created by Black Mirror's Charlie Brooker centers on a character who has appeared in numerous Brooker projects (mostly in the UK) over the past decade: bombastic investigative journalist Philomena Cunk, played by Diane Morgan. Here, she examines the greatest inventions in human history "while standing near impressive old ruins, or inside museums." Guests include Lisa Kudrow, Kumail Nanjiani, Hugh Grant, and Tracey Ullman, though most of Cunk's interview subjects are real academics who may not be aware they are appearing on a comedy series—think Da Ali G Show and you won't be far off.
All five episodes are streaming at Netflix, and the series has yet to be renewed for a second season by either Netflix or the show's original UK home, BBC2.
"Cunk on Earth is a deeply funny, unexpectedly informative mockumentary that delivers as many laughs as fun little facts and tidbits about human history. It is, in short, the best show you're not watching right now." —Catherine Caruso, The Daily Beast
Stream it at Netflix
#10: 83 A Small Light (Nat Geo)
Created by Grey's Anatomy veterans Joan Rater and Tony Phelan, this dramatic retelling of the Anne Frank story stars Bel Powley, Liev Schreiber, and Joe Cole. Instead of showing the familiar story from young Anne's point of view, the eight-episode limited series focuses on the host family—in particular, Miep Gies (played by Powley)—who attempted to hide the Franks from the Nazis during the German occupation of the Netherlands.
"It's not a somber re-telling of a familiar story but a sensitive, humanistic approach that allows room for humor and happiness even as viewers know the story will inevitably take a tragic turn." —Rob Owen, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
#9: 83 Stolen Youth: Inside the Cult at Sarah Lawrence (Hulu)
In 2010, Larry Ray, the ex-con father of a student at Sarah Lawrence College in New York briefly moved into his daughter's apartment. Over the next decade, he would prey on students at the school, using sex and manipulation to effectively brainwash the young women in what has been described as a sex cult before the law finally caught up to him. Hulu's three-part true-crime series comes from Zachary Heinzerling (McCartney 3, 2, 1) and includes not just interviews with several of the victims but also recordings made by Ray himself.
"This is an admittedly tough watch, heartbreakingly so at time[s]. ... It's also a journalistically sound effort, and thanks in large part to the victims who bravely agreed to extensive interviews, it could be of great help to others who find themselves or loved ones in similar situations." —Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times
Stream it at Hulu
#8: 84 The American Buffalo (PBS)
It wouldn't be fall without a new PBS documentary from Ken Burns. And, like pretty much every one that came before it, this two-part documentary tracing the history of the North American buffalo was well-received by critics.
"Much of it is heart-stoppingly beautiful. Who knew that Ken Burns — documentarian, entrepreneur, the closest thing we have to an unofficial curator of national memory — has a David Attenborough, wildlife-filmmaker side, too? That heart-stopping beauty makes the story Burns tells all more heartbreaking." —Mark Feeney, Boston Globe
#7: 84 The Last of Us (HBO)
Proving definitively that a successful videogame adaptation is possible (at least on television), HBO's biggest hit since Game of Thrones comes from Chernobyl creator Craig Mazin along with Neil Druckmann, the co-president of the game studio (Naughty Dog) that created the critically acclaimed PlayStation games. Retaining the post-apocalyptic setting and many of the characters from those games but expanding the story, TLOU follows the smuggler Joel (played by The Mandalorian's Pedro Pascal) and Ellie, the orphaned teen girl in his care (Bella Ramsey) as they attempt to escape from a quarantine zone and travel across the remains of the United States two decades after human civilization has been mostly wiped out by a fungal pandemic. Gabriel Luna, Anna Torv, Nick Offerman, Nico Parker, Murray Bartlett, and Melanie Lynskey also star.
HBO greenlit a second season of The Last of Us, but due to the recent WGA and SAG strikes it won't arrive until 2025.
"Comfortably the best adaptation of a video-game ever made: one that deepens the game's dystopian lore, while staying true to its emotional core. Like the game, it's a masterpiece, too." —John Nugent, Empire
Stream it at Max
#6: 84 Poker Face (Peacock)
In a world where every new TV series is billed as a 50-hour movie (give or take), is there still room for a case-of-the-week procedural that uses Columbo as its inspiration? The answer is "yes" when that series comes from Rian Johnson (Glass Onion, Looper) and stars Natasha Lyonne as Charlie, who travels the country to solve a variety of cases using her innate ability to detect when someone is lying. Along the way, she runs into characters played by the likes of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Nick Nolte, Adrien Brody, Benjamin Bratt, Chloe Sevigny, Lil Rel Howery, Rhea Perlman, Simon Helberg, Tim Blake Nelson, Brandon Micheal Hall, Cherry Jones, Dascha Polanco, Ellen Barkin, and Judith Light—among others.
A second season has been ordered, though it won't air anytime soon.
