The 50 best TV shows of 2019: 41-50 | Television & radio


Line of Duty

(BBC One) 2019 was the year that Jed Mercurio’s cop corruption hit went fully mainstream, boosted by the huge success of his Whitehall thriller Bodyguard. While series five wasn’t as light on its feet as previous runs, the nation was firmly gripped by Stephen Graham’s star turn – and the possibility that H might have been right under our noses all along.

What we said: As ever, nothing is wasted; not a scene, not a line, not a beat. For every morsel of information gathered by the team and by the viewer, another turn reveals 100 hidden possibilities. Read the full review.

Star turn … Martin Compston and Stephen Graham.

Star turn … Martin Compston and Stephen Graham. Photograph: World Productions Ltd/BBC


Stranger Things

(Netflix) Having thrilled viewers with its Spielbergian, Stephen King-flavoured brand of nostalgia, these days Netflix’s shockfest isn’t quite as novel as it once was. Even so, watching the gang grow into teenagers – and uncover a top-secret facility under the Hawkins shopping mall – added new intrigue to its third series.

What we said: It’s a slicker, pacier operation than the slightly sprawling previous season, and far more fun. Read the full review.


63 Up

(ITV) The latest instalment in Michael Apted’s groundbreaking series, which has followed a group of children from vastly different backgrounds throughout their lives since the age of seven. Now heading towards retirement age, the changes – from marriage breakups to reconciliations to the death of one of the cohort, Lynn – proved all the more poignant.

What we said: Up makes other attempts to replicate the project – let alone the reality TV shows to which it is sometimes considered a precursor – seem trivial in comparison. Read the full review.


Seven Worlds, One Planet

(BBC One) Another year, another epic Attenborough extravaganza. Seven Worlds upped the game once again, with its jaw-dropping cinematography and huge scale (41 countries featured, a crew of over 1,500 people) – plus an environmental message that was never far from the surface.

What we said: As gorgeous, breathtaking, moving and harrowing as we have come to expect from this world-leading branch of the BBC. Read the full review.


Transparent: Musicale Finale

Gobsmacking … a joyful send-off.

Gobsmacking … a joyful send-off. Photograph: Danielle Levitt/Amazon Prime

(Amazon) They said it couldn’t be done. After the show’s lead, Jeffrey Tambor, was fired for accusations of sexual harassment on set, fans of Jill Soloway’s bold exploration of sexuality, identity and Judaism in the Pfefferman family feared it would never return. But return it did, with a gobsmacking feature-length send-off including the most out-there closing number in musical history: Joyocaust (“We need a celebration of the soul / For this extermination Superbowl.”) One thing’s for sure: TV won’t be this transgressive again any time soon.

What we said: Some will feel it’s too outrageously close to the bone, but this is what it means to take risks all the way to the final curtain. Read the full review.



(BBC Scotland) BBC Scotland’s first original drama – a murder mystery kickstarted by a bungled hit-and-run – was an unexpected triumph of Hitchcockian twists, razor-sharp wit and the best sibling rivalry since Oasis.

What we said: Writer Neil Forsyth has mapped out a tense noir story that spirals out in unexpected directions while reliably lacing the whole thing with withering one-liners. Read the full review.


The Curry House Kid

Cathartic … Akram Khan’s dance memoir.

Cathartic … Akram Khan’s dance memoir. Photograph: Rory Mulvey/Channel 4

(Channel 4) “There’s a reason why you run.” So says feted dancer and choreographer Akram Khan at the start of this astounding one-off documentary, in which he confronts the racism he faced as the child of Bangladeshi restaurateurs, before creating a cathartic dance to honour his family’s past.

What we said: Threaded through this stirring narrative is the exquisite piece Khan creates in response, performed at the end in a disused Brick Lane warehouse. The choreography is extraordinary: expressive, dynamic and deeply moving. Read the full review.


The Last Survivors

(BBC Two) Arthur Cary’s thoughtful, wonderful and always dignified 90-minute documentary heard the stories of some of the last living people who survived concentration camps as children. Very important viewing indeed.

What we said: For an hour and a half, I was crying, especially when Cary followed three generations of Holocaust survivors to Auschwitz, knowing all the time that tears are not enough. Nor guilt. Read the full review.


World on Fire

(BBC One) Peter Bowker’s ambitious wartime drama, featuring both the burning home fires and the plight of families in Germany and Poland, was an emotional tour de force right to its flabbergastingly open ending.

What we said: There is plenty of action, for those who want it, but this is far from the standard wartime miniseries. It is a beautifully turned ensemble piece, with everyone getting their time in the spotlight. Read the full review.


Killing Eve

(BBC America/BBC iPlayer) Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s blackly comic assassin hit returned without the midas touch of its creator (who was busy working on the final series of Fleabag), but with more than enough wit and comic book-style action to keep fans satisfied.

What we said: The core of its success – the relationship between Villanelle and Eve – remains intact and further torqued by events. It is still stylish, sexy and gorgeous. Read the full review.

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