From “Chernobyl” to “Fleabag” and “Leaving Neverland,” these are the best 10 TV series that 2019 has been able to produce, so far.
August is coming to a sad, humid close, which means it’s almost time to say hello to shiny new fall TV series and returning favorites and goodbye to the oddballs that populate our screens in summer.
Summer TV is always a mixed bag of great series and truly terrible ones. Especially on broadcast TV, where viewers usually see experimental or light programming that can either be adorably amusing or truly idiotic. This year was no exception, and there were some distinct hits – both in ratings and quality – and some true misses.
We break down the shows and personalities that came out on top, and those who would rather forget summer 2019 ever happened.
Hannah Brown in the season finale of “The Bachelorette.” (Photo: Mark Bourdillon/ABC)
Winner: ‘The Bachelorette’
Adding intrigue and relevance to a franchise as old as “The Bachelor” is nearly impossible, but the allure of Hannah Brown (who will soon take her talents to “Dancing with the Stars”), helped ABC make the 15th season of “Bachelorette” vital viewing. Not only did the series manage to beat out summer juggernaut “America’s Got Talent” among young adults to rank as summer’s No. 1 show, it also delivered great reality television and managed to reclaim its status as a buzzy, zeitgeist hit. After Tyler, Jed and all the deep talks and drama, can anyone even remember why fans wanted Hannah G. to be the Bachelorette?
Alexandra Stewart and Caroline “Caro” Viehweg in “Love Island.” (Photo: Colin Young-Wolff/CBS)
Loser: ‘Love Island’ and ‘Paradise Hotel’
There was less love for CBS’s version of British import “Love Island” and Fox’s revival of “Paradise Hotel.” Although it was a compelling remake of the U.K. sensation, “Island” had meager viewership for its nightly episodes (CBS still renewed it). “Hotel” was an exploitative bore upon arrival and didn’t fare much better.
Jason Priestley, Brian Austin Green, Gabrielle Carteris, Ian Ziering, Jennie Garth and Tori Spelling in “BH 90210.” (Photo: Shane Harvey/Fox)
Winner: Nostalgia done right
Pop culture’s obsession with nostalgia shows no signs of fading, but bringing back beloved TV shows has to be done in the right manner to satisfy fans and newcomers alike. With three very different story approaches, Hulu’s “Veronica Mars,” Fox’s “BH90210” and Netflix’s “Stranger Things” capitalized on our cravings for the familiar, but didn’t pander or talk down to viewers. “Mars” had a good story to tell about its protagonist (Kristen Bell) as an adult, “BH” went for a cute, meta and self-effacing concept and “Stranger” changed its winning formula and slid a few new 1980s references into the mix.
Nicole Kidman and Meryl Streep in “Big Little Lies.” (Photo: HBO)
Loser: Pointless second seasons
Although revivals of “Mars” and “90210” worked, that doesn’t mean every successful or beloved show needs a comeback. The second season of HBO’s Emmy-winning “Big Little Lies,” which was initially planned as a one-time miniseries, proved a near-total failure. Despite adding Meryl Streep, the new chapter couldn’t find a story that matched the incisive and beautiful first series. Worse, its disastrous finale episode finished on an incredibly sour note.
Valery Legasov (Jared Harris) gets to the core of the Chernobyl disaster. (Photo: Liam Daniel/HBO)
Winner: Depressing miniseries about Russian politics
Who knew that a low-profile miniseries about the world’s worst nuclear disaster would become such a breakout hit? “Chernobyl,” HBO’s dramatization of the nuclear power station meltdown in Soviet Ukraine in the 1980s, turned dry scientific discussions into riveting TV, and powerfully gave voice to victims of a terrible tragedy. The series was beloved by critics, scored 19 Emmy nominations and ranked as the most beloved show on the popular film and TV site IMDb.
Russell Crowe as Roger Ailes in “The Loudest Voice.” (Photo: JoJo Whilden, JoJo Whilden/SHOWTIME)
Loser: Depressing miniseries about American politics
Despite its inflammatory subject matter and A-list cast (including Russell Crowe, Sienna Miller, Seth MacFarlane and Naomi Watts), Showtime’s Roger Ailes miniseries “The Loudest Voice” failed to connect. The series kicked off with soft ratings on Showtime, and the Fox News founder’s origin story never sparked nearly as much conversation as the cable news network itself could.
Steph Curry on “Holey Moley.” (Photo: Eric McCandless, ABC)
Winner: Weird reality shows you can understand
Who knew mini-golf could be so entertaining, even when you’re not putting? ABC’s Stephen Curry-produced “Holey Moley” was a delightful surprise this summer. It was big, weird and self-aware, with enough comedy and “Wipeout”-style mini-golf antics to be just the kind of summer fun viewers want. ABC also had good luck with its revival of the classic game show “Press Your Luck,” hosted by Elizabeth Banks, which had the gloriously cheesy set and animated “Whammy” of the 1970s original, making it a quirky, nostalgic treat.
Fred Savage in “What Just Happened??! with Fred Savage.” (Photo: Aaron Epstein/Fox)
Loser: Weird reality shows you can’t understand
What just happened on “What Just Happened?!!”? Fox’s gamble on a fake after-show for a fake genre series certainly didn’t work out. Despite Fred Savage’s best comedic efforts, the series bombed.
Winner and loser: ‘Veep’
HBO’s political comedy garnered nine Emmy nominations for its final season, and it will probably walk away with (at least) one last win for star Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Despite the love from the TV Academy, the last season of the series was disappointing. Perhaps because American politics are stranger than the antics “Veep” portrays, Selina Meyer (Louis-Dreyfus) and the rest didn’t pack the same satirical punch in their last outing.
Winner (and probable gracious loser): Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Phoebe Waller-Bridge takes a smoking break as the titular character in Amazon’s “Fleabag.” (Photo: STEVE SCHOFIELD/AMAZON)
The star, writer and creator of Amazon’s “Fleabag” and creator of BBC America’s “Killing Eve” was relatively unknown in Hollywood a few years ago, but now Phoebe Waller-Bridge is a multiple Emmy nominee working on the new James Bond film. Her fantastic summer included the exquisite second (and sadly final, for now) season of “Fleabag” in May and Emmy nominations for acting, writing and producing the series, and producing “Eve.” In a crowded Emmy field, the nominations might have to suffice, but the future looks bright for Waller-Bridge, and that’s a good thing for those of us who love TV.
Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/entertainment/tv/2019/08/26/summer-2019-tv-winners-bachelorette-and-losers-big-little-lies/2059412001/