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The 25 best TV shows of 2019

20. Stranger Things

(Image credit: Netflix)

Season: 3

What is it? Starcourt mall opens in Hawkins

Why you should watch it? Like season two, the latest string of Stranger Things episodes couldn’t match the sustained brilliance of the debut season, but it started well, ended strong, and Hawkins got its first LGBTQ+ character in Robin (Maya Hawke), who stole the season. Jim Hopper may have taken a few steps backwards at the beginning of the season as Eleven's overbearing father, but his self-sacrifice makes the journey one of tragic redemption. The ending with "The American" leaves enough ambiguity to keep us hooked for Stranger Things season 4, when we just hope to see Steve Harrington back in that sailor outfit.

19. The Mandalorian

(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

Season: 1

What is it? The Baby Yoda Show

Why you should watch it? Anyone with a passing interest in Star Wars probably already knows about The Mandalorian, or, as it has been favourably dubbed: The Baby Yoda Show. While the story may not be as deep or perhaps as epic as some fans would have liked, Jon Favreau's show is basically a Saturday morning cartoon set in that famous galaxy far, far away. There are no lightsabers. Minimal use of the Force. Yet this still feels like proper Star Wars. It's hard not to fall head-over-heels for Baby Yoda, the show's standout character who has taken the Internet by storm. While the weekly adventures may feel easy-going and with little risk, The Mandalorian is an enjoyable romp that explores the dirty underground of the Star Wars universe. Why LucasFilm hasn’t done this before in live-action form is baffling, because this is brilliant. 

18. Too Old To Die Young

(Image credit: Amazon Prime)

Season: 1

What is it? A police officer gets mixed up in the terrifying underworld

Why you should watch it? Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn's "13-hour movie" for Amazon Prime sees Miles Teller’s taciturn hitman hunt down sadistic pornographers. TV's not been this singular, avant-garde, and slow burn since Twin Peaks: The Return, another series that's often seen as a movie (though David Lynch's 18-hour epic makes a stronger case). Winding Refn's knack for finding beautiful shots is on full display, yet the violence is, at times, overdone and the script can fall a little flat. But for movie obsessive TV watchers, and Miles Teller fans, this is a must-watch.

17. Barry

(Image credit: HBO)

Season: 2

What is it? The hilariously grim adventures of a hitman looking for a career change

Why should you watch it? Season one of Bill Hader's Barry ended by going past a point of no return, and season two makes sure his past crimes are not quickly forgotten. As the eponymous hitman who wants to get into acting, Hader is excellent, but it's Anthony Carriagan's NoHo Hank, a bumbling Checyan gangster, who regularly steals the show with a disarming sincerity you usually don't see in criminal ganglords. Just as important is this season's willingness to experiment, with the outstanding episode "ronny/lily" featuring one of the best punch-ups we've seen on screen since Daredevil.

16. This Time with Alan Partridge

(Image credit: BBC)

Season: 1

What is it? Alan Partridge takes on The One Show… Wait, sorry, This Time

Why you should watch it? Steve Coogan's bumbling former radio broadcaster Alan Partridge returned to TV screens this year as the host of the fictional show This Time, a spoof of the popular BBC show The One Show. The result is a surreal comedy that takes the daytime telly format and stretches it to ridiculous lengths. Watching Partridge take us through a Medieval battle reenactment, getting beaten by knights while trying to talk to camera, makes for hilarious viewing. Partridge's faux-confidence has always led to hilarious results, but the sheer stupidity on display as he hosts This Time is a new low for him, and a new high for Coogan and the writing team. Susannah Fielding as Partridge's co-host is on sensational form as her temper gradually gets worn down.

15. What We Do In The Shadows

(Image credit: FX)

Season: 1

What is it? The mockumentary about a gang of Vampire continues... on TV!

Why you should watch it? Despite a slow start, What We Do In The Shadows soon found its own groove, growing into something special. Riffing on the 2014 movie of the same name, the mockumentary series introduces us to a devilishly fun new group of vampires, Nandor the Relentless (Kayvan Novak), Laszlo Cravensworth (Matt Berry), Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), and Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch) from Staten Island. While every episode offers something to enjoy, it's the meeting of the Vampiric Council (Tilda Swinton! Wesley Snipes! Danny Trejo!) that's genius. If you enjoy Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement's brand of comedy, then What We Do In The Shadows is a fine accompaniment to a glass of fresh blood.

14. The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance

Season: 1

What is it? A prequel to the beloved Jim Henson film, The Dark Crystal

Why you should watch it? 'The next Game of Thrones' is a cliché almost as old as the show itself. Yet, remarkably, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance – a prequel to the '80s Jim Henson cult classic – might have stealthily swooped in and stolen the crown without anyone realising. It's that good. This is high fantasy just as Jim Henson would have imagined if he had the resources at his disposal, complete with as many political manoeuvrings as any one-way trip to Westeros. The meshing of newfound practical techniques and some well-hidden CGI allows the world of Thra to burst into life with colour, mystery, and mayhem, plus the core story of Rian, Brea, and Deet trying to overthrow the diabolical bird-like Skeksis will have your punching the air and holding your breath right until the final moments.

13. Catastrophe

(Image credit: Channel 4)

Season: 4

What is it? A hilarious and excruciatingly accurate portrayal of long-term relationships 

Why should you watch it? Rob Delaney and Sharon Hogan's fantastic sitcom Catastrophe came to a close this year, but it still managed to ring out plenty of laughs (and a fair few grimaces) as on-screen couple Rob and Sharon continue to struggle in raising their young family. Never afraid to shy away from the harsh realities of alcoholism, parenting, and relationships, it consistently manages to find a pitch-perfect balance between whipsmart jokes and gut-punch revelations. Nowhere was this more evident than the season finale, which deftly dealt with the passing of Carrie Fisher while building to a final scene that was the dictionary definition of bittersweet.

12.  BoJack Horseman

(Image credit: Netflix)

Season: 6

What is it? An alcoholic horse deals with his demons

Why you should watch it? Bojack Horseman finds himself at a juncture. Now's the time to either repent and learn or nosedive into his problems. Season six, the final season of BoJack, starts with the eponymous horse in rehab for alcoholism. Gradually, he comes to understand just how much damage he's done to those who tried to love him. It's a surprisingly positive revelation for a show that has taken us into the depths of the BoJack's depression and anxieties. Unfortunately, though, this is all too good to be true, as the final episode of the first half of season six tees up Bojack for one final downfall. Can this show, one that's emotionally wreaked havoc on all those who have watched it all the way through, really have a happily ever after ending?

11. Unbelievable

Unbelievable Netflix

(Image credit: Netflix)

Season: 1

What is it? Based on the true story about a teenager accused of lying about her rape

Why you should watch it? The #MeToo era has allowed voices that were previously silenced to finally tell their important stories. Among the most hard-hitting is Unbelievable, a miniseries based on the true story of a teenage girl who was charged with lying about her rape. Kaitlyn Dever delivers a gut-punch of a performance as the falsely accused, while two detectives (played by Toni Collette and Merritt Wever) seek to uncover the truth. It feels like necessary, if grim, watching on its heavy subject matter alone, but it’s the lump in your throat and cold shudder you get every time that you think about the show that will have the lasting effect. Most shows on Netflix are binged and easily forgotten by the time you boot up the next series – Unbelievable will stay with you for a very long time.