Time and time again we have been hearing “We are living in the golden age of TV”, and 2020 became the year that proved this axiom. In a year that was plagued with wildfires, floods, a pandemic, TV took to the task of entertaining us, giving us comfort in distressing times, and gave us characters we could get inspiration from. 

Thanks to COVID-19, cinemas & theaters halls were all locked and closed. Naturally, everything, be it worth our times or not, transpired on the small screen. To the dismay of many directors and cinema aficionados, movies that had massive productions like Tenet and Wonder Woman 1984, were lined up and competed against compelling TV shows.

But what separates television from films is that tv has always been a place where long-form stories are consumed. And thus, at a time where everyone had a lot of time on their hand, people watched a lot of TV shows this year. 

Unfortunately, that also meant that audiences ended up choosing one show over others, and in this paradox of choice, one may have missed something absolutely unmissable. So today, we are giving you the best 5 web shows in the world that you can’t miss. If you’ve watched all of them, tip of my hat to you for having a great taste in media consumption. If not, well, I hope you find something worthy to be added in your watchlist. 

  • I Know This Much Is True {Starring: Mark Ruffallo, Rosie O’Donnell and more}

You have to have a stomach of steel to watch this one. For the easily squeamish, I’d say, you’d be missing out on one of the year’s best mini-series. 

Starring Mark Ruffallo, I know This Much Is True is based on the novel of the same name by the author Wally Lamb. Set in ‘90s USA, this six-part mini-series is based on the novel of the same name by Wally Lamb. ‘I Know This Much is True’ sees Mark Ruffalo in a double-role playing identical twin brothers Dominick and Thomas Birdsey.

Mark Ruffalo is on double duty as he plays the role of identical-twin brothers Thomas and Dominick Birdsey. Born to an abusive stepfather, Dominick takes one of the most draining tasks a brother could take: taking care of his twin brother and helping him manage his paranoid schizophrenia.  

The show doesn’t hold back any punches and within the first 30 minutes, the viewers get the idea that the rest of the journey in the show will be filled with grief, sadness, and extreme trial of human endurance as it goes to the dark corners of the secrets of the two brothers. 

But what makes the show worth that is the performances of the lead character. Mark Ruffalo gives the performance of his career as he plays both parts of twins, and the show handles their difficult tiring journey with empathy and compassion that it deserves. 

“I Know This Much Is True”, could be extremely exhausting for some viewers, but in its exploration of traumas & mental illness, the show leaves us with lessons in compassion and resilience. 

  • ZeroZeroZero (Amazon Prime Video) {Starring: Gabriel Byrne, Dane DeHaan and more}.

ZeroZeroZero can go down on the list of the most expensive shows that have been watched the least. 

Filmed in 5 languages: English, French, Arabic, Italian, and Spanish, this limited series on Amazon Prime Video is handled by a team of 3 phenomenal writers. The show is globetrotting with multiple drug families living in different continents with equally different economic backgrounds.

As I went on watching the series, I couldn’t help but notice how the scope of production is so huge that it can easily dwarf any other TV show’s production in a similar genre, and even a feature film. And yet, thanks to Amazon’s failure in marketing the show, it has been only watched by people who are curious about the show’s word of mouth acclaim.

If I have to explain ZeroZeroZero in one sentence, I would say “ZeroZeroZero is what you would get if you combine Narcos with denis Villeneuve’s Sicario.” 

The show is largely about a drug shipment delivery gone wrong that sends global drug rings into their most violent edges. The story is told in huge alternating chunks beautifully crafted flashback scenes are the glue that holds multiple intertwining character arcs together

  • Paatal Lok(Amazon Prime Video) {Starring: Jaideep Ahlawat, Neeraj Kabi and more}

I may stand corrected, but I don’t think any piece of Indian fiction has accurately captured the true essence of Indian society recently the way Pataal Lok Does. Created by Sudip Sharma, the show manages to pull off the difficult task of having way too many themes. 

From the rotten core of Indian society, the apathy authorities develop while dealing with violence day in and day out, the discrimination marginalized individuals feel at every rung of their career to implications of violence. The show has as many themes as our nation has.

The show tells the story from the perspective of two characters: Hathi Ram Choudhary, played by Jaideep Ahlawat(we talk about him below in detai), a cop who is filled with apathy (and can remind you of Detective William from David Fincher’s crime drama Seven). And Sanjeev Mehra, a news editor who may seem different to Hathiram, but in many ways, is his exact juxtaposition. The show follows these two characters as they fall into the trap of a high profile case of the murder attempt on the news editor. 

Jaideep Ahlawat gives his career-defining performance in Pataal Lok. Watch out for the scene where he is showing a subtle hesitation in putting his prejudiced side to intimidate a Muslim convict while his Muslim partner and sub-inspector watches him. It is moments like theme when theme and performance come together and give the audiences a mirror to look at.  

  • The Queen’s Gambit(Netflix) {Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy and more}

If you had told me at the beginning of this year that by the end of 2020, a google search for “chess” would spike double than what it had the last year because of a TV series, I’d have not believed you.

If you had told me at the beginning of the year that by the end of 2020, due to a show on streaming giant Netflix, the sale of chess sets, chess books would be at an all-time high, I would have not believed you

And If you had told me at the beginning of this year that by the end of this year I’d be playing online chess for nearly 3 hours a day due to a show, I would definitely have not believed you.

The show that I am talking about is The Queen’s Gambit. A show that is about chess, it’s also more than about chess. It’s about the consequences of addiction, the alluring traps of self destructionisn’t & the joys of knowing what you are meant to do, and doing it. 

The Queen’s Gambit is based on Walter Tevis’s novel with the same name and tells the story of a chess prodigy Beth Harmon, whose drug addictions that started at an early age, both aided and damaged her genius. Anya Taylor-Joy is phenomenal as Beth Harmon, showing how true genius is finding resilience in one’s own vulnerability. 

I can go to lengths in describing what makes this show so great, but one sentence is enough, “Netflix delivered a clean checkmate.”

  • Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story(Sony LIV) {Starring: Pratik Gandhi, Shreya Dhanwanthary and more}

For Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta story, prolific director Hansal Mehta became OTT’s Nick Fury as he assembled a cast of actors that are well known in their respective states but had not received their fair share of attention and acclaim nationally.

The show is based on Suchet Dala’s book “The Scam”, revolving around the highest highs and lowest lows of Harshad Mehta, the creative criminal who took the entire world by shock in the biggest stock market fraud back in 1992. The fraud, which if adjusted with inflation today would amount to more than Rs. 24,000 crores, was as large as the courage of Harshad Mehta.

Although the film is criticized by some as glorifying Harshad’s crimes, the show leverages on Pratik Gandhi’s sincere acting prowess. Pratik’s Harshad is a troubled man stuck in the vessel of a brand. Throughout the course of the show his swagger, his silver tongue, and his sincerity take him to the top of Mumbai’s big bad trading world and then topples him down eventually. 

Even in moments, where Harshad, played by Pratik Gandhi, goes on a monologue about how he is ready to take the world in his stride, the observant viewers would see the actor carrying guilt Harshad may have had under his seemingly confident smile. Mostly known for his work in the world of Gujarati cinema, the actor has given such a performance that no acting award would be enough to justify his splendid work. 

With a staggering rating of 9.5, Scam can be used as a case study for up and coming writers as to how to take a pivotal event in the history of a particular sector and make it digestible to the everyday viewer.