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The 25 Best TV Shows of 2019

Our favorite shows of 2019 resist easy categorization, and they attest to a medium in transformation.

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The Best TV Shows of 2019
Photo: Amazon

Superstore

20. Superstore

Over its run, Superstore has morphed from workplace comedy to one of the most radical shows on TV, and while still remaining a workplace comedy. As broadly, effortlessly representative as ever, the series is still full of insightful gags about the underpaid labor beneath a corporation that definitely doesn’t care about you, and which is in service of customers who care perhaps slightly more than that. But for its fourth and fifth season, this perspective extends even further, naturally giving way to storylines about establishing a union, what happens when you ostensibly become the boss, and union-busting attempts from corporate that culminate in an ICE raid. While most shows tend to coast on chemistry (which Superstore still has in spades) this far into their run, the series is more astute than ever at capturing what it means to struggle under capitalism. Scaife


Bob’s Burgers

19. Bob’s Burgers

“The Ring (But Not Scary)” was a fitting premiere for the new season of Bob’s Burgers. The stakes of the Belchers’ hijinks may vary across its history, but the show’s sympathetic view of this working-class family remains unwavering. And as with so many Bob’s Burgers standouts, that surprisingly suspenseful episode, in which the Belcher kids lose the upgraded wedding ring that Bob finally got for Linda is elevated by colorful peripheral characters and a sympathetic recognition of Bob’s love for—and dogged frustration with—his family. Other season highlights—from “Motor, She Boat,” which delves into Bob’s perception of his own fatherly ineptitude, to “Pig Trouble in Little Tina,” in which Tina’s receives a spooky lesson about peer pressure—reinforce the show’s uniquely resonant take on family dynamics, so sweet and well-observed in its realism and, of course, riotously funny whenever it catches its characters flirting with the absurd. Haigis


Evil

18. Evil

Robert and Michele King’s Evil is a sort of X-Files centered around religion and exorcisms, and not just because it pairs a true believer with a devout skeptic. It takes that show’s institutional skepticism and points it (on network television, no less!) at the Catholic Church, whose motives are as rooted in belief as they are in upholding a status quo. The series slyly tweaks its case-of-the-week structure, refusing to definitively answer all the questions it raises. Sometimes there’s a logical explanation rooted in our post-truth era of technological fakery, and sometimes there isn’t. As it slides further into outright horror, Evil subverts its seemingly old-fashioned construction and concept to reveal itself as one of the year’s most relevant shows. Scaife


The Deuce

17. The Deuce

Season three of The Deuce provides typically revealing insights into elements of ‘80s New York City that are underserved even in other texts which seek to lionize the era. The show’s presentation of Times Square entails a kind of shadow history, about everything from cops harassing building owners to the nascent AIDS crisis. The Deuce positions its prostitutes, porn stars, mobsters, and bohemians as dinosaurs, mostly unaware of their looming extinction, from disease, the advent of home video, and the real estate boom. By continuing to confine its totemic New York figures—the mobsters, barmen, and sleaze-balls—to plodding and static storylines, the series demythologizes them, suggesting that the cultural touchstones of New York history were just subjects to the fiscal whims of the city’s influential, faceless money movers. Haigis


Watchmen

16. Watchmen

HBO’s Watchmen expands its source material in fascinating ways, weaving a dense, bizarre mythology and richly conceived world. The sprawling pilot episode in particular introduces various complicated ideas, drawing clear lines to fascism in the actions of the police and vigilantes. As thorny as the show’s handling of politics can be, though, it offers a nonetheless intriguing rebuttal of the graphic novel. Even the boundless cynicism of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s mega-hit had its potential rays of light, the idea that prejudice might look small once everyone recognized the futility of crying out to be better dead than Red. Watchmen argues the ways injustice might persist, and in that sense, its alternate history doesn’t look so alien after all. Scaife

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