Usually, Valerie Ettenhofer and I do the Midyear TV Report together, but this year we’re doing things a little differently, and a little more democratically. We polled the entire FSR team on their favorite shows, we crunched the numbers, and we came up with a list that represents the whole tv landscape… or at least 25 parts of it.
And those 25 parts feature not just the best stories, but also the stories we need to hear the most. There are frightening and heart-wrenching and challenging shows on this list, to be sure. Some of them are right at the top. But many more are bright and warm and filled with love in all its forms — love among friends, love within families, love between couples, and love for the world.
Our #1 pick is a self-described love story, with a main character whose love has been displaced and left her lost. “I don’t know what to do with it,” she says. “With all the love I felt for her. I don’t know where to put it now.” It’s a loss everyone has felt, even if they couldn’t find the words.
At least on our end, we’re putting it in TV.
Made with science and magic and lots of Excel algorithms, here’s the FSR team’s definitive ranking of the best TV the first half of 2019 had to offer.
25. Good Omens
It’s been nearly thirty years since the publication of Good Omens, the beloved account of the endtimes co-authored by Neil Gaiman and the late, great Terry Pratchett. And now, with Gaiman himself at the helm, the novel has finally come to the screen in an adaptation that’s remarkable for being what so few things are: utterly true to its source material. And best of all is the unmatched chemistry between David Tennant and Michael Sheen as Crowley and Aziraphale, a demon and angel who love Earth and each other and would rather not do the whole apocalypse thing, thank you very much. While the show occasionally glosses over some details or dwells on others, on the whole it’s a delight. Book lovers will be thrilled and, most importantly, Terry Pratchett would surely have been proud. (Liz Baessler)
It’s been a particularly anxious and apocalyptic year for storytelling in both movies and TV, and yet nothing could have prepared audiences for the loud and seismic arrival of Euphoria. Deceptively billed by the headlines as an explicit but empty flash in the pan that is the teen genre, the show is instead a visceral and empathetic portrayal of modern teenage life, with a heady tone that suggests desperate times create desperate young souls. Viewers might be turned off by its lightning-speed pace and bleak atmosphere, but this is the first teen drama that refuses to settle for a simple, nostalgic retreat to the awkwardness of high school, instead fueled by a clear intent to capture the current realities of a generation raised on Internet cynicism and Pornhub. And based off its first four episodes, these kids are too busy chasing highs and navigating thrilling situations to simply wallow in despair. When a show opens in utero, follows almost a dozen different characters, and has a mid-season climax shot in long takes at a giant carnival, you know you’re dealing with a new breed of coming-of-age TV. (Fernando Andrés)
23. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
It can be a cruel, depressing world out there, and when you’re feeling down there’s nothing quite like the Dan Goor/Michael Schur brand of “nicecore” comedy to take the edge off — which is why last year’s news of Fox’s cancellation of their beloved police sitcom inspired outrage across the internet. Luckily, NBC came to the rescue. While season 6 might have been a little shorter than its predecessors, Brooklyn Nine-Nine remained the same hilarious, wholesome content viewers know and love, no worse for wear after its move. Chelsea Peretti’s departure marked the first exit of a principal cast member, and while Gina will never be replaced, the rest of the 99th Precinct kept going strong throughout the season with a little help from an excellent slate of guest stars including Lin-Manuel Miranda and Sean Astin. Not every sitcom can stay funny after six years, but as the latest season came to an end with more than a few hints towards what’s to come, all signs point to Brooklyn Nine-Nine remaining one of the most consistently enjoyable, warm-hearted sitcoms on television. (Ciara Wardlow)
22. Tuca & Bertie
The brainchild of BoJack Horseman producer and production designer Lisa Hanawalt, it’s tempting to approach as Tuca & Bertie as “female BoJack.” And it’s true that the show shares many of BoJack’s best qualities, namely an absurd but devastatingly frank examination of the human condition… with animals. But as distant as BoJack is with his tv career and Hollywoo mansion, the titular Tuca and Bertie (Tiffany Haddish and Ali Wong) are utterly relatable as they deal with anxiety, sobriety, career ambitions, and what it feels like, in seemingly minute but monumental ways, to be a young woman in a man’s world. I’ll admit that I don’t know what it’s like to watch this show not as an American woman in her thirties, but I’d go so far as to call it required viewing for everyone who isn’t. The show starts a little heavy on the kooky side, but stick with it — there are devastating and vital depths in store. (Liz Baessler)
21. One Day at a Time
The multi-cam sitcom is a vivid mix of comforting throwbacks and clever subversions, with a big heart and boldly asserted moral compass. The series follows the Alvarez family; single mom and PTSD-suffering veteran Penelope (Justina Machado), hard-headed queer activist daughter Elena (Isabella Gomez), cool kid brother Alex (Marcel Ruiz), and spirited, traditional grandmother Lydia (Rita Moreno), along with their friends, neighbors, and love interests. As with other seasons, the third’s most memorable moments were teachable ones, like when Elena and her nonbinary partner reveal that they’ve been staying inside because of a threatening experience they had with homophobic strangers, or when reformed addict Schneider (Todd Grinnell) falls off the wagon in a big way. But it’s the smaller moments — casually spoken Spanish with no subtitles, universally embraced gender pronouns, and the like — that made ODAAT a truly progressive show, one that will always have a home in our hearts. (Valerie Ettenhofer)