2019 was a great year for television.
Honorable Mentions: What We Do In The Shadows, Bojack Horseman, Veep
Couldn’t Get To: The Crown
Biggest Disappointment: Game of Thrones
10. Euphoria (HBO)
Zendaya’s performance is a revelation. The High-School coming-of-age melodrama is entertaining because of its bold take on stereotypes and its intriguing characters. It is a cautionary tale on the effect that technology and social media can have on vulnerable teenagers. Despite its seeming cliché premise, the show is dark and beautifully photographed. This is one of the best looking shows of the year.
9. Russian Doll (Netflix)
Like a Russian doll, this show has many layers. Starring (and created by) Natasha Lyonne as Nadia, each episode follows Nadia’s night after she leaves a party. It uses non-linear storytelling to present alternate realities, but its signature move is to have Nadia die sometime after she leaves this party and then has her restart her night right there.
8. Sex Education (Netflix)
Like its title indicates, this is a show that revolves around and sex education and human sexuality. Sex Education follows the teenage son of a sex therapist who struggles to navigate a complicated age. The fantastic cast and nuanced writing make this story so compelling. The raw honesty the show uses to discuss difficult topics while staying deeply empathetic to its characters makes this show stand out. This is one of the shows that succeeds at what many other shows failed to achieve.
7. When They See Us (FX)
Based on the true story of the Central Park 5, Ava Duvernay’s miniseries is one of the most important of the year. While the show takes place in the ’90s, many of its grievances still resonate with the current times. These five boys were convicted of crimes with circumstantial evidence due to a system that failed them. Duvernay’s direction is excellent and the breakout performances are show-stealers.
6. Glow (Netflix)
Glow is an interesting show that I have come to like more and more season by season. While I liked season 1 and thought season 2 was good, I adored season 3. The fantastic cast lead by Allison Brie and Betty Gilpin and the unique premise allows the show to experiment with ideas few others can. The exploration of femininity, loyalty, and camaraderie only gets deeper as the show goes on.
5. Barry (HBO)
The sophomore season of Barry is excellent. It’s one of those shows that maintains its quality episode by episode. The show decided to focus each episode on different characters and to expand Sarah Goldberg’s role. And, let’s not forget this show pulled off six acting Emmy nominations. This season, the show’s comedic elements were subdued, and the comedy style became darker. The biggest surprise of the season is that Bill Hader got to direct his own episodes and did an incredible job at it.
Stand out episode: ronny/lily
4. Watchmen (HBO)
Even for those with limited understanding of the source material, the HBO show manages to be endlessly compelling. While you might not follow every step of the way, the show keeps a clear compass of the important story elements and holds your hand through the most difficult ones. Only a veteran television creator like Damon Lindelof could pull this off. Lindelof based the show’s on the source comic book but applied the core ideas to societal issues that resonate with a broader audience. The show is dark, bold and fascinating.
3. Unbelievable (Netflix)
Sexual assault stories are incredibly difficult to tell. But, the creators succeeded in creating a compelling recount of a series of rapes in Washington and Colorado that is empathetic to its characters and true to its story. The miniseries is based on a news article called An Unbelievable Story of Rape. Its cast is lead by Toni Collette, Merritt Wever, and Kaitlyn Dever, and I have never seen a true-crime story like it.
2. Fleabag (Amazon Prime)
Phoebe Waller Bridge’s show became an internet phenomenon when season 2 aired. With meme-worthy scandalous moments and a deep exploration of important themes, Fleabag shows us the world of a woman fighting to stay sane, sober and happy. Featuring Olivia Coleman, Andrew Scott, and Sian Clifford as part of an outstanding supporting cast, Fleabag delivers stunningly hilarious episodes that are cathartic just in the way the current times need television to be.
1. Succession (HBO)
Succession has a big cast and an ambitious premise. Just like The Americans (a show I miss dearly), it is a show that is very relevant to times when wealth inequality and family politics are at the forefront of the news. The show follows a dysfunctional and super-rich family who own a media conglomerate. The show’s incredible writing, pitch-perfect execution, and high-level of realism prove fascinating a time when income inequality continues to increase every day. Succession’s high stakes and complex family dynamics are the perfect recipe for binge-worthy Peak TV.