Best Miniseries of 2023: The WGA and Actor’s Guild strikes that started in May 2023 threatened the future of the movie and TV industry. It interfered with all new releases and productions. However, once that was resolved, everyone felt a bit relieved. It is not to say that Hollywood or its rampant television grind will continue to do well. But at least the path is clear for new content to follow. 2023 saw a string of new limited series. And in this piece, we focus on the best-limited series to have come out in 2023.

Our criteria for consideration are clear: the series must not have been renewed and only consists of a solitary season. A single streaming platform’s content does not dominate our list, as the case has been in the past few years. Apple TV and Peacock have made stellar developments in their nascent stages. Hulu and Showtime have also shown immense improvement in their offerings. This indicates healthy competition going forward and good times for us consumers. Anyway, here goes our list of the best-limited series of 2023. (Not Ranked) 

1. A Spy Among Friends

A Spy Among Friends Best Miniseries of 2023

MGM’s “A Spy Among Friends” has plenty of historical inaccuracies. Some of its fictionalized versions of real-life events come across as tacky or disrespectful. But despite these shortfalls, it is the best spy show of 2023. Today, there aren’t many good spy shows to watch. The spy genre is full of cliched stories without many new ideas. Most shows focus on making spies look like heroes, smoothening out big political situations, engaging in exciting bomb blasts, and thrilling car chases. The MGM show, thankfully, takes a different trajectory. Through the weighted lens of its creators, “A Spy Among Friends” plays out in different and diverse patterns.

High On Films in collaboration with Avanté

This British series is based on Ben Macintyre’s book, exploring the life of Kim Philby, a British spy who betrayed his country for the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The non-linear storytelling merges several timelines that are assimilated chaotically into the narrative. Sometimes, our memories don’t match exactly what really happened. We tend to remember things as we wish they occurred. But facing the truth and questioning our own stories isn’t easy. That’s why Nicholas Elliot (played by Damian Lewis) and Kim Philby (played by Guy Pearce) aren’t perfect spies but flawed humans.

2. Beef

Beef Best Miniseries of 2023

The creators of “Beef” use the pain and anger of two troubled characters to drive their story. It revolves around the conflicting personalities clash between Daniel Cho (played by Steven Yeun) and Amy Lau (played by Ali Wong). It starts with Danny and Amy getting into a minor road rage incident. Their aggressive behavior makes you wonder about who they truly are. A simple honk, a moment of hesitation, and a rude gesture tie their fates from the first episode to the tenth.

The heart of “Beef” lies in the tragedy faced by Danny and Amy. Lee Sung Jin’s story revolves around these characters, but it’s not as ordinary as it seems. The storyline unfolds naturally, filled with ironic moments and uncertainties. That’s why the unexpected plot twists don’t feel out of place in “Beef.” The significance of a minor road rage incident changing the lives of Danny and Amy feels real, not forced.

Steven Yeun and Ali Wong do a fantastic job as the central couple. They bring depth to their characters, Danny and Amy, showing their deep emotional struggles. Wong shines throughout the series, not just in the final episode. She captures Amy’s complex emotions perfectly, balancing her fiery and vulnerable sides. Yeun’s role is more subdued in comparison. Their performances reflect societal roles more than individuality. Still, both Yeun and Wong showcase their full range of emotions and expressions in their roles.

3. The Fall of the House of Usher

The Fall of the House of Usher Best Miniseries of 2023

Mike Flanagan’s ultimate collaboration with Netflix – and sadly, also his last – was arguably the most hotly anticipated release of the year. The creator’s pedigree is undeniable. His penchant for profound stories staged in poignant, atmospheric settings widened his fanbase. Flanagan tasted global success with his “House” trilogy, complete with “The Fall of the House of Usher.” Consisting of eight episodes and inspired by Edgar Allen Poe’s short story, the limited series made its presence felt on the platform by becoming the most-viewed show this year. “Usher” revolves around the titular family, spanning almost eight decades.

Carla Gugino, Burce Greenwood, and Kate Seigel lead the cast whom Flanagan has grown to love over the years. The sweeping and ambitious narrative of ”Usher” benefits from an impressive culmination of set design, costume, and masterful performances. It is one of the most remarkable productions from Netflix in recent years, exuding technical proficiency and visual splendor. The deep sense of melancholy and contemporary relevance sets it apart from other shows on the list.

