There is, as ever, a lot of great television—and a lot of really mediocre television—out there to sift through. In the first six weeks of 2019 alone, a handful of truly great shows either debuted or returned to our screens, and it can be overwhelming to figure out where to start when Netflix alone is producing a full time job’s worth of new content every week. We’ve got you covered. Here are the 16 shows you must watch in 2019, from returning faves like Fleabag and Barry to exciting newcomers like Russian Doll and Euphoria.
1 Russian Doll
The less you know about Natasha Lyonne’s remarkable and innovative new Netflix series before going in, the better. Suffice it to say, it follows an acerbic woman (Lyonne) who finds herself stuck in a time loop on the night of her 36th birthday—a loop in which she always ends up dying. Blending surreal comedy with skillfully-observed tragedy, this is a serious contender for best new show of the year.
2 When They See Us
Ava DuVernay’s shattering miniseries chronicles the infamous and awful 1989 case of the Central Park Five: a group of Black and Latinx teenagers who were wrongfully convicted of attacking and raping a white woman in New York’s Central Park. Years later, all five were exonerated after serving their sentences. Featuring devastating performances from its young cast—notably Jharrel Jerome in an Emmy-winning role—and clear-eyed, compassionate direction from DuVernay, the series sheds light on ugly truths about racism and justice in America that remain deeply relevant 30 years on.
3 The Case Against Adnan Syed
Picking up where the Serial podcast left off in 2014, filmmaker Amy Berg examines the trial and conviction of Adnan Syed, who has been in prison for 20 years for the murder of his girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. Syed has always maintained his innocence, and Berg’s intelligently-crafted documentary takes a fresh and detailed look at the evidence—and in many cases, the lack thereof—against him, while also using excerpts from Lee’s journal to give her a voice that victims often lack in true crime stories.
4 Fleabag: Season 2
After its first season dropped back in 2016, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s singular black comedy was an acclaimed but still under-the-radar gem. In its second season, Fleabag became a phenomenon, creating new pop culture icons everywhere it went (That jumpsuit! That hot priest!) while expanding its heroine’s emotional journey. Though Fleabag herself remains sharp-tongued and often willfully dysfunctional, she’s also given room to grow, not only in her exquisitely impossible love story with the aforementioned priest, but in her relationship with her sister (Sian Clifford).
5 Barry: Season 2
The second season of HBO’s meticulous black comedy about a reformed hitman trying to forge an acting career was darker, stranger and more electrifying than its first. Having committed a murder to protect himself from discovery, Bill Hader’s Barry is in a more precarious position than ever as he tries to leave his old life behind once and for all, while his girlfriend Sally (Sarah Goldberg) faces her own dark past in one of the season’s most rewarding storylines.
6 The Magicians: Season 4
If you’re not watching Syfy’s endlessly inventive and unpredictable saga about a group of students at a magic academy, you’re truly missing out. While it’s easy—and not inaccurate—to boil the show down to a soundbite like “Harry Potter with sex, drugs and musical numbers,” it’s also one of the smartest and most heartfelt shows on TV, using magic as a way to explore mental illness, trauma, and coming of age.
8 One Day At A Time: Season 3
Netflix’s remake of the classic Norman Lear sitcom remains one of the funniest and most genuine shows on TV. There’s not a single weak link in the ensemble, from Justina Machado’s charismatic and layered lead performance to Rita Moreno’s glorious turn as Lydia. The show’s third season packs in laugh after laugh while tackling arcs about alcoholism, anxiety, and racism, and makes it all look effortless. The show’s abrupt cancellation in March was devastating, and prompted an outpouring of support from fans; a few months later, Pop TV came to the rescue and ordered a fourth season. All the more reason to get caught up.
HBO’s searing miniseries chronicles the catastrophic 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in gut-churning detail, bringing Soviet sins to life in a way that is both historically accurate and deeply timely. With a sharp eye for character and morality, creator Craig Mazin explores the catastrophe and what followed, documenting brave individuals’ extraordinary efforts to contain the spread of radiation alongside the even more extraordinary efforts made by bureaucrats to cover the whole thing up.
Based on a real and horrifying true story, this Netflix series follows a young woman (Kaitlyn Dever), who is raped at knifepoint in her apartment, then branded a liar when she reports the assault to local police. The eight-part drama follows Dever’s Marie through her unthinkable ordeal, while simultaneously tracking two detectives—played by Toni Collette and Merritt Weaver—as they investigate a serial rapist in a different state, and ultimately uncover evidence that vindicates Marie. Written with nuance and sensitivity, Unbelievable is a too-rare example of a true crime drama that puts the victim’s voice front and center.
Adapted from the memoir of the same name by Lindy West, Hulu’s Shrill is a deeply satisfying (and long overdue) comedy centered around the concept of body positivity. Its heroine, played by SNL alum Aidy Bryant, is an aspiring journalist and “a fat young woman who wants to change her life—but not her body.” Co-star Lolly Adefope shines as Annie’s no-nonsense yet supportive best friend.
12 Succession: Season 2
After a slow-burn first season that ended in a stunning (and…