Forbes India 2020 Rewind: Best web series we watched

The Forbes India team believes in work hard, play harder—here are some of the shows—old and new—we watched in 2020

Published: Dec 30, 2020 02:13:18 PM IST
Updated: Dec 30, 2020 02:58:02 PM IST

top web-series 2020

So while we—the Forbes India team— spent a major chunk of our day working (yes we did!), we found time during the week and weekends to binge-watch shows—both new and old—that went on to become our favourites. From sitcoms like Schitt's Creek andrevising the ever-gold The Office to the much-talked about dramas like Paatal Lok and The Crown, we watched it all. Yes, the team in Forbes India truly believes in work hard, play harder. Here's a list of web series you ought to watch:

1

Rucha Sharma’s picks:

Schitt's Creek

Ending with its sixth and final season, 'Schitt's Creek' became a soothing balm to the initial shocks of 2020. If you could bottle up the warmth of a blanket on a cold morning, it will look like every episode of the show created by Dan Levy. It's the riches to rags to riches again story of the Rose family. The best part of the show is that it does not judge the wine by its label and finds humour in simple acts like folding cheese. (Fold!) 'Schitt's Creek' is happiness in 60 mini doses.

The Mandalorian

Jon Favreau came up with this genius idea to keep the 'Star Wars' franchise alive, giving an initial boost to Disney's streaming plans along with it. 'The Mandalorian' has now proved that 'Star Wars' is better suited for the small screen where creators can spend more time with the characters and their stories. These are engaging Westerns in the guise of stories from a galaxy far far away. Plus, it has Baby Yoda.

Paatal Lok

Sudip Sharma's show starts as an engaging political thriller with dacoit and media angles presented as side dishes. In the due course, the story brings in an entrée of conspiracy, a main course of ambition, and the dessert of love—even if it’s for a dog. But the crux of this thrilling escapade that also shed light on deep-rooted Indian immoralities of the caste and class divide, remains that humane actions are always personal, regardless of the grandeur of the process or its outcome. Abhishek Banerjee as Hathoda Tyagi and Jaideep Ahlawat as Hathi Ram Chaudhary are two bright stars of the series.

Panchayat

The show released when we were in the early stages of lockdown and being homesick was part of the daily routine for small towners like me working in the big city. Panchayat put a smile on my face because its production was from the heartland, and the abundance of fenceless land was refreshing. The show is also deeply connected to human behaviour. Bureaucratic hurdles were rooted in basic emotions such as ego, jealousy, ambition, and even fear, but their solutions were always in compassion, understanding, and even love. Raghuvir Yadav and Neena Gupta are acting stalwarts, but you also need to watch the show for the innocence Chandan Roy brings to his character.

2

Naandika Tripathi’s picks:

Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story

The show recites the story about the Rs 5,000-crore financial scam of 1992 which poised Harshad Mehta at the centre. Journalist Sucheta Dalal first exposed Mehta’s suspicious financial undertakings, and she later wrote a book about it with her journalist husband Debashish Basu, titled, ‘The Scam: Who Won, Who Lost, Who Got Away’ on which this SonyLIV web series is based. Apart from the amazing acting, screenplay and direction, the opening theme song of the show is still stuck in my head!

Dark

Dark is a suspense thriller which will keep you at the edge of your seat till the last episode. While watching this show, most of the times my facial expressions was just like, ‘Omg, what just happened!?’ The first two seasons build-up was done through different time periods, and the last one dropped the ball with multidimensional time travel in the hunt of paradise. It will not be an exaggeration to say that this German sci-fi show is so intriguing that you will find yourself with a pen, paper and calculator to navigate through the season. With amazing actors, screenwriting, cinematography and sound design, Dark is truly a masterpiece. So, go ahead, find the glitch in the matrix!

3

Kathakali Chanda’s picks:

The Last Dance

A 10-episode, behind-the-scenes mini-series that documents the second NBA three-peat by the Chicago Bulls in 1998. Christened after coach Phil Jackson’s mission as he set out to achieve the historic feat before exiting the club, The Last Dance parses the legend of Michael Jordan and his quest for ultimate glory, marshalling teammates Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman around him. The riveting storytelling, coupled with rich footage from the locker rooms and interviews ranging from Jordan’s mother to former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama will ensure at least 10 hours of this inordinately long house arrest will fly by before you know it.

4

Aishwarya NK’s picks:

QI 

QI is a British Talk Show previously hosted by Stephen Fry, and now by Sandi Toksvig. It is a fact-based show in which a panel of comedians are scored, not on the basis of how many correct answers they give, but rather on the basis of how creative, witty and funny their answers are. You always leave every episode feeling more educated and ready to impress people with the new quirky fact you just learnt. For instance, did you know that an Apple iPhone contains about half the elements of the periodic table? Well, thanks to QI, and me, now you do.

After Life 

When I began watching After Life, made by the same person who created The Office, I did not expect to cry. The show follows Ricky Gervais' character as he makes his way through life after the loss of his partner. The show talks cleverly about subjects like depression, anxiety, drug abuse, grief and mourning, and does it in a way that the humour that Gervais brings to the show still peeks through. And you find yourself rooting for Gervais in every episode despite his insistence of being the worst person possible in everyone’s life. To find out why, watch the show!

5

Divya Shekhar’s picks:

Call My Agent! / Dix Pour Cent

It was a random social media tweet that led me to discover this amazing French web series. This Netflix show centres around a celebrity talent firm in Paris where four agents represent film stars, and struggle to keep their business running smoothly amid a series of creative, professional and personal crises. Each episode has huge A-listers from the French film industry, like Isabelle Adjani, Nathalie Baye, Monica Bellucci, Fabrice Luchini and Isabelle Huppert, playing themselves. The show is funny, yet full of heart.

