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AARP’s Best TV Shows From the First Half of 2023

Don’t miss these 12 top sitcoms, crime shows, historical epics and film-noir whodunits


spinner image collage of characters from various television shows on orange background with zigzags
Photo Collage: MOA Staff; (Source: LEFT TO RIGHT: Nick Wall/Netflix, HBO, Gilles Mingasson/ABC/Getty Images, Paul Sarkis/Apple TV+, Hilary Bronwyn Gale/Apple TV+, Philippe Antonello/Prime Video, Merrick Morton/HBO, David Russell/HBO)

Want to see a show that’s worth your time? Use our biannual must-see list to make sure you don’t miss a winner. Here are our picks of the best TV shows released between January and June 2023.  (Come back in December for our favorites from the whole year.) A quick message — there are some spoilers ahead! 

 

spinner image quinta brunson as janine teagues standing at table; children sitting at table writing something
Gilles Mingasson/ABC via Getty Images

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Abbott Elementary

A terrific, The Office-like mockumentary comedy hit — on a broadcast network? ABC’s Abbott Elementary, which follows the heroic teachers at an underfunded Philadelphia school, won Emmy, Golden Globe and AARP Movies for Grownups Awards honors, and many consider it the best series on TV in an era when cable and streaming shows hog most of the glory. Its second season defied the sophomore slump. This show gets straight A’s.

spinner image bill hader as barry in still from barry
HBO

 

Barry

Be sure to catch the final, increasingly dark season of this inspired, touching, grisly comic thriller, Barry, about a hit man (Bill Hader) sent to prison by his beloved acting teacher (Henry Winkler, 77). Plus, follow the antics of the hit man’s talented but horrible actress sweetie (superb Sarah Goldberg), his ex-handler-turned-nemesis (still more superb Stephen Root, 71), and the funniest and most original foreign gangster you ever saw (Anthony Carrigan). And keep your eye peeled for some fun guest stars, like director Guillermo del Toro, 58, as a crime lord. If you have Max (formerly HBO Max), you’ve got four seasons to watch, as cocreators Hader and Alec Berg confirmed that the fourth will be the last.

spinner image rachel weisz in lab holding petri dish in each hand in still from dead ringers
Niko Tavernise/Prime Video

 

Dead Ringers

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In what she calls “the biggest acting challenge I’ve ever done,” movie star Rachel Weisz, 53, plays identical-twin gynecologists who share drugs and lovers, as well as impersonate each other to mislead other characters, in Amazon’s Dead Ringers. If she doesn’t get an Emmy nod, the Emmys need their head examined. It’s based on the 1988 Jeremy Irons movie of the same name, inspired by two actual evil identical-twin gynecologists — but this reboot gives it a feminist spin about women’s health care.

spinner image patricia arquette wearing u s army jacket in still from high desert
Hilary Bronwyn Gale/Apple TV+

 

High Desert

If you liked Fargo and The Big Lebowski, don’t miss this hellzapoppin’ crime-caper comedy about a recovering addict (genius Patricia Arquette, 55) who zooms like a rock ’n’ roll hummingbird from her job at a Wild West theme park to a new life as a private investigator. She chases a TV newsman-turned-guru and stolen-Picasso merchant, gets swept up in the mad schemes of her convict hubby (Matt Dillon, 59), and keeps seeing a woman (Bernadette Peters, 75) who’s a ringer for her late mom.

spinner image rachel brosnahan as miriam 'midge' maisel and marin hinkle as rose
weissman standing next to mirror in still from the marvelous mrs maisel
Philippe Antonello/Prime Video

 

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

After a stellar beginning, the dazzlingly clever, 20-Emmy-winning The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon — about Midge Maisel, a upper-class-housewife who becomes a  stand-up-comic — sank into mediocrity for two years. But its final season knocks it out of the park, as Midge becomes the first female writer on a Carson-like 1960s talk show hosted by a letch. Will Midge finally elbow her way into the spotlight on TV? Tune in and see.

spinner image betty gilpin as simone dressed in nun outfit surrounded by people in still from mrs davis
Sophie Kohler/PEACOCK

 

