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Must Watch OTT Shows of 2023

January 02, 2024 13:04 IST
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Sukanya Verma picks the best of OTT from 2023.

As someone who shares week after week what's new on the OTT menu, I can't emphasise enough on what a crushing feeling it is to consume just a fraction of what is available.

Even though I know all attempts at binge watching everything will go in vain, I tried to make sure I catch the best of what's available when my preoccupation with Korean drama wasn't taking up all my time.

Here then are my favourite OTT shows of 2023.

Where to watch? Disney+Hotstar
Language: Korean (with subtitles)

Three high schoolers with superhuman abilities must keep their gift a secret for reasons slowly and spell-bindingly revealed in backstories involving their parents, the actual heroes of Moving, based on a webtoon of the same name.

Why make Terminator, X-Men, Stranger Things individually when you can have it all in one K-drama?

It's no exaggeration to say Moving is the best thing to happen to television in 2023.

From electrifying action set pieces to heart-warming scenes of love and friendship, this 20-episodes masterpiece has it all.

The Worst of Evil
Where to watch? Disney+Hotstar
Language: Korean (with subtitles)

A detective infiltrates a drug cartel in 1990s Seoul only to find out his cop wife, also part of the operation, happens to share a romantic past with the gangster he's ordered to take down.

Imagine an Infernal Affairs where marital entanglement dictates the moral compass of its neo noir crime drama.

The Worst of Evil's intense momentum and complicated bromance isn't shy of going into dark, despairing places yet is surprisingly moving in its muddle of professional and personal.

The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House
Where to watch? Netflix
Language: Japanese (with subtitles)

Two friends arrive in the geisha district of Kyoto to realise their dreams of becoming a Makanai but realise both food and fate have different plans in Hirokazu Kore-eda's splendorous adaptation of a popular manga.

Besides some drool worthy cooking to sample, the Japanese auteur does his magic by doing nothing at all.

Where to watch? Netflix
Language: English

Road rage takes a nasty turn as Steven Yeun and Ali Wong, playing people from two ends of the social spectrums yet sharing more than they would care to acknowledge, lock horns across 10 episodes of this breakout Netflix dramedy.

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Who knew a pair of angry people spiralling out of control and giving into their existential madness would offer such a release?

Where to watch? Disney+Hotstar
Language: Korean (with subtitles)

An evil spirit latches on to the soul of a young woman causing a series of mysterious deaths until a sombre folklore professor and taciturn cop assist her in getting to the root of the problem in this 12-part ghost procedural.

Horror, mystery, folklore and a kickass Kim Tae-ri at the forefront Revenant's sinister premise spooks and intrigues in equal measure.

Not to forget its poetic justice of an ending.

The Last of Us
Where to watch? Jio Cinema
Language: English

Based on a popular video game of the same name, The Last of Us -- starring Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey -- revolves around a bitter smuggler chaperoning a defiant teenager while trying to survive a zombie apocalypse in a dystopian future.

Besides some terrific acting on display, The Last of Us dispels whatever notion one might harbour about video games as flimsy source material as it projects a potential daddy-daughter dynamics over a gradually forged bond along their wild, wild journey.

The Glory
Where to watch? Netflix
Language: Korean (with subtitles)

A woman's vendetta, still nursing scars of brutal bullying at school, finds like-minded allies in her payback against influential foes in South Korean superstar Song Hye-kyo's return to form.

As troubling its depiction of trauma is, it's also telling of South Korea's rampant bullying culture.

Besides the ferocity, it is The Glory's willingness to shrewdly and strategically plan the fall of its mean-spirited targets and yet surprise us over unexpected connections between unlikely protagonists that renders it deeply satisfying.

Where to watch? Apple TV+
Language: English

Harrison Ford adds sparkle in Apple's brand new comedy series as a father figure of a grieving therapist after the latter -- unable to get over his wife's death -- gives brutally honest counsel to his clients.

The easy, breezy, not-trying-to-hard wit of Shrinking and its immensely likeable characters make for a refreshing change in a crowd of rabidly twisted content.

Crash Course in Romance
Where to watch? Netflix
Language: Korean (with subtitles)

What happens when a vivacious side dish store runner meets a celebrity private tutor? Rom-com, of course!

It's rare to see 40-somethings relationships blossom in a manner as endearing and goofy as the delightful Crash Course in Romance.

The K-drama seamlessly juggles its two diverse worlds and gives us two absolutely adorable characters to crush on.

