27 TV shows to watch in 2019
From Brooklyn Nine-Nine to Star Wars: The Mandalorian
It's official: There is a lot of TV out there. In 2018, a record 495 original scripted shows aired on television or were made available for streaming, meaning that now more than ever the small-screen is your oyster. Looking for a medieval South Korean zombie horror show you can stream from your bed? 2019 has you covered. Been waiting for another adaptation of Watchmen? Sure, take it. Longing for a reboot of Shipwrecked? You've got that too.
So the question isn't so much what can you watch as it is what should you? Here's a look at the best TV shows to watch in 2019.
1. Brooklyn Nine-Nine (NBC, Jan. 10)
The past year has been a whirlwind for fans of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. The show was initially canceled to great dismay in early 2018 by Fox, but prayers (including those of Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mark Hamill, and Guillermo del Toro) were promptly answered when Brooklyn Nine-Nine's original owner, NBC, picked up the cult cop comedy the very next day. Ahead of the sixth season's premiere, NBC has gotten right to work with promoting its acquisition, releasing a parody Law & Order: SVU teaser trailer and (of course) a Die Hard spoof. While there are still some big changes afoot — Chelsea Peretti sadly won't be returning for "a full season" as Gina Linetti — Brooklyn Nine-Nine has proved at this point that it can weather just about anything. This is a can't-go-wrong choice if you're looking for a light mid-season comedy to add to your rotation.
2. True Detective (HBO, Jan. 13)
True Detective is famously hit-or-miss, but I'll give you one big reason to get excited about season three: Mahershala Ali. This season, the anthology show is set in the Ozarks as detective Wayne Hays (Ali) investigates what HBO calls "a macabre crime involving two missing children." Well, that sounds like True Detective! But with showrunner Nic Pizzolatto stepping behind the camera for his directorial debut this season, it appears Ali won't be the only one putting a fresh twist on this moody, stylized show. After the past season-and-a-half, that only promises to be a good thing.
3. The Passage (Fox, Jan. 14)
Adrenaline junkies need to look no further than The Passage this spring, as the show is one of the rare broadcast originals that breaks through the noise in a television-scape increasingly dominated by streaming sites and premium channels. Based on the best-selling trilogy by Justin Cronin and backed by Ridley Scott, The Passage finds a federal agent (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) risking everything to save a young girl from secretive, dangerous tests that could potentially cure humanity from all disease. If The Passage can avoid the pitfalls of genre clichés, this could be the great sci-fi drama of the spring.
4. The Magicians (SyFy, Jan. 23)
The Magicians is the show that I most wish more people watched — it is audacious, addictive, and genuinely really, really fun. While on paper this fantastical boarding school drama might sound like a Harry Potter knock-off, I assure you it is so much more: surprisingly dark, it is definitely not for kids. Season three left off with an enormous cliffhanger when Quentin Coldwater and company lost all memory of magic, although maybe it should have been no surprise; after all, The Magicians loves to write itself into corners, and part of the joy of the show is watching it experiment in real-time with how to get out ("Be the Penny" was perhaps my favorite episode of television in 2018). While the playful storytelling doesn't always pay off, more often than not it does, earning The Magicians the honor of being one of the most daring shows on TV.
5. Broad City (Comedy Central, Jan. 24)
The fifth and final season of Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer scrappy friendship comedy will be must-watch television this spring, at least if you don't want to fall behind in the group chat. The finale, while bittersweet, is perhaps perfectly timed — as The Ringer wrote of season four, "these new episodes feel like a lesson in how to move a show forward even after its relevance has inevitably peaked." Despite the show's newfound bleakness (in no small part due to the election of "President T***p"), Jacobson has teased that, wisely, "we want to go out on a bang" in season five. Yaaaasssss, kween.
6. Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes (Netflix, Jan. 24)
Even true crime aficionados might find this four-part docuseries about serial killer Ted Bundy hard to stomach. Featuring never-before-released interviews with Bundy while he awaited execution for his confessed murder of at least 30 people in the 1970s, Conversations with a Killer satisfies the morbid curiosity of what goes on in the twisted mind of a madman. Premiering on the 30th anniversary of Bundy's execution, it will be required viewing ahead of the 2019 movie Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, in which Zac Efron plays the notorious killer.
