My Favorite TV Shows of 2019

I’m a big fan of TV, and 2019 was a great year for discovering new shows, new-to-us shows, and for continuations of some of my favorite shows.

Here are some of my favorite shows I watched in 2019.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime)

It’s the late 1950s and Miriam “Midge” Maisel has everything she has ever wanted – the perfect husband, two kids and an elegant apartment on New York’s Upper West Side. Her seemingly idyllic life takes a surprising turn when she discovers a hidden talent she didn’t previously know she had – stand-up comedy. This revelation changes her life forever as she begins a journey that takes her from her comfortable life on the Upper West Side through the cafes and nightclubs of Greenwich Village as she makes her way through the city’s comedy industry on a path that could ultimately lead her to a spot on the “Tonight Show” couch.

Absolutely, by far, my favorite new discovery of 2019. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel premiered in 2017, but it was only this month – December 2019 – that my wife and I decided to give it a shot, prompted by our yearly re-watch of showrunner Amy Sherman-Palladino’s Gilmore Girls.

This show is so good, it’s not even fair. Everything, from the writing, to the casting, to the cinematography (watch this in 4K HDR, and prepare to be stunned), is just perfect.

It’s one of the funniest, most perfectly paced TV shows I’ve ever watched, and I encourage everyone with an Amazon Prime subscription (so… everyone) to check it out.

His Dark Materials (HBO)

During her search for a kidnapped friend, a seemingly ordinary but brave young woman from another world uncovers a sinister plot involving stolen children and a mysterious phenomenon called Dust.

A little background on His Dark Materials: the show is based on a young-adult book trilogy by Philip Pullman: The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass.

I have incredibly fond memories of hunkering down in my high school library to read these books. The premise of people with “familiars” (called “daemons” in the trilogy) has always resonated with me – I was the kid who was in to Pokémon and Digimon, shows with a similar theme of a child with animal-like companions – and Pullman’s world building and way of entwining a story for kids with some really dark, adult themes stuck with me over the past 10+ years, to the point where I signed up for HBO for this show.

It’s so good. The cast is great, the ways they’ve massaged the content of the trilogy to make a better TV show feels accurate and honest to the core story, and overall I feel like the showrunners really respect the source material and want to do right by it.

This show proves that Harry Potter should have been a TV series instead of a film series. This is how you translate a fantasy epic novel series to the screen.

The Good Place (NBC)

I really love The Good Place, but the entire run of the show suffered from it’s week-by-week release schedule. I’ve heard many people say that it’s better binged, and I agree. Thankfully, with the show having now ended, it’s the perfect time to binge-watch this witty, intellectual comedy powerhouse of a TV show.

Even though most people will easily guess the “twist” by episode two or three, the show powers through and keeps reinventing itself right until the end.

The casting choices are completely spot-on in this show, and the writing is exactly what you expect from a Michael Schur comedy: excellent, quick, honest, and hilarious.

For All Mankind (Apple TV+)

I absolutely love the premise of this show, and in my opinion, this is the breakout star show of Apple’s new streaming service. The premise is simple: what could have happened if the USSR beat the United States to the moon?

The pacing is terrible, but the concept is so simply captivating that I can’t stop watching it, and I’m super excited to see how far they take this idea.

Bob’s Burgers (Fox)

If you want to sit down and laugh for twenty-something minutes straight, then turn on Bob’s Burgers.

This show started off strong, but once they leaned in to the absurdity of these characters, it really took off. Every episode – no matter what the premise – has been pure comedy gold, and I swear that every other line gets a legit, full laugh out of me. I hope this show keeps going for 30 years.

Shameless (Showtime)

Shameless ended last year in perhaps the worst position for a TV show to find itself in: Emmy Rossum, who played (arguably) the main character, Fiona, left the show. This came after a season that – in my mind – just barely brought the show back from “meh”, to “alright”.

I was really afraid that season 10 was going to suck.

And you know what? It… doesn’t.

Season 10 of Shameless hasn’t been great, but it’s a far cry better than I could have hoped it would be, and the best part of the show hanging on through this transitional time is that we’re getting to see the family evolve. 10 years is a long time for a live-action show to run, and I think the way we’re getting to watch the Gallagher family grow, change, and ultimately fall back in to the same cycles, actually reflects a lot on how life works for a lot of people. It’s a hard show to watch sometimes, but I’m really looking forward to how they keep this show going in the future.

Making It (NBC)

This is the only “competition” or “reality” show on this list, for good reason: Making It is like The Great British Bake-Off, expect for crafting and building things.

What I mean is: Making It is a kind, warm-hearted showcase of creative people showing off what they love to do. Yes, someone is “voted out” every week, and yes, there’s a cash prize because it’s American television and god damnit, there has to be a cash prize or why else are we even bothering with all this?

But this show – which just so happens to be hosted by Amy Poehler and my spirit animal, Nick Offerman, doesn’t focus too much on that aspect, and the show is so purposely lacking in drama and fury that it’s refreshing. The show is about making things, and being creative, and rather than being so cut-throat, over-produced, and life-or-death that it becomes ridiculous (I’m looking at you, MasterChef), it’s instead calming and therapeutic to watch. I really love this show.

Stranger Things (Netflix)

The only way I can imagine loving Stranger Things more is if my formative years had been in the 80s, rather than the 90s.

Everyone already knows about this show, so I won’t get in to too much detail, other than to say it’s beautifully written, beautifully shot, and manages to get better every season.

(Oh, and for some reason I seriously dig how each season is treated like a movie sequel, with a number being appended to the name for “Stranger Things 2” and “Stranger Things 3”.)