20 Best TV Shows of 2019: From 'Warrior' and 'Yellowstone' to 'Succession' and 'Fleabag'
From ABC's 'This is Us' to Paramount's 'Yellowstone' and BBC's 'Killing Eve', here’s a rundown of the season’s best new network shows.
The definition of TV has changed over the years. Streaming services have cornered the market of viewership, especially with the personal experience they offer. Nevertheless, network TV shows have also upped their game in terms of exclusivity of content and critical acclaim and hard-core fans still abide by their favorite shows on television.
This fall's new primetime series from ABC, CBS, NBC, Cinemax, Showtime and Epix draws light on original concepts blended with formulaic setups that highlight the lives of doctors, lawyers, detectives and business-minded, multigenerational families. Even with the same prototypes, many producers and showrunners have managed to create shows that will leave a lasting imprint on your mind. From ABC's 'This is Us' to Paramount's 'Yellowstone' and BBC's 'Killing Eve', here’s a rundown of the season’s best new network shows.
'Stumptown' Season 1 (ABC)
Narrating the story of a PTSD-ridden, alcoholic bisexual veteran, ABC’s ‘Stumptown’ is possibly among the best network shows to debut this year. Starring Cobi Smulders as Dex Parios, and 'New Girl' fame Jake Johnson as her BFF/love interest Grey, this graphic novel-inspired series delves into the dark and gritty world of being a private investigator. First premiered on September 25, the series shows Dex taking impossible cases and solving them using ingenious ideas, week after week.
The best aspect of the show is that it does not let us experience the monotony of procedural dramas, thanks to the non-linear approach to storytelling. This show is also a perfect example of the representation of diverse races, sexuality, gender and neuroatypical without seeming like tokenism.
'Emergence' Season 1 (ABC)
Most of us fell in love with Allison Tolman when she portrayed Deputy Molly Solverson in 'Fargo'. After many years of groundbreaking yet small roles in various projects, we see her taking on the lead yet again in ABC’s ‘Emergence’ that debuted on September 24 and it was worth the wait. She is utterly relatable as a loving mother, a tough cop, and a human being whose moral compass is strictly pointed north.
The show, despite being centered on an AI, is surprisingly wholesome and filled with a whole lot of love. Tolman breaks stereotypes yet again as the unconventional female lead of a primetime network television show. ‘Emergence’ is definitely among the best network shows we have watched this year.
'This is Us' Season 4 (NBC)
A pioneer in the new age drama series, NBC's 'This Is Us' has perfected the art of relatable storytelling that focuses on overlapped storylines of Jack, Rebecca, Randall, Kevin and Kate’s lives in the past and present. Rather than antagonizing people without understanding their life, 'This Is Us' narrates the same story from the perspective of each character, allowing you to empathize with people, their difficult situations and humane responses to those situations.
The last few episodes of season three were particularly heartbreaking, but season four has been heavy, relatable and touching. Over the four seasons of its existence, we have fallen in love with so many characters and their stories and most importantly related to them personally or through the people in our lives.
'Yellowstone' Season 2 (Paramount Network)
Created by Taylor Sheridan and headlined by Kevin Costner, Paramount's 'Yellowstone' follows Costner's John Dutton in a gripping story about the Dutton Ranch, one of the largest contiguous ranch in the US. John works hard and fast to protect his ranch from outsiders — land developers, an Indian reservation and USA's first National Park. 'Yellowstone' packs a powerful punch with a rivetting dose of politics, crime, passion, corruption, money and murder. The characters of 'Yellowstone' are in constant conflict with themselves or the outside world.
During its nine-episode first season, 'Yellowstone' garnered more than 20 million digital views. The biggest question was whether the second season will match the popularity of the first season. Without disappointing its fan base, 'Yellowstone' reeled in almost immediately, and obviously, Costner, in all his stern glory, is a marvel to watch. The show deserves a place among the best network shows, especially for its larger than life storytelling, a brilliantly written script and complex characters.
'Killing Eve' Season 2 (BBC One)
What could be better than a spy thriller with strong female leads? A lesbian spy thriller with invigorating chemistry and undeniable charisma between its leads — 'Killing Eve' features an MI6 agent and her beloved Russian assassin. Sandra Oh plays the clumsy but intense Eve — a detective, whose only job is to trap and somehow evade the psychopath with a closet full of couture — Villanelle. From being each other's nemesis to developing a love they cannot explain, the journey goes deep into the open wounds of their hearts.
The beauty of its second outing lies in how effortlessly the ends were tied while taking us through a step-by-step replay of the previous season's finale. The humor is still dark and the twisted plots are still murky. The second season is every bit as riveting and enticing as the first one. In short, the many Emmys the show has won in its last two years are nothing short of extremely deserving.
