With the decade coming to a close in just a few short days, everyone on the internet has been busy reflecting on all the great TV of the past 10 years (ourselves included). However, don't let nostalgia distract you from all the great series we were gifted just this year! 2019 featured a staggering amount of new and returning series, and there was no shortage of engaging stories to make you laugh, cry, think, or help you escape into another world when this one became too much.
2019 saw the debuts of limited series like Chernobyl and When They See Us, which told tragic true stories and helped audiences understand how close history always is to repeating itself, and fresh spins on beloved franchises, like Watchmen and What We Do in the Shadows. Plus, we can't forget the latest seasons of returning favorites like Succession and Schitt's Creek, which have both only gotten better with age.
In honor of this glorious bounty of television that we received this year, TV Guide has rounded up the Top 25 shows of 2019. You can @ us if you disagree with the selection, but we probably won't care.
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25. Mindhunter (Netflix)
Where to watch: Netflix
For Mindhunter fans, the show's second season was well worth the wait. Netflix's drama, which is inspired by real crimes, saw the profiling squad take on several chilling new cases, including Charles Manson and the Atlanta Child Murders. But Season 2 also turned the microscope on the authorities, drawing parallels between the agents' own deep damages and the criminals they profiled. Where the first season hinted that Holden (Jonathan Groff), Bill (Holt McCallany), and Wendy (Anna Torv) might benefit from taking a closer look at themselves, the show's sophomore outing dove right into the characters' individual ills and was all the better for these personal introspections. -Amanda Bell
24. His Dark Materials (HBO)
HBO and BBC's His Dark Materials is not a perfect adaptation of Philip Pullman's novels, but for longtime fans of the books who have waited nearly three decades to see Lyra's world brought to life it feels like a gift. At the heart of the show's success is its impressive cast — most notably Ruth Wilson, who's chilling performance as Mrs. Coulter should not be forgotten come awards season — who imbue their characters with a sense of history that keeps the fantastical series firmly grounded in emotional reality.
His Dark Materials finally comes close to doing justice to the books' world(s) by striking a lovely balance between faithful adaptation and fresh invention that can appeal to any viewer, regardless of whether they're familiar with the source material. And while there are some stumbles, particularly early on, when the show does stick the landing, it's spectacular to watch, providing viewers with a similar sense of wonderment as to what they felt when they first read about armored bears or the dangerous beauty of the North. -Sadie Gennis
23. On My Block (Netflix)
Where to watch: Netflix
On My Block, a dramedy about a group of teens growing up in South Central Los Angeles, is both an undeniably authentic look at the struggles the kids face and an unbelievably good time. Season 2 proved that the critically acclaimed show wasn't just a one-hit wonder, delivering an impactful season about trauma explored through Ruby's (Jason Genao) battle with PTSD, without sacrificing any of the series' signature charm. Even when the show is dark — and this season got dark -- it's still an enjoyable ride, and that's a credit to the show's sharp writing and charming cast. Skillfully weaving through viscerally emotional scenes and slapstick comedy so pure you can't help but smile, this show is simply great. -Keisha Hatchett
22. Couples Therapy (Showtime)
Drastically different from dating shows where love comes in a messy, outlandish, pre-packaged competition, Couples Therapy picks up where most reality shows stop. The series centers on Dr. Orna Guralnik, a couples therapist in New York City, and the couples who have already met, fallen in love, and dedicated their lives to each other that come to Gularnik to save their marriages. The first season followed four vastly different pairs with vastly different problems over the course of several months and each episode tracked the slow-moving and intensely complicated realities of building a life together. Turns out happily ever after is way more complicated than TV would have us believe. Thank god Couples Therapy is here to change that. -Krutika Mallikarjuna
21. I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson (Netflix)
Where to watch: Netflix
