Year In Review: FADED GLAMOUR Top TV Shows Of 2019

on Tuesday, February 11, 2020
Words: Saam Das

Another year, another list of our favourite TV shows. 2019 was dominated by HBO, but not always for good reason as 'Game Of Thrones' came to a divisive end. However, 'Peep Show' co-creator Jesse Armstrong's second season of 'Succession', the small screen adaptation of 'Watchmen', and the dramatic retelling of 'Chernobyl' were all tremendously well received. Unfortunately, they escaped our viewing this year, and before we get into our top ten TV shows of 2019, we've got a couple of honourable mentions.

We couldn't quite make enough space on our Best Of 2019 for Laurie Nunn's angsty yet heartfelt 'Sex Education' or the surprisingly engaging reality cricket TV documentary 'Cricket Fever: Mumbai Indians'. The tete-a-tete of Rosamund Pike and Chris O'Dowd' in the snappy 'State Of The Union' and the raucous return of 'Stath Lets Flats' also just missed out, as did the second series of 'Fleabag' which made our initial 2019 Best Of.

'The Boys' (Amazon)

With Marvel dominating the big screen with their superheroes, the small screen was a suitably wise bet for Garth Ennis' graphic novel series, pitting 'The Boys' against corporation-backed superheroes. Graphic in more than one sense too, with a considerably darker tone than even the more gritter DC movies. To the extent that vigilante Karl Urban's slightly ludicrous accent became an afterthought relatively quickly. A wild ride which promises even bigger and better things in its forthcoming second season.

'Defending The Guilty' (BBC)

FT Young Critic of 2003 turned screenwriter Kieron Quirke can enjoy rare company in walking the walk as well as talking the talk. Having co-written the successful BBC sitcom 'Cuckoo', Quirke opted to go solo on 'Defending The Guilty' - an awkward, witty take on the competitive world of London barristers. Its soundtrack was a notable highlight across all TV in 2019, mixing in nostalgia from Belle & Sebastian and The Vines with more zeitgeist-y tracks by Young Fathers, Wolf Alice, and Foals.

'Derry Girls' Series Two (Channel 4)

Lisa McGee's teen sitcom set during The Troubles initially felt like an underdog when bursting onto Channel 4 in 2018, but with two strong series now under its belt, 'Derry Girls' is increasingly a dominant force in British television. Its collection of escapades involving a rag-tag (yet endearing) group of school kids built into something significant by the end of this series, showing that 'Derry Girls' could aptly handle both comedy and sincerity.

'GLOW' Season Three (Netflix)

2019 saw professional wrestling take significant steps forward, with upstarts AEW particularly thriving against the monolith of WWE. Indeed, one of AEW's most fearsome wrestlers, Awesome Kong has been a mainstay of 'GLOW'. Approaching pro wrestling from a different angle, the second season of 'GLOW' made it onto our Best Of 2018 list, and the Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling have once again triumphed. This latest season took more risks, addressing the immigrant experience and homophobia, while retaining its heart and humour.

'Ghosts' (BBC)

"Pray tell, how you doing?" 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 charming and amusing throughout.

'His Dark Materials' (BBC)

Phillip Pullman’s series of fantasy novels saw a failed big screen adaptation with 2007’s 'The Golden Compass' but we’re pleased to say that the small screen version was considerably better received. Bolstered by stars of the calibre of James McAvoy and Ruth Wilson, it was however youngster Dafne Keen's journey that had us intrigued throughout. We're eagerly awaiting news of the release date for the second series.

'Special' (Netflix)

If you combined 'Nathan Barley' with 'The Devil Wears Prada', the result might be something approaching this offbeat 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 sincere. We especially enjoyed the relationships 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 his iconic Alan Partridge character, especially considering the ongoing success of 'The Trip'? Absolutely not. But we love that he did. Because this was Alan in his pomp - as misguided as ever, but updating the context in this pastiche of topical programming like 'The One Show'. Add in comedians of the calibre of Lolly Adefope and Tim Key, as well as Coogan's terrific co-lead Susannah Fielding, so it's little surprise that this series delivered consistent excellence.

'What We Do In The Shadows' (BBC)

We were pleasantly surprised that Taika Waititi's hilarious 2014 mockumentary about vampires living in New Zealand, 'What We Do In The Shadows', made an impressive transition to the small screen. Undoubtedly, having co-creator Jemaine Clement ('Flight Of The Conchords') on board was pivotal, 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 a range of vampires from other properties) in Episode Seven, 'The Trial', easily went down as one of the best moments in TV in 2019.

'Years And Years' (BBC)

Following the very successful 2018 period drama, 'A Very English Scandal', Russell T Davies returned in 2019 with one of his most ambitious projects since his reboot of 'Doctor Who' in 2005 - the near-future dystopian satire of 'Years And Years'. Its provocative takes on politics, society, and technology managed to constantly oscillate between the believable and the absurd, lending a sense of uncertainty and a lack of ease throughout six fascinating hours of television.

Read more of our favourite things of 2019 here.

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