There were dozens of new and recurring shows that took over our TV screens during 2019, and most of them weren’t even on a major cable network. With the myriad of streaming platforms available TV fans were left with so many options ranging from sitcoms, dramas, horror, and more. It was probably impossible for anyone to watch every show that came out this year, but we made sure to include ones that really stood out. These are the top TV shows of 2019.
Russian Doll Was On Everyone’s Watch List
Having a plot where the main character lives the same day over and over may seem redundant and over-done. Russian Doll takes that as a simple guide and transforms into a show that can’t simply fit into one genre. Natasha Lyonne stars as a cynical New York woman that strives to figure out why her life keeps ending and restarting.
There’s comedy, drama, mystery, horror, thriller, and much more. It works well because the protagonist is almost unlikable, but after the audience learns of her backstory they want to know how she will break away from her greatest demons.
Fleabag Is The Dark Comedy We Deserve
Fleabag returned with its second and most likely final season. While the first season primarily focused on the protagonist’s backstory, the newest season had viewers watching the characters interact in real-time. Phoebe Waller-Bridge did all she could to perfect every detail from the writing, acting, and overall darkly comedic and honest tone.
The addition of a new character nicknamed “Hot Priest” played by Andrew Scott was great to watch due to his charm and the roller coaster of a relationship he starts with Waller-Bridge. Many fans have stated that they can really relate to the series because it shows all the true flaws in life and love.
Unbelievable Uncovers A Path To Truth And Justice
Tackling a genre as oversaturated as true-crime can be tricky, but Unbelievable did something that isn’t usually shown on screen. The Netflix original series is based on a true story of women who went through some of the worst trauma in history and two female detectives who set out to catch the person responsible.
Their stories were told honestly and respectfully through the phenomenal acting of Toni Collette, Merritt Wever, Kaitlyn Dever, and more. Audiences were able to see how much the detectives cared about helping the women who were traumatized and that things that happened in the show occur in real life all the time.
The Good Place Is Preparing To Say Goodbye
The Good Place is set to air its series finale in the early part of 2020, which will wrap up the entire show. Millions have stuck around to see the four friends played by Kristen Bell, William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil, and Manny Jacinto figure out the meaning of being good in both life and the afterlife.
It’s easy to tell that the cast has undeniable chemistry and are experts on characterization. Critics agree that The Good Place’s storylines are a look into humanity and philosophy that aren’t typically shown in sitcoms. It’ll be bittersweet to see the show go off the air.
What We Do In The Shadows Combines Vampires With Comedy
What We Do in the Shadows was adapted from the 2014 movie of the same name and turned into an oddball satirical comedy show about vampires. It has a similar format to The Office or Parks and Recreation because of its mockumentary style where it follows a group of vampires who have lived together in Staten Island for the last century.
Many of the episodes also feature some famous guest stars including Vanessa Bayer, Nick Kroll, Tilda Swinton, and Evan Rachel Wood. There aren’t too many shows that combine supernatural elements and comedy and What We Do in the Shadows does a good job of making it both believable and hilarious.
Barry Has Actors With A Wow-Factor
The majority of Bill Hader’s fans know him from his goofy characters on Saturday Night Live, but his titular role on Barry has established him as a serious actor. He isn’t just the protagonist, but also created the show and wrote and directed many of the episodes.
The second season aired in 2019 and it may be better than the first. Every actor gave such raw and complex performances, strong monologues, and deliveries with deep emotional depth. Some of the standouts besides Hader are Sarah Goldberg as Sally Reed, Henry Winkler as Gene Cousineau, and Anthony Carrigan as NoHo Hank.
PEN15 Brings Back Those Awkward Middle School Years
The coming-of-age story is something seen in numerous shows in the past such as Freaks and Geeks or Boy Meets World, but PEN15 tackles growing up in a whole new way. Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle (pictured) are women well into adulthood but play their middle school selves opposite a bunch of real-life kids.
The show takes place in the early 2000s, so there’s plenty of nostalgia for all the millennials who were growing up during this time. The premise may seem a bit unorthodox, but both Erskine and Konkle are very believable as teenagers right down to their costumes, mannerisms, and dialogue.
Euphoria Doesn’t Sugarcoat Being A Teenager
Euphoria had some of the best writing of the year due to its realistic and graphic plots. While a show labeled as graphic tends to have a negative connotation, Euphoria is something worth watching. It doesn’t just skip around to the happiest moments in life, but instead shows the perils of teenagers growing up in the modern world.
The young actors in the cast such as Zendaya, Hunter Schafer, Barbie Ferreira, and Sydney Sweeney had to take on such difficult storylines but were able to make their characters three dimensional. It may not be pretty to watch a lot of the time, but it gets viewers thinking about what’s really going on with today’s youth.
There’s Some Serious Spoofing On Documentary Now!
Aside from scripted programming, viewers will spend time watching documentaries on subjects ranging from pop culture, true crime, business, and more. IFC’s Documentary Now! is a TV show that satirizes popular documentaries while including famous guest stars such as Owen Wilson, John Mulaney, and Michael Keaton.
It was created by a team of comedians including Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Seth Myers, and Tim Robinson. The series works best if audiences have seen the documentaries they are spoofing to catch the humor, but otherwise the comedy flows seamlessly throughout each episode in part to the acting, writing, and directing.
Superstore Isn’t A Stereotypical Sitcom
Superstore continues to bring the laughs well into its fifth season on NBC. The beginning of the current season picks up where the previous season left off with one of the characters finding out his fate after being detained for being an illegal immigrant. Even though this is an NBC sitcom they were able to talk about a national issue in a respectful way.