I'm sure Netflix's I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson has culturally significant undertones or themes that ring true for certain sections of society, but screw all that noise, I Think You Should Leave is on this list because it's f---ing hilarious. Most of the sketch show is built on the simple stubbornness of Tim Robinson's characters who back themselves into corners and commit to their faux pas. For example, the opening sketch in which Robinson accidentally pulls on a door that is meant to be pushed open following a job interview and insists to the employer that it can be pulled open to save face, slowly ripping the door off its hinges and destroying the door frame. That's funny, and it works because of Robinson's unique intensity, a comedic gift along the lines of Chris Farley's manic physicality. The show is also extremely tight, maxing out at 18 minutes an episode to not force filler. -Tim Surette
20. What We Do in the Shadows (FX)
Where to watch: Hulu
FX's adaptation of Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement's vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows took a film with an arguably limited premise — a group of vampires live together and their ancient ways put them at odds with the modern world — and built it out into one of the oddest series of the year. Starring Matt Berry, Natasia Demetriou, and Kayvan Novak as three vampires living on Staten Island, What We Do in the Shadows is as rich with talent as it is bursting with eccentric humor and perfectly executed gags. It proved there was still life in stories about the undead, and just when you thought the star-studded vampire council was going to be the highlight of the season, we got revelation that Harvey Guillen's Guillermo, the familiar of Novak's Nandor, is actually a descendant of the famous vampire hunter Van Helsing, a twist which promises to have an equally hilarious payoff in Season 2. -Kaitlin Thomas
19. Undone (Amazon)
Where to watch: Amazon
The first season of this beautifully rotoscoped drama is only eight half-hour episodes, but don't let the bite-sized packaging or the fact that it's animated fool you: Undone is a powerful story about mental illness. The show focuses on Alma (Alita: Battle Angel's Rosa Salazar), a woman who discovers upon waking from a coma that she can manipulate time and communicate with her deceased father (Bob Odenkirk), who wants her to use her newfound powers to prevent his death. But as Alma adjusts to her new reality, she also wonders if she's actually experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia, like her grandmother had. Alma is brave, funny, and relatable as she tries to learn the truth about her powers, her father's death, and her own mental state in a story that races forward and backwards through time. And thanks to the show's dreamy animation style and breakneck pace, we couldn't tear our eyes away. -Noelene Clark
18. The Boys (Amazon)
Where to watch: Amazon
In an age of superhero saturation, The Boys — the ultimate superhero show for people who don't like superheroes — flew into 2019 to save the day. Eric Kripke's adaptation of Garth Ennis' 2006 graphic novel follows a group of regular-powered vigilantes fighting against a group of capes who abuse their powers and celebrity, but the show's specialty is in dismembering superhero culture and idolatry through biting satire. Members of its version of the Justice League take performance-enhancing drugs to land new movie deals, commit sexual assault without fear of consequences, and conspire to get wallet-stuffing military contracts, all of which cleverly highlights the ills of our own world. The Boys is also deviously funny and hilariously violent — a late-season off-the-books military operation shows just how gruesome superheroes in war could be — taking the training wheels off superhero shows and letting it rip. -Tim Surette
17. State of the Union (Sundance)
There has never been a better argument for shorter episodes than Sundance's State of the Union. Made up of just 10 10-minute episodes, the beautifully acted series, written by Nick Hornby and directed by Stephen Frears, stars Rosamund Pike and Chris O'Dowd as Louise and Tom, a couple who meet at a pub ahead of their weekly marriage counseling appointments. Although our time with Louise and Tom is brief, the series makes an effective use of every minute, inviting viewers into the inner workings of a fractured relationship to tell a funny but deeply emotional story about love and friendship. Filled with insight and compassion, the Emmy-winning series makes a lasting impression on everyone who watches it. -Kaitlin Thomas
16. The Other Two (Comedy Central)
Where to watch: Comedy Central