4. The Curse

The Curse

Although Season 1 of “The Curse” hasn’t concluded yet, Ben Safdie and Nathan Fielder, its ingenious creators, have hinted that there won’t be a second. It would be a pity – and a relief – not to tune in every week to watch this cringe contest. Emma Stone is the third name in the troika that carries the show. The couples, Asher (Fielder) and Whitney (Stone), hire producer Dougie (Safdie) to help them develop a reality show about flipping homes in the quaint community of La Espanola. But this “flipping” isn’t merely for profits. The couple claims their motive is deeper – to instill warmth and togetherness in the community.

Whitney’s fractured dreams of making it on her own, being different from her parents and being accepted as a burgeoning public figure hangs by a thread. The complete annihilation of the pretense has come to define “The Curse” in the last few weeks of airing. It is abnormal for any series to push the limits in the name of art, as Safdie and Fielder have done. The Curse’s identity draws directly from their brand of dark comedy with a dramatic twist. If you are going to watch this one, leave all your suppositions of what a television show should be like.

5. Hijack

hijack Best Miniseries of 2023

High On Films in collaboration with Avanté

Hijack” centers on the takeover of Flight 29, flying from Dubai to London, by a group of British crew members linked to a terrorist group. However, these individuals aren’t exactly terrorists themselves; they were forced into joining against their will. Onboard among the 200 passengers is Sam Neil (played by Elba), a skilled negotiator with an unusual job background. He appears ideally suited for handling this crisis and leads efforts to ensure a safe landing without casualties.

Despite Sam’s personal motives, he uses his expertise to assist some passengers unprepared for the situation. While the hijacking unfolds in the sky, on the ground, British counterterrorism and the Metropolitan PD rush to find solutions. Ultimately, the goal isn’t just to free two high-ranking terrorist members but involves something more sinister and disturbing.

Hijack” rewrites the rules of character development and storytelling with a heartfelt touch and the ideal pacing. People watching this kind of story expect something new. They hope for a twist on how hijacking stories are usually told, something to keep them surprised. That’s precisely what “Hijack” does by taking a less common path. It happens in real-time, focusing more on the people involved in the main event than on one hero. Elba does get his big moment in the finale—it’s a bit cheesy—but considering his character, the show wouldn’t feel complete without it.

Also, Read: The 10 Best Horror Films of 2023

6. A Small Light

A Small Light Best Miniseries of 2023

Anne Frank’s remarkable story of defiance and courage has offered a crucial humane element to perceive a dark historical chapter. Her story has inspired today’s generation to shed critical light on the brutal Nazi regime. However, this Hulu series celebrates Miep Gies, who gave shelter to the Frank family by risking her family’s life and future. Miep worked for Otto’s business as a secretary. She demonstrated ferocious loyalty and unrelenting will to oppose the cruel treatment of Jews by the Nazis. Bel Powley portrays Miep in the series. And it must be mentioned that hers is one of the year’s breakout performances.

The creators of the show do not focus on the hiding itself. From the get-go, “A Small Light” starts off as Miep’s story – of how she adjusted to working for Otto and rose up to different challenges in her day-to-day life. And it continues to be about her sweet journey as the days turn darker and the future gloomier. The progression till the central conceit is very organic, informed by the anticipation of the doomsday. Otto and Miep’s relationship also finds a meaningful place in the narrative, making it one of the most profound stories told on screen this year.

7. Mrs. Davis

Mrs. Davis

“Mrs. Davis” is Peacock’s most ambitious project to date. NBC roped in Damien Lindelöf (see “Lost,” “The Leftovers”) and Tara Hernandez (“Big Bang Theory”) as creators and showrunners. Their cumulative creative output elevates that of stars Betty Gilpin, Jake McDorman, and countless others.  “Mrs. Davis” is all about mixing things up, blending irony and grandness in everything it does. It’s like living in a scary movie but also finding a safe spot you’ve always wanted. But to get that safety, you’ve got to give in to a powerful AI that you can’t see or touch.

