Best TV Shows of 2019
We are three quarters of the way to 2019 and, strictly in terms of television, it has been a great year, we’re ready to name the best TV shows of the year. Disney + and Apple TV + are just around the corner, hoping to broadcast more prestigious content to our skulls than ever before; Netflix is releasing ambitious originals at an alarming rate; and HBO seems to be going through the “cut all hair and move to Berlin for a year” phase of its breakup with Game of Thrones, throwing money at some of the best and weirdest things on television right now.
With so much to watch, GQ scanned the entire office for devotees of 2019’s best TV. Here’s what we came up with.
Last year, it took nearly half the summer for the world to wake up to the genius of HBO’s Succession. “It takes four or five episodes to really get cooking,” I’d tell my friends. “But stick with it—it’s worth it.” The ones who did were richly rewarded; the show’s legendarily assholish Roy family populated my group chats for months. Season 2 has faced no such problems, instead firing on all cylinders (and a little bit of park coke) from the very first episode. The humor is both broad slapstick and deeply, weirdly specific. The drama is increasingly harrowing. There is still nothing like it on television, and until there is, it’ll be the only thing I really care to watch.—Sam Schube, senior editor
The Good Fight
In no uncertain terms, 2019 is one of the most unhinged years of the decade. So it makes sense that a show that constantly threatens to hurl itself off a cliff—CBS All Access’s divine The Good Fight, a daring spinoff of The Good Wife—is also one of the year’s best. In its third season (seriously why aren’t you watching this show yet…?), the legal drama took on Trump more incisively than many late-night shows; it brought us animated musical numbers meant to simplify complicated legal concepts; it put Christine Baranski front and center as her Diane Lockhart continued to pull herself out of the depths of political-induced apathy in an attempt to take down our current administration. It’s barely restrained camp. It’s everything I needed.—Brennan Carley, associate editor
There’s something to be said about a show knowing when to exit, aware of how culturally On Top it is, preferring to pull the plug instead of dragging its feet for X number of additional seasons. Some shows sacrifice quality for quantity in that regard. Schitt’s Creek, Dan Levy’s beautiful brainchild, delivered one of its best seasons yet this year, before announcing that its next will be its last. If you don’t know the show by now, nothing I say will be good enough to match the quality of its writing, its acting, its scene-setting, its storylines. Schitt’s Creek is a world in which I’d happily live forever; that it’s coming to an end only makes the time we had together all the more special.—B.C.
Real Housewives of Potomac
This is the most well-cast television show currently airing, comprised of all-star wives who come prepared to play each and every episode. The key to a golden Housewives season is a mixture of willingness to engage; enough inner desperation to be willing to do it on camera; and enough confidence to blow past any doubt that doing it on camera might not be the best longterm plan. Hence Gizelle Bryant, a Top 5 housewife with just four seasons under her belt; Karen Huger, a matriarch ready to eat her own babies; Robyn Dixon, a truly good woman who I would take a bullet for; Ashley Darby, one of the youngest cast members in Housewives history, who knows how to rankle her elders; Monique Samuels, who wields receipts longer than the ones you get at CVS like they’re knives; and Candiace Dillard, whose mommy issues are the stuff of Shakespearean dreams. If Bravo wanted to air a 52-week long season of RHOP, I would tune in for every single episode. Potomac, you’re perfect, don’t change a goddamned thing.—B.C.
The thing about new shows in 2019 is that they always seem to come with caveats. It takes a few episodes for it to find its footing, that character is really frustrating, that rapper-who-shall-not-be-named is an Executive Producer, you name it. Fleabag requires no such disclaimer. The show’s second season drops you right back into the somewhat twisted, upsettingly relatable mind of its main character (played by creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge), who’s referred to in the episode descriptions as Fleabag but never named. She’s doing much better now than she was in the first season, but still mourning the death of her mother and her best friend. Plus, her sister Claire, who thinks Fleabag kissed her husband, will not speak to her. The story of Season Two largely centers around the reconstruction of this relationship, as well as Fleabag’s budding courtship with “The Priest.” (Who is indeed very hot.) That relationship, with all its impediments, is intoxicating to watch, and builds to an emotional conclusion rivaling that of its groundbreaking first go-around. The whole series is a 12-episode adventure with no filler that you’ll be unable to pull away from. Go watch it now!—Daniel Varghese, tech and lifestyle writer
I had never watched an episode of Killing Eve until I watched the entirety of the second season in one day, while stuck on the couch with a truly awful cold. It’s hard to overstate how much I hate to binge-watch shows, but I absolutely could not pull myself away from this show. Much has been said about the push and pull between Eve and Villanelle, and their constant tension, but what truly endeared me to this show was the writing. The show is completely fearless in its direction, and the season finale was the first thing I’ve watched in a long time that made me physically stand up and gasp. Not only does this show whip incredible ass, it is a great reminder that Sandra Oh is an absolute treasure.—Gabe Conte, digital producer
You know what’s not fun? The same thing over and over and over. Also, death (purportedly; really, what do I know?). But then there’s Russian Doll, which is entirely built on kill-yourself-it’s-so-monotonous reincarnation, and somehow it’s a better time than cocaine-laced blunts. Natasha Lyonne does perfect deadpan befuddlement. Like a Warhol print, Greta Lee chirping “Sweet birthday baby!” gets better with each iteration. And then there are the surprises and bits of suspense within the layers: the sheer variety of death, the show’s world progressively disappearing, all the unexpected connections and entanglements. The casting is perfect (hello, Chloë Sevigny!), you can practically smell the show’s downtown New York world; in every way, Russian Doll kills it.—Max Cea, GQ contributor
Love Island (U.K.)
