During the semester, I’ve got my hands full with writing, reading, and grading so my time to go out and watch a movie is a bit limited. Because of this, I watch more TV shows for my little doses of stress release and escapism. Some of these are shows that premiered in 2019, that I binged in the course of a single day or week, or that I’ve been keeping up with for a long time. As with all of my favorites, I’ve developed some rules to trim down what could be a long list into something manageable:
- Must be a show I watched and loved in 2019, but need not be a show that premiered this year—also does not need to be a show that I haven’t been introduced to before, but should be a show that had a new season or content out.
- I’ve organized the picks alphabetically this year rather than by genre just for the hell of it.
- I’ll give a brief statement of why this show is a favorite of 2019: whether it’s a memory, a particular episode, or just a basic reason why I love the show.
- As I do not have cable, most of these are gathered from my access to Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, or other sources.
The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story. I really enjoyed the first season of this show and was able to watch it as it came out but, without cable, had to wait for this season to hit streaming and then was caught in life. But I binged it in a couple of days and fell in love with this tragedy of history. You have to hope that each season the showrunners will handle the material with care and, certainly this season, they did their best to treat the victims with composure and to give attention to not only Versace and his life beyond his empire but Cunanan’s other victims in his spree. Darren Criss deserved all of his accolades for the role of Cunanan, but it was Cody Fern as David Madsen that really made the show for me. The structure was also notable for me, and “House by the Lake” is a singular type of sadness.
Castle Rock (Season Two). Not only is this show on my comps list, but I also re-watched the first season in close detail and paused every few seconds to make careful notes. Season Two, while a deviation from the complete originality of the first, is obviously the crowd favorite. It’s a mostly careful blend of Stephen King’s Misery and ‘Salem’s Lot with lots of other Easter eggs. Overall, this season belongs to Lizzy Caplan and her intensive character study of Annie Wilkes—one hopes there’s some kind of award nomination in her future. This is a great point to jump in on the show and I can only hope their plans for a Shining-based season come to fruition at some point.
Fruits Basket (2019). I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the original Fruits Basket anime since it was one of my first. A few of my friendships were built around the zodiac and Tohru and the singular question of Kyo or Yuki. So when I heard that they were reanimating the series and updating it to match the manga, I could only hope it would be just as good as I remembered. And it was. Like sinking into hot, relaxing water, the characters were just the same and so was the story. But the animation was so clean and detailed, with gorgeous backdrops and landscapes, and the character details looked better than ever. Characters have been further developed and it only gives depth to the overall story. I couldn’t be happier that this story will continue to grow and, hopefully, we won’t have to wait another thirteen years.
Food Wars. I don’t really watch non-fantasy anime so for me to make an exception that show has to be something special. This show is one of a kind. Not only does it revolve around Soma’s quest to become the best chef at Totsuki, but it follows the other chefs’ journeys as they, too, become stronger cooks. This is literally an anime about cooking that uses almost pornographic depictions of food and eating to sell its ideals, and then also educates viewers about culinary theory at the same time. You learn about gastronomy while someone moans! I loved this show so much I watched both seasons twice in 2019, and it’s rare that I re-watch anime these days. I’m hopeful for more episodes in the future because I’m still hungry.
Into the Dark. Blumhouse continues to knock it out of the park with their movie-length anthology series based around the holidays. I was curious about how it would work with some of the weirder months (like September) or once they started a new season, but they’re honestly doing fine. What was a promising start last year has only continued. However, like all anthology projects, there are some elements stronger than others, but, overall, it’s still brilliant. I continue to have hope that if Fear Itself were ever revived in a similar format (come on Blumhouse!) it could do well in this day and age. My favorite episodes since last year have been “All That We Destroy”, “Culture Shock”, and “Pure.”
The Masked Singer. Just like a good portion of the country, I got sucked into this reality program that is absolutely dumb (so dumb) but addictive. It’s rare that I get involved with competitions or reality TV these days because I don’t tend to get invested in people but I liked that there was a genuine mystery to the show, no real prize to be had except for satiated questions, and some laughs along the way. I’ll admit it’s basically the absolute junk food of television because half the judges annoy me at any given time, it gets annoying to scream at the TV when you know who is under the mask from the first week and the judges are making pointless guesses (IT WILL NEVER BE AN A-LISTER), and I had to put up with a singer I don’t like for an entire season. The best part is honestly bonding with my best friend over each episode and our guesses.
Mindhunter. I stick by my opinion that this show is what Criminal Minds wishes it had been; Mandy Patinkin literally left that show because it was too focused on the hyperviolence and not enough on the psychology. Here it’s all about the development of the methodology and it’s fascinating to see how a particular field of study is built from the ground up, especially in an environment where it’s not fostered. The casting is downright uncanny, especially for the criminals, and its focus on their stories and reasons instead of the legends is what really makes the show intense. The relationship between Holden Ford and Bill Tench carries the show and, not since the early seasons of Supernatural, have we been treated to such a beautiful display of early American fast food and hotels.
Mixed-ish. I caught a few episodes of Black-ish over the summer and, when I saw a preview for this spin-off, thought I’d start fresh because it has a lot of elements I find interesting. Not only does it take place in the ‘80s (nostalgia shows are hot right now), but it also tackles the unique difficulty of being one of the few mixed race kids at a time when interracial marriages were still relatively new. Throw in being the children of commune/cult members and it’s all the more interesting. It’s funny and educational about different cultures and a perfect addition to my weekly watching.
Schooled. Since I binged The Goldbergs last year and have been keeping up with the series it was only natural for me to get addicted to the ‘90s spin-off as well. I feel a bit more involved in this show because A) I’m kind of a teacher so I relate to that aspect of The Struggle and B) I was alive in this time period so the nostalgia is real for me. I think this one is a bit more saccharine than its predecessor in terms of the aw-factor, but Coach Rick gets me every time and I am invested as hell in Lainey’s romantic possibilities. If you liked the early seasons of The Goldbergs then it’s definitely worth giving a try.
Sharp Objects. Last year I read Gillian Flynn’s novel and was astounded by its modern take on grit and gothic; I wanted it for my comps list but had to make some negotiations. This adaptation of the novel does good work with its source material and follows the mystery of two murdered girls and the reporter sent back home to investigate the case. The acting is absolutely god-tier in this miniseries and Amy Adams was robbed. Patricia Clarkson also deserves all the nods as the worst mother in the world. It builds and builds to a bonkers conclusion which, even though I knew it was coming, still surprised. I’ve been recommending this to a bunch of people because it had everything I wanted and more; I turned right around and watched the finale, “Milk” again after I finished it.
True Detective (Season One). For a while everyone was saying I needed to watch this because it was southern gothic and rural noir with touches of horror and right up my alley. I didn’t watch it because I didn’t have the right subscription or the time; then I caved and spent a week binging as much as I could. Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey have brilliant chemistry as two detectives being interviewed about a case they worked on together in the past. The time period flips between the murder case and the interviews before wrapping up in a satisfying way. This is pure aesthetic, twisty mystery wonder and I’m so glad I got around to seeing it.
Here are a few shows that I binged, watched, and maybe enjoyed but aren’t quite my favorites of the year.
- American Horror Story: Cult
- American Horror Story: Apocalypse
- Attack on Titan (Season Three)
- The Boys
- The Good Place
- My Hero Academia (Season Four)
- Saturday Night Live
- The Umbrella Academy
- The Witcher
I’m hopeful that 2020 will bring more binging, late night viewing, and new seasons of old favorites to escape from the daily struggle and stress.
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