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My 10 FAVOURITE OTT Shows of 2020

December 31, 2020 12:54 IST

Home-grown fare, international discoveries, brand new seasons of hugely anticipated series, Sukanya Verma lists her top 10 OTT shows.

2020 was a distracting year.

Between domestic chores and dreading about a deadly virus against an indefinite lockdown, one had to squeeze some time for binge watches before the good old idiot box.

Of which, some left me happily surprised, some bored me to death while some were reliably solid.

Home-grown fare, international discoveries, brand new seasons of hugely anticipated series -- my 10 favourite streaming television shows of the year are an eclectic mix in no particular order.


Paatal Lok
Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

For the longest time, I delayed watching Paatal Lok because of its grim air.

When I finally did, Sudip Sharma's series, directed by Prosit Roy and Avinash Arun, bowled me with its shrewdly crafted, multi-layered insights into a deeply decayed system highlighting the classist, casteist and communal state of a country in shambles.

At the heart of various arc and ancillaries is an extraordinary Jaideep Ahlawat's cop investigating a murder attempt as if his life depended on it.

Slick, sharp and riveting, Paatal Lok is an out and out triumph.


Scam 1992
Where to watch: Sony Liv

Turning an infamous stockbroker's rags to riches story into a 10-episode drama sounds like a tricky idea, but Director Hansal Mehta and his battery of keen writers has the viewer glued to their seats as he ambitiously narrates Harshad Mehta's transition from bull to bakra.

The sheer swagger he lends to the telling, the glorious levels of Amitabh Bachchan in its DNA (acknowledged and beyond), handpicked ensemble of veteran actors flanking its exceptional leading man Pratik Gandhi, a catchy theme tune and crackerjack writing that blends smarts with emotions, Scam 1992 is the show we always wanted to watch but didn't know whom to ask.


Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

A run-of-the-mill engineering student takes up a secretarial post of a panchayat office in a sleepy village.

His struggle to settle into a grassroots lifestyle and curious discoveries about his colleagues form the basis of Panchayat's fun premise penned by Chandan Kumar.

Its delightful set of actors -- Jitendra Kumar, Raghuvir Yadav, Neena Gupta -- hit all the authentic notes under Director Deepak Kumar Mishra in, as my review summed it, 'an instant classic.'


The Mandalorian (Season 2)
Where to watch: Disney Hotstar

The bounty hunter who never takes off his helmet and his super cute dependent continue their intergalactic hopping in search of reuniting the latter with the Jedi folk.

Even though the manner of season two more or less resembles the first -- every time Mando's search leads him to a crisis, he agrees to resolve in exchange of help -- the entry of some cool new characters, his growing bond with the 'child' whose real name we finally learn and that rousing finale episode is reason enough to root for this supremely entertaining offshoot from the Star Wars universe.


The Queen's Gambit
Where to watch: Netflix

The last time I saw Anya Taylor-Joy in something, Jane Austen's Emma to be specific, I came out thoroughly unimpressed.

Her overeager cupid just didn't work for me.

Whatever reservations, I had towards The Queen's Gambit were instantly dropped as I marvelled over her arresting portrait of a little lost girl and troubled genius in this series about a chess prodigy's rise, fall and recovery.

I may not know a thing about chess, but this gorgeously filmed series compels you to learn. And how.


Kingdom (Season 2)
Where to watch: Netflix

Few have mastered the zombie genre like the South Koreans.

Throw in some royal blood and cunning ploys and you've got the made-to-binge Kingdom, now streaming on Netflix.

It's not just gratuitous gore, Kingdom also offers a rich allegory on epidemic patterns set in a 19th century Josean dynasty that rings close to home as we cope with our own ongoing pandemic.

Season three cannot drop in soon enough.


The Crown (Season 4)
Where to watch: Netflix

The Crown continues its tradition of period detailing, exquisite writing and brilliant performances in Season 4, which touches on perhaps the most speculated chapter of the royals sparked by the arrival of Princess Diana as well as Margaret Thatcher's controversial tenure as prime minister.

As vigorous The Crown is when focusing on the politics, its vulnerability lies in all the action happening behind those grand palace doors.

Things become understandably depressing during the Diana portions, what with its steady supply of stifling circumstances and profound heartbreak.

Reality or hearsay, it's all very affecting.


Ted Lasso
Where to watch: Apple TV Plus

The feel-good show of 2020.

An American football coach comes to a downbeat British team's rescue in Jason Sudeikis' cheerful turn as the man incapable of negativity.

Between his soaring optimism and those in desperate need of some -- players and owners -- emerges a sit-com that lets its breezy humour and warm camaraderie do all the work.

The kind you're only too happy to sit back and enjoy.


The Undoing
Where to watch: Disney Hotstar

The Undoing might project itself as a thriller, but it's actually an unsettling account of how overpowering denial is and the difficulty in staying objective when looking at a loved one through the prism of suspicion.

Set in upscale Manhattan, an oncologist is accused of murder while his psychologist wife discovers disturbing things about his past that may or may not be true, but agrees to stand by him anyway.

There's no big reveal as such, the signs are always there, but you remain on tenterhooks thanks to Hugh Grant at his volatile best, the ever-reliable Nicole Kidman and the heft lent by Donald Sutherland.


Emily in Paris
Where to watch: Netflix

The French hated it. The Americans were amused by it.

And I took a break from all the sorrows in the world to savour the superficiality (and prettiness) of it.

This shallower cousin of Devil Wears Prada, spearheaded by the sweet-faced Lily Collins, proved to be a welcome break from television's obsession with dour-faced investigators and deadly crimes across the world as it went about unravelling the wonders of France, fashion, food and unapologetic levels of eye candy.

Watch it closely enough though, under all that sass and couture is gentle criticism of everything it seemingly celebrates.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/