The fifth season of Love Island took fewer twists than usual (though there was still plenty of drama, screaming, people getting “pied off,” etc.) thanks to a group of islanders who simply… enjoyed each other’s company. Groundbreaking! Better than watching couples pair off and wrestle over their own (often) doomed compatibility was watching the alliances form among the boys and the girls—this is still a heteronormative show, after all. There’s real romance here as well as real personal growth. 20-year-old Tommy Fury, brother to problematic boxing superstar Tyson, came into the villa never having made a cup of tea before. Watching him learn how to be a human in real-time is one of the seminal anthropological studies ever committed to screen.—Tom Philip, GQ contributor
If the first season of Barry was about whether Barry (Bill Hader) could leave behind his life as a hitman and become not only a successful actor but also a good person, then the second season answers that question with a resounding no. The show pulls you increasingly deeper into the sinkhole Barry’s created for himself—as well as into the lives of a hugely compelling host of secondary characters, like everyone’s favorite Chechen mobster NoHo Hank (Anthony Carrigan), who dispenses one-liners with the same free-handed abundance as he does bullets. (When Barry turns down a job, for instance, he chastises him by asking “What do you want me to do, walk into John Wick assassin hotel with ‘Help Wanted’ sign?”) Oh, and it has the greatest grocery store fight scene of all time.—Gabriella Paiella, culture writer
HBO’s miniseries Chernobyl indisputably made a nuclear catastrophe from 33 years ago chic. Real people were so inspired by a TV show based on horrifying true events that they flew to a remote, still-probably-not-safe locale to take thirst traps for Instagram. Is there any higher compliment? Admittedly, my reaction to Chernobyl was not that strong, but I did find it far more gripping than any other thrillers or dramas in recent memory. And that rhythmic clicking sound of radiation detectors may, in fact, stick with me forever.—Alex Shultz, editorial assistant
Dead to Me
I would love to say that TV has reached the saturation point for shows about Complicated Women, but I am still unabashedly a sucker for this formula—perhaps because it’s one so overdue and so ripe for new angles that it’s honestly pretty hard to get wrong. (Who knew women could be complicated in so many ways?! Answer: All women, actually.) Case in point: Dead to Me, which stars Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini—both at career peaks—as Jen and Judy, two suburban women brought together by a shared tragedy. It’s Desperate Housewives for the Big Little Lies age—sharply funny, endearingly cynical, and just twisty enough to keep the plot from getting stale. But its biggest feat is its casting—one of those entirely weird, out-of-left-field pairings that, once you’ve seen it play out, makes you wonder why these two didn’t team up sooner. Hats off to creator Liz Feldman for weaving two of the most familiar but criminally underused faces in the industry into a dazzlingly messy portrait of grief, guilt, anger, loss, lies, and friendship.—Danielle Cohen, editorial business assistant
For a show whose pre-premiere buzz was centered largely around the abundance of penises in a singular scene (30, to be exact), Euphoria pretty much broke the scandalous teen drama mold, deftly grounding its full-throttle sensory deluge with real emotional resonance. The credit lies indisputably with Zendaya, popping against an already talented cast of Gen-Z up-and-comers as the show’s drug-addled narrator and star, and flexing the kind of acting and singing chops that signify a real heavy-hitter. (Seriously, Zendaya will EGOT!) Come for the eye makeup; stay for genre-defying characters that—beyond their scandalous accoutrements—feel profoundly, inexorably human.—D.C.