This is the time of year in which we look back at the year prior and think about the art and pop culture that left an impact on us. Many writers here at Flixist have written articles about our Top 5 Films of 2019 (myself included). I love film, but I spend a lot more time watching television than movies. TV is a fantastic medium. It is a wonderful way to tell long-form stories. It also has the capacity for things like game shows, sports, and reality television that completely separates it from other art forms.
Here is my list of my Top 5 TV Shows of 2019. To clarify, these are specifically new shows that premiered last year. You won’t see Doctor Who, Top Chef, or The Good Place on here. Interestingly, after I made my list, I’ve realized that all of these shows are found on streaming services. None of them are from network or cable. The age of streaming is really giving us some great content to watch. I hope that some of these shows will interest you!
5. Russian Doll
Found on: Netflix
Russian Doll is a story about a woman in New York named Nadia (Natasha Lyonne) that experiences what is commonly referred to as a “Groundhog Day Loop,” named after the classic Bill Murray film. The show begins with Nadia in a bathroom during a party. Whenever Nadia dies (which is often in this show), she returns to the same moment in time. She is back in the bathroom. As with most stories of this nature, Nadia must try to understand what is happening to her and then look for a way to stop it. On the surface, this show may not sound like a very original tale. But when you watch it, you see that it takes a fundamentally different approach to a time loop than you’ve seen elsewhere. This show is really about relationships. It’s about how people can help each other. I really don’t want to say more because I don’t want to spoil anything. I can say that this show really surprised me. It was enjoyable enough that I’ve actually watched it twice since it premiered!
4. Good Omens
Found on: Amazon Prime
Good Omens is about the end of the world. It is a tale about two mortal enemies turned friends. There is an angel named Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and a demon named Crowley (David Tennant), who each represent Heaven and Hell respectively in an a war spanning multiple millennia. As time reaches the modern day, the two realize that the end is nigh. Heaven and Hell are ready to go to war with each other and put an end to humanity. Crowley and Aziraphale have spent so much time around humans that they’ve realized they don’t want to see humanity destroyed. They want life to go on. They make it their personal quest to prevent Armageddon. As part of this, they find a child that is said to be the Antichrist. They choose to raise him in a way that will prevent him from becoming the leader of all evil in the world. While the concept of the show is quite dark, it’s actually a fairly light-hearted take on Christianity. The show has good things to say. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s brilliantly acted.
Found on: Hulu
Dollface is a story about a woman named Jules Wiley (Kat Dennings) who has been dumped. She has devoted the last few years of her life entirely to her boyfriend. Everything was about him, to the point where she neglected all of her friendships with women. After she is dumped, she realizes that she needs to reconnect with her former friends. She needs to re-learn how to be friends with other women. It’s a story about relationships with friends and how we fit into these friendships. It’s also a story about finding one’s self. What I really like most about this show is its use of abstract storytelling. While the story itself is fairly simple, it’s told in clever ways. The writers and directors really understand that television is a visual medium and they use this to their advantage. When Jules is a party pooper, she is transported to a courtroom. She is put on trial for “killing the buzz.” After she is dumped, she is loaded onto a bus full of recently dumped women. It’s driven by a literal cat lady. It’s a lady with the body of a human woman and the head of a cat. Bizarre events like this occur regularly throughout the series and I love it. It’s a great way to get in the head of the main character. It’s very funny, and highly relatable.
2. The Umbrella Academy
Found on: Netflix
At first glance, The Umbrella Academy is a superhero show. It’s a tale about children born with remarkable powers. In reality, it’s really nothing like a typical superhero show. In the world of this series, 43 women simultaneously gave birth around the world in 1989. The strange thing is, none of these women had been pregnant before that day. A billionaire makes it his business to go around the world seeking these children. He adopts several of them, brings them home, and raises them. He identifies that each child has special abilities. He helps them train and develop these talents. Only one of the children grows up to be a vigilante who fights crime. The rest try to make their own way in the world.
One of which, Number Seven (Ellen Page), does not have any powers. She is the only person in her family that is normal. In her family, however, this makes her the outcast. She is the one who doesn’t belong. She was never good enough. Each of the children have serious problems though. They were all raised by an egomaniac who used them rather than cared for them. As adults, they have to deal with their childhood abuses. They have to find a way to get along with each other in spite of how broken they all are. Ultimately, this story is about a really messed up family that is trying to find a way to live with themselves.
1. The Mandalorian
Found on: Disney+
If you somehow haven’t heard of this show, you must be living under a rock. It’s a Star Wars show about a bounty hunter who must take care of a child. It is the simplest concept of any show discussed in this list. It’s a show that takes concepts of Western and Samurai films and smashes them with the Star Wars we know and love. It isn’t about saving the galaxy or fighting space wizards the spew lightning from their hands. It isn’t about obliterating planets. It’s just about a guy and a baby being hunted across the galaxy. The show has plenty of action and intrigue, but it’s all secondary to character. The titular Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) is a broken person that makes a decision to dedicate his life to helping another. It’s rather beautiful. The emotions this show manages to evoke are powerful. I cared more about the characters in this show than I did for any other characters in any other show or movie this past year. I cannot wait to see what adventures await our heroes next year.