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Best TV shows of 2019: Fleabag, Chernobyl, On My Block and more

Best TV shows of 2019: Fleabag, Chernobyl, On My Block and more

With every year that passes, it becomes more and more clear that the media landscape we first referred to as ‘The Golden Age Of TV’ is now just… TV. With the recent arrival of Apple TV+, the already absurd number of channels and streaming services is getting ever more absurd. You could give up your day job, give up sleeping, eating and going to the bathroom, and still not get a fraction of the way through all the excellent television that was released this year.

So let us help you. Listed below are the TV shows we loved most in 2019 – if you’re looking for your next favourite TV programme, you’ve come to the right place…


Succession is the story of a grossly wealthy NYC family – who range from unlikeable to downright evil – battling to decide who will succeed patriarch Logan Roy (Brian Cox) and become the next CEO of their media empire. Somehow, through a combination of sensational performances and incredibly smart writing, you actually care about these awful, awful people. Season 2 of Succession was riveting stuff, and the cliffhanger at the end of the finale means that season 3 can’t come soon enough. – Chloe Walker

Good Omens

David Tennant and Michael Sheen were the heavenly team-up I didn’t know I needed in my life until watching them in Good Omens earlier this year. The adaptation of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s 1990 novel follows the rocker demon Crowley (Tennant) and charming angel Aziraphale (Sheen) as they join forces to prevent the Antichrist bringing about Armageddon. It’s the perfect balance of irreverent humour, satirical fun and absurd apocalyptic thrills. Yet it wouldn’t have been half as entertaining without Tennant and Sheen’s almighty chemistry, which is an utter delight to watch. – Natalie Xenos


Euphoria demands your attention immediately, but also earns it, and sustains that throughout all the episodes. There’s a visual language, which includes the colour palate and make-up and costuming, that feels entirely new, but it also feeds that sweet spot for anyone in between Riverdale seasons, as well as anyone missing when teen dramas had the bite of a Skins. Zendaya is the obvious breakout, which feels strange as she’s been on the top of her game for years now, but it’s a depth and sensitivity in her acting yet not seen. All the same, you can expect the rest of the teen stars to be on any and all of your screens post-haste, this is not a cast lacking talent. – Melanie Kress

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power

Every season of She-Ra builds on the last in a meaningful way, without losing sight of the value in enjoying the world that has been created for this iteration of She-Ra. Updating the 80’s cartoon with a more diverse set of Princesses, with varying body types, and making the core characters younger to match the target demographic of tweens and teens, allows this show to feel modern. Where The Dragon Prince, another Netflix animated series, is more Lord of the Rings lore-centric, She-Ra is about character relationships and examining how they are nurtured or damaged by actions and choices. Like Steven Universe, She-Ra has a universal appeal for those of us who enjoy an animated fantasy series with plenty of heart, humour and magic. – Nick Gomez

The Hook Up Plan

The first series of French comedy programme The Hook Up Plan arrived on Netflix at the end of last year, but it was the release of its second season in October of this year that has ensured the series earned itself a place on this list. Equal parts funny, charming and moving, The Hook Up Plan is a romantic comedy series about 20-something Elsa (Zita Hanrot) as she falls in love with Jules (Marc Ruchmann), not knowing that he’s actually a male escort hired by her friends in a bid to help Elsa get over her ex-boyfriend. But while the first season became something of a comedy of errors as Jules, Charlotte (Sabrina Ouazani) and Emilie (Joséphine Draï) struggled over whether to keep Elsa in the dark about her new love interest’s job, a strong second season explored the fall-out of the inevitable reveal, focusing on starting over, rebuilding old friendships and settling into a new relationship. While still packed with plenty of hijinks, good-natured scheming and secret plans, The Hook Up Plan season 2 is undoubtedly a feel-good programme about love, life and friendship – and it’s also set against the romantic backdrop of Paris, which is another point in its favour. – Megan Davies

Schitt’s Creek

It’s taken five years and three Emmy nominations for Schitt’s Creek to finally get the respect it deserves. Following the formerly rich Rose family, as dodgy business dealings leave them with the titular town as their only possession, the Canadian sleeper hit is one of the loveliest sitcoms around. Packed with charmingly offbeat characters and so much heart, it’s always a pleasure to spend twenty minutes in the town the Roses reluctantly call home. – Chloe Walker


