Best TV to watch in 2019: From Fleabag to True Detective to Big Little Lies

With returning favourites such as 'Game of Thrones' and 'The Crown' and new offerings from George Clooney and Sally Wainwright, it's set to be a good year for TV, finds Alexandra Pollard

Friday 04 January 2019 19:34
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Clockwise from top left: Gentleman Jack, The Crown, MotherFatherSon, Catch-22
Clockwise from top left: Gentleman Jack, The Crown, MotherFatherSon, Catch-22

We’re scarcely more than a week into the new year, and already we’ve been privy to a handful of water-cooler TV moments from the likes of BBC One’s Les Miserables and Luther, Channel 4’s Catastrophe, and the Benedict Cumberbatch-starring Brexit: The Uncivil War. But with approximately 51 more weeks to go, those really were just the tip of the TV iceberg.

From returning favourites such as Fleabag and Killing Eve to brand new offerings His Dark Materials and MotherFatherSon, here are the biggest and best TV shows to look forward to in 2019.

True Detective series three, Sky Atlantic, January

Following an acclaimed debut series - and a disappointing follow-up - there was a lot riding on the third instalment of this anthology crime drama. But if early reviews are to be believed, it looks as though series three, which stars Moonlight’s Mahershala Ali as an Arkansas police detective, is a return to form.

I Am the Night, TNT, January

Patty Jenkins, director of 2003’s Monster and 2017’s Wonder Woman (notably, she made no films between those years), reunites with Chris Pine in this prestige period drama. Set in 1965, it features an abandoned baby and a masked sex cult.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge stars in series two of her hit show 'Fleabag'

Fleabag series two, BBC3, February

The first series of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag – a sharp, funny, sometimes devastating depiction of a woman struggling to keep her life together – was one of the best things on TV in 2016. That Waller-Bridge followed its success by penning the wonderful Killing Eve has only further increased the hype for Fleabag’s second outing.

Line of Duty series five, early 2019

If you enjoyed Jed Mercurio’s hugely successful BBC drama Bodyguard last year, and are considering jumping straight into series five of his other creation, Line of Duty, you might want to think again. The fourth series of the intricate, twist-ridden police procedural drama confirmed that a single thread connected all of the show’s previously uncovered criminal networks. Perhaps series five will reveal the mastermind behind it all.

MotherFatherSon, BBC Two, early 2019

For his first TV role in over 40 years, Hollywood actor Richard Gere has chosen the eight-part BBC Two drama MotherFatherSon. Gere, Helen McCrory and On Chesil Beach’s Billy Howle will play… well, you can probably guess.

Steve Coogan returns as Alan Partridge in 'This Time… with Alan Partridge'

This Time… with Alan Partridge, BBC One, early 2019

Steve Coogan’s disastrously inept alter-ego, TV and radio presenter Alan Partridge, was introduced to the world 25 years ago this month. Now, he’s back on the air with a new live chat show – yes, live – in the same vein as The One Show. Expect much awkwardness.

Good Omens, Amazon Prime early 2019, BBC 2 later in the year

Based on the fantasy novel co-written by Neil Gaiman and the late, great Terry Pratchett, Good Omens sees the world on the brink of an apocalypse. But when an angel, played by a bleached blonde, bow tie-adorned Michael Sheen, and a demon, played by David Tennant channelling an ageing Eighties rock star, turn up to throw a spanner in the works, all bets are off.

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'Game of Thrones' returns for its final season

Game of Thrones series nine, Sky Atlantic, April

“You’re going to need therapy,” warned Gwendoline Christie (who plays Brienne of Tarth) ahead of Game of Thrones’s forthcoming final series. “It really is so unpredictable the way that it ends up,” said Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark). “It f***ed me up”, admitted Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen). If that isn’t enough to convince you to tune in to watch the bitter end of the acclaimed fantasy drama series, nothing will be.

Big Little Lies series two, Sky Atlantic, June 2019

Given that this stylish, gripping murder mystery’s first series – which centred around a group of California mothers and a mysterious death – ended so beautifully, it seems risky to bring it back for a second outing. Particularly as it will now have to expand beyond Liane Moriarty’s novel of the same name. But with Meryl Streep on board, and all seven episodes being directed by American Honey’s Andrea Arnold, the odds are in its favour.

