As often as I watch (and re-watch) TV, I still never feel like I can catch up with every new show that people are talking about, or even stay completely up to date on new seasons of already existing, beloved shows. But that doesn’t stop me from trying. 2019 has already given us so many unforgettable episodes of TV, even if they aren’t talked about for the most positive reasons (I’m looking at you, Game of Thrones), and we’re only halfway through the year. Although I haven’t watched everything that I’ve been meaning to, what I have seen are shows that I personally believe should be celebrated for being incredibly honest, hilarious and in some cases deeply personal.
5. Queer Eye (Netflix)
Queer Eye is a special and beautiful show for an array of reasons, but I think it should get special recognition for being a show that manages to make me cry (for good reasons) every single episode. Season three follows the Fab Five to my home state of Missouri, where they yet again meet people with very different lives than their own, but still find ways to connect with them that feel truly genuine. When Jonathan is telling someone they’re gorgeous, I believe that he means it. When Antoni is showing someone how joyful cooking can be, it makes me want to learn how to not be a disaster in the kitchen. When Karamo listens to life stories and gives advice, he would inspire anyone to believe in themselves. When Bobby redesigns entire houses to fit people’s needs, I wonder why he doesn’t already have an incredibly successful, long running HGTV series.
4. The Other Two (Comedy Central)
Created by former Saturday Night Live head writers Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider, The Other Two is based around the premise of a teenage singing sensation having two lesser known, struggling siblings in the entertainment industry. As much as Cary (Drew Tarver) and Brooke (Heléne Yorke) love and support their little brother Chase (Case Walker) – also known as ChaseDreams) – watching him become a viral, overnight success is a reminder that their own attempts to make it in the business aren’t going as planned. Cary is working as a waiter while he goes on auditions, and performs in a play where he pretends to be asleep for most of it. Brooke is a former dancer but doesn’t really know what she wants to do. The siblings get involved in hijinks that find a balance between being satirical and painfully real and while the results rarely lead to development in their careers or personal lives, it’s still highly entertaining to watch unfold.
3. Shrill (Hulu)
Out of all of the shows I’ve watched so far this year, Shrill is the one that makes me feel the most seen. In some ways I can strongly relate to Aidy Bryant’s character Annie, especially being a writer and a plus size woman. Every scene that involved strangers or people close to Annie making her feel insecure about her body felt all too familiar and were often situations that I’ve never seen be portrayed on TV. One episode that was widely talked about featured an inclusive pool party full of plus sized or self-proclaimed fat women, all just existing and being joyous in their bodies (and fabulous swimsuits). It made me unexpectedly emotional to see on screen, especially the way Annie reacted to it all. In addition to focusing on the difficulties of being a plus size woman, Shrill also deals with topics like abortion, sexist workplace dynamics, and complicated family relationships.
2. I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson (Netflix)
I don’t know if anything in recent memory has made me laugh as much as I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson. It’s absurd sketch comedy at its best, full of extremely quotable moments that are so ridiculously good that I keep thinking about them months later. I hesitate calling media a masterclass in anything because that’s a phrase that tends to be used when people talk about films that are “high art”, but Tim Robinson and guest actors like Will Forte, Vanessa Bayer, Tim Heidecker, and Patti Harrison basically give us a masterclass in comedy. As someone who made a point to say that Hot Rod was better than Citizen Kane in every college film class I attended, I have no problem (rightfully) declaring that I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson is high art.
1. Russian Doll (Netflix)
If Queer Eye deserves recognition for always making me cry, then Russian Doll should be praised for being so captivating that I never once felt tempted to scroll through Twitter while watching it. The show follows Nadia (brilliantly portrayed by Natasha Lyonne) on the night of her big birthday celebration with friends. After an unfortunate string of events involving losing her cat on the streets of New York City and being hit by a Taxi, Nadia discovers that she is trapped in a Groundhog Day situation, in which she has to relive the night of her birthday party over and over again. Every time she dies she wakes up in front of the same mirror in her friend’s house, in the midst of the party. Russian Doll somehow manages to subvert every expectation you have just as soon as you think you’ve figured out a plot point, and becomes a deeply raw and poignant story about trauma, connecting with other people, and the choices we make.