The Best TV Shows of 2019 So Far

This year already has a lot to offer. Here’s the best of it.
Best Tv First Quarter
By  · Published on April 2nd, 2019

What We Do in the Shadows

What We Do In The Shadows Show

Only two episodes of What We Do in the Shadows have aired, but it’s already won a firm place in my heart. A reinvention of the 2014 film of the same name, this FX brainchild of Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement is a horror comedy mockumentary following four very sad vampires who room together in Staten Island because that’s where the boat let them off centuries ago and they couldn’t get it together to go any further. While the vampires themselves may be different (Matt Berry, in particular, is a fantastic new treat) the spirit of What We Do in the Shadows is very much the same, interweaving hopeless characters, fantastic comedy, and dark, cobwebby vibes with an ease no one else could pull off. (LB)

A Series of Unfortunate Events

A Series Of Unfortunate Events

Bleak, erudite, satirical, stylish, and stuffed with jokes and allusions, A Series of Unfortunate Events is an experience that rewards investment. The final season of the adventure series, based on Lemony Snicket’s children’s novels, goes deeper and darker than both before it, delivering on its title by revealing the tragedies and cynicism the narrator (Patrick Warburton) warned us about from the start. Still, the three resilient orphans at the heart of the series are worth rooting for. Much like our own young generation of activists and dreamers, they’re stronger, braver, and smarter than the incompetent and corrupt adults in their lives would give them credit for. You’d be remiss to think this story is just for kids or for those who read the books. With biting humor, layered performances, and a gorgeous aesthetic that calls to mind early Tim Burton and Bryan Fuller, there’s something here for everyone. No recent live-action kids’ show has been more ambitious and rewarding. (VE)

Russian Doll

Russian Doll Two

I have a terrible confession to make. A few months ago I left Russian Doll off my Most Anticipated TV list. Then I started watching one evening, and I didn’t go to sleep until I’d finished. Beautifully shot, creatively conceived, and oh so watchable, the Netflix original has surprised me like nothing else this year, and I’m so glad I gave it a chance, even if I was late to the party. Everyone in the show is fantastic, but Natasha Lyonne (star, co-creator, and director of the finale) is a force of nature, embodying the cocky self-destructiveness of someone teetering on the edge because the demons chasing her might be scarier than the drop. There’s time-travel. There’s sex. There are cats. There’s a killer soundtrack. And there’s a deeply satisfying ending you can reach in a single (albeit long) sitting. What’s not to love? (LB)

Sex Education

Sex Education Season

Clever, bawdy, and surprisingly heartfelt, Netflix’s Sex Education is a can’t-miss standout in a sea of original content. The series follows Otis (Asa Butterfield, his performance all hilarious and endearing nervous energy), an inexperienced high schooler who is pushed into the role of his peers’ unofficial sex and relationship counselor after he’s outed as the son of a renowned sex therapist (Gillian Anderson). The British series frequently gets real about the sexual issues impacting teens and adults, but it also centers everything it does in authentic wisdom and vulnerability. From abortion to revenge porn to gay bashing, the series takes on tough topics with gentleness and emotionality that never feels forced. Even though we’ve only known them for a few episodes, Otis, his crush Maeve (Emma Mackey), and his best friend Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) already feel like classic teen characters who will one day have a spot in the pop cultural history books alongside the kids of Freaks and Geeks, My So-Called Life, and any other show that dared to be honest about the terrifying and complicated world of secondary education. (VE)


Bill Hader Barry

Last year I put Barry on this list based on very few aired episodes, and this year I’m prepared to do exactly the same thing. That’s because Barry deserves it. This is a list, accidental or not, of the best comedies that manage to do so much more than make you laugh. And this HBO series, now in its second season, is this year’s finest example of that very nebulous genre. What’s impressive about Barry is its ability to keep its dark and light material largely separate, while still maintaining a cohesive whole. It doesn’t find the comedy in misery. It hits you full force with its misery… and then it tells a joke. It’s a delicate balance that few shows pull off (BoJack Horseman is another), but Barry pulls it off so well. Expect to see it on every list this year. (LB)

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Liz Baessler is a frequent contributor and infrequent columnist at Film School Rejects. She has an MA in English and a lot of time on her hands. (She/Her)