Let’s be honest, 2019 has been a weird one. From the chaos brought with each passing week in Westminster — regardless of your political persuasion — to the swiftly dashed hopes of the Rugby World Cup, it’s been a year of emotional turbulence. In one aspect, however, 2019 has undeniably, and consistently, triumphed: it’s been a bloody good year of television.
From the smash hit success of Netflix originals to reliably fantastic dramatic deliveries on the BBC’s Sunday night schedule; these are the shows we’ve loved, recommended and binged the most this year.
Fleabag Series 2
The show that launched a thousand fetishes (and made everyone look at their vicar a little differently), there are few programs that manage to secure true legendary status from the moment of broadcast. The magic of Fleabag, of course, begins and ends with the remarkable talent of its creator, writer and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
We laughed, we cried, and we breathed a huge sigh of relief when the second series lived up to the standard of the first. Kneeling in church will never be the same again.
Succession Series 2
We like to think we were ahead of the curve with our enthusiasm for Succession. After all, we interviewed one of its stars, Matthew Macfadyen, way back in August last year. Since then, it’s gone on to become one of HBO’s most successful shows of all time (dare we say it, Game of Thrones has got nothing on its back-stabbing plot twists).
The handiwork of the writers behind Peep Show and the director of the Oscar-winning The Big Short, Succession is that rare gem of a show that sits firmly within the zeitgeist for crooked thriller-comedy TV (think Black Mirror), but takes things a little further by blurring the dividing line between dark drama and black humour into obscurity.
We were in equal parts gripped and repulsed by this extraordinary Netflix dramatisation of a true story. Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning article An Unbelievable Story of Rape, this phenomenally well-acted true crime series tells the story of Marie Adler (Booksmart’s Kaitlyn Dever) who files a police report claiming she’s been sexually abused by an intruder. Nobody believes her until hundreds of miles away, detectives begin exploring a similar case and the two departments partner to track down the perpetrator.
Merritt Wever (Nurse Jackie) and Oscar-nominee Toni Colette (Little Miss Sunshine) star as real-life Colorado detectives Karen DuVall and Grace Rasmussen.
Chernobyl, HBO’s gritty and horrifying retelling of the worst nuclear disaster in history, jumped to the No. 1 spot on IMDb’s all-time TV rankings just days after the limited series concluded — and it’s not hard to see why. Alongside dramatising the meltdown of a nuclear reactor in Pripyat, Ukraine in April 1986, the show made universal observations about how institutions and hierarchies cause people to lose their basic humanity.
Gritty, haunting, and depressingly prescient for our times — Chernobyl might have been one of the hardest watches of 2019, but it was also undeniably one of the best.
Years and Years
Exploding from the extraordinary mind of Russell T Davies came Years and Years, a six-part limited series that begins in 2019 and propels its characters 15 years forward into an unstable world. The characters in question are an ordinary British family (the Lyons), and viewers watch as they contend with the hopes, anxieties and joys of an uncertain future.
The story begins as members of the Lyons clan converge for the birth of the newest family member, baby Lincoln, and an outspoken celebrity begins her transformation into a political figure whose controversial opinions will divide the nation. As the Britain of this imaginary drama is rocked by political, economic and technological advances, the family experiences everything hoped for in the future, and everything that is feared.
Line Of Duty Series 5
The maxim goes that too much of anything can never be good — but the exception that proves the rule would appear to be Line of Duty. With each and every new season, Jed Mercurio ups his sensational game, expanding the show’s already enormous and devoted fanbase.
This year, season five offered something particularly special, as Stephen Graham stepped into the show as the missing undercover officer D.S. John Corbett. To give any more information would sadly probably constitute spoilers (there’s not much wiggle room in this vintage Mercurio script), but suffice it to say that we were hooked from beginning to end.
Let’s be honest, you don’t need us to describe the plot of Bodyguard to you because you were likely one of the record-breaking average of 10.4 million viewers who tuned in, gripped, each week. In fact, the finale became the most-watched episode of any drama since records began in 2002, according to the BBC.
But, for the benefit of the five of you who missed it, the show follows war veteran David Budd as he finds work protecting the home secretary, the Rt. Hon. Julia Montague MP (Keeley Hawes), a controversial and ambitious politician who is described as “the sociopath” by one of her aides, and who has plans to introduce invasive new surveillance powers for security forces.