'Chernobyl' Miniseries (HBO)
A runaway hit for HBO, 'Chernobyl' centers around the nuclear disaster of April 1986 and the unprecedented cleanup efforts that followed. Such was the impact the series had that even Russia doffed its hat. Vladimir Medinsky, the Russian culture minister, whose father was one of the Chernobyl liquidators, called the series "masterfully made" and "filmed with great respect for ordinary people". 'Chernobyl' is no way an easy show to watch. It's gory, intriguing, gripping and brutally unsettling. A docudrama, created, written and executive produced by Craig Mazin, the five-part drama has a league of brilliant actors giving the miniseries just enough grit to leave audience transfixed.
'Peaky Blinders' Season 5 (BBC One)
Set in Birmingham in the aftermath of World War I, 'Peaky Blinders' revolves around the story of a razor-blade wielding mafia gang headed by Tommy Shelby. Season four ended on a mystifying note with a glimpse into Shelby's fragile frame of mind during his brief retreat from work. Loaded with a perfect mishmash of masculine dominion and feminine energy, the fiery fifth season is two shades darker, bolder, classier and sassier!
There is drama, romance, violence, humor, mystery, and thrill—all bundled up in a stupendous storyline with an exceptional cast to breathe life into it. Apart from the cliffhanger ending, each scene in the new season will keep you glued to the tension, action, and entertainment even after chronicling the lives of the same characters for four previous seasons. The show has both, style and substance, and that makes it a top contender among the best network TV shows.
'Pennyworth' Season 1 (Epix)
A spin-off series focusing on Batman’s butler, Alfred Pennyworth, it owes a major chunk of its success to the stellar cast. The Epix series stars Jack Bannon, Ben Aldridge and Emma Paetz in lead roles as it explores Alfred’s days before he ended up at the Wayne household. The superhero spin-off lends an original take on Alfred and his relationship with Bruce Wayne’s parents, Thomas Wayne (Aldridge) and Martha Kane (Paetz). Showrunners Bruno Heller and Danny Cannon have struck the jackpot when it comes to dishing out the details. The show is filled with moments of grim humor, nudity and visceral violence, but explained rather well in a tightly-woven narrative. There is still enough material for the series to span another couple of seasons and if Epix looked for a stable start, they should be pleased as they got a superhit in their hands.
'Evil' Season 1 (CBS)
The latest psychological horror 'Evil' premiered on CBS and as meta as its name might be, the series does a remarkable job in revolutionizing what we truly mean by the term. Is the concept restricted to the supernatural sinister spirit or is there a more humanly aspect to it with terrorism and horror orchestrated all over the internet? With a terrifying antagonist in the form of the demon, George, another villain in the leagues of Batman's nemesis, the Joker, and strong sexual chemistry between its leads, 'Evil' has already risen to be a unanimous fan favorite. Think 'Black Mirror' meets 'The Exorcist', and you have this mashup on reincarnation.
'Fleabag' Season 2 (BBC One)
British comedy-drama 'Fleabag' is written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who stars as the titular Fleabag. It was developed from a one-woman show that was first performed in 2013 and follows an angry, sexually voracious woman in Fleabag. The series is cleverly written with witty characters, an inventive direction style and gets brownie points for breaking the third wall and addressing several millennial issues.
An immensely popular show, the second series received eleven Primetime Emmy Award nominations and won six, including Outstanding Comedy Series, and Outstanding Lead Actress and Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series for Waller-Bridge. With a hilarious yet heart-warming depiction of life, love and death, the second season shows the most masterfully made dark comedy you'd get your hands on.
'Watchmen' Season 1 (HBO)
‘Watchmen’ isn’t just one of the strongest comic book adaptations on screen right now, it’s also a powerful cinematic masterpiece in its own right. The HBO series takes the events of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ comic forward by a few decades, adapting the themes of the comic and making them relevant to today’s audiences, tackling complex subjects like racism, legacy, and corruption. The first season takes an unapologetic look at controversial issues, balancing it with comic book madness like giant alien squid attacks and a mystery that keeps audiences hooked. The worldbuilding done for the show is expansive, drawing on both the comics and the supplemental reading the show releases week after week. ‘Watchmen’ presents an impossible world, and week after week, makes it feel real.
'The Good Place' Season 4 (NBC)
When ‘The Good Place’ premiered, many called it a celestial version of ‘The Office’, but in the four years of its existence, this NBC gem proved to be so much more than that. Along with entertaining us with truly remarkable comedy, the show has also inspired us to think about ethics, philosophy and the human experience in general. Despite taking the call to end the series after its fourth season, this show will go down in history as a cult classic, especially with all the intense, suspense-filled episodes in the final season. In the Halloween holidays to come, Janets, Chidis and others will keep reminding viewers what the epitome of comedic excellence on TV looks like.
'Shameless' Season 10 (Showtime)
The Gallaghers have been entertaining us with their degenerate, messy, dysfunctional family of a single father, raising six children, for ten years now. The prime matriarch of the Showtime show, Fiona, is significantly missing from the ongoing latest season of 'Shameless', but there's no dearth to the level the other characters on the show could stoop down to. Season 10 tried a lot — perhaps a bit too hard, to establish itself with just as firm a grounding as the previous seasons, in the wake of Fiona's departure from the plot. With each of them leading life as risky and messy as the other, the concept of trying to make ends meet gets so much more interesting and happening for these south sides, Chicago dwellers as they battle mental issues, financial crisis, love, drugs, romance, and of course — being an in general hoodrat.
