Lists · TV

The 25 Best TV Shows of 2019 So Far

The year’s best shows are the funniest, the most terrifying and, unexpectedly, the most filled with love.
Best Tv Midyear
By  · Published on June 27th, 2019

5. When They See Us

When They See Us

When They See Us is the hardest show to watch this year, but the most necessary. Ava DuVernay brought to life the aspect of The Central Park 5 that the world didn’t get to see in the documentary about them in 2012: what happened after they were convicted. Perhaps the most heartbreaking aspect of their story is what happens after the entire trial and they are older, struggling to live a normal life when so many deemed them undeserving of one at all. Somehow seeing their story dramatized rather than simply told in interviews makes it more real to those who don’t experience this kind of prejudice firsthand. We don’t just hear their story; we see it. (Emily Kubincanek)

4. Russian Doll

Russian Doll Two

Netflix’s Russian Doll is a dizzying time loop of strange encounters, jarring needle drops, and sudden deaths — it’s also one of the best seasons of television released this year, an eight-episode mind-bender with a raucous sense of humor. Nadia (the incomparable Natasha Lyonne) mysteriously relives the night of her 36th birthday over and over again, unsure of how it began, how to escape, and what she did to deserve it. Her theories grow increasingly nutty: was it the cocaine-laced joint that her friend Grace shared with her? Is the apartment building where her party takes place haunted? Or is it a matter of purgatorial repentance, where Nadia has to do good by those around her to be released from the loop? Saying too much about Russian Doll risks diluting its magic — but rest assured that it is magic, and naughty and exhilarating, like an impossibly addictive video game that won’t let you die without sending you right back to the beginning, forcing you to retrace your steps again and again. (Jenna Benchetrit)

3. Chernobyl

Valery Trial Chernobyl

We all know that nuclear weapons are scary—it’s why they’re the go-to world-endangering threat of [insert action franchise here]. Nonetheless, it can be easy to forget that the scariest thing about nuclear power has nothing to do with its ability to make the biggest boom, but the radioactive fallout that comes afterward. Or at least, it used to be, until HBO’s impeccable five-part Chernobyl miniseries brought history’s worst nuclear accident to date to life on the small screen in a way that will be seared in every viewer’s brain forever afterward. With incredible sensitivity and an impeccable eye for detail, writer Craig Mazin went back and turned the April 26, 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and its fallout into one of the most gripping, horrifying, and well-crafted shows you’ll see on television all year. With a stellar cast led by a magnificent Jared Harris as conflicted nuclear scientist Valery Legasov, Chernobyl is can’t-miss TV that will leave you thinking long after you’ve binged through its 5-hour runtime. (Ciara Wardlow)

2. Barry

Barry Ronny Lily

There are few shows that can handle following Game of Thrones on Sundays, but Barry did it easily. The first season was a solid dark comedy, brilliantly done but simple. This season proved it can get weirder without getting any less serious. Barry hits some tough emotional moments that are not limited to the titular character either. The supporting characters in the show provide some of the season’s best moments: NoHo Hank in a wig, Sally’s exasperated monologue in “The Audition,” and the subhuman girl in “ronny/lily.” If you ever doubted that Bill Hader is a talented motherfucker, this second season will prove you wrong. (Emily Kubincanek)

1. Fleabag 

Fleabag Season

“This is a love story.”

The first season of Fleabag was exceptional, but this spring’s second (and final) season is probably one of the best pieces of tv this decade. Written by and starring the inimitable Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the new season follows the eponymous Fleabag as she continues to grieve her mother and her best friend, and does one thing she didn’t quite accomplish in the first season: she begins to heal. And as things get better for Fleabag, things get miraculous for the audience. The show’s routine 4th wall breaking, once a fun conceit, becomes integral to the narrative in a way that’s as surprising as it is expertly executed. And the addition of Andrew Scott as The Hot Priest is enlightening. You hear a lot of good things about Scott’s performance (they’re all true) but the finest of these is his unbelievable chemistry with Waller-Bridge — in a show that often makes you want to hide your head under a pillow with anxiety (in the best possible way) their scenes are charged with an electricity and wit that will have you rewinding just to watch them again. Where the first season dealt heavily in grief, bitterness, and comic aloofness, the new season reaches through to what’s beneath all those things: love. And it’s magnificent. (Liz Baessler)

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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)