Mrs. Davis

Boasting the quirkiest zigzag plot you’ll find on TV, Mrs. Davis on Peacock stars Betty Gilpin (GLOW) as a horse-riding nun on a galloping quest with her cowboy ex-boyfriend to destroy The Algorithm, a kind of Siri-Alexa-ChatGPT that possesses humans with their full consent. You’ll see rogue magicians, a medieval jousting contest, a hunt for a crazed sperm whale, a faux pope, and a guy stranded on a desert isle who is named Schrodinger and has a cat. Bewildering, but fun and original.

spinner image rose byrne and seth rogen outside in still from platonic
Paul Sarkis/Apple TV+

 

Platonic

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In Apple TV’s Platonic, he (Seth Rogen) is a man-child who runs a trendy L.A. Arts District brewpub; she (Rose Byrne) is his old friend, an unfulfilled housewife and former lawyer. She dissed his wife, they fell out of touch, he got divorced, and 15 years later they reconnect. She thinks he dresses like “a ’90s grunge clown.” He accuses her of “online shopping for a fifth pair of high-waisted jeans.” But they bond again over adventures such as breaking into his ex-wife’s house to steal his beloved iguana. Though it’s billed as an update of When Harry Met Sally, Platonic is more about how we cope with middle age — with a lot of help from our friends.

spinner image mark o'brien, tom amandes, justin kirk and juliet rylance gathered around table in courtroom in still from perry mason
Merrick Morton/HBO

 

Perry Mason

This reboot of Perry Mason on Max is better than the Raymond Burr original and got a lot better in its second and final season. It’s a gritty 1930s-set L.A. noir about alcoholic and bitter Perry (Matthew Rhys), his brilliant partner Della (Juliet Rylance), her Anita Loos-like lover (Jen Tullock), and a twisty murder case involving wicked plutocrats and Mexican Americans evicted from their Hooverville shanty town to make way for L.A.’s baseball stadium. Very Chinatown.

spinner image natasha lyonne as charlie cale and stephanie hsu as morty in a store in still from poker face
Peacock

 

Poker Face

If you liked Rian Johnson’s Knives Out and sandpaper-voiced Natasha Lyonne’s Groundhog Day-like Russian Doll, you should try Johnson’s high-IQ mystery series on Peacock. Poker Face follows a magnetic drifter (Lyonne) with a gift for telling when anyone lies. While on the lam, the former casino worker stumbles upon new crimes in each town she lands in; meanwhile, she’s also on the hunt for her bestie’s real killer. As on Peter Falk’s Columbo, we see the crime, then the gumshoe cracks the case. Lyonne is a sleuth as irresistible as Angela Lansbury. The Guardian quips, “Think of it as Murder, She Rasped.”

spinner image hugh sachs as brimsley and golda rosheuvel as queen charlotte with four other women standing behind them in still from queen charlotte  a bridgerton story
Liam Daniel/Netflix

 

Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story

In a prequel spinoff of Bridgerton, Netflix gives us Queen Charlotte, the origin story for Golda Rosheuvel’s sharp-tongued, snuff-sniffing Queen Charlotte (Rosheuvel, 53, with India Amarteifio as young Charlotte) — which flashes back to her days as a teenager when she wed King George III (the British monarch against whom the Americans revolted). We love the swooning romance, witty dialogue and anachronistic song choices.

spinner image three characters standing in a room in still from succession
Claudette Barius/HBO

 

Succession

If you watch but one show this year, make it this most talked-about smash hit. In the final season of TV’s most cynically realistic hit, Succession (on Max), thundering potty-mouthed patriarch Logan Roy (Brian Cox, 77) drops dead, and the kids he betrayed start betraying each other in ingeniously devious ways. It’s fantastically well written, and the acidulous comedy is rooted in heartrending drama.

spinner image three people sitting at table playing cards with snacks and drinks on the table in still from somebody somewhere
Sandy Morris/HBO

 

Somebody Somewhere

Bridget Everett, 51, is a comedian and actress from Manhattan, Kansas. On Max’s Somebody Somewhere — rated 100 percent perfect by Rotten Tomatoes critics — she plays a version of herself who returns to Manhattan (her real hometown) and forms a best friendship with an old high school acquaintance (Jeff Hiller), creating a platonic couple to match Platonic’s. It’s a heartfelt, seemingly improvised comedy about small-town homecoming, coping with aging relatives and walking 10,000 steps a day to wind up in the same place. It’s kind of the opposite of urban, fast-paced Succession, but Everett’s heroine is as foulmouthed as Logan Roy.

Where to Watch

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