I’ve got two words for you: Baby Yoda. Disney+ is worth the subscription price just for the chance to ooh and aah at the adorable big-eyed, expressive-eared “The Child” who wormed his (or her?) way into our hearts on The Mandalorian. Sure, Pedro Pascal’s doing the best he can to lead the cast while his face is kept hidden beneath a Mandalorian helmet. But the breakout star of The Mandalorian, aw well as the rest of 2019’s crop of new shows, is indisputably Baby Yoda.
Other 2019 television offerings that impressed included The Boys and its troop of narcissistic superheroes, PEN15‘s coming of age story with a twist, and Taika Waititi’s vampire and werewolf mockumentary series, What We Do in the Shadows. The Boys wasn’t the only superhero series to leave an impression on viewers in 2019. The Umbrella Academy‘s complex relationships and conflicted heroes proved to be binge-worthy viewing.
Overall, 2019 wound up being a surprisingly decent year for new shows. Even the major networks came up with a couple of winners, although as usual it was the premium channels and subscription services that produced the highest quality new shows.
The Best New Series of 2019:
- The Boys (Amazon Prime)
The Plot: “The Boys is a fun and irreverent take on what happens when superheroes – who are as popular as celebrities, as influential as politicians and as revered as Gods – abuse their superpowers rather than use them for good. It’s the powerless against the super powerful as The Boys embark on a heroic quest to expose the truth about The Seven, and Vought – the multi-billion dollar conglomerate that manages these superheroes and covers up all of their dirty secrets.”
- PEN15 (Hulu)
The Plot: “PEN15 is middle school as it really happened. Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle star in this adult comedy, playing versions of themselves as thirteen-year-old outcasts in the year 2000, surrounded by actual thirteen-year-olds, where the best day of your life can turn into your worst with the stroke of a gel pen.”
- What We Do in the Shadows (FX)
The Plot: “Based on the feature film of the same name from Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, What We Do in the Shadows is a documentary-style look into the daily (or rather, nightly) lives of four vampires who’ve ‘lived’ together for hundreds of years. In Staten Island.”
- The Umbrella Academy (Netflix)
The Plot: “On the same day in 1989, forty-three infants are inexplicably born to random, unconnected women who showed no signs of pregnancy the day before. Seven are adopted by a billionaire who creates The Umbrella Academy and prepares his ‘children’ to save the world. Now, the six surviving members reunite upon the news of their father’s passing and must work together to solve a mystery surrounding his death. But the estranged family begins to come apart due to their divergent personalities and abilities, not to mention the imminent threat of a global apocalypse.”
- Ramy (Hulu)
The Plot: “Ramy Hassan is a first-generation Egyptian-American who is on a spiritual journey in his politically-divided New Jersey neighborhood. Ramy will bring a new perspective to the screen as it explores the challenges of what it’s like being caught between a Muslim community that thinks life is a moral test and a millennial generation that thinks life has no consequences.”
- Good Omens (Amazon Prime)*
The Plot: “Good Omens takes place in 2018 when the Apocalypse is near and Final Judgment is set to descend upon humanity. According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter Witch (the world’s only completely accurate book of prophecies), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner.
So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, and tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except Aziraphale (Michael Sheen), a somewhat fussy angel, and Crowley (David Tennant), a fast-living demon—both of whom have lived amongst Earth’s mortals since The Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle—are not actually looking forward to the coming war. And…someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist.”
- The Mandalorian (Disney+)
The Plot: “After the stories of Jango and Boba Fett, another warrior emerges in the Star Wars universe. The Mandalorian is set after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order. We follow the travails of a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy far from the authority of the New Republic.”
- Warrior (Cinemax)
The Plot: “Warrior is a gritty, action-packed crime drama set during the brutal Tong Wars of San Francisco’s Chinatown in the second half of the 19th century. The series follows Ah Sahm (Andrew Koji), a martial arts prodigy who emigrates from China to San Francisco under mysterious circumstances. After proving his worth as a fighter, Ah Sahm becomes a hatchet man for the Hope Wei, one of Chinatown’s most powerful Tongs (Chinese organized crime family).”
- Russian Doll (Netflix)
The Plot: “Russian Doll follows a young woman named Nadia (Natasha Lyonne) on her journey as the guest of honor at a seemingly inescapable party one night in New York City.”
- Evil (CBS)
The Plot: “Evil is a psychological mystery that examines the origins of evil along the dividing line between science and religion. The series focuses on a skeptical female psychologist who joins a priest-in-training and a carpenter as they investigate the Church’s backlog of unexplained mysteries, including supposed miracles, demonic possessions and hauntings. Their job is to assess if there’s a logical explanation or if something truly supernatural is at work.”
- Prodigal Son (Fox)
The Plot: “Malcolm Bright (Tom Payne) has a gift. He knows how killers think and how their minds work. Why? Back in the 1990s, his father (Michael Sheen) was one of the worst, a notorious serial killer called ‘The Surgeon.’ So it makes sense Bright is the best criminal psychologist around; murder is the family business.
He will use his twisted genius to help the NYPD solve crimes and stop killers, all while dealing with a manipulative mother, annoyingly normal sister, a homicidal father still looking to bond with his prodigal son, and his own constantly evolving neuroses.”
- A Discovery of Witches (Sundance Now / Sky)
The Plot: “A Discovery of Witches is a contemporary love story that begins against the backdrop of Oxford academic life, in a world where small numbers of witches, vampires and daemons live and work, unseen amongst humans, hiding in plain sight. Teresa Palmer is the brilliant historian Diana Bishop, a reluctant witch denying her heritage. The discovery of a bewitched manuscript in Oxford’s Bodleian Library throws her into the heart of a dangerous mystery – and into the path of the enigmatic vampire and geneticist, Matthew Clairmont (Matthew Goode), who hides a dark family secret.
As Diana and Matthew embark on a journey to understand the secrets of the ancient manuscript, their relationship develops, and events threaten to unravel the fragile peace that has long existed between witches, vampires, daemons and humans.”
- On Becoming a God in Central Florida (Showtime)
The Plot: “Starring Emmy and Golden Globe nominee Kirsten Dunst (Fargo), the 10-episode series is a story set in a small Orlando-adjacent town in 1992 about the cult of free enterprise and one woman’s relentless pursuit of the American Dream. Dunst plays Krystal Stubbs, a minimum-wage water park employee who lies, schemes and cons her way up the ranks of Founders American Merchandise (FAM) — a multibillion-dollar pyramid scheme.”
- Dead to Me (Netflix)
The Plot: “Jen (Christina Applegate) is a sardonic widow determined to solve her husband’s recent hit-and-run murder. Judy (Linda Cardellini) is an optimistic free spirit who’s recently suffered her own tragic loss. When the two women meet at a support group, they become unlikely friends despite their polar-opposite personalities. But as they bond over bottles of wine, Entenmann’s cookies and a shared affinity for The Facts of Life, Judy desperately tries to shield Jen from a shocking secret that could destroy her life as she knows it.”
- Watchmen (HBO)
The Plot: “Set in an alternate history where masked vigilantes are treated as outlaws, Watchmen, from executive producer Damon Lindelof, embraces the nostalgia of the original groundbreaking graphic novel of the same name, while attempting to break new ground of its own.”
* – Normally a one-shot series wouldn’t make the list, however, I refuse to believe there won’t be a second season of Good Omens.