The best TV of 2019 (so far)
From anxiously funny Fleabag to the final season of Game of Thrones, 2019 has been a year packed with excellent television
‘It’ll pass…’ Two words that caused plenty of Fleabag watchers to weep into their laps.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge has become one of the biggest names in British TV writing, and returns for a second and final series inside the dark and hilarious perspective of ‘Fleabag’.
Episodes are kept to a sharp 30 minutes, Fleabag looks and talks to us like absent best friends, and she endures a deep affection for a hot priest (marvellously played by Andrew Scott). Season 2 far outweighs the first, delivering a poignant and heart-rending story of love without a hint of melodrama. It's like Waller-Bridge is saying: this is love and it’s horrible, but it's worth it.
Read our five-star review of episode one
Set in the countryside, in a kind of cross between Gloucestershire and an American ‘80s movie, Otis (Asa Butterfield) deals out sex advice to fellow students. But, he’s never had sex himself and is very reticent to do anything by himself. Much of his knowledge comes from his sex therapist mother, ecstatically played by Gillian Anderson.
This is a Gen-Z comedy that's uproariously funny and splendidly colourful, while exploring some of the big issues facing modern teenagers.
Read more ...
Why must grown-ups feel contented with the dire dregs of reality? Why should they be excluded from the fanciful and ridiculous? Good Omens provides a bizarre, sporadic and funny fantasy for the adults via miracles, spiritual creatures and a devil voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch.
Conjured from the surreal minds of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, the series follows the Earth-bound angel Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and demon Crowley (David Tennant) as they try to prevent the coming Apocalypse.
Facing witches, hell hounds and the four horsemen, this is a thrilling tale of friendship, morality and sherbet lemons.
A vital appeal of Netflix is the risks it's willing to take. Many indie, arthouse pleasures can be chosen from its digital shelves – not least of which is Russian Doll.
This dark, psychological comedy series follows Nadia (Natasha Lyonne), a woman who’s forced to relive the same night every time she dies (which is a lot). This has a similar comedic flavouring to Groundhog Day, but unfolds in a more emotional and existential direction.
As Nadia delves deeper into the reasons behind her time-hopping crisis, she finds the reasons behind why she's the way she is. The absurd situation paves a very real result.Read more ...
The Syrian refugee crisis isn't a likely topic for comedy, but Rufus Hound finds the funny in the situation while never avoiding its seriousness.
After a middle-class family return from a trip to France, they’re baffled by the presence of a large Syrian man (Youssef Kerkour) in their car boot. The matriarch Katy (Rebekah Staton) allows him to stay in her house until he can be granted asylum, much to the chagrin of her pro-Leave boyfriend Peter (Rufus Hound).
Although this is primarily a comedy series, Hound really captures the whirlwind of emotions and prejudice currently felt in British society – tackling immigration in a mature and sympathetic way. We need that.
Now the highest rated TV show on IMDb (surpassing The Sopranos and Breaking Bad), Chernobyl is an intensely political tale about one of the greatest accidents in human history.
Writer Craig Mazin doesn’t tackle the event like a mainstream disaster movie, though all the elements are there, but as a warning. When the truth is torn, changed and manipulated, the implications can be devastating. Chernobyl examines the state of the Soviet government in 1986 and its attempt at covering up the nuclear meltdown in Ukraine.
Through the series, Valery Legasov (Jared Harris) investigates the accident – jumping through all sorts of political hoops to help assuage the situation on the ground. It’s not an easy watch, with enough horrifying images to fill countless nightmares. The truth is always there and needs to be heard – Mazin lifts it up for all to see.
Read our five-star review of episode one
Ethics and morality inevitably have some part to play in a whodunnit, but The Victim takes these concepts and pushes them through a glass darkly.
Socially awkward bus driver Craig Myers (James Harkness) is attacked in his home, accused of murdering a child 15 years prior. It’s all over the internet. The child’s mother Anna, Kelly MacDonald at her absolute best, accuses him and may even be behind his assault.
The four-part series spirals into a difficulty of morals and loyalties, the question of good and evil, and the darkness inside complicated circumstances. This courtroom detective drama has a brutal, intelligent bite.
As unappealing as a four-part Shane Meadows drama about child abuse sounds, there’s a dramatic obligation to watch it.
The Virtues is a character study: slow but measured, with no tedious scenes, and every moment is natural. Much of the script was written and re-written during rehearsals over five months to keep that realistic integrity.
Joseph is an alcoholic whose head is a mess, and he doesn’t know why. He delves back into his past, reuniting with old family, to fix his mental strain. With a spirit-crushing performance from Stephen Graham, this is a struggle not to miss.Read more ...
Although the accusations against Michael Jackson never left, people were contented to ignore them. Until now.
In what’s maybe the most important documentary of the year, director Dan Reed’s Leaving Neverland follows the accounts of two victims of Jackson’s alleged sexual abuse. Their interviews are shocking and nauseating, exposing the horrors of what mega-rich celebrities can get away with through money and manipulation.
It’s also a desperate, three-and-a-half hour plea to give more credence to the victims of child abuse rather than those being accused. A harrowing but necessary watch.
Like it or not, the final season of Game of Thrones is the biggest TV event of year. It was met with both fury and admiration – one disgruntled viewer even set up a petition to remake the entire season (reaching 800,000 signatures) – but the finale still received more than 17 million viewers.
Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) unite to stop the Night King and overthrow Queen Cersei (Lena Headey) in the hope of bringing peace to Westeros – but Jon’s lineage and Dany’s desire for power puts all this at jeopardy.
This season excels in its battles, crafted and co-ordinated beautifully and on a massive scale unparalleled in both TV and cinema. Met with horror, fear, blood, death and gloriously built characters, this is an epic ending to behold.Read more ...
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