Before The Other Two premiered in January, it would have been easy to say that there wasn't a need right now for yet another show satirizing the trappings of celebrity. But the Comedy Central series managed to put a hilarious new spin on this well-worn territory by focusing on the washed-up millennial siblings (Heléne Yorke and Drew Tarver) of a 13-year-old overnight YouTube music sensation named Chase Dreams (Case Walker). In between the spot-on song spoofs like "Stink" and the misadventures within the family's shared apartment (sublet from Justin Theroux), The Other Two reminds viewers that the realities behind the glossy facade of fame can often be way more messed up than you could ever imagine, and it does so in hilarious and unexpected new ways. We're just grateful that if our tragic family secrets ever come to light, they probably won't be live-streamed from a plane filled with screaming tweens. -Sadie Gennis
15. Are You the One? (MTV)
Where to watch: MTV
Are You the One? debuted on MTV nearly six years ago, but it didn't earn mainstream critical acclaim until the eighth and most recent season, which featured a cast of sexually fluid contestants. And thanks in part to a GLAAD-media-trained host and crew, and the addition of an on-set relationship therapist, Are You the One? avoided being an exploitative, cheap peek into queer sex and dating. Honest conversations about topics like hormone therapy and dressing in drag served to both further queer representation on-screen and to educate viewers who had never before been exposed to people who identify as sexually fluid or gender non-binary. Perhaps most refreshing of all, though, was that in most ways, the dating show treated the Season 8 cast the same as every other cast before them. The season was packed with just as many messy hookups, liquor-fueled meltdowns, and precious showmances that have fueled fans' addiction to the series since Season 1. -Lauren Zupkus
14. Pose (FX)
Where to watch: Netflix
Among the many great storylines in Season 2 of Pose -- which include Candy's tragic death, Pray Tell's (Billy Porter) triumphant romance, and that fabulous trip to the Hamptons — there's a storyline that could've almost gone unnoticed among all the mishigas: the dead body in Elektra's (Dominique Jackson) closet. The entrepreneur and dominatrix had a client accidentally expire, and she called in her girls, including an expert in this sort of thing, to mummify the body. It's outrageous, and yet rooted in reality; fans of Paris Is Burning, the 1991 documentary that doubles as a perfect primer for Pose, know its star and shade professor Dorien Corey did the same thing. It's that kind of burrowing down into the culture and inspired imagining of a fully fleshed-out world that made Pose's second season even better than its first. There's hope, immeasurable tragedy, eye-popping costumes, legendary beats, vicious verbal beatdowns, and a lot of love, set against an era of massive cultural and political change. She gave you 10s across the board, yet again. -Malcolm Venable
13. Unbelievable (Netflix)
Where to watch: Netflix
Anyone who questioned whether it's possible to tell true-crime stories without exploitation received an answer this year with Netflix's Unbelievable. Based on a true story about a serial rapist and the two detectives (played to perfection by Toni Collette and Merritt Wever) who brought him to justice, Unbelievable eschewed sensationalizing the crimes and instead focused on the psychological and emotional cost survivors of sexual assault are left to overcome after being attacked. Unbelievable treats all its survivors with respect, but a special mention must be given to Kaitlyn Dever (Booksmart) as the show's lead, a young woman whose rape was dismissed as a fabrication by authorities and even her own foster guardians. Dever's internalized, heartbreaking performance was as powerful as any on television this year. Thanks to her, Unbelievable is unforgettable. -Chris Rosen
12. Dark (Netflix)
Where to watch: Netflix
Upon first viewing, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and confused by Dark's complicated timelines and intertwined, multi-generational family drama (and, uh, that fated whole apocalypse thing, too). But this isn't because of any failure of Dark to deliver coherent storytelling; rather, the show assumes a level of trust in its audience that is quite rare — and it pays off. Dark never wastes time by interrupting the action to remind viewers that the deaf woman Jonas meets in the future is Charlotte Doppler's daughter Elisabeth, nor does it explain right away how Elisabeth could be both Charlotte's daughter and mother. Dark requires both a trust in the audience to follow the story as it weaves in and out of time and a trust in the show to deliver answers to the series' many confounding mysteries at the proper times.
