If you’re anything like me, 2019 was a really overwhelming year of TV. With everyone and their grandma churning out new content, it became impossible to keep track of everything. In fact, some really great shows narrowly missed this year’s top 10. We had terrific new miniseries (The Widow and The Hot Zone) excellent debuts (Euphoria, Servant, and The Boys) and stellar (third) seasons from Stranger Things, Santa Clarita Diet and Money Heist.
Weirdly enough, a lot of shows from last year’s top 10 dropped out due to a huge dip in quality. The Rain, Killing Eve, Big Little Lies and The Handmaid’s Tale all produced less-than-stellar seasons as other more superior shows stole their spots on the list. Be sure to check out my top picks for 2016, 2017, and 2018.
And hey, if your favorites aren’t featured, let me know what your list looks like in the comments below.
10 – The Affair (Season 5)
Part of me didn’t want to include The Affair on this list. The Joanie subplot was so ill-advised and tedious that it almost singlehandedly sunk the entire show. Nevertheless, the rest of the season (particularly everything with Maura Tierney’s Helen) was spectacular, culminating in one of the finest series finales ever made. And we all know how hard it is to pull off a great finale (I’m looking at you Game of Thrones). The cherry on top? The current behind-the-scenes drama between actress Ruth Wilson and showrunner Sarah Treem parallels the show’s dual perspectives. How perfect is that? Read my episode reviews of The Affair here.
9 – Dead to Me (Season 1)
I wouldn’t be surprised if you told me you’ve forgotten about this quiet little sleeper hit after all the high-profile dramas of the past year. However, Dead to Me was truly something special. Headlined by Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini, this dark comedy explored grief in raw and surprisingly nuanced ways. It also managed to land a slew of bombshell cliffhangers that I often never saw coming. I genuinely can’t wait to see how season 2 will push the show further. Read my review of season 1 here.
8 – Fleabag (Season 2)
Yes, Fleabag is basically number one on everybody’s top 10 list this year, and I can see why. This is a brilliant and creative show with impeccable writing and heartfelt performances. Even better is the fact that the story is complete after two seasons, which means the show gets to preserve its legacy in a landscape that’s always hungry for more (even at the expense of quality). Read my review of season 2 here.
7 – The Morning Show (Season 1)
It might not have gotten the acclaim it deserved, but Apple TV’s flagship series The Morning Show is a captivating series that skillfully tackles the complexities of the #MeToo era. Both Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston are tremendous here (the latter in particular gets a powerful character arc from beginning to end) and they are backed by an excellent supporting cast. The show gains momentum with every episode leading to a knockout of a season finale that sets the stage for an explosive season two. Amazing!
6 – The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Season 3)
Three years in and Maisel is still as whacky as ever. There might have been a few too many musical numbers this year, but otherwise, this show is still wildly innovative thanks to its top-notch production values and charming characters. Midge’s story is far from ever, and the added focus on her parents only ensures our emotional investment in this increasingly colorful world. Never end show, please never end.
5 – Succession (Season 2)
One of my favorite discoveries, I bingewatched my way through both seasons of Succession the past few months and was surprised to find a highly addictive show hidden beneath its icy shell. Yes none of the characters are likebale (in fact, they’re all downright despicable), but this is a tantalizing story of power, greed, and family. Watching cutthroat characters continue to take each other down in ruthless ways has never been so entertaining. Welcome to your modern-day Game of Thrones.
4 – The Good Fight (Season 3)
The best show nobody is watching, The Good Fight continued to soar to new heights this year. Actually, it was as brilliant as it was in season two, thanks to bold narrative devices and insane stylistic choices (cartoon singalongs anyone?). I might not have loved Michael Scheen’s guest arc, but the show wisely ended Maia’s journey so we could actually focus on the characters that mattered. If you were a fan of The Good Wife or just love well-written legal dramas, this is one show you don’t want to miss. Read my episode reviews of The Good Fight here.
3 – Chernobyl (Miniseries)
Chernobyl is not light viewing. HBO’s historical drama is a thought-provoking and gripping take of the infamous disaster. This is a show that hits the ground running right from the first frame, and grabs hold of you through its exploration of the catastrophe’s impact. It might be bleak and depressing, but it’s also a must-watch you won’t soon forget. Read my review of the miniseries here.
2 – Unbelievable (Miniseries)
Gut-wrenching and disturbing, Unbelievable‘s depiction of rape is relentless. It’s a terrifying miniseries about a teenager who is charged with lying about being raped. That makes for an unsettling watch, successfully portraying the way in which victims of sexual assault are treated. It’s a harsh reality that should not be missed, and it’s amplified by heartbreaking performances at every turn. Chilling stuff.
1 – When They See Us (Miniseries)
When They See Us is probably the single most depressing show I’ve ever watched, but it’s also one of the finest things I’ve ever watched. The story of The Central Park Five – five innocent boys who were wrongly imprisoned for over a decade for the rape of a jogger in Central Park, When They See Us is a harrowing exploration of racism, injustice, and the power of the human spirit. The miniseries is only four episodes long, but it feels infinitely longer thanks to the terrifying ordeal these poor men faced. Creator Ava DuVernay deserves a whole lot of acclaim for what she managed to achieve here; she thoughtfully brings the story to life through meticulous storytelling and mindblowing performances. If you’re watching only one great show this year, let it be this one. Read my review of the miniseries here.