The Romantics
Where to watch? Netflix
Language: English

Indian Matchmaking fame's Smriti Mundhra's four-part documentary celebrates the film-making legacy of Yash Chopra and son Aditya by roping in some of the biggest names in the business to discuss the YRF influence in their lives.

But its greatest USP is a face-to-face interview with the famously shy Adi.

As my review summarised, 'A feel-good exchange between artists about their favourite subject and favourite people. Their eyes light up telling the stories we mostly know but don't mind hearing one more time.'

Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story
Where to watch? Netflix
Language: English

A spin-off prequel in the Bridgerton franchise, Queen Charlotte chronicles her royal romance and revolutionary marriage to King George of England.

Grand, glamorous, sexy, soulful, significant and devastating in turns, the contemporary spirit of Bridgertonverse comes alive in the lovely chemistry of its two superlative leads, India Amarteifio and Corey Mylchreest.

Bear Season 2
Where to watch? Disney+Hotstar
Language: English

Leading man Jeremy Allen White's Dustin Hoffmanesque intensity as a chef leaving his fancy job behind to resurrect a family eatery in shambles finds even more reasons to be on pins and needles along with his equally invested team as the opening day to his restaurant draws closer.

If the first season of this riveting show kept us on the edge of our seats with its chaotic energy bouncing all across a snug Chicago kitchen, season two delivers more of the same, only better.

Taxi Driver Season 2
Where to watch? Amazon Prime Video
Language: Korean (with subtitles)

Speaking of bigger and better, revenge is just a cab ride away in the ambitious second season of Taxi Driver where a secret taxi service does all the settling of scores for you.

Few television series are as engrossing and elevating in their execution as Taxi Driver and its thrilling exploration into the evils and shortcomings of society by a battery of adorable justice seekers we cannot get enough of.

No wonder there's a third season in the works.

Where to watch? Netflix
Language: English

England's iconic footballer David Beckham's fascinating life story and superstar career form the focus of this starry-eyed four-part docu-series.

Beckham gives such a thrilling taste of the time the footballer hit peak stardom as well as down in the dumps over the course of his politics, his blunders, his hairstyles, his family, his clubs, his ambition and an unapologetic hunger to have it all.

Bend it like Beckham, indeed.

Twinkling Watermelon
Where to watch? Rakuten Viki
Language: Korean (with subtitles)

A CODA like reality enters a Back to the Future like situation in the Korean drama, Twinkling Watermelon.

Odd combination, odder title but one helluva show that offers gorgeous glimpses of young girls and boys navigating life, love, friendship and musical bands.

There's so much talent and charm at display, I found myself grinning foolishly at their antics and sobbing copious tears when they failed.

When a show feels this authentic in its emotionality, it can only be a good thing.

Off the local menu

Read up on all the year's must watch OTT shows in Hindi.

Of these, I was gobsmacked by Jubilee (Amazon Prime Video), Vikramaditya Motwane's glowing love letter to the golden era of Hindi cinema that is also sly and sneaky to a compelling effect.

I devoured Kohraa's (Netflix) dark and dysfunctional world enveloping the murder investigation of a local police officer in one go.

Ditto for Avinash Arun's enigmatic, emotional landscape in School of Lies (Disney+Hotstar) and its lyrically expressed ideas on childhood trauma and human folly that evoke lines from Mad World by Tears for Fears.

Stories about serial killer hunts tend to follow a set formula, which is not the case in the deeply layered journey of both its cat and mouse in Reema Kagti and Zoya Akhtar's propulsive Dahaad (Amazon Prime Video).

There's much to admire about Vasan Bala's mesmerising six-part documentary, Cinema Marte Dum Tak (Amazon Prime Video) revisiting the '90s pulpy B-movie industry through the nostalgic lens of four film-makers stepping out of obscurity to tell their story.

Trial by Fire is not comfort television. I took my time to watch, I took breaks, I felt nauseous.

Directed by Prashant Nair, Randeep Jha and Avani Deshpande and led by an exceptional Rajshri Deshpande and solemn Abhay Deol, the series concerns itself with the personal ordeal of grief stricken parents and their prolonged battle for justice in the aftermath of Delhi's Uphaar fire tragedy in 1997.

This is not the kind of stuff one watches for craft or closure, but its well made and well-acted recreation of a reality sensitively and straightforwardly convey the irreparable loss and lifetime of loneliness the lack of something as basic as public safety can lead to.

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