The 2020 TV Hot List: The Year’s Biggest and Buzziest Shows, Networks and People

Honorees include Watchmen, The Mandalorian and Schitt’s Creek

(L. to r.) This Year’s Hot List honors Watchmen for Show of the Year, The Mandalorian for Hottest Drama and Schitt’s Creek for Hottest Comedy. HBO, Disney+, Netflix

This was already going to be a watershed year for the TV industry given the amount of new streaming services that entered the space in the past 12 months. But then Covid-19 dealt Hollywood a completely unexpected blow. As people were stuck at home, television proved an essential lifeline during the pandemic, especially the shows—like many of this year’s TV Hot List winners—which either provided a much-needed escape (like Disney+’s The Mandalorian, from TV Creator of the Year Jon Favreau) or spotlighted many of the same hot-button issues that were gripping the country (like Watchmen, our Show of the Year, and Lovecraft Country from Game Changer of the Year Misha Green). Meanwhile, linear TV is still hanging tough despite the increased competition, thanks to people like TLC president Howard Lee, Adweek’s TV Executive of the Year. From Watchmen to Schitt’s Creek to Stephen Colbert, this year’s TV Hot List honors 2020’s biggest and buzziest shows, networks and people.


TV Executive of the Year

Howard Lee

Courtesy of TLC

When life for families around the country ground to a halt due to Covid-19, which forced them into quarantine, TLC president and general manager Howard Lee knew there would be plenty of stories to tell. So he began to brainstorm. … Click here for Lee’s full TV Executive of the Year profile.


TV Creator of the Year

Jon Favreau

Courtesy of Disney

Ahead of Disney+’s debut last November, Disney executives needed a showstopping original series to convince even more consumers—not just kids and families who were already likely to subscribe—that their new streamer was a must-have service. With Jon Favreau’s The Mandalorian, they got exactly what they wished for. … Click here for Favreau’s full TV Creator of the Year profile.


Game Changer of the Year

Misha Green

Courtesy of WarnerMedia

Misha Green finds new ways to terrify viewers with each episode of Lovecraft Country—from a haunted house to demonic twins—but the creator herself doesn’t frighten easily. “I very rarely get scared,” says Green. Well, except for one thing: “I guess stasis scares me: the idea of not growing, not challenging yourself, not being surprised.” ... Click here for Green’s full Game Changer of the Year profile.


Show of the Year

Watchmen (HBO)

Courtesy of HBO

Damon Lindelof’s take on the iconic DC comic was a stunning standout when it came out in late 2019, but the events of this year—from the pandemic to this summer’s racial justice protests—revealed the series to also be shockingly prescient. It tackled systemic racism, police brutality, white supremacy—and the main characters even wear masks. Watchmen averaged more than 8 million viewers, making it premium cable’s second most-watched new series of 2019. After leading all shows this year with a whopping 26 Emmy nominations, Watchmen also racked up the most wins: 11, including for outstanding limited series. —Jason Lynch


Hottest Drama

The Mandalorian (Disney+)

Courtesy of Disney

Disney’s secret weapon in the streaming wars came in the form of an unlikely pair: a lone warrior and a lost child (known to fans as “Baby Yoda”). The Mandalorian, by far the most-anticipated original as Disney+ launched last November, exceeded Disney’s own high expectations and drew 10 million signups to the service by its second day. The series also received 15 Emmy nominations, including for outstanding drama series, and won seven. Now, Season 2 will debut on the service Oct. 30, just as many families consider whether to re-up their annual subscription. To quote the lead character, “This is the way”—for Disney+ to count on continued growth in its second year. —Kelsey Sutton

This story first appeared in the Oct. 26, 2020, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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