Black Mirror series five, Netflix, TBA

Fans of Charlie Brooker’s dystopian sci-fi series had their appetites whetted this Christmas with the one-off, interactive episode “Bandersnatch” – but it came at a price. Brooker and co-showrunner Annabel Jones recently admitted they had underestimated how difficult the episode would be to create, and so series five, though still due this year, has been “shifted back a little bit” as a result.

Catch-22, Channel 4, TBA

Directed by George Clooney, who also stars alongside Hugh Laurie, Kyle Chandler, and Girls’s Christopher Abbott, Channel 4’s six-part mini-series will attempt to take on Joseph Heller’s seminal, satirical Second World War novel. “It’s hard to imagine a work that speaks more directly to the frequently absurd time we live in,” Clooney has said.

Chernobyl, Sky, TBA

The first commission from Sky’s recently announced partnership with HBO, this five-part mini-series chronicles Ukraine’s 1986 nuclear plant disaster. Starring Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgård and Emily Watson, it promises to be “a tale of lies and cowardice, of courage and conviction, of human failure and human nobility”.

Olivia Colman takes over in 'The Crown'

The Crown series three, Netflix, TBA

When it was announced that an entirely new cast would take over the royal drama for series three, there was one question on everyone’s lips: who could possibly be the rightful heir to Claire Foy? The answer, as it turns out, was Olivia Colman. She’ll step into the part of Queen Elizabeth II in Netflix’s most expensive TV show to date, alongside Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret and Tobias Menzies as Prince Philip. It’s hard to argue with a cast that strong.

Devs, FX, TBA

Ex Machina and Annihilation director Alex Garland is turning his hand to TV with an eight-episode mini-series – and it looks like Devs will see Garland continue his fascination with technologically-rooted science fiction. It stars Sonoya Mizuno, who you’ll recognise if you watched Netflix’s Maniac last year, as a young computer engineer investigating a secret tech company who she believes murdered her boyfriend.

Gentleman Jack, BBC One, TBA

Sally Wainwright, who created the brilliant, BAFTA-winning Happy Valley, takes on the life of 19th century landowner, diarist and mountaineer Anne Lister – often referred to as “the first modern lesbian”. Lister lived an openly gay life at a time when such a thing was thought impossible, and she is to be brought to life by Doctor Foster’s Suranne Jones.

His Dark Materials, BBC One, TBA

More than a decade on from 2007’s The Golden Compass, a film as disappointing as it was star-studded, fans of Philip Pullman’s epic fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials are still waiting for a decent book-to-screen adaptation. Enter the new BBC production, which stars Logan's Dafne Keen as the teenage hero Lyra, alongside the likes of James McAvoy, Ruth Wilson, Lin Manuel Miranda and Anne-Marie Duff. Perhaps this version will manage to capture the source material’s magic.

Jodie Cromer is back in series two of 'Killing Eve'

Killing Eve series two, BBC Two, TBA

Last year, Sandra Oh – who stars alongside Jodie Comer in Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s brilliant cat-and-mouse spy drama Killing Eve (who is the cat and who is the mouse is up for debate) – made history. She became the first woman of Asian descent to get an Emmy nomination for best lead actress in a drama. Here’s hoping she can make it a double with the show’s forthcoming second series.

The Virtues, Channel 4, TBA

Shane Meadows, the brilliant mind behind This is England, reunites with one of that show’s stars for his new Channel 4 drama. Stephen Graham plays Joseph, a man who travels to Ireland “to confront the demons from a childhood spent in the care system that continue to haunt him, with savage and brutal consequences”. If that sounds relentlessly bleak, though, it’s worth remembering that Meadows manages to inject humanity and humour into even his work’s darkest moments.

War of the Worlds, BBC One, TBA

Eighty years ago, Orson Welles’s radio adaptation of H G Wells’s sci-fi novel caused widespread panic by presenting a series of fake news bulletins announcing a devastating alien invasion. We’re a little more used to fake news these days, but hopefully this new BBC adaptation, which stars Eleanor Tomlinson and Rafe Spall, will be just as dramatic.

Years and Years, BBC1, TBA

This six-part BBC series charts 15 years in the life of an “outspoken celebrity turned political figure whose controversial opinions divide the nation”. Thankfully, though, this isn’t a Donald Trump biopic; the political figure is the fictitious Vivienne Rook, played by Emma Thompson, whose rise to power leads the country into an uncertain future.

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