Not unlike the last few years, 2019 has been filled with plenty of outstanding TV shows that resonate with audiences and leave us wanting more. Part of what makes the television landscape worth investing time in is the generally strong writing and the variety in storytelling. Between streaming and traditional network channels, there’s plenty to choose from and a lot of quality. Television development also moves faster than film, so the opportunity for more inclusive stories to make their way onscreen has seen an uptick in the last few years. That’s mostly thanks to streaming services, though, since network television is still further behind (and, to be fair, diversity in front of and behind the screen still has a long way to go). Whether you’re watching Ramy on Hulu or The Umbrella Academy on Netflix, there’s a lot to go around.
Since TV is a seemingly endless landscape of scripted shows, we broke down our list to included any television series that debuted this year, be it a first season or the sixth. So we produced a list that includes the top 10 TV shows of 2019 (so far).
10. On My Block (Netflix)
Season two of On My Block opened with a bang as viewers waited to see Ruby’s fate after season one’s cliffhanger. The series continues to show the growth of each character as they overcome new obstacles in their lives and deal with the consequences of living in a violent neighborhood. Monse tries to forge a relationship with her mother and fit into her mother’s existing life while trying to manage her relationship with Cesar. Jamal is tied between guarding the Roller World money or relinquishing it for a good cause and Cesar is desperate to regain his brother’s trust as he deals with the consequences of not committing murder. New relationships are founded, loyalties are tested and difficult decisions are made. After such a riveting season two, the next season is bound to be just as stellar. —Leigh-Ann Brodber
9. PEN15 (Hulu)
The early 2000s called and PEN15 answered. The Hulu comedy series stars comics Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle who portray 13-year-old middle school outcasts surrounded by literal teenagers. The show will easily tug on your emotions as you remember the obliviousness and innocence we all once had in the past. Each episode nails a topic that we all went through at one point, ranging anywhere from wanting to look your absolute best on your first day of school (and failing) to the feeling of excitement once you hopped on AIM to chat with your friends (or strangers). The nostalgia in this show is real. Just be warned that you’ll remember why you dreaded middle school in the first place. —Ashley Bulayo
8. Barry (HBO)
As a show that arguably could’ve ended after it’s first and wonderful season, season two of HBO’s Barry accomplished something miraculous: it got even better. Created by Bill Hader and Alec Berg, they took a deeply tragic, darkly hilarious story and expanded on it while never losing track of the very singularly sinister story at the heart of it. Supporting characters were given greater moments to shine, especially Sarah Goldberg as the self-involved Sally whose demons were brought into focus. However, it remains Bill Hader’s stage, at the center of the funniest moments (the kinetic and offbeat “rony/lilly”) and the most distressing (watching as he “embraced” the darkness in him at the end, literally walking into shadows as the lights around him blew) and he delivers on each and every front. Humor is never sacrificed for drama but, rather, the laughs are made all the more uncomfortable by the darkness, the desperation of its characters punched up by unsettled laughs. —Allyson Johnson
7. Broad City (Comedy Central)
Friendships can last forever, and the true ones always do, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t change along the way. Broad City spent four seasons giving us one of the best and most empowering friendships we’re likely to ever see in a comedy, but season five does a deeper dive into how too much love can be toxic. Abbi and Ilana’s friendship has always been GOALS, but this bittersweet final season explores how their dependence on each other was keeping them from exploring personal and professional growth. With true friends like Abbi and Ilana it was never going to be a “goodbye” but always headed for a “see you later”. So by the time it is our time to say goodbye to the show, we are reminded that the end of something often marks the beginning of something new. —Jon Espino
6. Catastrophe (Amazon Prime)
Over four seasons and merely 24 episodes, Catastrophe has tackled the struggles of surprise pregnancies, struggling to support a family, fighting addictions, hiding relapses, the deaths of parents, divorces, separations, potential affairs, sexual harassment, misogyny, ethical dilemmas and, of course, the constant job of raising children, maintaining a marriage, having a career and trying to get a jog in every once in a while. The amazing trick that co-creators and stars Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan pull is that nearly every one of these plots makes you consistently laugh out loud. The finale nearly breaks Rob and Sharon, but it wouldn’t be Catastrophe if our hilarious, brittle, sharp-tongued leads didn’t also find a way to come back to each other at the end of the day. The series was one-of-a-kind and we’ll miss its singular acidic, frank depiction of modern love and life. —Beth Winchester
