Top 10 TV series of 2019
It was hard to pick our top ten series in a year of such fantastic TV, but we had a go anyway.
Fleabag season 2
Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag is somehow even better in its second season as a pitch-perfect, razor sharp comedy that’s both absolutely hilarious and poignantly sad. Although in the first, agonizingly brilliant family dinner episode she proclaims she’s better, she’s still as messy and broken as ever.
A particular focus of this season is Hot Priest (Andrew Scott) who’s officiating the wedding between her Dad and Godmother (a fantastically awful Olivia Colman). Sharing electric chemistry, they form one of the most intriguing and heartbreaking TV relationships of 2019.
Watchmen season 1
A kind of “remixed” sequel to Alan Moore’s classic comic book, creator and huge fan Damon Lindelof has crafted an electric, intelligent story that’s able to dissect complex issues like race in a brilliantly unique way without shying away from the violent reality of the situation.
New masked vigilantes like cop Sister Night (a fantastic Regina King) are joined by aging, eccentric billionaire Ozymandias/Adrian Veidt (a perfectly cast Jeremy Irons) and other original characters who all seem true to the spirit of the comic book.
For a time number one on IMDB’s user-rated list of the top 250 TV series ever, HBO’s dramatization of the 1986 disaster is a horribly tragic masterpiece boasting hauntingly beautiful cinematography and an overwhelming sense of creeping dread like a clever psychological horror film.
We follow both the Soviet authorities’s attempts to cover up the incident and a team of scientists, led by Valery Legasov (Jared Harris), who’re determined to bring them to justice. This is all interspersed with devastating scenes which show the effect their lies had on the residents of nearby Pripyat.
Game of Thrones season 8
Whether the series finale of Game of Thrones left you feeling disappointed and confused, completely satisfied or angry enough to join the millions who signed the “remake Game of Thrones with competent writers” petition, it was undeniably the TV event of the year.
The story might have felt rushed, but the two big battle scenes at Winterfell and in King’s Landing were breathtaking, amazingly epic and in the case of the former, one of the series best ever episodes. Performances too were excellent particularly Maisie Williams, Emilia Clarke and Peter Dinklage.
Top Boy season 3
Drake is such a huge fan of Top Boy that he helped revive it for another two seasons on Netflix. Thankfully, the gritty, intense crime-drama has benefitted from the streamer’s involvement with an increased episode count and beautifully bleak cinematography.
Set six years after the original series ended, an older Dushane (Ashley Walters) and Sully (rapper Kano giving a fantastically powerful performance) reunite and begin the brutally violent war to take back their drug empire from ruthless gangster Jamie (Michael Ward).
Russian Doll season 1
Nastasha Lyonne is phenomenal in this wonderfully weird, funny, and surprisingly powerful time travel comedy which sees her cynical video game developer Nadia die over and over again only to be transported back to her 36th birthday party.
Beyond its brilliantly surreal, screwball humour and killer soundtrack (Harry Nilsson’s 1971 hit Gotta Get Up will be stuck in your head for days), Nadia’s attempts to escape her time loop slowly reveals a smart, moving story about drug addiction and mental illness.
Euphoria season 1
Former Disney star Zendaya is superb as bipolar teenager Rue in this incredibly bleak and nihilistic teen drama which is painfully raw and refreshingly honest in its depiction of issues like love, sex, toxic masculinity, addiction and relationships.
Newcomer Hunter Schafer also shines as Rue’s transgender best-friend Jules while the cinematography and soundtrack, composed by London-based singer Labrinth, are dreamy and dazzling really helping to reinforce those magical but darkly intense teenage feelings.
Succession season 2
Part boardroom thriller, part dark comedy, part family tragedy, Jesse Armstrong’s fantastic Succession is just as smart, hilarious and touching in its second season which properly cements its status as one of HBO’s best new shows.
There’s an enjoyable sense of schadenfreude that’s tinged with pity in watching the filthy rich Roy siblings plotting to destroy their father Logan (a monstrously brilliant Brian Cox) and each other when it’s painfully clear how much emotional damage he’s inflicted.
Killing Eve season 2
Some critics have said it fell a little short of last year’s brilliant first season, but there’s still a lot to enjoy in the second outing of this quirky spy thriller which saw The Crown’s Emerald Fennell take over as joint writer and showrunner.
The plot might feel a little all over the place, especially toward the end, but even with Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s absence the script is still really funny and subversive giving us one of the best TV villains ever in assassin Villanelle who’s played to absolute perfection by Jodie Comer.
When They See Us
Ava DuVernay’s incredibly harrowing four-part drama follows the 1989 case of the Central Park Five, a group of young black and latino teenagers who were wrongfully convicted of assaulting a white female jogger after being violently coerced into signing false confessions.
It’s absolutely infuriating as we see their horrific treatment by police, beaten and held for hours without any parents or lawyers present, and DuVernary explores in devastating detail just how skewed the US justice system is on race.