I don’t know about you, but I thought 2023 was a banner year for Apple TV Plus, with shows like the Idris Elba-led “Hijack” and the Seth Rogen friend-comedy (friend-com?) “Platonic.” This year also saw the return of hit series like “Foundation” and “Slow Horses.” Whether you’re an avid viewer of Apple TV Plus series like me or intend to check out what’s on the streaming platform, it’s a great time to explore the best new and returning series on Apple TV Plus.
Best New Series on Apple TV Plus in 2023
Some new shows didn’t make it on the list, but I’ll let them marinate a bit before I give them a shot. Maybe they’ll make it on 2024’s list, but either way, the following were the standout new series from the streaming platform.
‘Lessons in Chemistry’
Based on the bestselling book of the same name, “Lessons In Chemistry” is one of this year’s highest-rated shows for the streamer. The show follows Elizabeth Zott (Brie Larson), a genius chemist and single mother who, after being forced out from her job at a chemistry company, ends up hosting a popular science-based cooking show on a public access channel in the ‘60s. With plenty of witty banter, twists, and revealing flashbacks, it’s highly likely you’ll binge-watch this show. That said, some plot beats felt cheap, with too many one-in-a-million scenarios forcing the plot along. Aside from that, the show’s period drama setting and outstanding cast are why it’s worth watching.
Starring Jason Segel, Jessica Williams, and Harrison Ford — yes, that Harrison Ford, from “Indiana Jones” and “Star Wars” — “Shrinking” is a show about therapy and therapists, who, it turns out, are just as messy as everyone else. Jimmy (Segel) is a single father and recent widow who begins to color outside the lines with his therapy, telling patients what to do rather than listening to their problems. Gaby (Williams) is a great therapist who is going through a divorce, and their boss Paul (Ford) is too stubborn to admit he needs help with his ongoing illness.
The show can be really funny, but it also makes time for heavier moments that everyone can relate to, such as coping with grief, rejection, and loneliness. Written by Brett Goldstein, who you might know as Roy Kent from “Ted Lasso,” “Shrinking” is easily one of the best-written shows of the year, tapping into the modern condition without ever getting preachy. “Shrinking” was renewed for a second season while the first season was still airing.
This post-apocalyptic show takes place in a massive 100-story underground silo where humans have made their homes after an unexplained disaster forced them from the surface. Mysteries and reveals are at the core of this show, slowly revealing layers upon layers with each episode, which will have you hooked. It may take a few episodes to really get going, but once it does, it’s wall-to-wall gasps until the final scene. The cast is great too, with appearances from Rebecca Ferguson, Common, Tim Robbins, and David Oyelowo. The second season of the show was currently in production during the summer but was forced to go on hiatus due to the actors and writers strikes.
When Sam Nelson (Idris Elba), a corporate negotiator, becomes a victim of an airplane hijacking, he attempts to get home by using his skills to talk the hijackers off the ledge. The seven-episode miniseries, which takes place on a plane, in London, and in Dubai, has almost no fat, packing each scene with intent and character development leading to a nail-biting conclusion. If you’re looking for a thriller that will have you glued to your seat, look no further.
Sylvia (Rose Byrne) and Will (Seth Rogen) are old friends who reconnect after years apart, finding that the other has changed a lot yet remained the same. With Sylvia being a married mom of three and Will being a single guy working as a master brewer, their lives aren’t exactly compatible, but when they begin to make space for each other again, they find that they’re stronger together than they are apart. Hokeyness aside, though, this show is also hilarious. If you’re a fan of Seth Rogen’s particular brand of comedy, there are a ton of bits and dumb jokes here you’ll enjoy. The series is returning for a second season.
‘Real Madrid: Until the End’
Real Madrid are the villains of world football, single-handedly snatching the dreams of dozens upon dozens of teams on their way to win countless La Liga titles and Champions League finals. But since the club’s all-time goal scorer, Christiano Ronaldo, left for Italian side Juventus, Los Blancos simply haven’t been as dominant, failing to win a Champions League final since the Portuguese striker departed at the end of the 2017-2018 season.
