The Skinny's TV shows of 2019

Nuclear apocalypse, a chronically depressed equine, and the most toxic family in the history of TV were among our favourite shows of the last 12 months

Feature by TV Team | 27 Nov 2019
  • Chernobyl

10. Unbelievable

In the seemingly oversaturated category of ‘true crime’ media, Netflix have managed to create a timely miniseries that admirably bucks the more fetishising trends of the genre. Unbelievable is still a pacy, enthralling police procedural, dramatising the investigations into serial rape cases in Colorado and Washington between 2008 and 2011. But it’s one that presents its story with both sensitivity to its survivors, and scrutiny over systemic sexism in the police force. [George Sully]

9. Tuca & Bertie

Lisa Hanawalt, the artistic mind behind BoJack Horseman, brought her same irreverent, psychedelic animal-human hybrid world to this one-series wonder that had so much more to offer. Worldbuilding aside, Tuca & Bertie takes its two lovable, if varyingly dysfunctional, bird protagonists through the ordinary ordeals of life and womanhood in the 21st century. The show, therefore, serves as one of the most astute observations on #EverydaySexism in recent years, its flamboyancy and comedy hiding – and then heightening – its immediacy. [Carmen Paddock]

8. The End of the F***ing World: Series 2

The first season of The End of the F***ing World was a triumph and even with its short run-time, it felt complete. Against all odds, the show’s second season is equally as impressive. We find the lead characters, Alyssa and James, navigating life in the aftermath of their crime spree, but the introduction of new character Bonnie adds the extra narrative arc it needed. The season is a deeply profound and powerful exploration of grief and the different ways in which we grieve. [Nadia Younes]

7. Succession: Series 2

The TV gods often conjure up the right show for the right time. In a year when a handful of amoral elites played games with our lives, no new series felt more apropos than Succession. Following the shady deals and backbiting of the mega-wealthy Roy family, a vaguely Murdoch-like media clan whose hatred for each other is only a fraction less than their disdain for everyone else, the show is pure soap opera, but Jesse Armstrong’s acid-in-the-face dialogue, rat-a-tat gags and statuesque performances put it a million leagues above Dallas. [Jamie Dunn]

6. This Time with Alan Partridge

Parodying The One Show’s head-spinning mixture of banal entertainment, celeb patter and ‘serious stories’ almost feels like cheating, but This Time is a perfectly absurd riff on the formula. Leaps from segment to segment are fantastically overdone: a chat with Britain’s latest centenarian runs into news of multiple homicides, followed by Alan’s attempt to stitch up Monty Don. The laughs are modulated with nail-biting tension, the sense that it could all fall to pieces at any moment. In short, classic Partridge. [Peter Simpson]

5. Derry Girls: Series 2

Few comedies will make you actually laugh out loud as often as Derry Girls. We’re reunited with the four high school girls – Erin, Orla, Clare and Michelle – and, of course, Michelle’s cousin James, in the show’s second season as even more hilarity ensues in their lives. Positioning the teens’ stories against the backdrop of the unfolding Troubles is an inspired and fitting choice by the show’s creator Lisa McGee and feels incredibly relevant in the current climate. [NY]

4. Fleabag: Series 2

Waller-Bridge’s return to her original Fringe creation expands further upon the emotional mess that she left all characters in last season, somehow finding resolution and making a nation collectively horny for the hot priest in the process. Fleabag’s riotous humour and quotable one-liners are never lost even as the series matures with its protagonist. With a final scene that manages to be devastating, hopeful and unbearably kind all at once, the overarching theme of self-redemption reaches a believable and natural denouement. [CP]

3. Russian Doll

Nadia Vulvokov, the chain-smoking, heavy drinking, coke-snorting, casual sex-having game designer at the heart of Russian Doll lives every day as if it’s her last. It also happens that today is her last: like Bill Murray’s cynical weatherman in Groundhog Day, Nadia has found herself in a mysterious existential loop where she relives the same day over and over again. Despite constantly repeating itself, Russian Doll never gets old, thanks mostly to the white-hot charisma of Natasha Lyonne as our protagonist staring down the barrel of their own mortality. [JD]

2. BoJack Horseman: Series 6, part 1

The sixth and final series of Netflix’s groundbreaking animation aired its first half in October; while very much the opening act, the way in which it sets up the monumental, inevitable reckoning to follow is impressive. BoJack Horseman continues to deal with mental health, addiction, recovery and trauma with honesty and humanity, finding the sympathetic qualities in its titular horse and his companions. It also refuses to shy away from the uncomfortable consequences. Its finale may be a strong contender for 2020’s best. [CP]

1. Chernobyl

From the pen of the writer behind Scary Movie 3 (and 4) and The Hangover Part II (and the particularly woeful Part III) comes one of the most intense, claustrophobic and compelling dramas in years. Our current working theory is that Craig Mazin sold his soul to the devil, and in return he was gifted five perfect scripts detailing the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, which made up the best five hours of TV in 2019. He made an excellent bargain. [Tom Charles]