7. I Am the Night (TNT, Jan. 28)
Between making Wonder Woman and its sequel, director Patty Jenkins somehow managed to slip in this glossy six-episode limited series that orbits the famous Black Dahlia murder in 1947. Starring Chris Pine as Jay Singletary, a reporter on the trail of the mysterious origins of a young woman named Fauna Hodel (India Eisley), I Am the Night's descent into L.A.'s underworld looks from the trailer intriguingly like a West Coast version of Eyes Wide Shut. It is all the more intriguing, then, that it is loosely based on a true story.
8. Whiskey Cavalier (AMC, Feb. 27)
I love deep, gritty, intellectual prestige dramas as much as the next gal, but honestly they can be so exhausting. That's why it's so great that ABC has ordered Whiskey Cavalier, a warm comedy about a big-hearted FBI agent (Scott Foley, Scandal) and his CIA frenemy and partner, Frankie (Lauren Cohan, The Walking Dead). While I am wary of genre parodies (been there, done that), Whiskey Cavalier looks surprisingly not-terrible, and will be just the thing to balance out an otherwise moody spring TV slate.
9. American Gods (Starz, March 10)
The second season of American Gods is brewing this spring, which itself feels like a minor miracle following its incredibly tumultuous offseason. At last, though, we can count on being reunited with Shadow Moon and Mr. Wednesday in this big-budget, neon-lighted show about the war between the old gods and the new. I will be curious how the second season fares after the success of the first, seeing as stars Gillian Anderson and Kristin Chenoweth exited following the departure of showrunners Michael Green and Bryan Fuller. Hopefully all the chaos will be just a bump in the road for this beloved show based on Neil Gaiman's novel of the same name.
10. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Netflix, April 5)
Fans of Netflix's gritty Sabrina reboot, which debuted last fall, do not have to wait long for their favorite teen witch's return. "Part Two" of her dabbles in all things Satanic drops this spring, and by the looks of the trailer, we're going to at last be seeing more of the Academy of the Unseen Arts (and hopefully more Nicholas Scratch, too). Still no talking cat, though.
11. Game of Thrones (HBO, exact April date TBD)
Undoubtedly the television event of the year, Game of Thrones' eighth and final season is all that anyone will be talking about this spring. Only six episodes long, you can count on every hour being jam-packed with revelations, including the fate of Cersei Lannister (will she become the Night Queen, as some suspect?), how Jon and Daenerys will stop the White Walkers, and Jon's eventual response to the awkward truth about his parentage. Thankfully, the end won't really be the end — HBO has already green-lit a Game of Thrones prequel project, one of five rumored to be in the works.
12. Neon Genesis Evangelion (Netflix, exact spring date TBD)
While not "new," Netflix's pending release of the classic '90s anime television series Neon Genesis Evangelion is one of the most exciting culture events of 2019. Long unavailable for legal streaming and famously difficult or unaffordable to actually watch, Neon Genesis Evangelion takes place in a machine-dominated post-apocalyptic world, in which giant alien "Angels" attack the city of Tokyo-3. While the series begins with your typical monster-fighting teenagers, it grows darker and more existential as its creator, Hideaki Anno, grew increasingly troubled himself during the production. Purists will be thrilled to know that the Neon Genesis Evangelion movies will also be coming to Netflix as part of the package.
13. Killing Eve (BBC America, exact spring date TBD)
Killing Eve was one of the most exciting debuts of 2018, and thankfully BBC America promptly renewed the series for a second season, which airs this spring. Starring a brilliant turn by Sandra Oh as MI5 officer Eve Polastri in pursuit of the obsessive assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer), season one left off with a gigantic stabby cliffhanger. While there are tight lips surrounding the plot of season two, a BBC promo picture shows Villanelle apparently hitchhiking on the streets of Paris and another teaser shows Eve fixing her hair as Carolyn Martens (Fiona Shaw) asks, "Why are you and Villanelle so interested in each other? What really happened in Paris?" Intriguing.
14. Veep (HBO, exact spring date TBD)
Perennial Emmy-winner Veep returns for its seventh and final season this year after an extended hiatus due to Julia Louis-Dreyfus' treatment for breast cancer. The season will be the show's shortest yet, at just seven episodes, and will pick up after Selina Meyer (Louis-Dreyfus) decided at the end of the sixth season to run for president again. The wind-down has perhaps been a long time coming — the creators have spoken publicly about having to reckon with Trump's presidency as it pertains to their show. "I'm definitely, for lack of a better word, rethinking a lot of things," executive producer David Mandel told Variety. "Not specific stories but just people's overall appetite for anything related to politics." At least there will be one last go at this consistently hilarious show.
