The Best Television of 2019

Whether you savor or binge, stream or stick to cable, there’s more content than ever to tune into in 2019

Dec 20, 2019 at 10:32 am
click to enlarge Kit Harington as Jon Snow (left) and Emilia Clarke and Daenerys Targaryen in "Game of Thrones" - Helen Sloane/HBO
Helen Sloane/HBO
Kit Harington as Jon Snow (left) and Emilia Clarke and Daenerys Targaryen in "Game of Thrones"

In a year with so much new and notable TV, a top-10 list just won’t suffice. So here is a sampling that still doesn’t cover everything from 2019 worth watching. Whether you savor or binge, stream or stick to cable, there’s more content than ever to tune into.

Intertwined with the Internet

Some of the best series of the year enjoyed a second life online, in memes, on discussion boards or via Twitter rants. 

Two words: Baby Yoda. The Disney+ Star Wars series The Mandalorian has much to be buzzed about, from its lineup of directors to its unexpected cameos and an interesting setting five years after the events of Return of the Jedi. But the heart-melting, big eared, glassy-eyed Baby Yoda trumps all, and we can’t escape it.

Satirical one-percenter family dramedy Succession found its stride in season two, easily becoming one of the year’s most unexpectedly entertaining shows. From Greg’s story arc to Kendall’s rap, Twitter had a field day, and seeing all the in-jokes ultimately convinced me to give the series a shot.

And then there was Euphoria, a new series devoted to Gen-Z kids raised on the internet. Who would have expected a high school drama with an ex-Disney star (Zendaya) to be so beautiful, heartbreaking and thought provoking? And I know I’m not the only person who looked up glittery Euphoria-inspired makeup tutorials.

Queen PWB

As the Emmys indicated, 2019 was Phoebe Waller-Bridges’ year. The British multihyphenate racked up awards and adoring fans this past year with the second seasons of sexy-smart spy series Killing Eve (which she created and executive produced after writing Season 1) and pitch-black comedy Fleabag (which she created, wrote, executive produced and starred in). And while the end of Fleabag means no more Hot Priest, PWB isn’t slowing down any time soon. In 2020, we can expect from her a new season of Killing Eve, new HBO comedy-thriller Run (executive producer, actor) and a new James Bond flick, No Time to Die (writer).

New comedies abound

It was quite a year for brand-new comedic offerings with a bevy of breakout stars. Created by former Saturday Night Live head writers, The Other Two followed the mediocre adult siblings of a Bieberesque tween YouTube sensation. PEN15 was a Millennial nostalgia-fest, throwing it back to early 2000s middle school with a sweet story of friendship at the center. Ramy offered a refreshing and humorous look at the life of a modern Muslim in the U.S. And Danny McBride unleashed his third HBO comedy, skewering televangelism in The Righteous Gemstones.

‘True’ crime and real fears

On the flip side, serious miniseries either explicitly or implicitly based on real horrors kept viewers tense and terrified. After a maligned second installment, the third season of True Detective spanned 35 years and captured everything from the satanic panic of the ’80s, the devastation of memory loss and the popularity of true crime. Chernobyl humanized the horrific nuclear disaster while Unbelievable exposed the failures of the U.S. justice system, particularly pertaining to victims of sexual assault.

In memoriam

We bid farewell to a number of popular shows this year — Veep, Mr. Robot, Silicon Valley, Broad City but Game of Thrones is certainly at the top of the list. Love or hate the ending, Thrones changed TV forever and made fantasy fans out of even the most finicky viewers. I don’t think anything on the TV horizon compares in terms of scope or mythology, but that’s OK. We don’t need a “next Game of Thrones” — we just need great ideas to keep flowing and eventually the next collective obsession will rise to the top. Thankfully, with infinite options and two new heavy-hitting platforms — Apple TV+ and Disney+ — we don’t never have to wait for compelling content.

Coming in 2020

Westworld is certainly poised to take the throne as premium cable’s top larger-than-life epic, and next season it will unleash its characters and viewers from the titular park into a whole new world. I’ m also looking forward to the TV adaptation of Snowpiercer (a sci-fi ice-pocalyptic train ride), Jordan Peele’s first series, Hunters (about a band of Nazi-snuffing vigilantes — a popular theme now with the excellent Watchmen series), the latest season of Atlanta and Impeachment: American Crime Story.

Contact Jac Kern: @jackern