It's a risky juggling act, but one that has resulted in one of the most tightly paced and well-plotted mystery shows of recent years. And while many puzzle box series lose their appeal once the big answers are revealed, Dark is an exception, proving to be highly rewatchable thanks to the layers of connections that are more easily uncovered with each viewing. -Sadie Gennis
11. When They See Us (Netflix)
Where to watch: Netflix
While watching Netflix's four-part miniseries When They See Us, viewers rapidly vacillate between the desire to cry and to punch walls. That's because Ava DuVernay, who wrote, directed, and executive-produced the project, wanted viewers to be as angry as they were heartbroken when learning about the Exonerated Five. The Emmy-winning miniseries told the true story of the five black and Latinx men who as teenagers were not only falsely accused of raping a white female jogger in New York's Central Park, but railroaded by a biased justice system that refused to treat them fairly. DuVernay used her platform to spotlight the story of the men's long-delayed exoneration and to raise questions about the current state of our criminal justice system. The miniseries also boasted amazing performances from Michael K. Williams, John Leguizamo, Asante Blackk, Aunjanue Ellis, and Niecy Nash. But no one shined as brightly as Emmy-winner Jharrel Jerome, whose unflinching portrayal of Korey Wise helped bring to light the unimaginable mental and physical abuse the men suffered. -Mekeisha Madden Toby
10. Sex Education (Netflix)
Where to watch: Netflix
There are a lot of coming-of-age television series out there, but few are as brazenly honest and endearing as Netflix's Sex Education. The comedy stars Asa Butterfield as Otis Milburn, an awkward outsider at a small-town English secondary school who inadvertently becomes the student body's go-to sex therapist. While this premise is admittedly comical, it allows Sex Education to explore teen sexuality in a truly authentic way and turns the school's bathroom stall, Otis' de facto office, into a safe space for his patients to present their legitimate concerns about sex, whether they're having it or not, and be wholly themselves. The series emphasizes that whether you're the most popular kid in school or the outcast eating lunch alone, there's a universal and terrifying confusion in growing up that can be made more manageable by a supportive community and communication. Plus, Sex Education gives us Gillian Anderson as Otis' divorcée mom, an actual sex therapist, who has a house full of phallic statues and is the gift we didn't know we needed until this year. -Megan Vick
9. Russian Doll (Netflix)
Where to watch: Netflix
The concept of a character getting stuck in a time loop is not new; films like Groundhog Day and Happy Death Day previously tread that territory well enough. Yet, Netflix's Russian Doll still managed to be transcendent thanks to the acerbic wit and full commitment to the philosophical underpinnings which informed its buzzy first season. The dialogue was sharp, snappy, and deliciously vulgar, and no matter how many times its heroes fell down the stairs (or through a cellar door, or into a river), the show never slipped. You can be skeptical about the idea of alternative universes and mysticism, but there's no denying the magic of this show. -Amanda Bell
8. GLOW (Netflix)
Where to watch: Netflix
There are a million reasons to love GLOW in Season 3: the fitting Las Vegas setting, Geena Davis in bold animal prints, and Betty Gilpin's inspiring performance, just to name a few. But what makes this show, and specifically this season, an essential binge is how well it embraces its diverse ensemble of powerful women who have the audacity to dream big and actually succeed. Steeped in comforting '80s nostalgia, bold comedy that puts the Farrelly brothers to shame, and meaningful stories which pack a serious emotional punch, the series is no-holds barred fun that, like Benjamin Button, feels livelier as it gets older. -Keisha Hatchett
7. Chernobyl (HBO)
Where to watch: HBO
Some of the year's best television series dramatized real-world events (see also: Unbelievable and When They See Us), and although aspects of HBO's Chernobyl have been described as "fantasy" by scientists and dismissed by survivors as being completely fabricated or embellished for Hollywood, the truth is that it doesn't really matter. Creator Craig Mazin's writing is effective, spinning a gripping, haunting story about the worst nuclear disaster in human history through the eyes of the plant workers, first responders, bureaucrats, scientists, and other individuals who were either present at the time of the explosion or tasked with handling the aftermath of the catastrophic event. There are times when the show is terribly bleak, but beneath the grim depictions of radiation poisoning and death is a fascinating story about a rotting political system and the lies required to prop it up. Across five foreboding episodes, the series underlines the global implications of what happened at Chernobyl while also revealing the Soviets' staggering level of deceit in all aspects of the proceedings. In 2019, while our world is once more in crisis, it is another powerful reminder — and warning — of humanity's ability to destroy itself. -Kaitlin Thomas
6. Stranger Things (Netflix)
Where to watch: Netflix
Instead of further building out the lore of Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and her powered siblings, Stranger Things Season 3 refocused on the elements that won us over from the start. With the children at the heart of the story preparing to enter high school, the show did a good job of aging them up from kiddos to tweens and exploring how their relationships have evolved. It's always a little weird to watch child actors grow up on-screen, but these supremely talented kids pulled it off with style, flair, and a lot of heart.
