The Best TV Shows of 2019


In an economical 132 minutes, this two-part Mexican series — a model of the investigative true-crime documentary — details a case of horrifying loss and chilling indifference. Part 1 is a harrowing re-creation of the night in 2014 when 43 college students, on buses bound for a protest in Mexico City, disappeared while running a gantlet of road blocks and gunfire in a provincial city. Part 2 recounts the succession of reluctant investigations and alleged cover-ups that followed, and lays bare the pain of the parents, whose sons’ bodies have never been found. (Streaming on Netflix.)

The British writer and producer Sally Wainwright is a prolific creator of shows set in the present day in her native Yorkshire: “At Home With the Braithwaites,” “Unforgiven,” “Last Tango in Halifax” and the great cop drama “Happy Valley.” In the period romance “Gentleman Jack,” based on the copious diaries of the landowner, industrialist and open lesbian Anne Lister, Wainwright delves into Yorkshire’s past (the show is set in 1832) and the result is as fresh, funny and challenging as anything she’s done. Wainwright’s frequent collaborator Suranne Jones is wonderful as the commanding, supremely (sometimes annoyingly) competent Lister, succeeding in business and love on her own terms. (Streaming on HBO Go and HBO Now.)

The actress Emerald Fennell took over from Phoebe Waller-Bridge as this mordant comedy-thriller’s principal writer, and the show didn’t miss a beat. Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer, as the formerly mousy secret agent Eve and the childlike, psychopathic assassin Villanelle, played out a second season of fatal attraction and extreme codependence. Comer won an Emmy, but the heart of the show is Oh’s less flashy, more vulnerable performance as a woman who’s thrilled by the discovery that danger turns her on. (Streaming on FuboTV and Amazon.)

Dynamiting the conventions of the South Korean historical drama series, this rollicking, satirical horror-adventure — based on a popular webtoon, or online comic book — adds a zombielike plague and some class-divide comedy to what otherwise looks like a typical tale of 16th-century palace intrigue. A plucky band of underdogs, including an outcast prince and an unappreciated female doctor (played by the South Korean star Bae Doo-na), race around the country trying to stop the undead while fighting off the minions of the prince’s evil stepmother. (Streaming on Netflix.)

The British actor Martin Clunes has built a devoted audience for the grumpy and condescending village doctor he’s played through nine seasons of “Doc Martin.” His character in “Manhunt” — a police detective investigating the killing of a French college student in a London suburb, in a story based on an actual case — could be seen as a departure. But Detective Chief Inspector Colin Sutton, as portrayed in the three-episode series, has a lot in common with the doctor: He’s awkward, argumentative, touchy and very good at his job. Clunes is excellent in a crisp, moving drama that was announced as a mini-series but then renewed for a second season. (Streaming on Acorn TV.)

Scott Ryan has made a career of writing and playing the Sydney strip-club bouncer and occasional hired killer Ray Shoesmith — he created the character for the 2005 film “The Magician,” long before HBO’s “Barry” popularized the hit man comedy. You might legitimately wonder how well he could play anything else, but he’s perfect as the testy, taciturn, sardonic Ray, in whom judginess and rage share space with loyalty (to his young daughter and disabled brother, nicely portrayed by Chika Yasumura and Nicholas Cassim) and flashes of compassion. In its second season, which grew to 11 episodes (from six), the Australian show was both more reflective and more complicated, adding layers to the clipped comedy that arises from Ray’s contradictions. (Streaming on FX Now and Hulu.)


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