This documentary series follows the team during the 2021-2022 season as they struggle to simultaneously stay at the top of the league and stay in the running to win the Champions League. Even for Real Madrid haters, of which there are many, this three-episode docuseries is worth checking out because of its behind-the-scenes access, getting personal with the club’s best players, who are, truthfully, some of the best footballers in the world. If you can’t find the time to watch soccer and keep up with the goings-on, this should at least fill in some gaps.
Best Returning Shows on Apple TV Plus in 2023
While not every Apple TV Plus series is a hit, a few of the best ones have come back with one or more seasons. “Mythic Quest” and “Ted Lasso” didn’t have great seasons this year, which is why they’re omitted here, but the following four series are the best Apple TV Plus series that returned in 2023.
‘For All Mankind’ (2019 to Present)
This is the show that started it all for the once hardware-focused company. “For All Mankind” offers a fictional take on the space race, showing us a version of the world where the U.S.S.R. beat the U.S. to the moon and was the first country to send a woman to the moon. The series uses time jumps frequently, allowing character decisions to have real consequences down the road. Now in its fourth season, “For All Mankind” is almost caught up to our current timeline, raising the stakes once again as a global effort pushes humanity further into the reaches of space. If space dramas aren’t your thing, it’s still worth watching because of the writing and an outstanding cast of mostly unknown actors led by Joel Kinnaman.
‘The Afterparty’ (2022 to 2023)
The first season of “The Afterparty” was written as a film, according to writer Christopher Miller, but it worked incredibly well as a show, unraveling a murder through the eyes of different suspects. Each episode tackles a different film genre, making the show feel fresh even as some events are retold countless times. As both a murder mystery and a comedy with a great cast of comedic actors — Tiffany Haddish, Sam Richardson, Dave Franco, Ben Schwartz, Ilana Glazer, and Ike Barinholtz — the first season was a bona fide hit.
The second season retained Haddish, Richardson, and Zoe Chao, focusing on an entirely new murder and cast of suspects, including John Cho, Ken Jeong, Poppy Liu, Jack Whitehall, and Zach Woods. The second season didn’t feel as punchy as the first, but each episode felt like more of a love letter to specific filmmakers, genres, and films. Unfortunately, the show wasn’t renewed for a third season.
‘Foundation’ (2021 to Present)
Every streamer needs its big-budget fantasy sci-fi epic to play with. HBO has “Game of Thrones,” Amazon Prime Video has “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power,” Disney has “Star Wars,” and Apple TV Plus has Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation,” a space epic that takes place across millenniums. The cast may not have big names (except for Lee Pace and Jared Harris), but every actor delivers outstanding performances that are enhanced by jaw-dropping CGI and world-building. To say that “Foundation” is one of the best returning series on Apple TV Plus doesn’t do it enough justice because, actually, it’s one of the best series on TV this year and every year it’s been on. The series has been renewed for a third season.
‘Slow Horses’ (2022 to Present)
If you want to know what “Slow Horses” is about, just listen to the track, which Mick Jagger created specifically for this series: “Surrounded by losers/ Misfits and boozers.” In “Slow Horses,” the undesirables of MI5 are shipped off to Slough House, a sort of halfway home for agents on their way out overseen by the rude and comically gross misanthrope Jackson Lamb (Gary Oldman). As a spy thriller, “Slow Horses” is more like John Le Carré’s “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” than it is like the “James Bond” films, with plenty of deadly secrets, cover ops, and double-crosses to make your head spin. When you’re not laughing at Lamb breaking wind or roasting his agents — they’re all useless to him — you’ll be on the edge of your seat as the spy thriller part of the series takes hold. The series is currently airing its third season, with a fourth season already confirmed.