Season 3 also delivered several fan-friendly storylines that both sucked us in and creeped us out. Billy (Dacre Montgomery) as the hottest slice of evil at the community pool? Hell yes. Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) having to sing The Neverending Story theme song in the middle of a nail-biting finale climax? Don't mind if we do! Angry Russians operating a secret infiltration mission below the Starcourt Mall? Bring. It. On. Plus, don't forget about Robin (Maya Hawke), the coolest girl in Hawkins! -Lindsay MacDonald
5. Barry (HBO)
Bill Hader and Alec Berg's deep and dark dramedy went even deeper and darker in Season 2, which began with its characters vowing to start over and become better people. Over its eight episodes, viewers watched them dance right up to edge of change and then tragically return to form. You can't will yourself to change your nature.
Barry tells this story with an artistic seriousness that would be pretentious if the show weren't great. In the first shot of the season, Barry (Hader) steps out of total darkness, and in the final one he steps back in. In between, there were big laughs courtesy of relentlessly weird Chechen gangster Noho Hank (Anthony Carrigan) — "It's me, Hank, in a wig. The shirt's mine, though." — stomach-tightening moments of tension, and remarkable performances from Hader, Henry Winkler, Sarah Goldberg, Carrigan, and Stephen Root, all of whom were nominated for Emmys. And no show had a standalone episode as crazy as "ronny/lily," where Barry fights a little girl who may have supernatural martial arts powers. -Liam Mathews
4. Schitt's Creek (Pop TV)
It's no secret that we love Schitt's Creek, so its inclusion on this list is probably a surprise to zero people — but it's still just as deserved. In its fifth season, Schitt's Creek delivered on everything we already loved about the series while encouraging its characters to grow in surprising new directions. We got to see Moira's (Catherine O'Hara) magnanimity on full display, bliss out to David (Dan Levy) and Patrick's (Noah Reid) heart-swelling romance, and bear witness to Alexis (Annie Murphy) surprising us with the song of the season. More importantly, the show kept nimbly coupling its laugh-out-loud comedy with the tenderest moments, leaning right into its own joy of offering audiences a quiet little retreat to a world where being seen is the norm and love really is the answer. -Amanda Bell
3. Watchmen (HBO)
I go back and forth on whether or not it's surprising that Watchmen is as great as it is. On the one hand, it's crazy for anyone to think about messing around with Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen, the Citizen Kane of comic books, especially since Alan Moore is vehemently against HBO's version. On the other hand, the person doing it is Lost and The Leftovers' Damon Lindelof, probably the single most qualified TV producer to tackle such a project, and his collaborators include a murderers' row of writers (shoutout to Cord Jefferson), some of TV's best directors (shoutout to Nicole Kassell), and a ridiculously great cast (shoutout to Jeremy Irons, Tim Blake Nelson, Jean MFing Smart, etc.) led by star Regina King, who won an Emmy and an Oscar last year. So I'm leaning toward not surprising.
