My Top 5 for 2019

It’s always fun (but terribly conflicting) to look back over the year on TV and settle on just 5 titles as the pick of the bunch.

For this task I always limit myself to new productions, so apologies to some stellar telly that we watched in successive seasons.

This year I’ve highlighted 4 Aussie titles, and all 5 are scripted, which probably nods to my personal tastes more than anything.

Once again these 5 are in no particular order, and I’ve added excerpts from site reviews.

Chernobyl Foxtel
Chernobyl is the most compelling drama of its kind since The Day After in 1983. Back then 100 million Americans looked on in horror as a nuclear disaster movie ripped through Missouri and Kansas. With 21st Century filmmaking and storytelling techniques, Chernobyl is easily the superior product. Based around the catastrophic events of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of April 1986 this 5 part series hits overdrive in next to no time, when a distant “boom” disturbs the residents of Pripyat, near the Ukraine–Belarus border and fireman Vasily (Adam Nagaitis) is called to duty in the dead of night. But engineers at the burning nuclear reactor are in denial about the magnitude of their unfolding disaster, despite the clear evidence and the crumbling mess around them.

Bloom Stan
The first new Australian drama for 2019 is a treat. Bloom takes its time to wash over you, but it does so with quiet awe, a nod to the past, and moodily arouses your senses. While the opening scenes of a small-town flood result in the deaths of 5 locals, they are arresting enough to put the viewer on notice: this show means business.

Robbie Hood SBS
Robbie by name, robbin’ by nature….Robbie Hood is a charismatic, streetwise Indigenous kid who knows how to survive in the Alice. And he and his mates are a sheer joy to watch. Although his mother passed away on Christmas Day, 14 year old Robbie (Pedrea Jackson) is left to fend for himself with his d***head white fella dad (Andy Golledge), his elderly grandmother (Audrey Martin) and best mates, the gangly perpetutally-hungry 16 year old Johnny (Levi Thomas) and tough-nut 13 year old ‘Blue’ (Jordan Johnson). Unsupervised on the hot asphalt of the Alice, these three loiter from misadventure to misadventure, struggling to scrape enough cash together for a swim in the local pool, nicking BMX bikes or sneaking into a night at the local speedway.

Total Control ABC
The series explores all kinds of moral dilemmas for a newly-installed Senator and Alex finds herself torn between representing her mob, compromising at every turn and becoming a pawn in party politics. Issues of skin colour and gender are front and centre, all personified by Mailman. (Alex) is prone to lashing out and getting barefoot in TV interviews, allowing Deborah Mailman to rip through some of the scenes at category one, whilst still showing vulnerability behind closed doors. Episode 2 makes a nice comment that the politics of negotiating with Aboriginal elders is far more complex than anything Canberra has to offer.

Lambs of God Foxtel
Lambs of God is the best miniseries Foxtel has produced since Cloudstreet in 2011, and the best local drama of 2019. At just 4 episodes it has a clear vision, executed with precision by a collaboration of skilled storytellers. Tapping into a trend for dark, bingeworthy dramas, it looks quite magnificent in the hands of acclaimed cinematographer Don McAlpine. While it’s easy to be swept up in the arresting visuals of a crumbling monastery perched high atop a cliff face, there are some insidious themes explored in the script by Sarah Lambert.

Honourable mentions (also in no particular order):

The Cry,
Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds,
Catch 22,
Leaving Neverland,
The Loudest Voice,
Years and Years,
Five Bedrooms,
Fosse / Verdon,
After Life,
Exposed: The Case of Keli Lane,
The Hunting,
The Spy,

and Dancing with the Stars.


  1. My top 5 for me:
    Chernobyl (horrific, compelling, top-class TV)
    Stranger Things S3 (a terrific return to form; the ‘Scoops Ahoy’ trio were great)
    Frayed (my favourite comedy of 2019 black humour with a emotional punch)
    The Letdown (so well written, loved the episode featuring Scott the drug dealer and Barbara)
    Lambs of God (just damn good writing, acting and production)

    Honorable mentions:
    His Dark Materials
    The Righteous Gemstones
    After Life
    The Mandalorian
    The Loudest Voice
    Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds
    Hardball – (ABCMe) watched all the episodes with my 8yo daughter they were terrific!

