From Beef to Silo, the best new streaming shows we saw this year

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All praise to the likes of Succession, Slow Horses, and The Bear, but it’s not the returning hits that set the tone for a television year, it’s the new shows. In that regard, 2023 was a fertile proving ground. My best new streaming series – listed here in alphabetical order – revealed genre-flipping voices and surprising intentions. Little about these shows suggests a steady-as-she-goes attitude.

Ali Wong and Steven Yeun: flawed protagonists in Beef.Credit: Andrew Cooper/Netflix via AP

Beef (Netflix)

From little things big things gnaw. Beginning with a car park spat and some petty revenge, this blackly comic American drama dug so deep into the lives of its flawed protagonists – Steven Yeun’s struggling builder Danny Cho and Ali Wong’s budding homewares mogul Amy Lau – that it moved through revelatory incidents and reached a transformative finale. Creator Lee Sung Jin spoke to two strands of the Asian immigrant experience in America and memorably captured a pair of adversaries who somehow completed each other.

Excruciatingly cringeworthy: Nathan Fielder and Emma Stone in The Curse.Credit: Paramount+/Showtime

The Curse (Paramount+)

Taken in slowly and savoured, first for the scabrous truths about these characters and then the commentary on the society that empowers them, this black comedy about a grasping couple making an “ethical” reality real estate show somehow mixed excruciatingly cringeworthy encounters and dread-laden horror vibes. That it felt like a distinctive original, not a grab-bag of extremes, was testament to the vision of co-stars and creators Nathan Fielder and Benny Safdie, and the no-holds-barred lead performance of Emma Stone

Breathtaking scenes: Rachel Weisz and Rachel Weisz In Dead Ringers.Credit: Prime Video

Dead Ringers (Amazon Prime)

With Rachel Weisz given the intertwined performance of the year as co-dependent twins in a downward spiral of illegal scientific research and hungry longing, this distaff reboot of David Cronenberg’s 1988 psychological thriller went to some disturbing reaches. But what mattered most was that Alice Birch’s menacing adaptation didn’t bask in the confronting acts of the brilliant Beverly and Elliot Mantle, it showed how they made sense to the siblings and bestowed empathy on their wayward decisions. There were breathtaking scenes, but it was never merely spectacle.

Madeleine Sami as Eddie (left) and Kate Box as Dulcie in Deadloch: not merely a satire.

Deadloch (Amazon Prime)

There was a serious body count in this murder procedural set in a Tasmanian town where the inaugural arts festival goes very poorly, but creators Kate McLennan and Kate McCartney made sure there were even more laugh-out-loud lines. Never merely a satire, Deadloch used the mismatched detectives genre – kudos to Kate Box and Madeleine Sami as bickering cops – to flay misogynistic wrongs and historic crimes. The plot and the jokes stripped back layers of assumption, somehow making for a hilariously gripping mystery.

Claire Danes and Zazie Beetz in Full Circle: tension and unspoken answers.

Full Circle (Binge)

This six-part, noir-inflected crime drama set in contemporary New York had a labyrinthine reach, approaching a botched kidnapping from multiple perspectives including a wealthy Manhattan clan, Caribbean immigrants trapped by circumstances, and an unstable postal inspector. But it was directed with masterful inquiry by filmmaker Steven Soderbergh, whose camera draws tension from the set-pieces and unspoken answers from both the cover-up and the investigation. Not surprisingly, an ensemble cast that included Claire Danes, Zazie Beetz, Timothy Olyphant, and a raft of promising young newcomers flourished under his tutelage.

Charlotte Spencer, Emun Elliott and Hugh Bonneville in The Gold: top-tier performances.Credit: Paramount+

The Gold (Paramount+)

Based on the 1983 Brink’s-Mat robbery in London, when armed robbers unexpectedly got away with three tonnes of gold bullion, this British crime drama had a remarkable sweep to it. Told without judgment from the competing viewpoints of both the criminals trying to launder the gold and the police trying to recover it, Neil Forsyth’s drama had a terrific momentum, vivid characters, and anthropological insight. With top-tier performances from Hugh Bonneville and Jack Lowden it could be bittersweet or thrilling. But above all it was entertaining.

Idris Elba plays a corporate negotiator who finds himself on board a hijacked plane: ticking clock tension.Credit: Aidan Monaghan

Hijack (Apple TV+)

No show this year was a better display of pure storytelling craft than George Kay’s aviation thriller, which turned the nefarious takeover of a flight from Dubai to London into an irresistible countdown. With Idris Elba as a corporate negotiator in first class determined to make it out alive, these seven episodes had a thrilling mix of on-screen risk, ingenuity, and ticking clock tension; this is your captain freaking out. The show was determined to enthral – the cliffhangers were outrageously perfect by the final instalments.

Emma Corrin and Harris Dickinson in A Murder at the End of the World, a climate-crisis update of the country house murder mystery.Credit: Disney+

A Murder at the End of the World (Disney+)

Obsessed with conspiratorial mysteries, the meeting point of nature and science, and inexplicable crimes, indie auteurs Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij followed up Netflix’s The OA with this climate-crisis update of the country house murder mystery. Set at the Icelandic retreat of Clive Owen’s billionaire mogul, it stars Emma Corrin as a twentysomething true crime author and sleuth fighting not just for the truth but to stay alive. This was a baroque procedural that felt way too timely.

Uzo Aduba with Jamaal Grant in Painkiller: ties all the contradictory strands together.Credit: Keri Anderson/Netflix

Painkiller (Netflix)

How do you encapsulate a national disaster so vast and ongoing that the numbers involved – of tragic deaths, of brutal cost – starts to register as abstract? In the case of this unnerving limited series about America’s opioid epidemic, you accentuate the lacerating satire, the human cost, and the institutional failing. There’s no simple, single way to articulate how a legal prescription drug with the strength of heroin tore through a nation, but Painkiller ties all the contradictory strands together. Some critics were offended by the approach, I was fascinated.

Rashida Jones and David Oyelowo in Silo.Credit: Apple TV+

Silo (Apple TV+)

Set in a vast and vertical self-contained underground community, this science-fiction mystery about a city with neither an origin story nor a safe outside environment got the balance between world-building and character studies just right. The show, which has a second season currently shooting, passed an existential thread down a line of characters, starting with those played by Rashida Jones and David Oyelowo and finding its ultimate seeker in Rebecca Ferguson, so that the obsession felt shared with the viewing audience.

Honourable mentions: The Changeling (Apple TV+); Cunk on Earth (Netflix); I’m a Virgo (Amazon Prime); The Last of Us (Binge); The Long Shadow (Stan); Mrs Davis (Binge); Platonic (Apple TV+); Rain Dogs (Binge); Scavenger’s Reign (Binge); Shrinking (Apple TV+); Stonehouse (BritBox); Strife (Binge); Tiny Beautiful Things (Disney+).

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