You’ll feel scared, even when you’re on your game because it’s hard to resist Mrs. D’s pull. What our characters decide shapes their respective journeys. And every choice they make leads to some pretty big consequences that they can’t dodge. “Mrs. Davis” speaks volumes without saying things outright. If you peel away the weird stuff that Lindelof and Hernandez use for storytelling purposes, what’s left is familiar. It’s about family issues, feeling unsure about yourself, the rise of technology, and the basic human need for connections. Sure, they hype up the AI part. But it’s tangled up with religious ideas, using spirituality to make us wonder about life’s big questions.

This wild, emotional, and totally off-the-wall show is perfect for folks who crave something unique in a world full of similar stuff. “Mrs. Davis” might be too wacky for some, making it a bit tricky to dive in. But if you give it a chance and embrace all the wackiness you see, there’s a meaningful message underneath that might just tug at your heartstrings and make you shed a tear or two.

8. Somewhere Boy

Bargain

Somewhere Boy” is a touching coming-of-age story about Danny, a troubled young boy held captive all his life by his father, Steve. Such characterization is challenging and shouldn’t be accepted at face value, yet it captures the core of Danny’s “inner monsters.” “Somewhere Boy” does a remarkable job of painting the context for the viewers with compassion and even-handed morality that’s nicely spread across. Its compact and highly effective cinematic universe pointedly takes us on Danny’s journey of redemption after Steve kills himself and Sue, Steve’s sister, brings Danny to her home.

Apart from Danny, “Somewhere Boy” offers us other impressive, heartfelt characters. Sue, Aaron, and Steve each have their arcs. Their portrayals are not taken lightly by the makers. They are given sufficient attention and substance not just to be sidekicks but also to be significant presences in Danny’s journey. Lewis Gribben’s performance is reminiscent of Lucas Hedges’s quality work in “Manchester by the Sea.”

The Scottish actor gives a breakthrough performance as Danny, just as Hedges did in the aforementioned film. The nuance in his performance is elevated by and stems from his deep understanding of Danny, reflected in his tender, confused gaze and body language. “Somewhere Boy” is a difficult watch but has elements of warmth and family to soften its serious-minded themes.

High On Films in collaboration with Avanté

9. Bargain

Bargain

Bargain,” a standout from South Korea, packs a punch with its strong message about society. This six-part series isn’t your typical drama—it’s cleverly edited to seem like it’s all happening in one long shot. Even with its weighty themes, “Bargain” keeps you hooked. Director and creator Woo-sung Jeon delivers the diverse storytelling viewers crave. The story unfolds entirely in a single building, bestowing an intense, end-of-the-world vibe to its central idea.

The focus is on characters who are neither good nor bad, which keeps things interesting even when you think you’ve got the show figured out. Detective Hyung-su heads to a countryside motel, thinking he’ll find an 18-year-old offering sex. But things aren’t what they seem—Ju-young isn’t that age, and she’s not a sex worker. “Bargain” provides vicious twists and turns from Episode 1, which continues until the end.

This show isn’t always easy to like because it shows the darkest side of people very realistically. But that’s what drives the whole story, giving it purpose and a clear direction. Getting too caught up in small details like dialogue or how things unfold might stop you from seeing where Woo-sung is trying to lead you.

10. Dear Child

Dear Child

Small-town mystery shows have always been a great stop for the limited series format. The key reason for its appeal is the advantages its gripping structure offers to the narrative. Netflix’s “Dear Child” has not one but two darkly fascinating crimes at its heart. It attempts to form an intimate connection between the town’s past and the present conceit that revolves around Lena, a grown woman, and two kids who are held hostage with her. Initially, “Dear Child” suffers from languid pacing, and things take a while to materialize. But once the intersection of the two timelines becomes apparent, it shines the brightest.

The Netflix show’s biggest strength is its ability to sustain an unrelenting sense of tension and suspense. “Dear Child” features a throbbing score that mounts the sense of urgency the creators are going for. It is the right fit for the story. Character development comes at the cost of personal biases inherent in the writing, which manifests toward the final segment of the series. It does not, however, deter the main story and character lines, which grab your attention alongside the powerful performances.

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