  2. My top 5 would be killing eve, masked singer, les miserables, dancing with the stars, gentleman jack . The bottom 5 worst of the year would have to be lambs of god, diary of an Uber driver, Sunday night takeaway, Saturday night rove, my 80 year old flatmate

  3. Afterlife and Frayed for comedy and Total Control and Years and Years for drama.
    Years and Years was a wow show for me. My number 1 for the year. I absolutely loved it.
    I don’t have access to some of the others so my votes will be somewhat skewed. Chernobyl is my list to see though.

    • I’m appending Upright!. I wasn’t sure since I had only seen up to ep. 3 but ep.4 was the best episode of local TV this year and hopefully the ending is as good. And I forgot the HM for Five Bedrooms, nothing fancy but a well written adult drama.

  4. I binge watched the first three episodes of Chernobyl on my Qantas flight to Darwin yesterday. Frustratingly, we arrived with five minutes to go. Can’t wait to fly home on Monday and finish the series off. Absolutely horrifying yet completely compelling.

  5. My top 5
    Five Bedrooms
    The Masked Singer
    Dead To Me

    Honorable mentions
    Playing For Keeps
    The Bach Franchise
    Will and Grace
    Dancing with the stars
    Total Control
    Jack Ryan

  6. Great list of highlights, David.
    My favourites have been
    Letterkenny (what an absolutely bizarre and fascinating character Stewart is ! )
    The Hunting
    On Becoming A God in Central Florida ( Kirsten Dundst is amazing as usual )
    Years and Years ( though the ending was a bit of a letdown
    Total Control)

  7. Been a really great year of television. Decided to limit my list to new shows that debuted in 2019 like you David. Unfortunately couldn’t whittle my list down to 5, so I went for 10.

    1. Watchmen
    2. Russian Doll
    3. Chernobyl
    4. Undone
    5. The Boys
    6. Lambs of God
    7. Upright
    8. The Mandalorian
    9. Euphoria
    10. The Other Two

    Honourable mentions: Unbelievable, Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal, I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson, Bloom, Doom Patrol, The Righteous Gemstones, Infinity Train, Sex Education, Tuca and Bertie, What We Do in the Shadows.

    Probably forgotten a bunch of stuff, there’s been so much to watch this year. Here’s to another stellar year in 2020!

    • Ooooh a fellow Watchmen fan. It has had several hours of television in the first series that rivals the best of the decade. Just missed my Top 5 though because I’m still a little confused about a lot of things.

  8. Great list David. Killing Eve (even though it is season 2) and Euphoria for me were the standouts plus a few in your list however, TV in general though i think has been very subpar this year.

  9. I have to admit I’ve watched just one of your Top Five 🤭 and that was Total Control, which was my favourite drama of 2019, and probably so far this Century.
    Glad you gave DWTS an honourable mention, though I just realised I didn’t give it a vote in the TVT Awards ! I completely forgot about it, but I did vote for Amanda For Best Performer on Australian TV.

  10. For me, I have never watched more TV than I have in 2019 having moved to Melbourne for my first year post uni. I’ve loved every second!

    My Top 5 new shows in no particular order (So hard to highlight just 5 in what was a stellar year):
    After Life
    The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance
    Black Summer
    Russian Doll
    Years and Years

    • My honourable mentions for new shows:

      The Boys
      Dead To Me
      Godfather Of Harlem
      His Dark Materials
      Morning Wars
      Total Control
      The Umbrella Chronicles
      What We Do In The Shadows

      • Some of my fave returning series in 2019:

        Elite S2 (every bit as delicious and compelling as the first one)
        Good Girls S2 (how does this show go under the radar?)
        Jessica Jones S3 (it hurts that this show ended. It was simply amazing to the end)
        Mr Inbetween S2 (it was bigger and better than its stellar 1st season)
        Orange Is The New Black S7 (a return to form right at the pointy end of its run… now I want more!)
        Stranger Things S3 (an absolute return to form)
        Wentworth S7 (Still the premiere drama on the globe imho)

        • And finally my honourable mentions in the returning series:

          Barry S2
          Big Little Lies S2
          Big Mouth S3
          Claws S3
          The Dragon Prince S2
          Fleabag S2
          Glow S3
          The Letdown S2
          Mr Robot S4
          The Punisher S2
          Ray Donovan S7 (so far so good)
          Shameless S10 (same as above)
          Succession S2
          Utopia S4
          Veep S7
          The Walking Dead S9/10

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