Terrifying. Shocking. Brutal. Devastating. Unfathomable. There are many words to describe the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and by extension HBO’s historical miniseries about the tragedy. What’s so commendable about the show is how it doesn’t sensationalise the catastrophe. It doesn’t need to. This is not mindless drama for entertainment’s sake. It feels like witnessing events unfold in real time and the physical distress you feel at watching it – from the initial explosion and panicked evacuation to the subsequent crisis management and long-term impact – is entirely genuine. The cinematography is riveting and poignant in equal measure – never more haunting than in the first episode where residents venture outside to observe the blast, watching in unsuspecting wonder as radioactive ash falls on them like snow. Coupled with an unflinching script and a superb cast, this is powerful, emotional television. – Natalie Xenos


What is there to say about Fleabag, at the end of 2019, that hasn’t been said by everyone, including BAFTA and Emmy voters alike? It’s brilliant, it’s biting. Andrew Scott has revitalised Hot Priest representation like no other actor in their career. What is perhaps more admirable is the restraint from Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and knowing that it was always intended to be the ending. It’s also maybe what makes it so special – it’s rare, in an age of franchises and reboots – to follow a beloved character and narrative to the end. Rarer still for that ending to satisfy as this does. – Melanie Kress

The Bold Type

“These are the women…of The Bold Type”, says our recap voiceover in a way that summarises the guiding force of this show. Centred on three young women, Kat, Sutton and Jane, working for a women’s lifestyle magazine called Scarlet, this series tackles the resonant, hard-hitting and personal issues of today. From being a survivor of sexual assault, to being mixed race and being a carrier of a cancer gene, to dealing with absent parents, an exploration of sexuality and religion – so much is packed into The Bold Type. Plus the ups and downs of relationships, work, good days and bad days. And yet it never feels overstuffed or heavy. The close friendship of the three leads, their drive to support one another while being honest, exemplifies what we can all hope for. The same is mirrored in the company bosses, notably Editor-in-Chief Jacqueline Carlyle who sidesteps dragon-lady tropes for empathic leader. – Nick Gomez

On My Block

I’ve spoken before about why On My Block is worth watching. Since that post, the Netflix teen series has returned better than ever for its second season and there’s a third already in the works too. In its second season, On My Block delivered more of what it does best, following Monse (Sierra Capri), Ruby (Jason Genao), Jamal (Brett Gray) and Cesar (Diego Tinoco) and picking up weeks after one of their friends was killed in a shooting. From there, the series continued to explore any number of social issues, from teen homelessness and post-traumatic stress, to social class and rival gang warfare, just as much as it focused on the group’s changing friendships and growing romantic relationships too. That it manages to balance everyday teenage growing pains with turf wars and successful million-dollar treasure hunts is a testament to the series’ strong writing and grounded characters and, with its second season, On My Block has proven that it knows exactly how to deliver a hard-hitting, compelling and utterly enjoyable series, and one of the best in 2019. – Megan Davies

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which had its final season this year, was a miracle. How is it possible that a network TV show can have such an honest description of mental illness, and exquisite, peerless character development, and a cast of characters you adore, and such a filthily hilarious sense of humour, and two original, funny, catchy songs in every episode? If you haven’t seen it yet, please head over to Netflix and dive right in. You’re welcome. – Chloe Walker

Sex Education

Being a teenager is confusing and difficult enough without your mum being a sex therapist. That’s the uncomfortable situation for Asa Butterfield’s Otis in Netflix’s teen comedy-drama Sex Education, which sees the socially awkward teenager unintentionally follow in his mother’s footsteps by setting up a sex advice business for his fellow classmates. What starts as a standard teen show evolves into an astute and affecting story with genuine heart as we get to know the characters’ backstories and on-going struggles. The series explores sexuality, identity and the expectations of teenagers and their parents with an honesty that’s refreshing and realistic. – Natalie Xenos

