Another year down, another year introducing us to all-new characters and their stories as we continue in the world of Peak TV. Some new streamers came along to change the game not only with a plethora of nostalgia, but also some new original content (cough, cough: Disney Plus), but also cable and even network TV remind us all that they are the OG and they all force us to stay glued to our couches night after night. While there have been hundreds of new TV shows that have given some great content, we’re gonna narrow this down to the top 15 of the year.
Before we dig into the great ones, there are a few honorable mentions that need to be notified as they were also awesome: The Politician (because Ryan Murphy can write pretty much anything well), What We Do In The Shadows (who doesn’t want “vampires meets The Office?), The Passage (a fun vampire post-apocalyptic show with a young black girl as the “chosen one” to save humanity from vampires), Kingdom (ancient zombies in feudal South Korea… nuff said) and The Twilight Zone reboot (as Jordan Peele continues his plans for world domination and shackling his comedic bits as he slowly takes on every genre) are just a few shows that came this year that deserve our attention, even if they aren’t the best of the best.
Here are the 15 best new shows that premiered in 2019….
15. Desus and Mero (Showtime)
While not “technically” a new show, Desus Nice and The Kid Mero continued their podcast-turned-free form television show that was on Viceland over to Showtime. Now with a bigger budget, sketches, and a studio audience, Desus & Mero has the chance to be the “number one show on late night” as the two unique personalities just sit on the couch and talk about politics and pop culture twice a week. Their first episode has AOC herself stop by and hang out with the “Bodega Boys.” Such other guests have been Corey Booker, Lil Nas X, Megan Rapinoe, Zendaya, and they even got Pete Buttigieg to drink beer out of a brown bag with them on the street in the Bronx and taking shots with Kirsten Gillibrand and Elizabeth Warren at bars. While they are stepping up into the big time, they are still quintessentially Bronx to the core and make for a very funny and entertaining show.
14. See (Apple TV+)
On paper, See should not work. It’s built on the premise that somehow in the future, mankind loses the ability of sight. What makes the show so interesting is the world-building that went into it. Here we see a fully functioning society that somehow can still hunt, forage, explore, and of course, fight with each other over resources. Basically, it’s a world full of Matt Murdocks who live their everyday lives. One thing the powers that be in this world don’t like, people born with the gift of sight as they are branded as witches. This leaves Baba Voss (Jason Momoa, who can’t not play a badass warrior) to protect his wife’s children along with his mentor played by Alfre Woodard as they flee from an evil queen, who has the most unique form of prayer I’ve ever seen on screen (hint hint, it’s either masturbation or receive oral sex as part of a religious ritual… I said the show was weird and interesting!). The world-building and the action help make See something you wanna “see.”
13. Daybreak (Netflix)
With The Walking Dead doing its 10th (and probably one of its best) season this year, one might think we are tired of zombie TV shows. But with such shows like Kingdom (as mentioned in the Honorable Mentions) and Black Summer that came this year, shows that the genre really isn’t stopping anytime soon. How does one make a zombie show that is original and sets it apart from the others? Why, you make Daybreak, a high school comedy that breaks the 4th Wall more times than Deadpool does. Daybreak follows Josh who is trying to live his best life after bombs drop and turn every adult into zombie-like creatures called “Ghoulies,” which leaves the high school kids of Glendale California to live in a Mad Max-style world where the high school cliques have evolved into “tribes:” “The Jocks”, the “Cheermazons,” the “Golf Club,” and the “Tribe of Kardashia” to name a few. Daybreak captures how high school kids would act in a world they have to rule surrounded by zombies in a Mad Max-meets-Lord-of-the-Flies-meets-The Walking Dead kind of way. It’s very funny and the writing is sharp (except the last episode), and a shame the show was canceled after 1 season.
12. Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal (Adult Swim)
Animation folks love them some Genndy Tartakovsky. After all, he’s made some hits like Dexter’s Laboratory, Samurai Jack, and countless others. Dude’s a legend at this point, so it’s natural to be excited for whatever he creates next. While I’m not the biggest contemporary animation fan, word of mouth said that his next hit would be strong, so I opted to give Primal a shot. Man, that was interesting and fun! Set in a prehistoric world where cavemen, dinosaurs, and ice age creatures all exists (just run with it) Primal focuses on two antagonists, a caveman, and a juvenile female Tyrannosaurus, who are united by tragedy (as both of their families are killed by a larger predatory dinosaur) and pretty much go on adventures together throughout the prehistoric landscape. The episodes have no dialogue, as the caveman and dinosaur can’t really “speak” to each other, so they nonverbally communicate with each other and grow as friends and help each other get out of many crazy situations, whether that be hunted by raptors, hunted by wooly mammoths, or hunted by other cavemen. The show is full of bloody violence, and great animation and forces you to care about two unlikely companions who can’t even say hello to each other, but completely get each other.