'Godfather of Harlem' Season 1 (Epix)
The ‘60s crime drama follows the true story of Bumpy Johnson (Forest Whitaker) who returns to Harlem after a ten-year time in Alcatraz to find his neighborhood in shambles. With the Italian mob running the streets, Bumpy takes on the Genovese crime family to regain the lost hold. He finds a formidable ally Malcolm X and gets set to catching his political rise in the crosshairs of social upheaval and a mob war that threatens to tear the city apart. The show captures the historic moments while also giving a glimpse of Bumpy’s personal life. The gritty tone and the crisp storyline in the first season of gangster drama make it a compelling watch and one of the best real-life dramas to hit small screens this year.
'City on a Hill' (Showtime)
'City on a Hill' focuses on Boston’s dark days in the '90s when the city was riddled with crime and one of the frequent crimes was by armored car robbers. The show stars Kevin Bacon and Aldis Hodge in lead roles as they take on a family of armed robbers led by Frankie and Jimmy Ryan (Jonathan Tucker and Mark O’ Brien). Season one of 'City on a Hill' takes its time to set the tone, but does so quite clearly and scrupulously. Audacious, formidable, unpredictable and intriguing, the Showtime series ticks enough boxes for it to deserve a spot among the best network shows of 2019.
'Succession' Season 2 (HBO)
A satirical comedy-drama on absolute power and dysfunction, the second season of 'Succession' turned out to be one of the best follow-up seasons, as it portrayed the conflict withing the Roy family brilliantly. The head of the family, Logan Roy, played by Brian Cox, brilliantly held the show together and kept us guessing about which of his four children — Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong), Shiv Roy (Sarah Snook), Roman Roy (Kieran Culkin), Connor Roy (Alan Ruck) would succeed him. Brilliant and nuanced performances, intriguing plot and stunning background score make this drama about conglomerate families one of the best TV shows of 2019.
'Billions' Season 4 (Showtime)
This Showtime finance show revolves around shrewd, savvy US Attorney Chuck Rhoades and the brilliant, ambitious hedge fund king Bobby "Axe" Axelrod. It takes you on a rollercoaster ride as the two try to outdo each other and everyone else while also delivering extremely witty one-liners and games you can't wrap your head around.
In the fourth season, the longtime adversaries and Wendy Rhoades, the chief counselor to each, come together to form an uneasy but highly effective alliance, without realizing they could be outsmarted. A show about antiheroes, it soon went from dull to dazzling especially in its latest season and has an intriguing plot to keep you on the edge.
'Manifest' Season 1 (NBC)
'Manifest' follows the sudden re-appearance of Montego Air Flight 828, which went missing for almost five and a half years. The mystery deepens when all the passengers return alive, none of them seem to have aged even a day. Keeping the mysterious element intact during the course of season one, NBC's Jeff Rake-created show drops major hints about the missing plane in every episode. The supernatural drama has an ambitious plot with the potential to develop deeper character-driven stories. With heavy comparisons with 'Lost', its high-concept sci-fi and typical broadcast drama blend beautifully into a twisty mind-bender.
'Warrior' Season 1 (Cinemax)
Based on an original concept by Bruce Lee (yes the same one), 'Warrior' is a triumph of superb casting, crisp writing, and stunnning fight choreography. The show follows Ah Sahm (Andrew Koji) as he heads from China to 1870s San Francisco to look for his sister. While in the city, at the height of the Chinese worker influx, he gets involved with a chinese mafia family and the ensuing violence if bloody and rivetting. But this is so much more than just another martial arts show. Characters like Ah Toy, Young Jun, "Big Bill" O'Hara, and Penelope Blake add layers to an already intricatly woven tapestry of history, action, and love in a time when human life was cheap and the rewards for skirting the law were high. This may not be the most well-known show of 2019, but it's certainly among the best.
'The Deuce' Season 3 (HBO)
Over three seasons, 'The Deuce' proved what superb acting, a great script, and a spectacular soundtrack can do when combined with love of the subject matter. To talk about Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Franco's performances would be akin to saying that Monet was pretty good at that painting malarkey. They are brilliant, but so is everyone else on the show. Over the first two seasons 'The Deuce' took you on a thrillingly seedy journey through Times Square in the 1960s and 70s; a sticky walk through brothels, illicit massage parlours, bars and clubs, as the age of peace and love gave way to the excess of disco and the first stirrings of punk. Season 3 outdid the first two simply because it knew it was ending. In tying up loose ends, the show also breathed longevity into its characters which will far outstrip the meagre legacies of the streaming juggernauts. And THAT ending: Stunning, poignant, and the perfect ode to a labor of love. If the final scenes of 'M*A*S*H' and 'Six Feet Under' set the bar for curtain-falls, then 'The Deuce' has not so much raised it, but thrown the damn thing out altogether.