There were a whole bunch of great TV shows in 2019, arguably too many. From the DC Universe subscription service debuting a couple of incredible first seasons, to several shows returning as strong as ever – or even stronger – I was as almost as excited for upcoming episodes on the small screen as I was for any of the epic blockbusters hitting theaters these past twelve months. After some careful consideration, I was able to place the following above the rest.
And here they are, dear reader, my favorite TV shows – both new and returning – of 2019:
Honorable Mention: Swamp Thing
The DC Universe streaming service produced two terrific live action series this year, but one of them was unceremoniously cancelled, and that’s a damn shame. Swamp Thing blended a superhero origin story with gothic and body horror that was genuinely frightening, and featured several intriguing mysteries surrounding the man-turned-Elemental that kept me eagerly awaiting every new episode. The casting was equally strong, and I cared about the plight of almost every character the entire way through the ill-fated first season. The show was cancelled even before its second episode aired, despite the great deal of positive buzz the pilot earned from critics and fans (myself included), and I grew more and more angry at Warner Bros. as I was blown away almost every week it aired. The last few episodes felt somewhat rushed, which I assume was in part due to the season being abruptly cut to ten episodes instead of the originally planned thirteen, but I still can’t help thinking what could have been if Swamp Thing had been allowed to grow…
Number 5: Sex Education
Sex Education is an oddball comedy that tells an outlandish tale centered on a cast of quirky characters – played by a talented cast of young actors like Emma Mackey, Asa Butterfield, and Ncuti Gatwa – that all grow on you as the season progresses, and it has some of the most awkwardly hilarious moments I’ve seen on TV. Seriously, just watch the opening of each episode for examples. It definitely won’t be for everyone, but if you aren’t thrown off by the absurdity of the premise, the child (Butterfield) of sex a therapist – the absolutely amazing Gillian Anderson – starts a business by selling the relationship advice he’s gleamed from his mother to his high school classmates, I’m almost positive you will enjoy it.
Number 4: The Righteous Gemstones
Like the previous collaborations between Danny McBride, Jody Hill, and HBO, The Righteous Gemstones is packed with fantastic dialogue, brilliant, dark humor, and somehow makes you almost want to root for its seemingly irredeemable protagonists. However, McBride shares more of the spotlight this time around, allowing the stellar cast – including Walton Goggins, Edi Patterson, Adam Devine, and John Goodman – to flesh out their roles as well, thus making each branching story arc feel just as important. It’s too early to tell for sure if The Righteous Gemstones will match – or possibly surpass – Eastbound & Down or Vice Principals, but if the following seasons are as good as this one, it just might.
You can read my review of the premiere here.
Number 3: Good Omens
Amazon’s adaptation of the Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman novel about Heaven and Hell’s search for a misplaced antichrist and their preparation for an impending end of days is a devilishly good time, and is definitely worth a watch for fans of classic British comedy. Just witnessing the blossoming bromance between David Tennant’s demonic Crowley and Michael Sheen’s angelic Aziraphale is enough alone to make Good Omens worth watching, but it goes even further beyond by making the most out of its incredible supporting cast of colorful characters. Stacked with actors like Frances McDormand, Jon Hamm, and Michael McKean, almost every scene is laugh-out-loud funny.
Number 2: Doom Patrol
The biggest home run from DC Universe so far is this show about a team of superhuman screw-ups. Doom Patrol doesn’t have horror elements like Swamp Thing, but it goes to some equally dark and even weirder places as it delves into the past of the core characters – played by the likes of Diane Guerrero, Brendan Fraser (man I missed him!) and Matt Bomer – as they encounter a wide range of bizarre entities. A Nazi scientist with a fondness for puppets, Alan Tudyk’s creepily, hilariously meta Mr. Nobody, and the absolute greatness that is Danny are all tons of of fun, and they’re just the tip of the iceberg. The biggest difference between Swamp Thing and Doom Patrol is how the latter balances out its darker themes with huge laughs and an awesome soundtrack. One of my highlights of the season uses a terrific cover of Kelly Clarkson’s “People Like Us” to great effect. It will almost certainly get too strange for some, but Doom Patrol is a fantastic ride for those who can accept its odd nature.
