The Top TV Shows of 2019

This is a love story. 

Television, there’s too much of you. Stop. But also, don’t. 

I didn’t do individual writeups of each show on this list, as I did with my 2018 list, in part because this was a looong year and I still have a lot of things to get done before 2019 calls it a day. OK, fine, that’s partly a dodge. I am pretty busy, but even if I wasn’t, the truth is, penning 40 41* individual writeups is challenging. Fun fact: Writing short is often harder than writing long. It’s true. 

You may assume that every show on this list will bring you joy for a distinct and delightful array of reasons. Watch them all. 

A few bits of houskeeping: One reason I’ve posted this list is to draw your attention to something completely unrelated (I guess this is my version of a pop-up ad?).  Feel free to skip ahead to the list(s) if that’s the only #content you desire.

The documentary This Changes Everything (which is already available to rent/buy on various platforms) arrives on Starz on Dec. 16. I would love it if you watched it, and not just because I’m in it (stone-cold humblebrag, Mo! Wow! This is the real brag: Someone said that I sort of serve as the Neville Longbottom of the film and I have never felt more profoundly complimented. I recently re-read the entire Harry Potter book cycle, and Neville and Luna Lovegood are kind of the best. Also, the fact that Hermione ends up with Ron is one of the great literary catastrophes of our age, but that’s not the topic at hand right now.) 

This Changes Everything systematically (and entertainingly and thoughtfully, in my opinion) takes on the issues of institutional and informal exclusion, bias and sexism in Hollywood. It contains a lot of useful facts and figures but also a bracing array of interviews with top actresses and directors. And yes, I’d say all these positive things even if the film wasn’t the reason I became best friends with Yara Shahidi and Meryl Streep. (This is a lie. We are not friends. Let me dream.) Here are some critics’ takes on TCE in case you want to read up on it before deciding whether to check it out. 

Back to the list! Yearly whine: These are not all the shows I watched. I viewed part or all of many more programs. These are the ones I deemed worthy of being on this long (and yet difficult to pare down) list.

If I wrote about a show this year, I’ve linked to that piece within the list. And if you want to know where to stream any of the shows below (that information can be confusing and non-intuitive), or you just want to know where to find obscure gems like Rubicon and Slings & Arrows), I find Just Watch quite helpful on that topic.

Here are the house rules on why some shows are not on the list:

  • I didn’t have time to get to it.
  • I sampled it and didn’t like it as much as you did.
  • I tried it and strongly disliked it. What were they thinking?
  • I’m a cruel hellbeast determined to bring pain and suffering to the world. (This is probably the reason.)

The Best

As you already know, Fleabag was the best TV program of 2019. Kneel

My 2019 Top 10 (in alphabetical order)

Better Things, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Fleabag, The Good Fight, The Good Place, Lucifer, One Day at a Time, Schitt’s Creek, Succession, Watchmen.

The Top 41* Television Programs of 2019 (in alphabetical order)

*Update on Dec. 31, 2019: When first published, this roster had 40 shows, but I’ve now added The Expanse, which released its fourth season 10 days after this list came out. Around the middle of the show’s second season, I fell behind on The Expanse, in large part due to Peak TV glut and various other time-devouring commitments. Fortunately I’ve had time lately to get caught up, and we finished Season 4 on Dec. 31, 2019. It’s a late-breaking and deserving addition to the list!

Barry (HBO)

Better Things (FX) 

Big Mouth (Netflix) 

A Black Lady Sketch Show (HBO)

Blood & Treasure (CBS)

BoJack Horseman (Netflix) 

Brooklyn Nine-Nine (NBC)

Catastrophe (Amazon)

Chernobyl (HBO) 

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (CW)

The Crown (Netflix)

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (Netflix)

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (CW)

Deadwood: The Movie (HBO)

Derry Girls (Netflix)

Emergence (ABC)

The Expanse (Amazon)

Fleabag (Amazon)

Fosse/Verdon (FX)

Gentleman Jack (HBO)

The Good Place (NBC)

The Good Fight (CBS All Access) 

I Think You Should Leave (Netflix)

Into the Badlands (AMC)

Jane the Virgin (CW)

Killjoys (Syfy)

Lucifer (Netflix)

Mrs. Fletcher (HBO)

One Day at a Time (Netflix/Pop TV)

Pennyworth (Epix)

Pose (FX)

Russian Doll (Netflix) 

Schitt’s Creek (Pop TV) 

Stranger Things (Netflix)

Stumptown (ABC)

Succession (HBO)

Superstore (NBC)

Warrior (Cinemax)

Watchmen (HBO)

When They See Us (Netflix)

You’re the Worst (FX) 

Shout-out to shows that had good, very good or great wrap-ups or series finales this year. Among them: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Jane the Virgin, You’re the Worst, Into the Badlands, Killjoys, Catastrophe, Fleabag and Deadwood. I miss them all, but they went out on supremely entertaining and emotionally satisfying high notes. And by the way, it is an utterly fantastic troll that the Deadwood movie, which was released by a network owned by AT&T, is in part about the deeply unwelcome arrival of a telephone company. 

Not done yet: I re-watched the following shows this year. They remain great. 

  • Deadwood (didn’t write about it! Still fucking incredible!)

Those links probably whetted your appetite for more of my writing, which you can find here.  One mo’ thing: Here’s my list of the 100* best TV shows of the past decade. (Well, 101 now that I added The Expanse to that list too!)

Finally, science tells us that even-numbered years are better than odd-numbered years. I can’t wait to see what we all get up to in 2020. Sincerely wishing you all good things.