From “Chernobyl” to “Fleabag” and “Leaving Neverland,” these are the best 10 TV series that 2019 has been able to produce, so far.
We’re only halfway through 2019, but there’s already enough TV to fill your time for the rest of the year.
So far we’ve had dueling Fyre Festival documentaries (“Fyre” and “Fyre Fraud”), a live musical that wasn’t so live (“Rent Live”), celebrities singing in poodle outfits (“The Masked Singer”) and, of course, a farewell to a certain fantasy world (“Game of Thrones”). And that’s all before “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Big Little Lies” returned this month.
And with Emmy nominations swiftly approaching, members of the Television Academy are currently sorting through all the TV that debuted between June 1, 2018, and May 31, 2019, to decide who deserves to win at this year’s ceremony (Fox, Sunday, Sept. 22).
Before 2019 gets too far away from us, we’re ranking the best TV of the year so far, including a mix of documentaries, comedies and more than one based-on-a-true-story tragedy.
Sharon Salaam (Aunjanue Ellis, left), and son Yusef Salaam (Ethan Herisse), one of the five young men collectively known as the Central Park Five in Netflix’s “When They See Us.” (Photo: Atsushi Nishijima/Netflix)
10. ‘When They See Us’ (Netflix)
Director Ava DuVernay turns her camera to the so-called Central Park Five in this miniseries, an unflinching look at the experience of the five black and Latino teens who were wrongfully convicted of the 1989 rape of a jogger in Central Park. DuVernay’s blunt style, coupled with performances from the exceptional young actors playing Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Korey Wise, Yusef Salaam, and Raymond Santana, makes “Us” hard to watch but impossible to miss.
Delroy Lindo as Adrian Boseman and Christine Baranski as Diane Lockhart on “The Good Fight.” (Photo: Patrick Harbron/CBS)
9. ‘The Good Fight’ (CBS All Access)
Three seasons in, “The Good Wife” spinoff remains one of the only TV series that properly articulates our current era of anxiety, and not just because it continues to rip its stories directly from the headlines. The new season is an even wilder ride than the two that came before it, adding Michael Sheen as an unhinged Roy Cohn-type lawyer and sparing no one from its satire – not even former CBS head Les Moonves, who was ousted last fall after sexual harassment allegations. CBS is giving the first season of its criminally underrated streaming drama a broadcast run this summer to raise its profile, but honestly, it’s worth subscribing to All Access if “Fight” is the only thing you watch.
Annie (Aidy Bryant) on “Shrill.” (Photo: Allyson Riggs/Hulu)
8. ‘Shrill’ (Hulu)
The biggest problem with Aidy Bryant’s sitcom is that there isn’t enough of it. The first season of the series, based on the memoir by fat acceptance activist Lindy West, is a treasure, full of promise and potential wedged into the six episodes Bryant had time to film between “Saturday Night Live” seasons. The series, in addition to being a radically honest portrayal of what it’s like to be a fat woman, is a charmingly funny relationship and workplace drama that turns Bryant into a star. Away from the wigs and Trump jokes of “SNL,” the actress is able to shine as a leading woman and offer a side of her comedy that is far subtler and more emotional than we’re used to seeing.
America Ferrera as Amy, Ben Feldman as Jonah on “Superstore.” (Photo: Trae Patton/NBC)
7. ‘Superstore’ (NBC)
NBC’s “Superstore” is the rare sitcom to get better with age, and its fourth season found a brilliant story to tell, with Amy (America Ferrara) promoted to manager just as her friends and former coworkers begin to discuss unionizing. With a deep bench of comedic talent, the series could go on for years to come.
Sandra Oh as Eve Polastri and Jodie Comer as Villanelle on “Killing Eve.” (Photo: Robert Viglasky/BBCAmerica)
6. ‘Killing Eve’ (BBC America)
The first season of the BBC America drama was a surprise hit for the network, a critical darling and the beginning of a well-deserved career resurgence for Sandra Oh. The new season “Eve” proves it wasn’t a fluke the first time around and finds a way to expand its story beyond a simple tale of MI-6 cat (Oh) and assassin mouse (Jodie Comer).
Kayvan Novak as Nandor and Harvey Guillen as Guillermo on “What We Do in the Shadows.” (Photo: John P Johnson/FX)
5. ‘What We Do in the Shadows’ (FX)
The brilliance of “Shadows” isn’t a surprise for fans of the cult 2014 mockumentary about feckless vampires in New Zealand upon which it’s based. The story is seamlessly translated into half-hour episodes by original directors Jemaine Clement (“Flight of the Conchords) and Taika Waititi (“Thor: Ragnarok”), who invent new but equally bumbling vampires to cause chaos in Staten Island, New York. It’s only June but ‘Shadows’ is likely to be the funniest show of the year.
Valery Legasov (Jared Harris) gets to the core of the Chernobyl disaster. (Photo: Liam Daniel/HBO)
4. ‘Chernobyl’ (HBO)
HBO’s account of the 1980s nuclear disaster in the Soviet Union could have been a rote historical drama, a simple re-telling of a tragedy that has become a buzzword. But “Chernobyl” does so much more than give a dry history lesson. Horrifying and fascinating in equal parts, the series is a searing indictment of the lies, corruption and incompetence that led to the tragedy. Its direction and writing manage to make courtroom sessions and government meetings as gripping as time spent in radioactive zones.
Jen (Christina Applegate, left) and Judy (Linda Cardellini) become unlikely pals after meeting at a grief support group in Netflix’s “Dead to Me.” (Photo: Eddy Chen / Netflix)
3. ‘Dead to Me’ (Netflix)
With a duo of outstanding actresses (Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini), an electric script and twists that managed to shock in a jaded era, “Dead to Me” is one of the best new series of the year, and one of Netflix’s best ever. Applegate, in particular, shines in the tragicomedy about two women who meet in a grief support group and become irrevocably tangled in each other’s lives. “Dead” was recently renewed for a second season, and it certainly needs one after that cliffhanger Season 1 finale.
Michael Jackson and Wade Robson in a photo featured in “Leaving Neverland.” (Photo: HBO)
2. ‘Leaving Neverland’ (HBO)
This year has been filled with documentaries that give voices to victims of alleged abuse, from “Lorena” to “Surviving R. Kelly.” But even in this context “Neverland” stands out for its sensitive and harrowing portrayal of trauma in telling the story of two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who have accused the late pop icon Michael Jackson of sexually abusing them when they were boys. Restrained but unflinching, it is the kind of documentary that lingers with you long after its credits roll.
In “Fleabag,” many characters don’t get real names, and are identified by their role. Here Fleabag (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) talks to the Priest (Andrew Scott). (Photo: STEVE SCHOFIELD/AMAZON)
1. ‘Fleabag’ (Amazon)
The second season of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s “Fleabag” is a monumental achievement, the closest thing to perfection television has gotten in years. In just six episodes, Waller-Bridge, who wrote and stars in the series, brings comedy, romance and blistering tragedy to life, somehow managing to best her brilliant 2016 first season. The new episodes find Waller-Bridge’s nameless protagonist falling for a Catholic priest while questioning her own self-worth and ability to love in the process. The actress and writer has said that this is the end of “Fleabag,” and although the final episode concludes the story gorgeously, it’s hard to accept that there isn’t any more of this wonderful series to anticipate.
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