Little Fires Everywhere

This year, I resolved to watch as many shows possible that are helmed by women, about women or feature a diverse cast of strong, inspirational women. So after Big Little Lies and How to Get Away with Murder, I was naturally drawn to Little Fires Everywhere, which stars Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington. It's an adaptation of a novel by the same name by Chinese-American author Celeste Ng. The story, though set in the 1990s in Shaker Heights, Ohio, offers a still-relevant, nuanced and sensitive portrayal of race, class, privilege, sexuality, gender roles and family dynamics.

6

Harichandan Arakali’s picks: 

Hinterland

Hinterland is a fictional crime series which ran into three seasons between 2013 and 2016, and has as its lead character, detective chief inspector Tom Mathias solving murders in and around the Welsh town of Aberystwyth. The takeaway for me from this series is that Mathias’s dark past both torments and makes him more determined to get the killer. Every once in a while they even show Mathias, who lives in a trailer, heading out for a run in a stark landscape, symbolising both his attempt to escape his past and his struggle to find resolution.

7

Mansvini Kaushik’s picks:

The Crown

Power isn’t free of pretence, pain, and privation is what the Netflix original series, The Crown, has beautifully laid out through its four seasons. Since its release in 2016, the show has created controversy for being a close depiction of the real events that have occurred over the course of 68 years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign. For anyone interested to know how the royal family of Great Britain has maintained its position over centuries, the show highlights the highs and lows of being a royal family member and how the service to the crown is more important than the family members themselves. The show takes a deep dive into the circumstances, emotions, and insecurities of each of the prominent royals in a way that wouldn't let you blink through each of its hour-long episodes.

Friends

How can we talk about television series and not mention one of the most iconic and ever-loved shows that turned 25 since its debut on American television this year. Friends—which most of you would have already watched or must have attempted to—is a fictional tale of six friends in their 20s who lead their interrelated lives while prioritising their friendships. The show is humorous, engaging, and depicts simple life problems faced by the group that seeks refuge in the proximity of their relationships. In a world where genuine bonds are hard to find and maintain, the series is an escape for many longing for meaningful friendships. This is one of the series that one can binge on repeatedly and not get tired. After a long, hectic day and when you cannot decide what to watch, Friends is an obvious solution to the struggle of browsing through the gazillion available options.

Queen’s Gambit

Stories hold the power of shaping the popularity of what they depict. One of the prominent examples is the latest Netflix original, Queen’s Gambit, and the portrayal of chess. Not only has the show increased interest in chess but has also led to increased women participation in online matches and tournaments. The series is about an orphan Beth Harmon (played by Anya Taylor-Joy) with a naturally strategic mind who struggles with addiction while excelling at a game dominated by men. From the writing, performances, to the costume design, this series had it all in terms of what makes a show extraordinary.

Delhi Crime

Delhi Crime is an example of taking one of the most dreadful events that shaped New Delhi’s image for the world and turning it into a story of hope. The 2013 brutal gang rape—better known as the Nirbhaya case which shook the nation—was turned into a story of resilience, determination, and hope. The show is about DCP Vartika Chaturvedi's relentless efforts to find the culprits within hours of the incident. As the investigation unfolds, we come across the structural problems and the inherent patriarchy in India. Created by Richie Mehta, the show’s first two episodes were premiered at Sundance International Film Festival in 2019, and at the 48th International Emmy Awards, Delhi Crime was awarded the ‘Best Drama’.

8

Naini Thaker’s picks:

The Office

This year was probably my fourth attempt at watching The Office. A friend pushed me saying, "Just get through the first few episodes, you'll love it." And so I did, and it was nothing short of a rollercoaster ride. The show is a mockumentary sitcom that depicts the everyday lives of employees in the Scranton, Pennsylvania branch of the fictional Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. The characters you thought were annoying in the first couple of seasons—be it Michael Scott or Dwight Schrute—end up bringing you to tears by the end of the show. Sure, it might have its clichés, but every episode is 25 mins of pure joy and laughter, and occasionally some happy tears. If you haven't watched it yet, trust me you don't want to miss this.

The Test: A New Era for Australia's Team

An Amazon Prime Video Original, co-produced with Cricket Australia, follows the Australia men's cricket team's path to redemption after the ball-tampering scandal in March 2018. The team's captain, Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner were found to have been involved and were suspended for one year. Australia's coach back then, Darren Lehmann also announced that he would step down. The series follows Australia's journey under the captaincy of Tim Paine as Test Captain, Aaron Finch as T20I and ODI captain and Justin Lander who was appointed as the head coach. For someone who watches the game on the screen, one is likely to miss out on what goes on behind the scenes. This docu-series portrays that beautifully, capturing raw emotions—the highs and lows that a team goes through—and the human side of players (beyond being just a cricketer and a celebrity). If you are a cricket lover, this is a must watch.

9

Anubhuti Matta’s picks:

Unorthodox and Shtisel

While watching One of Us, a documentary that follows the lives of three Hasidic Jews ostracised by their community, I was left wanting to learn more about their culture. Then I found two—Unorthodox and Shtisel, which, while capturing and contextualising the lives of people in the community also share a common theme—following the lives those who don’t want to stick to the prescribed ways of living. While the protagonist Esty in Unorthodox fights to pursue music instead of staying in an unhappy marriage, lead character Akiva in Shtisel does the same to pursue art instead of teaching school students and wants to marry a widow—both things his family and community do not permit. The biggest takeaway from watching these shows was that the stories of struggle of people who live vastly different lives than many of us—especially the women—exist everywhere. And that there may be big risks in doing the “abnormal”, but in the end not following your heart, and not the fear of being ostracised, may ultimately become the biggest threat to your happiness.

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