11. The Umbrella Academy (Netflix)
2019 was the year the Disney pretty much “Thanos snapped” all the Marvel movies and shows away from Netflix (as they were launching their own streaming service, Disney Plus) and while fans were upset about many of the Defenders leaving Netflix, the streaming giant already had backup plans. In addition to purchasing Millarworld (which gives them tons of IP to work with), the streaming giant also adapted Gerard Way’s (yes that Gerard Way) The Umbrella Academy comic book. In the late 80s, 43 women across the world (who weren’t pregnant at the beginning of the day) gave birth to children. Seven of those children were “purchased” by a billionaire (who may or may not be an alien) and trained them to become a superhero team with the purpose of saving the world. But these kids are all kinds of screwed up having been raised and pushed to be superheroes. As they grew up they grew apart and are forced to reunite when their “father” dies and then one of them teleports after having been lost due to his time-traveling powers (not aged a day in 30 years) and tells them that they have to save the world together. Now this band of misfits not only has to once again get along with each other, but they have to save the world. They have to do this while being hunted by time-traveling assassins as well who have to ensure that history unfolds. The show is bonkers and a lot of fun as each character has their own drama to deal with as well as work with their “siblings” to save the day.
10. Russian Doll (Netflix)
What started as a brainfart between Leslye Headland, Amy Poehler, and show lead Natasha Lyonne, Russian Doll turned into one of Netflix’s recent hits. Centering on a very bad case of Groundhog’s Day, software engineers Nadia Vulvokov has to continue to endlessly relive her 36th birthday as she continues to die somehow during the party her friends threw for her. Of course, as time continues, she learns the ropes, tries to avoid things, and then gets thrown yet another curveball to die again and again. Of course, this is only happening to her, only for her to learn another person is also going through the same time loop and the two try and work together to solve their time loop problem, but also help each other solve other problems in each other’s lives. Nadia lives a self-destructive life while Alan lives a life that’s boring and takes no risks. Essentially, they need each other to help each other become better people. Very well written, at times it’s hilarious and then becomes heartbreaking in the same beat. Russian Doll is a keeper for Netflix.
9. Emergence (ABC)
Every year network TV puts out a mystery event show. Most of the time, it’s just a poor man’s Lost. But every now and then, we get a show with that kind of shows up out of nowhere with mystery, intrigue, suspense, and great characters like Emergence. Centering on a small a mysterious plane crash in Long Island, when a young girl emerges from the crash site without a scar, nor any memory of how she got there and the police chief (Allison Tolman) who is trying to figure things out. Soon enough, there’s a government/corporate conspiracy concerning not only the crash, but the young girl as well. Unlike other mystery shows that draw out for long seasons to start to give you answers, Emergence tells you rather quickly in the first season that the young girl is not a girl at all, but an artificial intelligence in a realistic cybernetic body, and she has superpowers. Each episode continues to operate from that baseline, and it gets each week gives you another cliffhanger to try and theorize about until next week!
8. Doom Patrol (DC Universe)
Having already appeared in the first season of DC’s Titans in their own episode that sorta acted like a backdoor pilot, fans were already excited to see how the famed team from comics would fare on the small screen. After all, they were weird, like… too weird! But somehow the show works and is a lot of fun. The team of Doom Patrol consists of Robot Man (and guy who’s brain is literally in a robot’s body), Crazy Jane (a woman with 64 separate personalities, all with different powers), Rita (a former actress now that the gift/curse of shapeshifting, and not the good kind), Negative Man (after being hit by radioactive energy has a “negative” spirit inside him), and Cyborg (who we all know from Justice League, and the Teen Titans comics/cartoons, just younger) as they are led by The Chief. The season starts with The Chief being kidnapped by Mr. Nobdy (Alan Tudyk CHOMPING up the scenery and a 4th wall breaking insane supervillain and is having a lot of fun doing so) and the group has to go and rescue him. The show definitely earns its TV-MA rating as there’s sex (in one episode Flex Mentallo uses his reality-warping powers incorrectly and forces hundreds of people to have a simultaneous orgasm with hilarious results), and plenty of cursing and violence, but the characters are very enjoyable and relatable to. Each episode deals with a person or a feeling related to the plot, with the word “Patrol” in it (example: Therapy Patrol when they all did group therapy and Jane Patrol when they dug deep into Jane’s past). A lot of fun, and surprisingly full of heart. The episode “Danny Patrol” introduces “Danny the Street,” a sentient, genderqueer teleporting street that offers refuge to the LGBTQ+ community and has one of the most emotional cover of “People Like Us” that elevates the entire show! Doom Patrol is a must-have and if DC Universe continues shows like this, they’ll be in great shape.
