The best shows on Paramount Plus in 2023

Vector collage featuring an image from Star Trek: Strange New Worlds inside a play button.

I am a Paramount Plus apologist. I know — going by subscription numbers alone — that I have to be because people do not subscribe to the streaming service at the same rate as Netflix or Amazon Prime, but I spend more time in the Paramount Plus app than the other two. It’s got older shows like Star Trek, Frasier, and Avatar: The Last Airbender, and newer splashy shows like… everything Taylor Sheridan produces and Frasier. It has a whole mess of football (American) and football (the rest of the world), and while bigger brands like Netflix are only now experimenting with live TV, Paramount Plus has been doing it from the get-go and doing it really well.

It is, I think, my desert island streaming service.

A lot of new shows aired on the service this year. These are some of the best to check out if you’ve recently picked up Paramount Plus or are trying to justify getting it so you can catch up on all the Star Trek you missed.

It will come as no surprise that this is at the top of the list. While the first two seasons were uneven with occasional cerebral moments of Star Trek or joyous moments of nostalgia, season 3 is just a really exciting space adventure, really fun Star Trek, and enough fan service to feed the most die-hard The Next Generation fan. It makes up for every sin of its preceding seasons while also setting up one of the most exciting Star Trek spinoffs in ages. I really cannot wait for the adventures of Captain Seven of Nine on her Enterprise.

Taylor Sheridan programming seems to be half of what’s available on Paramount Plus, and that makes sense when you remember Yellowstone is a monster hit. But of all the shows he’s making, 1923 with Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren has to be my favorite. The series is a Yellowstone prequel chronicling the Duttons’ lives during a moment of extraordinary transition in the west. Sheep farmers and ranchers wage war on horseback with Tommy guns, while the heir to the family travels across the continent of Africa with his new British heiress bride to help the family fight its new war. It’s violent and goofy, but also one of the most entertaining adventure shows on TV right now.

This show feels like an American webtoon brought to life. It’s about a teen girl, Maddie Nears, who wakes up dead and trapped at her school. She has to try to solve her own murder with the help of the other ghosts living in the school, including a football star who died in the ‘80s (and now the stadium is named after him), a queer kid who died from a peanut allergy (and then had to watch his living classmates ruthlessly mock him), and a furious teen beatnik murdered by her guidance counselor. The show has a surprising streak of heart in it, with plenty of twists, turns, and high school romance. Curiously, you can watch the first season both on Paramount Plus (its original home) and Netflix.

If you’ve never watched Star Trek and have been looking for a place to start, Strange New Worlds is for you. This is a prequel to the original Star Trek, so there are some characters you may recognize, like Spock and Uhura (and occasionally Kirk!), and lots of other new characters you’ve never met but whom you will instantly adore. This show is blessedly episodic in a world where most shows treat each season as one very long movie, which means it can do really fun one-off episodes — like this year’s crossover with Lower Decks or its excellent musical. It’s months later, and I’m still humming along with Spock’s smooth tenor.

Between Cheers and Frasier, Frasier Crane is one of the longest-running characters in TV history. So it’s hard to blame Kelsey Grammer for returning to the role. In a world where any old show can get a sequel there’s plenty of chances for Frasier to lose that honor. This new show has Frasier back in Boston and trying to maintain a relationship with his son even as he grieves his father, Martin Crane (John Mahoney, who played Martin, passed away in 2018). It doesn’t have the same sparkle as the original show — which seemed to catch lightning in a bottle with its blend of farce and wit — but it’s a nice diversion, helped along by a heaping dose of nostalgia.

This is another Taylor Sheridan show with a stacked cast. This time Zoe Saldana is a CIA officer who specifically works with young women spies to infiltrate terrorist organizations through the networks of wives and daughters. The show, which also stars Nicole Kidman and Morgan Freeman, takes itself entirely too seriously and can be a bit too jingoistic for my taste. Yet this is also a Taylor Sheridan joint and that man really knows how to make highly entertaining adventure shows. So it takes itself real serious — but is almost always compelling.

What if the kinder episodes of Rick and Morty were combined with Star Trek? That’s Lower Decks. Now in its fourth season, this animated comedy is packed with heart, aliens, big sci-fi stories, and more Star Trek references than a fan forum. Its fourth season found the main cast of ensigns finally getting those coveted promotions and starting to grow up, and it frequently turned into a gentle rumination of what its like to move further along in your professional career — all while still doing the kind of really fun science fiction that live-action shows could never pull off.

And let’s close this out with one final Sheridan joint. This one is about Bass Reeves, one of the most famous US marshals of the American frontier, and the first Black deputy marshal west of the Mississippi. David Oyelowo produces the show and plays Reeves with a steady fury. It’s a fascinating portrayal at the center of a more rote Western that is trying to navigate the myth of Reeves while setting him in a world that feels oddly post-racism in a way reality absolutely was not. I find myself frequently struggling to understand who the audience for this show is — but the performances at the center of it are terrific.

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