Last year was a dynamite year for the medium of televised storytelling. Sure, shows like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Rick and Morty returned for fresh seasons, but what about the newcomers that managed to knock our socks off?
Here is a roundup of the best new shows of 2019, where you can watch them online, and if they’ll be returning for second seasons.
10- Primal (Adult Swim)
Animation, Thriller, Adventure
After directing the Hotel Transylvania films for Sony, Samurai Jack creator Genndy Tartakovsky returned to his violent animated roots with a show about a caveman teaming up with a dinosaur at the dawn of time. We can’t even begin to explain how cool that is but rest assured that Adam Sandler’s Dracula’s got nothing on the primordial adventures of an early man and his giant pet lizard. The second half of the first season is slated to premiere this year.
You can stream the first five episodes on the Adult Swim website.
9 – Servant (Apple TV+)
Mystery, Drama, Thriller
Cast: Toby Kebbell (Sean Turner), Lauren Ambrose (Dorothy Turner), Rupert Grint (Julian Pearce), Nell Tiger Free (Leanne Grayson)
A couple’s dead baby comes back to life when a mysterious nanny shows up in their lives. Do we have your attention yet? This new series on Apple TV+ pretty much unfolds in one single location (the Philadelphia home of Sean and Dorothy Turner), but the twists and turns come fast and loose with the conclusion of each 30-minute episode.
Executive producer, M. Night Shyamalan, infuses the proceedings (written and created by Tony Basgallop) with his patented sense of foreboding. Season 2 is about to kick off production, and Shyamalan has already said that he envisions the series as a story told across six seasons.
All of Season 1 is now streaming on Apple TV+.
8 – The Witcher (Netflix)
Cast: Henry Cavill (Geralt of Rivia), Freya Allan (Ciri), Anya Chalotra (Yennefer)
Based on the best-selling novels by Andrzej Sapkowski, The Witcher is a fantasy series about famed monster hunter, Geralt of Rivia. While early reactions to the show were lukewarm at best, fans have come around to this pseudo-replacement for HBO’s Game of Thrones. In any case, the “Toss a Coin to Your Witcher” song is going viral online. Sapkowski’s books have previously been adapted for television, video games, and film. Netflix has already ordered a second season.
“Geralt always wants to do the right thing. And his intention is there: His goal is to do the right thing, make the right choice, and protect the people who need protecting,” Cavill recently told Polygon. “But he’s also very willing to do some of the necessary, harder things that are required. And that may be from my military upbringing where I have that trait.”
Season 1 of The Witcher can be streamed on Netflix.
7 – Batwoman (The CW)
Drama, Superhero, Adventure
Cast: Ruby Rose (Kate Kane), Rachel Skarsten (Beth Kane), Meagan Tandy (Sophie Moore)
The newest addition to The CW’s Arrowverse, Batwoman is the first comic book show to feature an LGBTQ superhero as its main character. An established character from the comics, Kate Kane, is Batman’s cousin. The network has already renewed the program for a second season.
“I don’t feel like this is like anything I’ve done before because it is emotional. There is romance and this family dynamic, this drama, and this action,” Ruby Rose told CNN back in October.
The first ten episodes can be streamed on The CW’s website. Episode 11 airs on Sunday, Jan. 26.
6 – For All Mankind (Apple TV+)
History, Drama, Sci-fi
Cast: Joel Kinnaman (Edward Baldwin), Michael Dorman (Gordo Stevens), Jodi Balfour (Ellen Waverly), Wrenn Schmidt (Margo Madison), Sarah Jones (Tracy Stevens), Shantel VanSanten (Karen Baldwin)
What if the Space Race hadn’t ended with the U.S. landing on the moon in 1969? What if the Soviet Union had gotten there first? That’s the central and intriguing premise of For All Mankind on Apple TV+. Created by Battlestar Galactica vet Ronald D. Moore, the show offers a fun exercise in the realm of “what if?” I’m a sucker for anything having to do with alternate history, so this is just my kind of television!
“When we started talking about the show, we didn’t want this to be a dystopian type of drama, we wanted it to be a little more optimistic, but the other thing we really want to do is have it kind of follow our normal timeline, but then maybe certain events happen in a different way, or we get to it from a different path,” producer Maril Davis said in October.
A second season has been ordered, but you can binge all ten episodes of the first one on Apple TV+.