7. Good Omens (Amazon Prime)
Based on the novel by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, Good Omens deals with an angel named Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and a demon named Crowley (David Tennant), who have been enemies-turned-friends since the creation of Earth and when they find out that the Antichrist and Armageddon are about to finally start, they decide they like living here and plot to prevent the biblical apocalypse. They not only have to find and stop the Antichrist, but also deal with angels from heaven and demons from hell, who are trying to stop them and ensure the apocalypse happens. Gaiman also served as the showrunner, so that Good Omens captures his vision from the book, and even added things that weren’t in the book to further flesh things out. Both Sheen and Tennant are bringing their A-Game as they are a delight to see in action. The best thing about the show is their relationship, whether it’s out of respect, platonic, or romantic (and there are plenty of shippers who want Crowley and Aziraphale to be a romantic couple), the show allows Tennant and Sheen’s chemistry to shine and they are great in this. With the book over, there’s a demand for a second season for the show, and why not?
6. The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (Netflix)
In 1982, puppeteers Jim Henson and Frank Oz directed a “small” fantasy film called The Dark Crystal. Since then, it’s gained cult status for the great effects and very mature storyline, but sadly there hasn’t been anything in the world of Thra since the original film. The Jim Henson company never gave up on revisiting this world and after a failed film attempt, Netflix agreed to produce a prequel tv series. In an age where pretty much everything is CGI, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is a breath of fresh air as it goes back to basics in the most brilliant way. Using puppets and other practical effects, the new series shows us the world of Thra just before the evil Skeksis completely took over and almost destroyed the world. The voice acting (includes Sigourney Weaver, Taron Egerton, Nathalie Emmanuel, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Simon Pegg, Keegan-Michael Key, Mark Hamil, Awkwafina, Lena Headey, Mark Strong, to say just a few) is outstanding and helps accompany the impeccable puppeteering work. They even have puppets put on a puppet show, which almost made my brain melt. You’d be surprised how attached you can get to puppets as you get sunk into the very strong and interconnected (like a puppet version of Game of Thrones) plot and storyline threads. The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance shouldn’t work as our expectations for storytelling have moved beyond puppeteering, yet this show is outstanding and left us binging through it multiple times.
5. Euphoria (HBO)
Look, I was in high school and it was wild, but not THIS wild! Loosely based on an Israeli series of the same name, Euphoria shows an honest and full out there look at contemporary high school life in suburban California, as students navigate sex, sexuality, drugs, and other social issues in everyday life. Singer/actress Zendaya steps away from her Disney girl image and plays Rue a recovering addict who returns back to home and school after a stint in rehab. First off, let’s just give Zendaya her Emmy now, as she goes through many emotions and gives one hell of a performance throughout the first season. The show hosts a wide range of characters as kids at her school who are also going through various issues as well. The writing is very good as is the acting, especially from Alexa Demie as Maddy and Hunter Schafer and Rue’s friend/lover Jules, is very good. The show actually casts Schafer, a transgender actress to play a transgender character, showing that Hollywood is finally moving in the right direction and not casting others to play that role, allowing some real representation. Euphoria has many adults wondering if contemporary high school life is as crazy as it is on the show, which many kids across the country are saying it is in fact, very real. Either way, the rich storylines, and honest look at how the youth think and feel, Euphoria is a great program.
4. The Mandalorian (Disney Plus)
Since their purchase of Lucasfilm, Disney has hit a few hurdles when it comes to Star Wars. While I’m one who unabashedly loved The Last Jedi, there are many who didn’t. Solo’s box office numbers were lower than expected as well. Many wondered if a Star Wars TV show would actually work, but damn The Mandalorian is a fun time. Jon Favreau along with producers Dave Filoni, and Colin Wilson have made a compelling weekly show in the Star Wars universe that didn’t mention a Skywalker. With episodes directed by Dave Filoni, Rick Famuyiwa, Bryce Dallas Howard, Taika Waititi, and Deborah Chow (who will be the showrunner and director for the Obi-Wan show, which I’m VERY excited for), each episode of The Mandalorian is expertly done. They also made Star Wars, which is often described as a “space western” and ACTUAL space western as it has a completely gritty western vibe throughout the show. Focusing on a nameless Mandalorian (we do get his name in the finale), goes on missions to collect a bounty for the good of his tribe, but then one fare he retrieves changes everything (for both the show and for pop culture in general) when he finds “The Child” that we have collectively decided to call Baby Yoda. After saving The Child “Mando” then has to go into hiding since he broke his bounty hunting rules, as well as continue doing his bounty hunting activities. The show is rich with plenty of Star Wars Easter Eggs for fans, and a direct correlation to all the films as well as the Clone Wars and Rebels cartoon show. Pedro Pascal performs great as the bounty hunter, but the big star is the small puppet that the country has fallen in love with. Long live Baby Yoda!