5. Killing Eve (BBC America)
After a heart pounding and tense first season, Killing Eve returned for its second with a new showrunner and more mysteries. While season one kept its orbit closely around Eve (Sandra Oh) and Villanelle (Jodie Comer), season two expands its reach, involving more people into its web of secrecies. What works is seeing the marked differences between Eve’s relationship with her husband and the growing tension between Eve and her nemesis Villanelle. When Villanelle complicates things, the stakes grow exponentially, and the show uses this tension to keep the viewer on the edge of their seat. It’s a showcase on two powerful and flawed women trying to come to grips with their senses of purpose, while tapping into complex character nuances with such dark comedic flair. —Gabrielle Bondi
4. Dead to Me (Netflix)
Dead To Me is the perfect bingeable dramedy. In this 10-episode series, Jen Harding (Christina Applegate) is navigating the loss of her husband after he was killed in a mysterious hit-and-run. While at a support group, she’s befriended by Judy Hale (Linda Cardellini). As their friendship evolves, secrets come out and the show begins to explore both the literal and figurative interpretations of the phrase “dead to me”. Applegate’s and Cardellini’s chemistry is believably strong, as if they’ve been friends for years. Cardellini especially shines, leading many emotional moments throughout the season. Thankfully for fans, the show has been renewed for season two and is expected to drop sometime in 2020. —Brian Acunis
3. Schitt’s Creek (Pop TV)
Season five of Schitt’s Creek saw each member of the Rose family navigating new milestones in a town they previously tried to desperately leave. David’s relationship with Patrick ended with a surprise engagement, though not before wading into a wonderful and thoughtful coming out story between Patrick and his parents. Alexis, who showed tremendous vulnerability when she confessed her love to Ted last season, learned that she needs to make sacrifices. Johnny continues smoothly running the motel with Stevie, while Moira feels a rejuvenation in her acting career with the crows movie and takes up directing the local production of Cabernet (though the highs for Moira this season seemed to come crashing down in the season’s cliffhanger).
But it was Stevie who truly shined this past season, which saw her entering into a relationship with a hotel blogger, only to be unceremoniously dumped a few episodes later, to belting out a triumphant rendition of “Maybe This Time” as the lead in Cabernet. All of our characters are in interesting places by season’s end. It almost seems surreal it’s all going to be wrapped up in one season. Next year, Schitt’s Creek has to “Galápa – go” but if Dan Levy’s vision these past five seasons is anything to go by, it’ll be a fitting end for everyone. —Katey Stoetzel
2. Russian Doll (Netflix)
Russian Doll stars Natasha Lyonne as Nadia, a woman fated to die the night of her 36th birthday. She quickly realizes she’s caught in a time loop, forced to relive the day several times over. The show follows the traditional time loop trope for awhile until Nadia meets Alan (Charlie Barnett), a young man who’s still hung up on the girlfriend who wants to break up with him. They quickly discover that they’re both stuck in the same situation, even dying on the same night. The eight-episode first season is meticulously executed and only gets better as the story unfolds. With a show like this, it’s easy to fall into traps that make the time loop concept tedious, especially given the repetitive nature of this particular storytelling vehicle, but the series never drags and becomes exponentially stronger as it nears its end. The series’ writers deftly handle Nadia’s childhood trauma as well as Alan’s issues of control and between the two of them, they strike a balance that benefits the show on multiple levels. —Mae Abdulbaki
1. Fleabag (Amazon Prime)
The second season of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag will forever be an example of an instance where a seemingly unnecessary second season turned out to be everything we didn’t know we wanted. Waller-Bridge as “Fleabag” tells us in her trademark fourth-wall-breaking addresses at the start of the season that this is a love story. And sure, we get to see Fleabag fall in love with the “Hot Priest” (who is indeed both of those things), but we get to see her heart open to tightly-wound sister Claire and her hesitant, passive father. Every family member starts to see each other again. Fleabag has spent years putting up walls between her and the world and in this season we get to see those walls come down, even if that means that she may not need to talk to us anymore. —Beth Winchester