The most talked-about TV shows of 2020 from 'Tiger King' to 'The Mandalorian'

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In a year where there often wasn’t much to do, TV reached new heights with immensely popular shows dominating the public conversation. 

The year 2020 saw a lot of things slow down but streaming TV was not one of them. Popular services like Netflix, HBO Max and many more dropped a slew of original content for users to binge-watch and subsequently talk about ad nauseam on social media and with their friends. 

With so many great shows coming out in 2020, there were still a handful of breakout hits that are deserving of some extra attention or, if you haven’t already, a good watch. 

To help people wrap up their year in all its TV-viewing glory, below is a rundown of just some of the top-talked-about shows of 2020: 

Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness

‘Tiger King’ took the world by storm in 2020 by giving people an in-depth look at its enigmatic subject, Joe Exotic.

A reflection on 2020 simply wouldn’t be complete without discussing Netflix’s breakout show "Tiger King." The enigmatic documentary series takes viewers into the surprisingly intricate inner circles of big cat ownership led by its main subject, Joe Exotic. The show tells the story of the oddly captivating, gun-toting polygamist who owned and operated an Oklahoma zoo before launching a country music career and presidential campaign. What starts out as a portrait-of-a-lifestyle story quickly devolves into a true-crime case for the ages thanks to Joe’s intense rivalry with Big Cat Rescue CEO Carole Baskin and the wild characters who surround them both. While the conversation surrounding "Tiger King" was very of its time, the story is one that will likely never get old.

Umbrella Academy

Netflix’s breakout hit ‘Umbrella Academy’ dropped its second season in July.

This show about a dysfunctional family of superheroes debuted in 2019, earning it a loyal fan base. However, according to The Hollywood Reporter, with the release of its second season in July, it became Netflix’s most popular show in Nielsen ratings.

"Umbrella Academy" tells the story of the Hargreeves family, a group of adopted siblings who were each born on the exact same day with a unique superpower. Their adoptive father, an eccentric billionaire and academic, was not exactly the positive parental figure a group of unique youngsters needed, having raised them to be a famous kid crime-fighting team. Upon news of his death, they return to their childhood home as adults to embark on a wild, time-travel adventure that may answer a few questions about where exactly they all came from. Whether you’re a superhero nerd or a family-drama enthusiast, this show has a bit of everything.

The Mandalorian

Disney’s ‘The Mandalorian’ was one of the most talked-about shows of 2020.
(Disney Plus via AP)

When Disney+ got its start in 2019, its big claim to fame was that "The Mandalorian," the latest and most in-depth look at the "Star Wars" universe yet, was available at launch. It didn’t take long for eager fans to absolutely eat up the first season and fall in love with the baby Yoda character. 

Although the coronavirus pandemic forced many of the other shows that fans were excited to see on Disney+ to be waylaid in their production, Season 2 of "The Mandalorian" managed to drop in October and fans immediately began devouring it week-to-week, making it the subject of immense discussion on social media with each new episode. 

The story takes place five years after the events of "Return of the Jedi" and sees a lone warrior and gunfighter adventure throughout the far reaches of the galaxy. He operates well out of the way of any authority that may emerge in the absence of the Empire that Luke Skywalker and his cohorts finished off in the original three films. However, his typical life as a rogue is thrown through a loop when he discovers a child that he’s tasked with saving.

The Last Dance

Michael Jordan’s time on the Chicago Bulls was the subject of a popular documentary series in 2020.

Sports fans got their fill of basketball over the summer thanks to ESPN and Netflix partnering to bring "The Last Dance" to people’s homes. The documentary series tells the story of the Chicago Bulls in the 1997-1998 season. Led by legendary player Michael Jordan, the Bulls went on to immense success in the NBA championship that year. 

At the time, the team allowed an NBA Entertainment crew to follow them around for the entire season and document their journey, according to ESPN. A lot of that never-before-seen footage made its way to "The Last Dance," giving sports history fans a genuine look at the often not-so-glamorous but inspiring story behind what Jordan brought to the team and the game. 

The Queen’s Gambit

‘The Queens Gambit’ was one of the most talked-about shows of 2020.

Based on the novel by Walter Tevis, Netflix’s "The Queen’s Gambit" became a surprising breakout hit at the eleventh hour of 2020. 

The surprisingly captivating story is a coming-of-age tale about an orphaned girl in Kentucky in the 1950s who discovers a particularly impressive aptitude for chess. However, her success with the game at a competitive level is underscored by a growing addiction to sedatives that were provided to children at her orphanage. Add in a bit of alcohol and inner demons and what comes out is a recipe for drama that’s managed to become one of the most-watched and talked-about shows of the year. 

The Vow

Keith Raniere, the ex-leader of NXIVM, was convicted in 2019 of seven counts that included racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, forced labor conspiracy, sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy and attempted sex trafficking.

Almost a year after the real-life story of Keith Reniere and his NXIVM sex cult made jaws absolutely drop following his arrest, HBO Max released "The Vow." The documentary series offered a detailed exploration of how powerful and influential people like "Smallville" actress Allison Mack were drawn into the guru’s web of lies. 

The show relies on both footage and testimony from a handful of former NXIVM members who removed themselves from the organization when it came to light that Reniere and a handful of accomplices had been demanding collateral from women and forced into a master and slave relationship that culminated in a ceremony that required the women to have their flesh branded with his initials. 

Although it’s hard to watch at times, the documentary gives a clear window into the cult that captivated the world ahead of one of the most-talked-about court cases of the year.

The Boys

‘The Boys’ Season 2 became one of the most popular shows of the year.
(Amazon Prime Video)

Amazon Prime released its adaptation of the popular comic book "The Boys" in 2019 before the show hit it huge in 2020 with the release of season 2. The series is set in a world where superheroes exist but have been corporatized by an organization called Vought. The company not only manages the superhero’s lucrative movie careers, but they orchestrate photo opportunities for them to fight crime in the U.S. However, when questions start to emerge about the legality of allowing American superheroes to operate on foreign soil, cracks in the otherwise "good guy" persona of many "supes" start to show.


A group of regular humans who have been wronged by superheroes over the years call themselves "The Boys" and ban together to try and expose and stop Vought from making supes more ubiquitous in the world than they already are. 

 The Undoing

HBO’s mystery series ‘The Undoing’ captivated audiences in the last half of 2020.

Because everyone loves a good murder mystery, there’s simply no beating HBO’s "The Undoing." Similar to the network’s other breakout hit "Big Little Lies," the series is based on a novel by David E. Kelley and stars Nicole Kidman as a well-off psychologist in Manhattan whose world is thrown into complete disarray when her husband, played by Hugh Grant, is implicated in the murder of a fellow parent at their child’s fictional private school. 


Kidman previously teased that she needed her husband, Keith Urban, and their kids to help keep her grounded as she routinely got to a dark place in order to adequately play her role on "The Undoing." Meanwhile, the show’s finale put a bookend to the murder mystery that managed to shock viewers to their core and leave them wanting way more from the drama.

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