The 10 Best TV Shows of the Year, According to PEOPLE's Critic: Fleabag, The Crown and More!
As 2019 draws to a close, PEOPLE’s critic Tom Gliatto reveals his picks for the 10 best TV shows of the year. Read on for the full list, which notably is dominated by prestige projects from streaming platforms like Amazon and Netflix, plus a buzzy prospect from the brand-new Disney+.
1. Fleabag (Amazon)
Miracles do happen, at least when actress-writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge is involved. Season 1 of her series about a self-involved Londoner with a wicked sense of humor and a passive-aggressive streak was flawless —and the concluding season 2, in which her heroine falls in love with a priest (Andrew Scott), was perfect. The show, as devastating as it is funny, ended with the most touching farewell wave in TV history.
2. Chernobyl (HBO)
A terrifying, tough-to-watch dramatization of the 1986 Ukrainian nuclear disaster — one irradiated plant worker disintegrates into a viscous mass of tissue and blood. Jared Harris and Emily Watson play two scientists trying to contain the chaos.
3. The Crown (Netflix)
Season 3 began with a casting coup at the palace: Olivia Colman (The Favourite) replaced Claire Foy as Elizabeth II, now middle-aged and wishing she were breeding horses instead of raising sulky young Charles (Josh O’Connor). TV’s most scintillating mix of history and gossip.
4. Unbelievable (Netflix)
Three fantastic performances — by Toni Collette, Merritt Wever and Booksmart’s Kaitlyn Dever — anchor a fact-based crime drama about the rape of a Seattle teenager. It’s a riveting investigative narrative and, perhaps more significantly, a powerful study of how victims are mistreated, misunderstood and worse.
5. When They See Us (Netflix)
Ava DuVernay (Selma, A Wrinkle in Time) directs an unflinching miniseries about the brutally mistreated, wrongly convicted black teens who came to be known as the Central Park Five. Emmy winner Jharrel Jerome, who plays both the young and the adult Korey Wise, was unforgettable.
6. Leaving Neverland (HBO)
Michael Jackson, winsome Prince of Pop, had money, power and fame — and, according to Dan Reed’s four-hour film, a cold willingness to use them as tools to molest young boys. It’s all believable, devastatingly so. (In late February, Jackson’s estate filed a lawsuit against HBO claiming the documentary violates a non-disparagement clause in which the network agreed to not speak ill of the singer and also cited Jackson’s 2005 acquittal of child molestation charges against him, according to court documents obtained by PEOPLE.)
7. The Mandalorian (Disney+)
May the Force be with you — and goo-goo-goo! This Star Wars offshoot has a streamlined, sure-fire concept: A TV Western set in a galaxy far, far away, it’s about a lone bounty hunter (Pedro Pascal) who finds himself paired with the cutest creature in the cosmos: a long-eared 50-year-old infant, nicknamed “Baby Yoda” by fans, floating across hostile terrain in an astro-bassinet.
8. Russian Doll (Netflix)
Nadia (Natasha Lyonne) is cynical beyond her years — and no wonder: She’s trapped in a time loop
that keeps killing and resurrecting her on her 36th birthday. It’s a bleak meta-physical joke, but there’s a sense of wonder too. Emotionally, Doll is a fruitful loop.
9. Succession (HBO)
This addictive saga of a rich media family got even meaner and better in its second season. It’s The Wolf of Wall Street with a very large pack. Everyone — father, daughter, son — has an insatiable appetite for control. Everyone, from people to conglomerates, stands a good chance of being gobbled up.
10. Modern Love (Amazon)
This sweet anthology series, based on a popular New York Times column and starring everyone from Anne Hathaway to Tina Fey, celebrates romance up and down the isle of Manhattan. Someday maybe we’ll have a brasher, noisier spinoff courtesy of the New York Post.