15. What We Do in the Shadows (FX, exact spring date TBD)
Five years after the release of the New Zealand vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows, we are at last getting the television adaptation about the mundane lives of modern bloodsuckers. The 10-episode half-hour series is the brainchild of Jemaine Clement (one half of Flight of the Conchords) and Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok), and will be set in New York City, rather than Wellington. The teasers released by FX play with the confessional mockumentary style, and the whole project looks like the perfect thing to unwind with after a long day at work.
16. Big Little Lies (HBO, likely June release date TBD)
The first season of Big Little Lies "was deeply satisfying in ways television these days rarely dares to be," Lili Loofbourow wrote here at The Week, which explains part of my excitement over the fact that there is unexpectedly going to be a second season. Despite being conceived as a limited series, Big Little Lies will reportedly pick up after the first season's shocking finale, with Meryl Streep joining to play Celeste's (Nicole Kidman) mother-in-law. Andrea Arnold (American Honey) has been tapped as director for the seven-episode season. While an exact premiere date hasn't been announced yet, Kidman hinted on CNN's New Year's Eve Live show that the second season would be debuting in June.
17. Stranger Things (Netflix, July 4)
Everyone's favorite precocious preteens return next summer, we know courtesy of a spooky date announcement video that Netflix dropped on New Year's Eve. With the Shadow Monster still looming over Hawkins, Indiana, the show's third season is set in the summer of 1985 and reportedly continues to hug close to the influence of period-appropriate horror movies, with Inverse teasing, "Does that mean zombies, mutants, or murderers? Who knows." What does seem pretty certain is that the Starcourt Mall is going to play a big role this season, upping the sweet, sweet summer nostalgia that goes hand-in-hand with the creepy, supernatural '80s pastiche.
18. Snowpiercer (TNT, exact summer release date TBD)
Brace for lots of very bad train metaphors in review headlines! Based on the 2013 film of the same name by South Korean director Bong Joon-ho, Snowpiercer is reportedly chugging its way to television (rather unseasonably) in the summer of 2019. In the series, humanity's lone survivors are divided by class on a train racing through a frozen wasteland; the adaptation will star Jennifer Connelly and Daveed Diggs (but alas, no Tilda Swinton). There have been some bumps getting this one on track — pilot director Scott Derrickson quit the project citing "radically different" creative visions from new showrunner Graeme Manson — but I'm terribly excited to see where it goes nevertheless.
19. The Crown (Netflix, exact 2019 release date TBD)
There might not be any royal weddings on the horizon in 2019, but at least we can get our Buckingham Palace fix with the third season of The Crown. Hot off of portraying an irascible Queen Anne in The Favourite, Olivia Colman is taking over Queen Elizabeth II from Claire Foy as the season will leap forward to cover the years between 1964 and 1976. While change is hard, Colman's casting is enough of a reason to watch the third season on its own. Likewise, Helena Bonham Carter will take over Princess Margaret from Vanessa Kirby and Tobias Menzies will be taking over Matt Smith's role as Prince Philip. Casting director Nina Gold revealed to Vanity Fair that fans won't yet be seeing Princess Diana, although Camilla Parker Bowles will be making an appearance.
20. Vida (Starz, exact 2019 release date TBD)
If I were queen for a day, I would demand everyone watch the first season of Vida, which crackled to life in its debut season on Starz last year. The character-driven half-hour drama is ridiculously addictive, and revolves around two Mexican-American sisters who inherit their mother's bar in east Los Angeles. Boasting a historic all-Latinx writers' room, the first season maintained a 100 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and the second season shows no signs of slowing down. Don't miss out on this gem of a show this time around.
21. On Becoming God in Central Florida (YouTube Premium, exact 2019 release date TBD)
YouTube is charging into the original content streaming wars with the release of a whopping 50 exclusive programs in 2019. Among their number is Will Smith: The Jump, in which Smith bungee jumps from a helicopter over the Grand Canyon. Okay, so they can't all be winners, but personally I'm most excited for On Becoming God in Central Florida, a dark comedy set in the 1990s, starring Kirsten Dunst, and backed by George Clooney and Yorgos Lanthimos. The one-hour episodes revolve around Krystal Gill (Dunst), a water park employee who gets involved in a sketchy pyramid scheme. Krystal is "a truly delicious, sometimes diabolical female character — a dirt-poor, very fierce young woman who is relentless in her pursuit of the American dream inside of an Amway-like company," explained the late former head of TriStar TV, Suzanne Patmore Gibbs, to Deadline. I can't wait to see how this experiment turns out.