Number 1: Watchmen
Alan Moore’s limited series Watchmen is widely regarded as a masterpiece among comic book readers, and many of its fans grew quite concerned upon learning that HBO was developing a sequel. Those concerns turned out to be all for nothing though, as the new show – also titled Watchmen because that’s not confusing in the slightest – matches the quality of the legendary comic, and respects the original while building upon it in some truly inventive ways. Taking place thirty years after the comic, Watchmen features a cast of mostly-new costumed crime fighters that are brought to life by one Hell of an ensemble cast – lead by a powerhouse performance from Regina King – and are all written so well that they can stand on equal footing with Moore’s iconic protagonists. The series’ story also features a few twists and turns that are on par with anything from the comic too, and that’s saying something considering how crazy the original Watchmen got.
Number 5: Killing Eve (Season 2)
The second season of Killing Eve is just as entertaining as the first, and builds tons of tension as the connection/shared obsession between the eccentric assassin Villainelle (Jodie Comer) and determined British Intelligence Officer Eve (Sandra Oh) slowly takes over their jobs and personal lives. The dynamic between Killing Eve’s two leads is an engrossing watch despite the fact that they aren’t even near each other most of the time! The last cop/criminal relationship that was anywhere near this beguiling and disturbing was the one between the leads of Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal series, which is exceptionally high praise coming from me as that’s my all-time favorite show.
Number 4: Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Season 6)
The 99th precinct was revived after a VERY short-lived cancellation, and all the online love and clamoring to bring it back was worth it because the series’ sixth season is one of its finest and funniest. Brooklyn Nine-Nine still has the imaginatively witty writing and hilarious characters that helped it become known and adored by fans, and it continues to make me laugh out loud at least a handful of times each twenty-minute episode. From phenomenal flashbacks to Jake’s (Andy Samberg) version of the Suicide Squad, Brooklyn Nine-Nine delivered sidesplitting laugh after sidesplitting laugh in season six, and I doubt season seven will be any different.
LONG LIVE THE NINE-NINE!
Number 3: Game of Thrones (Season 8)
In my opinion, the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones, The Bells is the best in the entire series. I mean c’mon, GoT spent the past seven seasons building a reputation for breaking the hearts of its audience with brutal, horrifying twists, so why would it stop that close to the finish line? Then the finale managed to give almost every character we’ve come to know and love a strong send-off or fitting, shocking death. It may have not had the consistent quality of some of its previous seasons, but it was still a certainly serviceable ending to one of the biggest shows in the history of television.
Number 2: Fleabag (Season 2)
I think it’s best going into the British dramedy Fleabag with as little information on it as possible, so I’m going to stay light on the details here for those of you who haven’t watched it yet. Phoebe Waller-Bridge pulls double duty as the eponymous character and writer for the series, and she does both jobs flawlessly, making FB and the people she loves characters that you truly care about, warts and all. Just like the first season of Fleabag, the second blends pitch black humor with poignant drama and a heaping helping of heart, and it kept me completely enveloped in the story until I finished the final episode of the supposedly final season.
Number 1: Stranger Things (Season 3)
The classic coming-of-age elements, sci-fi horror, humor, and 80’s vibes are all turned up to Eleven (not sorry) as our favorite citizens of Hawkins, Indiana continue their battle against a sinister, otherworldly force in the newest season of Stranger Things. The original main cast still incredible, and they’re joined by a few newcomers like Maya Hawke’s Robin, whose performance delivers one half of the best scene in the season – who also make their mark on Netflix’s greatest original series. The special effects this time around are fantastic too, surprisingly close to what you’d see in a big budget blockbuster movie. It doesn’t do anything groundbreaking when compared to the previous seasons, but the third outing of Stranger Things builds upon everything that made the former two so enjoyable, and is the darkest, boldest and best of the bunch so far.
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