The Best TV Shows of 2019

From big finales to long-awaited new seasons to stellar debuts, 2019 brought us more great stories on the small screen than ever before.
Rewind Best Tv Shows
By  · Published on December 10th, 2019

20. Brooklyn 99


We almost didn’t get season six of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, but we’re so glad we did. The first few weeks of 2019 saw the well-loved comedy series make its transfer from Fox to NBC intact, keeping its signature brand of nicecore humor going strong with some fun bits that winked at the show’s near-cancellation the year before — read, guest appearances from Sean Astin and Lin-Manuel Miranda, two members of the weirdest, best group chat around the series, or the heist episode that acknowledged in-context why it wasn’t airing on Halloween.

This season also included some episodes helmed by regular cast members, with a hard-hitting directorial debut from Stephanie Beatriz emerging as a high point; her episode inspired by the #MeToo movement shows that Brooklyn Nine-Nine is invested in breaking new ground, too, by pushing cultural conversations forward with its usual irreverence and sensitivity. With this forward movement at its center, and having already been renewed for an eighth season ahead of season seven’s release, it simply looks like our friends at the Nine-Nine are here to stay for now. And thank goodness for that, for all of our sakes. (Christina Smith)

19. True Detective

True Detective

Following the mixed reception to Season two, the third installment of True Detective marked a return to form for the macabre crime series. The undercurrent of cosmic strangeness that made the first season so unique was replaced with a more straightforward procedural, but by returning the show to its Southern Gothic roots, the latest chapter felt more like the show fans fell in love with in the first place. Mahershala Ali gives a powerhouse of a performance as Wayne Hayes, a detective and war veteran who spearheads a missing children’s case that spans 30 years. His character is arguably the most complex and fascinating case study the show has produced to date, and Ali’s performance might even be a career-best for an actor who always delivers stellar work. Creator Nic Pizzolatto also came up with an engrossing and very haunting slow-burn mystery that reaffirmed his place as one of the most exciting writers working in entertainment today. Hopefully, he gets to keep making this show for years to come. (Kieran Fisher)

18. Rick and Morty

Rick And Morty

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that some of the most innovative TV being made today is being made by Cartoon Network and, specifically, by Adult Swim. At the forefront of that is Rick and Morty, the twisted brainchild of Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland, which has delivered such consistently solid TV for its three and change seasons that it’s easy to forgive the long hiatuses between them. Driven by a misanthropic mad scientist, Rick and Morty doesn’t shy away from the issues with its genre, or with the issues in Rick’s head, instead delivering a frank and unflinching study of the antihero while simultaneously producing some of the most original, complex, and hilarious sci-fi you’ll ever see. There have only been a scant handful of episodes so far this year, but they’re more than enough to earn it a spot on this list, and to keep it in the forefront of our minds. Rick and Morty is a gift of a show, and one that hopefully goes on for as many as possible of the frankly absurd number of episodes Adult Swim has ordered from it. (Liz Baessler)

17. A Series of Unfortunate Events

A Series Of Unfortunate Events

Sometimes it seems like Hollywood is remaking the same ten stories every year. Other times, something like A Series of Unfortunate Events, the award-winning first complete adaptation of a wildly popular 20-year-old book series, comes along and reminds us that there are still stories worth adapting. Daniel Handler’s clever, mysterious, and endlessly pessimistic children’s books were perfectly streamlined by Netflix’s adaptation, which saw Patrick Warburton take on the role of enigmatic narrator Lemony Snicket. Thirteen books were adapted across three seasons, and somewhere along the way, the show evolved into a searing and surprisingly complex indictment of corrupt, incompetent, and fascist leadership, all without losing any of the charm or humor fans love. With rich period production design that rivals that of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, an increasingly nuanced performance by Neil Patrick Harris as series villain Count Olaf, and writing that nestles jokes in jokes in jokes like Russian dolls, the series wraps its allegorical center in a deeply entertaining package. ASOUE is a timely gift for the present day, a rousing message to clever kids and fed up adults that implore us to use persistence, logic, and teamwork to stop the world from falling apart around us. (Valerie Ettenhofer)

16. Game of Thrones

Game Of Thrones

Making any large-scale piece of entertainment, be it a big-budget movie or a show the size of Game of Thrones, is a massive undertaking and entertainment’s version of the ultimate team sport. Every single person — from the writers to the actors to the cinematographer to the set dresser whose job it is to make sure there’s enough snow on the grounds of Winterfell — has to bring their A-game. And while it’s hard to say that every single person executed as well as they could have (especially the two producers at the very top of the production who appear to have just wanted to get it done and move on), quite a few people were amazing at their jobs while making Game of Thrones season 8. Deb Riley’s production design work included a complete recreation of King’s Landing for the massive battle sequence in “The Bells.” Ramin Djawadi’s score for the final moments of “The Long Night” might be his best single track in an 8-season run of brilliance. Miguel Sapochnik directed the Seven Hells out of two battle episodes that were, by most measurements, the equivalent of feature films. Maisie Williams kicked a significant amount of ass, Isaac Hempstead Wright stole every scene and eventually the Throne itself, and Emilia Clarke did her best with one of the most difficult acting assignments in recent memory. Game of Thrones finished with a season that was too big to be written off simply as good or bad. It’s not that easy. Because for every bad decision they made with their story, Dan Weiss and David Benioff had spent a decade putting together one of the greatest production teams in the history of television. And together, this team made an unimaginably huge mountain out of an unfinished book series. It’s okay to be glad that it’s over, but let’s not forget how great it was when it was on its game. (Neil Miller)

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Valerie Ettenhofer is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer, TV-lover, and mac and cheese enthusiast. As a Senior Contributor at Film School Rejects, she covers television through regular reviews and her recurring column, Episodes. She is also a voting member of the Critics Choice Association's television and documentary branches. Twitter: @aandeandval (She/her)