3. The Boys (Amazon Prime)
Imagine a world where superheroes actually exist. How would they really act? Would they be heroes who save cats out of trees for no money and out of the goodness of a job well done? Hell no! They’d be millionaires working for large corporations and would have a sense of entitlement that knows no limits. This of how we idolize our entertainment stars and athletes, and multiply that by a million, that’s the world of The Boys. Based on the comic written by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson, The Boys deals when Hughie’s girlfriend is killed by a “hero” from The Seven (a Justice League/Avengers analog) and not only doesn’t get punished, doesn’t have any remorse, this leads Billy Butcher to seek him out and have him join “The Boys,” a group of ex-CIA agents who have just about had it with super-powered beings thinking they can do whatever they want and seek justice in their own hands. We get to see some super-powered people and despite the image as heroes, they are drug addicts, rapists, and straight-up sociopaths, especially Homelander (Antony Starr) who is what would happen if you meshed Captain America and Superman, and made them into terrible, psychopathic, narcissistic person, who everyone loved and believed in, yet didn’t care one bit for. Karl Urban shines as Billy Butcher, who REALLY hates “supes” and gleefully enjoys killing them. The show shines a light at our own celebrity-obsessed culture as well as what it takes to stay at the top. While at times over the top, The Boys is just pure awesomeness.
2. When They See Us (Netflix)
I have already given When They See Us much praise
for how it examined the case of the Central Park 5, now the Exonerated 5 and painted a very human face of 5 innocent young men. The show is almost perfection in regards to directing, writing, and acting. Ava Duvernay put a lot of heart into making this project a reality and gave these young men the honor they are due. Jharrel Jerome won an Emmy for his portrayal of Korey Wise in the final episode, and rightfully so! It was a tour de force. All of When they See Us
is exceptional and really strong and bold filmmaking that needs to be told.
1. Watchmen (HBO)
There are so many ways to potentially screw this up, why touch greatness? After all, Watchmen is the comic book holy grail. Alan Moore’s original graphic novel is considered by some as the best comic book/graphic novel ever written. Zack Snyder did a film based on the comic (with mixed results), so why would HBO try and do Watchmen again? And would it be good? Good God Watchmen is so friggin good!!!! From the opening scene showing the world about the Tulsa Race Massacre from 1921, and in most cases introducing America to a shameful thing it did (and should have been taught in history books). I did not expect Watchmen to be so…. BLACK!! Like, really black! Like, #watchmensoblack was trending afterwards. The hero is a black woman, and the enemy is literally white supremacy. The show made some bold choices in the subject matter, and completely nailed it from start to finish!
The show is a sequel to the original comic book (so you can ignore the Snyder movie if you want), as its 30 years since the events of the comic unfolded and nuclear war was prevented via a telepathic exploding space squid hoax. Robert Redford is president, and he enacted reparations, which caused all sorts of strife with the 7th Kalvary (a white supremacist group inspired by original comic “hero” Rorschach, much to the rage of some on the internet, but at the same time makes sense) and the police (who to protect their identity now wear masks vigilante-style). Regina King shines as Angela Abar (Zendaya’s only real Emmy competition) as does Jean Smart as former Watchmen member Laurie Blake, now an FBI agent who hunts down vigilantes. Time Blake Nelson as Looking Glass (AKA “Mirror Guy’), Lou Gosset Jr, Jeremy Irons (who is having a blast as Ozymandius the “smartest man in the world), and Hong Chau (who steals the show as Lady Trieu the “smartest woman in the world” who “doesn’t do remixes), are all in rare form! Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s profile continues to elevate as he did the perfect rendition of Dr. Manhattan. While the original comic the heroes tried to stop something too big for them: nuclear war, this time our heroes have to face something equally too big: racism and race relations.
The show swings for the fence in ways just not done anymore. The Hooded Justice and the Doctor Manhattan origin stories are flawlessly directed episodes and it’ll be a damn shame if they don’t get Emmys next year. In 9 dynamic episodes, Damon Lindelof and his team of writers were able to create a perfect season of television, but deliver a Watchmen story that would please fans, and might even make Alan Moore pleased (yeah that’s a tall order, but one can hope). It feels so new and fresh, yet still completely anchored to the source material and once again, tells a fascinating story. I can’t think of a TV show in years that knocked it out of the part its first season so flawlessly! Lindelof already said he’s not that interested in coming back for a second season if he didn’t have a good story to tell. If he doesn’t want to come back, I’m completely fine with this being the only season of the show. It’s that damn good!