5 – The Boys (Amazon)
Superhero, Drama, Comedy
Cast: Karl Urban (Billy Butcher), Jack Quaid (Hughie Campbell), Antony Starr (Homelander), Erin Moriarty (Starlight), Dominique McElligott (Queen Maeve), Jessie T. Usher (A-Train), Laz Alonso (Mother’s Milk), Chace Crawford (The Deep), Tomer Capon (Frenchie), Karen Fukuhara (The Female), Nathan Mitchell (Black Noir), Elisabeth Shue (Madelyn Stilwell)
Amazon’s pitch black adaptation of the comic by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson follows a group of vigilantes who punish superheroes when they step out of line. A biting satire of consumerism and our worship of celebrities, The Boys, is just the thing for comic book overload in modern pop culture. Then there’s the fact that the Season 1 finale ended on one humdinger of a cliffhanger that changes the entire worldview of Billy Butcher.
Season 2 is expected to premiere later this year, but you can stream all of Season 1 on Amazon Prime.
4 – His Dark Materials (HBO)
Fantasy, Adventure, Drama
Cast: James McAvoy (Lord Asriel), Dafne Keen (Lyra Belacqua), Ruth Wilson (Mrs. Coulter), Andrew Scott (Colonel John Parry), Lin-Manuel Miranda (Lee Scoresby)
This long-awaited adaptation of Philip Pullman’s beloved trilogy of novels is yet another series that looked to fill the void left by Game of Thrones. Able to take a further dive into the books than the ill-fated film adaptation from 2007, His Dark Materials is an ambitious fantasy project that fully brings its universe to life. That universe just so happens to be a reality in which every human being is accompanied by an animal companion known as daemons. A second season has been ordered.
Season 1 can currently be streamed on HBO’s various digital platforms.
3 – Chernobyl (HBO)
History, Drama, Thriller
Cast: Jared Harris (Valery Legasov), Stellan Skarsgård (Boris Shcherbina), Emily Watson (Ulana Khomyuk)
A haunting look at the nuclear reactor meltdown that occurred in one of the Soviet Union’s Ukranian power plants in 1986, Chernobyl is a miniseries that sticks with you for a very, very long time—much like the half-life of radioactive materials. A cautionary tale about the dangers of hubris and government suppression, the show feels very timely in today’s political climate.
With masterful performances and terrifyingly convincing sound design (those damn Geiger counters will scare the crap out of you), Chernobyl (written by Hangover alum Craig Mazin of all people) is not something you want to pass you by. Watch it as soon as you can!
The critically-acclaimed limited series can currently be streamed on HBO’s various digital platforms.
2 – The Mandalorian (Disney+)
Cast: Pedro Pascal (the Mandalorian), Werner Herzog (the Client), Carl Weathers (Greef Karga), Gina Carano (Cara Dune), Giancarlo Esposito (Moff Gideon), Taika Waititi (IG-11), Nick Nolte (Kuiil)
You might think I’m crazy for not making this my top pick for the new shows of 2019, but you’ll see my reasoning very soon. In any case, The Mandalorian is one of the best pieces of pop culture to hit the scene last year. Created by Jon Favreau (Iron Man), the live-action Star Wars series takes place a few years after the fall of the Empire and follows the gunslinging adventures of a lone warrior.
The legendary Baby Yoda is just one of the many of the show’s elements to dominate nerd culture in the last few months. Building out George Lucas’ original lore, The Mandalorian is a masterclass in storytelling not just for Star Wars, but for any small screen project. A second season is already in production and will premiere on Disney+ in fall 2020.
All eight episodes of The Mandalorian’s first season can be streamed on Disney+. For our recaps/reviews of Season 1, click here.
1 – Watchmen (HBO)
Drama, History, Sci-fi, Mystery
Cast: Regina King (Angela Abar), Jeremy Irons (Adrien Veidt), Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Doctor Manhattan), Louis Gossett Jr. (Will Reeves), Jean Smart (Laurie Blake), Tim Blake Nelson (Looking Glass), Hong Chau (Lady Trieu)
Watchmen gets the coveted top spot on this list because it proved to be the biggest surprise of 2019. Many fans, myself included, were wary of what creator Damon Lindelof described as a “remix” of the groundbreaking graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Rather than straight-up adapting the source material, the TV show serves as a sequel to the comic, both paying homage to it and reframing it in bold new ways.
This modern interpretation exceeded all expectations via its out-of-the-box methods of storytelling. It vindicated Lindelof, who has taken a lot of criticism in the past for his work on Lost and Prometheus. Whether we get a second season or not (it seems unlikely with Damon not interested in making one), no one can deny that Watchmen is a small screen surprise of the highest order.
Season 1 can currently be streamed on HBO’s various digital platforms.