"Because shows like Poker Face have become so rare — or, at least, ones like it that are also executed this well — there is a risk of wildly overpraising it. Like any episodic drama, some episodes are stronger than others. ... But goddamn, what a relief and delight it is to see a TV show that actually wants to be a TV show, and that knows how to do that at this high a level. ... This one's wonderful." —Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone
Stream it at Peacock
#5: 85 I'm A Virgo (Prime Video)
With his acclaimed feature film debut Sorry to Bother You, rapper turned director Boots Riley proved he had a knack for surreal dark comedy. His first TV series delivers more of the same, resulting in one of the most unique shows to air in 2023. Amazon's absurdist coming-of-age series I'm a Virgo stars Jharrel Jerome (an Emmy winner for When They See Us) as a 19-year-old Black man living in Oakland. Oh, and he also happens to be 13 feet tall, and his odyssey through life and love includes a meeting with his idol, a superhero named The Hero (Walton Goggins). Mike Epps, Carmen Ejogo, Brett Gray, Kara Young, Olivia Washington, and Allius Barnes also star. Riley directs all seven episodes.
Despite a cliffhanger ending to the debut season, Virgo has yet to be renewed—and, given that we are now six months past the premiere, a renewal seems unlikely.
"I'm a Virgo is as fresh and invigorating as a cold shower. It wakes you up, makes you alert, makes you engage with it in a way few dramas do by giving you something boldly, undeniably different. And vigorous and clever and fun and performed by a young cast who seem to be already at the top of their games." —Lucy Mangan, The Guardian
Stream it at Prime Video
#4: 85 Dreaming Whilst Black (Showtime)
One of a few BBC-produced imports on our list, Dreaming Whilst Black aired in the States on Showtime in September after first debuting in the UK in July. Adjani Salmon, who also co-created the series, plays Kwabena, a young man struggling in a boring office job who would rather be spending his time making films. The six-episode dramedy (which has yet to be renewed) earned praise on both sides of the Atlantic as a rare success in the microgenre of art about making art—while also delivering plenty of laughs along the way.
"Dreaming Whilst Black livens up a fairly standard outline for a comedy series with an ensemble of outstanding performances, biting social satire, and a keen sense of its own identity that makes for one of the most rewarding watches of the year." —Coleman Spilde, The Daily Beast
Stream it at Paramount+ With Showtime
This year's best true-crime series, July's four-part documentary from filmmaker Anthony Caronna chronicles a string of gruesome murders targeting gay men in early 1990s New York. Praised for its powerful blend of anger and compassion, Last Call spends time exploring the lives of the victims in addition to documenting the investigation into the killings—one that was slowed by the homophobia and prejudices of law enforcement and the media.
"It's gentle and careful and immensely loving, even when it's also full of palpable fury — everything true crime so rarely understands how to be." —Kathryn VanArendonk
Stream it at Max
#2: 86 Beef (Netflix)
The best Netflix original series of 2023 is an A24-produced dramedy from writer/producer Lee Sung Jin, whose credits include Tuca and Bertie, Dave, and Silicon Valley. In this very dark comedy, the titular beef is an ongoing feud between a struggling contractor played by Steven Yeun and a successful entrepreneur played by Ali Wong that begins with a road-rage incident and escalates from there, with plenty of "deftly" executed tonal shifts (according to THR's Angie Han) and sterling performances along the way.
Beef was originally thought to be an anthology series, but Jin is open to bringing back the characters for a second season. Either way, Netflix has yet to announce a renewal despite high viewership for the show in the spring and an impressive 13 Emmy nominations (though the streamer just signed Jin to a multiyear deal, which could be a good sign).
"A smart, sophisticated comedy with an ideal cast, artful direction, polished production design. [...] The rare show that [...] honors the differences in class, ethnicity, and personality that make each of its mostly Asian-American characters unique, rather than flattening them into some idealized exercise in 'positive representation.' It's a remarkably confident debut from Dave and Undone vet Lee, and one that keeps upping its ante until the bitter, big-hearted end. " —Judy Berman, Time
Stream it at Netflix
Metacritic's Official #1 New TV Show of 2023
88 Rain Dogs (HBO)
A co-production between HBO and the BBC, the eight-episode dark and anarchic dramedy Rain Dogs comes from TV newcomer Cash Carraway and centers on a Bristol working-class single mother (a terrific Daisy May Cooper), her 10-year-old daughter, and her gay friend (Jack Farthing), who make for an unconventional but loving family. Carraway's own life story (as chronicled in her memoir Skint Estate) shares some similarities, though Rain Dogs is not technically based on the book (which may still get a separate adaptation). Many critics warn that the series can be alienating, messy, and harsh, but they also find it incredibly rewarding for those viewers who stick with it.
Carraway has ideas for a second season, but neither the BBC nor HBO has renewed Rain Dogs yet.
"This series most certainly won't be for everyone — it doesn't hold back from the darkness of the world — but it is worth wrapping yourself in no matter how much it may end up hurting." —Chase Hutchinson, Collider
Stream it at Max
Bonus: Metacritic's Highest-Scoring Returning TV Shows of 2023
|Reservation Dogs S3 (FX/Hulu)
|Happy Valley S3 (Acorn TV/AMC+/BBC America)
|The Bear S2 (FX/Hulu)
|Succession S4 (HBO)
|How To With John Wilson S3 (HBO)