2020, a hell of a year for many reasons, did not slow down the production of top-notch Turkish series. As a matter of fact, in comparison to previous years, greater storytelling risks were taken and each one paid off in a grand way.
The twelve picks below represent original Turkish shows that managed to amaze and/or satisfy us, despite the challenging months of 2020.
If there is one thing we learned this year from Masumlar Apartmanı, it is that everything, in terms of quality, is possible with Turkish dramas. This TRT1 revolutionalized the genre as it navigates through various manifestations of mental disorders, among other things.
There isn't a single thing amiss with this drama, and that is truly a marvel to behold. Masumlar Apartmanı benefits from the resonant performances of its incredibly well-rounded cast line-up. Episode after episode, each cast member carries their own weight, in turn translating to a raw and authentically portrayed story.
As the plot fluidly leaps from past to present, Çagri Vila Lostuvali's directing style puts this drama in a completely different league and in that league lies a legacy that will live on for many years come.
Bir Baskadir changed the streaming game, particularly because it remained authentically Turkish even though it debuted on a global streaming service like Netflix. Unlike Free TV and all of its restrictions, streaming platforms have given creatives the flexibility to go big or go home with their ideas. But this, as we've come to find out, isn't necessarily always a good thing as sometimes, the creative freedom gives too much room to stray far far away from the Turkish touch we've all come to know and love.
A Turkish delight in its own right, Bir Başkadır worked because even though it approached its storytelling with a less-is-more attitude, its ambitious explorations of the divides in Turkey - rich and poor, secular and religious – pushed the envelope in the best way possible.
Anchored by a handful of award-worthy performances and gorgeously framed cinematography, this Netflix original offered a glimpse into the top-tier works that are yet to come out of the Turkish filmmaking industry, and that in itself is exciting.
While Kırmızı Oda may have just started in September, it has definitely raised the bar of Turkish dramas. From the onset, it was promised that the drama had no plans of shying away from "uncomfortable" topics, and with each intently depicted episode, that promise has and continues to be kept. A first-of-its-kind series, the shrink-themed Kırmızı Oda carefully and thoughtfully confronts some uneasy truths of everyday people, in Turkey and beyond.
Binnur Kaya was brilliantly cast as Doctor Hanım, and as she gently helps each of her patients navigate through their struggles, we as viewers are peeled to our screens, rooting for each one of them to defeat their demons in the end.
In addition to its powerful theme, this drama excels even further because of the fantastic job Cem Karci does in directing it. Every camera move is weighted with some kind of emotion that amplifies each character's feelings at any given moment.
A shoutout to all the show's guest-stars thus far, who have brought their A-game and contributed in shaping the drama along the way.
Through the years, the dizi industry has mastered the art of creating historical dramas, and 2020 was no different with the introduction of TRT1's Uyanış: Büyük Selçuklu.
Having a TRT1-sized budget, anchored by a top-tier production team, has certainly played a huge role in setting this drama apart from similar shows that came before it.
The teams behind the location scouting, the historical props used, as well as the costume designs in this production all deserve a resounding round of applause for their meticulous level of attention to detail.
The battle scenes in Uyanış: Büyük Selçuklu are shot at cinema-level quality, bolstering each scene with plenty of thrills to keep the viewer engaged from start to finish.
On the battle front, this Turkish drama sits comfortably with the likes of Spartacus and Game of Thrones! We said what we said.
Characters come and go, but if there's one thing that has remained consistent, it is the brilliance of Show TV's Çukur!
In its fourth season, family continues to be at the very core of this beloved crime drama, but stakes are higher than ever before. Being ride-or-die for family has always been a thing in the pit, but with the major losses suffered this season, it is safe to say matters escalated to astronomical heights.
In the midst of all of the madness, characterizations take a deeper nuance, jumbling fans' minds on the topic of who’s the man’s man and who’s the actual femme fatal of the entire series.
The season kicked off on a spicy note with a cameo by industry heartthrob Barış Arduç and off of his arc, has come a slew of incredible new characters.
The seemingly slow-paced writing has taken a quick acceleration, and we are yet to see who will fall and who will rise up. As always, the acting performances remain top-notch and on the direction front, things have taken a new course, shifting the plot development from the circumstantial point of view to the characters’ layered mindset point of view. Suffice to say, these developments have made for a change in perspective.
With this being the final season, the show is gearing up for a spectacular showdown.
As your home is your destiny, it should also be a safe haven. While many others have argued this TV8 adaptation drastically changed course in its second season, we argue that the same can also be said for real life. In the blink of an eye, a person's picture-perfect life can completely change, and this season of Doğduğun Ev Kaderindir has carefully created an incredibly engrossing narrative around this fact.
