Year In Review: Ten Of The Best Things On Telly In 2019 Thus Far

on Monday, July 29, 2019
Words: Saam Das

With half of the year well and truly outthaway, to semi-quote Australian noughties indie giants The Vines, we've decided to throw the spotlight on some of the best shows on TV in 2019 thus far. Some caveats to begin with, we haven't seen the monstrously acclaimed 'Chernobyl' nor caught up with the final season of 'Game Of Thrones' but nonetheless, we do have ten bits of programming for you to catch up on.

'Anima' (Netflix)

With a runtime of just fifteen minutes, this is by far the shortest participant on this list. A one-reeler collab between acclaimed director Paul Thomas Anderson and Radiohead's Thom Yorke to mark the release of the latter's new album of the same name, 'Anima' was hypnotic both visually and aurally. We were fortunate enough to see it at one of the handful of IMAX showings across the world.

'Back To Life' (BBC)

A tragicomedy set in a quiet Kentish seaside town, starring and co-written (alongside Laura Solon) by Daisy Haggard. Haggard has been a mainstay of offbeat British comedy with appearances in the likes of 'Green Wing', 'Peep Show', and the perenially underrated 'Psychoville'. It was therefore pleasing to see her take more of a lead/starring role, although admittedly, we were left with more questions than answers at the end of series.

'The Chef Show' (Netflix)

Written, directed, and starring Jon Favreau, 2014's 'Chef' was a delightful food-led comedy-drama. Perhaps surprisingly, five years on, it has sparked a Netflix spin-off show. 'The Chef Show' sees Favreau team up with chef Roy Choi, who served both as the technical advisor and inspiration for the 2014 film. An enjoyable combo, especially alongside the glut of celebrity cameos including Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert Rodriguez.

'Fleabag' Series 2 (BBC)

Phoebe Waller-Bridge's sitcom 'Fleabag' had a tough time following its wildly popular and brilliant debut series, but for the most part, met expectations. (Certainly in comparison to her other popular series, 'Killing Eve', which we're told has suffered something of a slump since Waller-Bridge left head writing duties at the end of the first series.) Chatter about Andrew Scott's "hot priest" character was almost inescapable for much of the first half of 2019.

'Ghosts' (BBC)

Led by the creative team behind 'Horrible Histories' and 'Yonderland', 'Ghosts' made a simple premise into compelling viewing - after a near-death experience, Charlotte Ritchie's Alison can now see the haunted spirits of the country mansion she has inherited. With a whole host of excellent comedy talent including Kiell Smith-Bynoe and Katy Wix, 'Ghosts' was amusingly charming throughout. "Pray tell, how you doing?"

'Guava Island' (Amazon)

It's probably fair to say that Donald Glover and Hiro Murai's succinct musical drama came out of nowhere earlier this year, with the film premiering at Coachella Festival before dropping on Amazon Prime for free for a very limited time. Also starring Rihanna, we felt 'Guava Island' was like something of a Childish Gambino album trailer at times, but its brisk running time acts to its advantage - worth seeing if you have a spare hour.

'Special' (Netflix)

If you mashed 'Nathan Barley' with 'The Devil Wears Prada', you might have something approaching this unusual comedy about a gay man with cerebral palsy trying to make it in the media industry. Based on star Ryan O'Connell's memoir 'I'm Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves', 'Special' felt equal parts silly and authentic. We particularly enjoyed his relationship with the main women in his life, co-worker Kim (Punam Patel) and his mum, Jessica Hecht, and we're very much hoping for a second season.

'This Time With Alan Partridge' (BBC)

Was there any need for Steve Coogan to return to the Alan Partridge character, especially considering the recent success of 'The Trip'? Absolutely not. But we love that he did. Because this was Alan in his pomp - as misguided as ever, but in a more current context in this pastiche of topical programming like 'The One Show'. Add in comedians of the calibre of Lolly Adefope and Tim Key, not to mention Coogan's terrific co-lead Susannah Fielding, and it's little surprise that this series delivered consistent excellence.

'What We Do In The Shadows' (BBC)

'Thor Ragnarok' director Taika Waititi's hilarious 2014 mockumentary about vampires living in New Zealand, 'What We Do In The Shadows', required no follow-up. But we're glad that it made its way onto the small screen in 2019. Undoubtedly, having co-creator Jemaine Clement ('Flight Of The Conchords') on board was helpful, but Kayvan Novak and Natasia Demetriou particularly sparkle in their roles as vampires living together in New York. The gathering of the vampiric council (featuring several vampires from other properties) in Episode Seven, 'The Trial', will easily go down as one of the best moments in TV in 2019.

'2019 FIFA Women's World Cup' (BBC)

In our collection of best things on telly in 2018, we couldn't help but indulge ourselves by featuring the men's football World Cup. It almost felt like it was "coming home" again this year, with England Women's football team matching their male counterparts and falling spiritedly short at the semi-final stage. That semi-final loss drew a record live TV audience in UK viewing figures so far in 2019, so it was a shame that the recent men's Cricket World Cup (won by England in dramatic circumstances) was largely kept off terrestrial screens.

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