22. Dolly Parton's Heartstrings (Netflix, exact 2019 release date TBD)
Honestly you could just throw Dolly Parton's name on anything and I'd watch it, but the premise of Heartstrings is pretty delectable. This Netflix anthology series adapts a different one of Parton's hits for each of its eight episodes, including "These Old Bones," and, of course, "Jolene." Parton will "act in some of them," she told Ellen Degeneres, with the singer confirmed in at least the role of "Babe" opposite Julianne Hough's interpretation of Jolene. She will also introduce all eight episodes, addressing "the stories, memories, and inspirations" behind each song. Sure, there's the potential for Heartstrings to be a sappy trainwreck, but there's nothing I'd rather guilt-watch with a bucket of ice cream and tissues.
23. Good Omens (Amazon, exact 2019 release date TBD)
It might be peak TV, but it's also peak divine comedies. While The Good Place has had fans in side-stitches about the afterlife since it debuted in 2016, the long awaited adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's hilarious end-times novel is expected on Amazon early this year. The first season follows the unlikely and inconvenient friendship between the demon Crowley (David Tennant) and the angel Aziraphaele (Michael Sheen), who team up to stop the apocalypse out of their mutual fondness for Earth. The show's casting is ridiculously top-notch — aside from Tennant and Sheen, Frances McDormand will voice God, Anna Maxwell Martin will play Beelzebub, and Jon Hamm will get a turn as the angel Gabriel. While Amazon has had some similarly high-profile shows go bust — The Romanoffs was a letdown, and Homecoming, while critically beloved, didn't generate corresponding buzz — Good Omens might just be the one to break the curse.
24. The Terror (AMC, exact 2019 release date TBD)
The Terror was my pick for the most overlooked television series in 2018, and I am thrilled I won't have to wait long for its sophomore season to air. While the end of the first season, about Captain John Franklin's doomed search for the Northwest Passage, left little room for expansion, not to worry — AMC is calling the show its first anthology series, with the second season to be set "during World War II and center on an uncanny specter that menaces a Japanese-American community from its home in Southern California to the internment camps to the war in the Pacific." The Terror's first season proved to be genuinely creepy and unique. With Andrew Woo (True Blood) and Max Borenstein (Godzilla) attached as co-creators on the 10-episode second season, this is easily one of my most anticipated of the year.
25. The Twilight Zone (CBS All Access, exact 2019 release date TBD)
If the 2019 version of The Twilight Zone were in any other hands, I would probably throw a fit — as a superfan of original 1960s series, I can't help but cringe at the idea of a reboot. My worries are significantly assuaged, though, by Get Out director Jordan Peele's involvement as the host à la Rod Serling. While the original Twilight Zone pioneered as a science-fiction and horror anthology series — one that has been palely mimicked over the intervening decades — it will be interesting to see how the creators approach telling stories about "the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition" in the 21st century. Hopefully this won't be a weaker version of Black Mirror and will do its grandparent justice.
26. Catch-22 (Hulu, exact 2019 release date TBD)
We sure haven't seen much of George Clooney on TV since he starred as Dr. Doug Ross on ER. After 19 years, he returns with a regular small-screen role in the Hulu miniseries based on Joseph Heller's famous World War II satire Catch-22. Clooney, who is also directing several episodes in the six-part series, will star as the parade-obsessed training commander Scheisskopf; Christopher Abbott will portray John Yossarian; and Kyle Chandler will play Colonel Cathcart, Deadline reports. Catch-22 assures to be another big-name and politically topical production for the streaming service, and pairs well with Hulu's other hit, The Handmaid's Tale. I wouldn't be surprised to see it blow up similarly when it's finally released — and hey, a little Clooney never hurts chances.
27. Star Wars: The Mandalorian (Disney+, 2019?)
At long last, there is finally going to be a live-action Star Wars series for the small-screen. The Mandalorian will be a test of Disney's forthcoming streaming service, Disney+, although the company has already given the project a major vote of confidence with a $100 million budget and prolific superhero movie director Jon Favreau attached to helm. If "Mandalorian" isn't ringing any bells, you might want to brush up on The Clone Wars — the Mandalorians were mighty warriors whose armor was worn by bounty hunter Boba Fett. Oh, and apparently Werner Herzog has joined the cast? The series will follow "a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy" and is set to take place after the events of 1983's Return of the Jedi. While this is one of the most highly-anticipated shows of the year, there is a chance it could be bumped to 2020 as to not overcrowd Star Wars: Episode IX, which comes out Dec. 19.