This season re-introduced us to Mehdi, who swears his controlling habits are out of (misguided) love. On the flip side, the season has allowed Zeynep to be her own kind of hero, equipping her with the resources and strength to escape an escalating domestic situation, an unfortunate reality for many women today.
Like in the first installment, every episode of Doğduğun Ev Kaderindir delivers a powerful message, whether it be to give people the space to find their own way or the importance of tackling the issue of violence against women.
Prior to the start of its second season, Ramo lost a significant number of its core cast and crew, in addition to moving to a whole new city, a move many dubbed risky.
However, many eager fans stuck around to see how the show would integrate such significant changes into its already established plot, and they, like us, have been rather impressed with the outcome.
This season, Ramo, his family, and their ever-growing list of problems relocated to big city Istanbul, following a stink in prison. The changes that preceded the season paid off in the long haul as it awarded the series a second chance to mark its spot in the oversaturated crime drama genre.
The introduction of Cihangir & his family painted a clearer portrait of who the good and the bad guys are, mounting a gripping and fast-paced story with all the right elements to captivate the viewers every week.
The third season of Hercai has been laden with one bombshell reveal after the next. Just when it seemed like the story had peaked, a new era dawned, introducing an even more exciting angle to the multi-layered drama.
One of Hercai's greatest strengths has always been its solid cast, and with each significant revelation thus far this season, the show's lead actors have been awarded an opportunity to truly shine.
Even with a faint idea of what to expect from an unveiling of a new addition to the show's ever-growing family tree, the acting performances in a number of episodes this season, particularly the show's milestone 50th episode, exceeded our wildest expectations.
It is also worth mentioning that the musical score this season has been superb in that it has added a convincing aura to the emotional scenes.
Sen Çal Kapımı is the best possible comfort-food TV we could have asked for in 2020 as it offers just the right dose of entertainment and escapism.
In many shows in the same genre, the overarching theme is the enemies-turned-lovers trope but with Sen Çal Kapımı, the trope was reinvented by pairing the male lead with an equally strong female lead who lives life on her own terms.
People usually associate rom-coms with lacking substance, but that couldn't be any farther from the truth, as Sen Çal Kapımı has demonstrated with ease since its summer premiere.
Many of the show's episodes written by Ayşe Üner Kutlu were laden with symbolic clues, that subtly tied the star-crossed lovers' destinies on a bigger picture scale. Narrowing down these clues and making sense of them as a viewer made for many "awww" moments and added a certain level of depth to the storytelling.
On and off set, the entertaining dynamics among the cast of Sen Çal Kapımı has filled a void this year and looking back at 2020, we are truly grateful this dramedy came knocking on our doors.
Traditionally Turkish dramas will always be in style and Gönül Dağı stunningly takes advantage of this. In its short time on air, the TRT1 series has attracted quite the diverse following, and with good reason.
Some highs, some lows, Gönül Dağı offers a realistic portrayal of the struggles of everyday people with big dreams they hope to one day achieve.
To Gönül Dağı's credit, the series does not try to be all things to all viewers, and in embracing simplicity with its storytelling, it lands itself in the feel-good category.
The lesson to be learned here is never to give up, and what better way to send that message across than with a cast as pure and down to earth as Gönül Dağı's.
If for nothing else, we recommend checking out this drama for its swoon-worthy cinematography!
When this crime drama was first announced, it drew many comparisons to past Turkish dramas in the same genre. Those comparisons were quickly put to rest with the show's first episode giving it a strong enough foundation to make it stand apart.
With its three-part bundle of elegant writing, directing, and acting, Ariza is an action-packed bonanza that somehow manages to up its quality and level of suspense with every given episode.
The series rocks because its character tackle issues head-on, leaving little to no room for the story to grow stale. A non-stop thrill ride, there is no shortage of badass characters willing and ready to take a bullet or two for their loved ones, but certainly not without a fight first.
Having a strong female lead like Halide (Ayça Ayşin Turan) is additional icing on the cake!
One thing about women, they ALWAYS deliver, even more so with higher stakes. Gears shifted on FOX's Yasak Elma this season, with some main characters leaving and others coming along!
One strong female lead? Fantastic. Three, on the other hand? Freaking PRICELESS.
When they are not providing comic relief, the ladies turned to carrying the show on their backs with so much ease.
Yasak Elma features the perfect combo of drama and plots twists and for a show already in its fourth season, it certaintly has kept us quite entertained.