But what has remained surprising throughout the first season are all the ways in which it's great. It's great as an alternate-universe reflection of America in 2019, where police and government officials mingle with white supremacists, corporations are nations unto themselves beholden to no one, and the conspiracy theories are all pretty much true. It's great as a history lesson, bringing the 1921 Tulsa race massacre to greater public consciousness. It's great as a delivery mechanism for Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' propulsive score. It manages to make the story digestible to people who haven't read the comic, which is incredible, considering how reliant on the complex source material it is. The tempo and structure are perfectly calibrated, and the reveals of the show's many mysteries happen at the most judicious times in the most satisfying ways. It has the best cold opens of any show on TV right now. It has a sense of humor as dry as Dr. Manhattan's Martian home. It's true to the spirit of the original Watchmen while having a vision completely its own.
There's a lot of Martin Scorsese-fueled talk at the moment of comic book movies vs. art, and Watchmen is the one that's both. If a superhero fan wants to refute Scorsese's point that superhero stories lack humanity, they can use Watchmen. And if an aesthete wants to give an exception that proves the rule about spiritually blank "theme park" entertainment, they can also use Watchmen. -Liam Mathews
2. Succession (HBO)
The best-written drama since Mad Men, the funniest workplace comedy since The Office, and the closest we might ever get to a remake of The Godfather that actually could exist within the same zip code as The Godfather, HBO's Succession made the leap in Season 2. What started as a satire of a media family not unlike the Murdochs transformed into something larger and more relevant this year. Succession is not just a takedown of capitalism writ-large and a character study about the damage parents can do to their children; it forces viewers to empathize with the ostensible enemy and ask themselves what they would do to hold on to unlimited wealth and status. Season 2 ended on a note of triumph, with the beleaguered Kendall (Jeremy Strong) tossing his abusive father, Logan (Brian Cox), under the bus once and for all to pay for the company's past sins — a coverup of mass sexual misconduct and racism in its cruise division. The truly shocking cliffhanger was a fist-pump moment for viewers who spent 10 episodes wondering when Kendall would get his mojo back. But the adrenaline jolt was short-lived and came with a bitter aftertaste: Kendall accidentally killed a waiter in the Season 1 finale, of course, so who are we really rooting for on this show? And why? Succession doesn't provide easy answers — it simply sits back and watches the psychological fallout with an imperceptible smile across its face. -Chris Rosen
1. Fleabag (Amazon)
Where to watch: Amazon
2019 is the year that Phoebe Waller-Bridge finally began to receive the recognition she deserves. The 34-year-old producer, writer, and actress had previously created three hit TV series, performed on Broadway, and acted in a Star Wars movie. But 2019 shone a bigger spotlight on Waller-Bridge, who won three Emmy Awards, hosted Saturday Night Live, and became one of the most coveted writers in Hollywood. The increased attention is largely due to the success of the second season of her show Fleabag, which released on Amazon this spring, three years after the show's bawdy first season made a splash among critics. The show's sophomore go-round was, in a word, flawless. Waller-Bridge returned to play the titular fourth-wall-breaking character, a now-recovering sex addict who is working through her complicated relationship with her family, the grief of losing both her best friend and her mother, and her forbidden romantic feelings for a Catholic priest, played with charm and exuberance by Andrew Scott.
All that might make Fleabag sound like a heavy trudge, but it's not, and that's because Waller-Bridge is funny — and in the moments you'd least expect; thanks to Fleabag's biting commentary and facial expressions, we giggled through the world's most cringe-worthy family dinner, a Quaker religious service, and even her mother's funeral. And Waller-Bridge is backed by a top-notch supporting cast, including Scott, of course, but also Sian Clifford as Claire, a bundle of nervous energy and one half of the show's sweet sibling love story; Brett Gelman as Martin, Claire's obnoxious husband; and the inimitable Olivia Colman as Fleabag's stepmother, who is as delectable in the role as she is detestable. Fleabag's most dysfunctional relationship, however, is with her audience, with whom she confides and for whom she performs. But with a heartbreaking little wave in the finale, Fleabag broke up with us, and eight months later, we're still smarting. -Noelene Clark
(Disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of CBS Corporation.)
(Disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of ViacomCBS.)