The actors all have great chemistry and the show works because the ensemble all bring something different to every episode. It has drama, wit, and little comedic gags mixed within the storylines. They are able to take something as mundane as working at a store and turn it into one of the most watched comedies on prime time television.
Broad City Came To An End In 2019
Many fans were left feeling a bit heartbroken after Broad City aired its final episode in March of 2019. The five seasons focused on two young women named Abbi and Ilana (pictured) living in the heart of New York City. It managed to be laugh-out-loud funny while discussing some of America’s biggest concerns.
Each episode was a different adventure for the two close friends in the city and included some original and zany supporting characters as well. The final season centered around what Abbi and Ilana were going to do in their lives as they transition into real adulthood and proved that even though change is difficult it is a normal life process.
Killing Eve Would Be Nothing Without Jodie Comer And Sandra Oh
There’s a lot that goes into making a TV show entertaining. Killing Eve drew viewers in the instant it premiered and came back with a second season that gripped audiences even deeper. Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer were perfectly cast. Oh is dramatic, strong, and vulnerable, while Comer plays a psychopathic villain that’s both scary and eye-catching.
Even though the plot isn’t always believable the dynamic between Oh and Comer when they’re doing their cat-mouse chase gives Killing Eve a fresh and different feel than most thrillers. The epic cliffhanger at the end of the second season will be a perfect pick up point for the upcoming third season.
Shrill’s Atypical Cast Is A Breath Of Fresh Air
Aidy Bryant fans mainly know her from Saturday Night Live, but 2019 was the year she proved she could do more than sketch comedy. She created and starred on a Hulu original show called Shrill that centers around her desire to change her life without changing her body.
This was one of the stand-out shows of 2019 because audiences don’t normally see lead characters that look like Bryant and what it’s like to live in a world where image is everything. It’s poignant, emotional, funny, and clever and has viewers rooting for the protagonist the whole way through.
Looking For Alaska Doesn’t Stray Too Far From The Novel
Author John Green got the opportunity to have almost all of his novels made into movies or TV shows. Even though Looking for Alaska was written in 2005 it worked very well for the small screen in 2019.
Many fans of the book were worried that the show wouldn’t be accurate, but the series was able to capture the overall tone and make the characters come alive. Looking for Alaska explores friendship, mental health, and more with the panoramic backdrop of the Midwestern woods.
All Lingering Questions Were Answered In The End Of The Fxxxing World
After a major cliffhanger at the end of season one, The End of the Fxxxing World needed to get another season out to assure fans about the fate of its main characters. The second season servers as more of an epilogue and picks up with Alyssa (Jessica Barden) and James (Alex Lawther) dealing with the demons of their past, but finally being able to reconnect after the passage of several years.
The addition of Bonnie (Naomi Ackie) as a psychopath who set out to get revenge on Alyssa and James brought some explicitness and a darker tone, especially with the scenes that revert to her backstory.
Stranger Things Broke A Major Record This Year
When the third season of Stranger Things premiered on July 4, 2019 it quickly became the most streamed show of the year with 26.4 million U.S. viewers from just that weekend. The cast had grown up a lot more since its last season and the show added some new characters that instantly became fan favorites.
People of all ages tuned in to watch the current season for reasons such as the 1980’s references, intense special effects, clever writing, and original plotlines. It’s a show that could never fit into a single genre because it’s a thriller, comedy, drama, coming-of-age, horror, and more.
The Act Was Disturbing And Brilliant
The Act didn’t shy away from the disturbing reality of Gypsy Rose Blanchard’s life (Joey King) with her mother Dee Dee (Patricia Arquette). This true-crime mini-series had some of the greatest actors of the year because they were able to realistically play roles where audiences almost couldn’t tell the difference the real people and the actors.
Everything right down to their costumes, the way they talked, and the set made The Act as realistic as possible. Its eight episodes also do a fantastic job of detailing what brought each character to do the questionable things they did.
Big Little Lies Unites Hollywood’s Top Leading Ladies
Big Little Lies had only planned to do one season, but after the high ratings they came back with another in 2019. It stars Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, Zoë Kravitz, and Shailene Woodley as mothers in Monterey, California who are all keeping an enormous secret about the whereabouts of Kidman’s husband.
One of Hollywood’s best, Meryl Streep, joined the ladies playing Kidman’s mother-in-law. Even though Streep played such a dislikable character it ended up being one of her most iconic performances of the year. The show is praised for its perfect casting, smart writing, and ability to stay true to the book it’s based on.
What To Expect From His Dark Materials
His Dark Materials has been compared to Harry Potter and Game of Thrones due to its larger than life CGI effects and elaborate scenery. It’s based on a series of fantasy books about children who travel through a parallel universe to solve some of the universe’s biggest mysteries.
Viewers may recognize some well-known actors such as Lin-Manuel Miranda and James McAvoy, but most of the cast is relatively unknown. His Dark Materials brings a unique world to the small screen that’s worth exploring and filled with danger at every corner.
Modern Love Will Pull On Your Heartstrings
Modern Love sets itself apart from other TV shows because each episode has completely different actors in stories revolved around love and relationships, but by the end, they all seem to intersect. Each of them are based on articles that were written for the New York Times and feature many popular celebrities including Anne Hathaway, Tina Fey, and Catherine Keener.
It had a feel-good theme the whole way through because it can make viewers laugh, cry, and actually see themselves in these realistic situations. It was able to get audiences emotionally invested in what was going on in such a short amount of time, which is mainly due to the casting, writing, and soundtrack.