I’ve made my peace with the fact that Top Ten TV Shows is the list I spend the least amount of time pouring over. Possibly because I don’t feel like I’ve watched 10 shows I really love until I’ve binge-watched one final show right before constructing my list. Still, I felt a bit more on top of TV this year than usual, and yet because there are just so many darn shows out there, before I get to the list, I present you once again with…
Shows I started but never finished (and probably should have!):
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Holy Shit! A Star Wars thing made my list! Honestly, I’m surprised that they hadn’t made a Star Wars TV show earlier, considering this universe seems so rife with detail and has such an expansive amount of lore to explore. I suppose it’s just hard to do justice to Star Wars on a TV budget, but fortunately, Mando had that Disney money behind it. Also, I felt like I had to include this show, since I’m now the owner of not one, but two Baby Yoda coffee mugs.
Ever since we started doing these Top Ten TV show lists a few years back, I’m pretty sure BoJack has made my list every year if not all of them. It’s been easily one of my favorite shows of the decade, and I’m not sure this latest season does anything truly revelatory, but just the fact that the show has stayed so fresh and consistent over the years has been something delightful to revel in. I’d love for Mr. Peanut-Butter to be my Birthday Dad.
This show makes it pretty clear that it’s not going to tip-toe around its uncomfortable subject matter in its first episode. Which makes it all the more enjoyable that a show about a rape case involving mistaken identity turns out to be an engaging (and even sometimes fun) police procedural. It also happened to be a great showcase for two actresses having mildly break-out years (Kaitlyn Dever and Merritt Wever) and one who just keeps on doing great work (Toni Collette), much like a no-nonsense cop just doin’ her job.
As if my BoJack fandom wasn’t already evident, here’s the second (but not last) show to be created by a member of that show’s creative team. It’s a shame that Netflix decided not to renew Tuca & Bertie, considering the titular duo at the heart of the show seemed like a TV friend couple for the ages. Additionally, the show was filled with animation as playful and colorful as its characters, and even managed to sink its teeth (or beaks) into some relatable issues, even if it always maintained its upbeat birdlife vibes.
I don’t even know when the last time a sketch show made my top ten was, or if it’s ever happened. But I’m just reminded that sketch shows aren’t that easy to write about, nor are many things that you find purely funny without much reason beyond that fact. But hey, I found this show really funny. To the point where I should probably watch it again, since I’m sure there are plenty of sketches I’ve forgotten about that are great. Which I suppose is saying something for a show that’s entire duration is less than 2 hours total.
Another surprising appearance on my list, considering I usually give superhero media about as little recognition as I give Star Wars media. That said, the Watchmen graphic novel is a superhero comic for people who don’t read superhero comics, and I’d say this show succeeds in being a superhero TV show for people who don’t watch superhero TV shows. It also succeeds on a lot of other levels considering that if Zack Snyder’s Watchmen movie proves anything, it’s that Watchmen has a tricky tone to pull off, but this sequel does it about as well as anyone could have hoped for.
Yeah, I don’t really have anything to add to this show, which made it onto my colleagues’ list and continues to keep snatching up awards. I will say that upon catching up with Fleabag I did find myself loving Fleabag’s sister Claire about as much as any character on television. Because sure, it’s always easy to milk a character that’s truly uninhibited for comedy, but general uptightness is also something I find rife with comedic potential, and also a personality trait that feels quite British indeed.
Even though it wasn’t exactly the most buzzed-about new show of 2019, I can’t say there was anything quite like Undone to be released on TV (or streaming) last year. Of course, much of this has to do with the show’s painted rotoscoped animation, which was both delightful to look at, but also felt vital from a storytelling perspective. The show’s trippy style seems like something that could’ve easily felt messy and disorienting, but luckily the Undone is anchored by some superb writing and a ridiculously charming lead performance from Rosa Salazar.
Much like one of HBO’s other big 2019 shows, Big Little Lies, Barry was a show that didn’t entirely feel like it needed to exist beyond its first season. And yet, despite inhabiting the incredibly familiar world of lowlife criminals and down-and-out actors, this show always felt like it had something completely original offer. It’s become more and more commonplace for half-hour shows to do standalone episodes built around a particular character or style, and Barry delivered some of the best last year had to offer. Even better, it now feels like this show could continue to be great for seasons to come.
One of my great TV-watching regrets of 2019 was that I never got around to rewatching this debut season of Russian Doll. The show was packed with just so much narratively, thematically, and tonally that I still feel a little bit shell-shocked from consuming it, even though I didn’t binge it in an evening. But either way, there still wasn’t a show that stuck with me as much as this one, and I’m not sure there was a TV performance that matched the madcap brilliance of Natasha Lyonne (sorry Phoebe Wallers-Bridge). If only we could be caught in a timeloop where all TV was this weird, funny, terrifying, and altogether riveting.