Derry Girls

Against the background of a genuine and very recent warzone, Derry Girls is an unlikely, light-hearted and cosy comedic success. The secret ingredient – aside from the writing and the authentic voice of the region – are the characters, who are as kooky and outlandish as they are rooted in the teenage dynamics you will recognise from your own life. It’s also very gratifying to experience a show so lived-in in its environment and that embraces that specificity, rather than seek to be bigger each season, so we can grow to love Derry and its girls more and more each time. As a bonus, if you were sentient enough during this era to remember its pop hits, the soundtrack is also a real treat. – Melanie Kress

Nailed It

Netflix launched Nailed It, what I consider to be a spiritual successor to the original Great British Bake Off. Hear me out. Both are cake baking shows with a lovely host(s), lovely contestants, practical baking tips and a sense that it was all worth it for the fun of taking part. Host Nicole Byer makes this good-natured competition as addictive as it is. She tries to find compliments for the hard-earned, but often far off the mark, cake recreations and you really know something has gone wrong when she has to stifle a cackle with a mouth full of cake. Yes, we don’t often end up with amazing three tier themed cakes, but isn’t it less about the cake and more about the fun we had along the way? – Nick Gomez

The Capture

With most series now entirely available to watch on demand pretty much as soon as they’re released, BBC One’s The Capture served as a reminder that good things come to those who wait – because every episode of the thrilling drama series really was worth waiting for. Starring Strike’s Holliday Grainger and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’s Callum Turner, The Capture followed Shaun Emery, recently acquitted of a war crime in Afghanistan, who has been accused of the kidnap and murder of his barrister Hannah Roberts (Laura Haddock). With damning CCTV evidence against him, fast-tracked Detective Inspector Rachel Carey believes this is a cut and dried case, but Emery insists he’s innocent and the pair soon find themselves in the middle of a complex conspiracy, questioning whether they can believe what they see. Across its six-episode run, The Capture proved to be intense and infinitely gripping, and sparked hundreds of debates among its viewers, making for a TV series you couldn’t tear your eyes away from. – Megan Davies


No episode of television was harder to watch this year than the first of Unbelievable; and knowing it was based on a true story made it all the harder. Following Marie Adler (Kaitlyn Dever) after her rape is initially disbelieved by the police, the show takes painful heed of both the trauma of sexual assault and the trauma of working through a criminal justice system that is not designed to help the victim. Tremendously sensitive but full of anger, it is excellent, vital viewing. – Chloe Walker

Dead To Me

Jen Harding and Judy Hale are two women united in grief in this black comedy drama. Yet this is a show with plenty of surprises up its sleeve and as the friendship between Jen (Christina Applegate) and Judy (Linda Cardellini) blossoms into something of a co-dependence, we soon realise there’s much more to Judy’s story than she’s telling her new pal. Helmed by the formidable and funny duo that is Applegate and Cardellini, Dead to Me is a perfect melding of mystery, comedy and drama. I was laughing one moment and crying the next as I watched Jen and Judy’s mutual heartache. By the end I was desperate for more, which is always the mark of a great series. – Natalie Xenos

The Society

Ever wondered what it would take for teenagers to rebuild society if left to their own devices? That’s The Society. As punishment for their parents actions, bus loads of young people are shipped out of town and transported to a copy of their home, but this one appears to be isolated in a forest with no way of escaping and no-one else around. It’s a pseudo-dystopian style teen drama that manages to progress the genre with more diverse storytelling and twists that circumvent expectations. There are some more brutal elements, content warnings for domestic abuse are needed, but there is so much more than that too. It’s not a super light watch, but it is a good one. – Nick Gomez


Season 1 was great. Season 2 was fantastic. Charting the life of Barry Block (Bill Hader) as he wavers between pursuing his acting dream and falling back into his life as an expert assassin, Barry is an absolute tour-de-force. Boasting excellent performances from both Bill Hader and Henry Winkler (in his best role since Happy Days), a gripping, unpredictable storyline, and perhaps the best episode of any show this year (‘ronny/lilly’), it’s a constant delight that just keeps getting better. – Chloe Walker

Honourable Mentions: The End of the F***ing World, The Victim, Russian Doll, When They See Us, The Boys, The Umbrella Academy, Line of Duty, World On Fire

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