2019 was an unusual one for television. We all thought that Game of Thrones would not only dominate the conversation (which it did), but that it would sweep us off our feet (it did not). In fact, spoiler, it did not make our list of the best shows of the year. And while there are plenty of big-budget dramas below, as we noted in our list of the Best Episodes of the Years (So Far!), half-hour series have been where we’ve seen some of the most visual and narrative innovation. It’s a wonderful, if somewhat stressful time to be a TV fan. Peak TV has changed the game, new streaming services have launched, and there are over 600 series worth considering. So we’re here to help—the Paste editors and writers have voted on a diverse list of series you should check out, while also acknowledging there are certainly even more that are probably worth your time. (Follow your joy!) But this ranked list is essentially a celebration of what we loved.
Eligibility: Series had to air the majority of their episodes from January 1, 2019 through November 15, 2019—so crucially, no Mandalorian. But we will be spotlighting that and other late-airing 2019 series later on!
Victoria (PBS), South Side (Comedy Central), The Righteous Gemstones (HBO), Schitt’s Creek (Pop), Stranger Things (Netflix), Baskets (FX), Sex Education (Netflix), Primal (Adult Swim)
50. Sorry for Your Loss
Network: Facebook Watch
The highest praise I can give Sorry for Your Loss is that it made me watch TV on Facebook, something I had avoided doing and still don’t like. But the show is just that good—raw, emotional, intense, beautiful—that it became a weekly necessity. The series follows Leigh Shaw (Elizabeth Olsen) as she navigates life after her husband Matt (Mamoudou Athie) suddenly passes away, an event that completely shatters her life. We first met her several months after she left her job, moved back in with her mother Amy (Janet McTeer) and sister Jules (Kelly Marie Tran), and started picking up some work at Amy’s fitness studio. But mostly Leigh is adrift, and the only person who seems to somewhat understand her pain is Matt’s brother Danny (Jovan Adepo), someone Leigh never previously got along with.
In Season 2, those dynamics are at the forefront. Almost a year has passed since Matt died, and even though the Season 1 finale left Leigh in a place where it seemed like she was ready to start living life on her own terms again, she remains mostly in limbo. It’s also Christmas, which exacerbates everything. All three women are spiraling, and struggling to define themselves in a world that has suddenly been so changed.
Season 2 didn’t feel quite as emotionally overwhelming as the first, which is a fair reflection of Leigh’s place in her own life (and not a negative mark against the show at all). As she starts to move forward, tentatively, so does the show. There are fits and starts in both cases, but Sorry for Your Loss continues to be an authentic and moving series, one that finds Leigh fighting to not stay tethered to Matt’s ghost anymore in the finale. And yes, it is definitely worth watching TV on Facebook for (which is, by the way, totally free). —Allison Keene
A quarter-life crisis has never been sweeter than in Ramy. The half-hour Hulu dramedy follows a fictionalized version of star Ramy Youssef (who also writes many of the first season’s episodes) as he figures out life as a young Muslim Egyptian-American in New Jersey. Co-creators Ari Katcher and Ryan Welch, along with showrunner Bridget Bedard, find an endearing doofus in Ramy and plenty to say about generational compromise, religious identity, and culture clash. Ramy is easy to watch, radically optimistic, and a groundbreaking portrayal of Islam on screen. —Jacob Oller
Created for television by Jason Richman and based on Greg Rucka’s comic book limited series of the same name (Rucka also writes for the show), Stumptown is a modern-day hardboiled detective drama that follows Dex Parios (Smulders), a former Marine investigator with a gambling problem, a drinking problem, and a monster-sized case of undiagnosed PTSD when she stumbles her way into a gig as Portland’s new favorite private investigator.
As a detective procedural on an alphabet network, the story that follows traces a fairly standard shape: A civilian (Dex) has a case land in her lap that parallels a formative tragedy/mystery from her past and her mixed success with that case sparks the idea that, hey, there might be some kind of career to be made out the whole detection game. The difference in this case is that does all that with a handcrafted Pacific Northwest cedarwood scalpel. The formulaic parallels aren’t the surgical part—it’s the finesse will which all the exposition and characterization necessary to introduce Dex’s world, including the tiny but sympathetic support system she has in her brother Ansel (a very charming Cole Sibus) and best friend Grey (Jake Johnson, who was born for a hipster-brewer beard and shearling denim jacket). This is especially true about Dex’s military background, which sets up both her exceptional hand-to-hand combat skills and her cynical loner attitude as natural consequences of the life she’s lived, rather than convenient coincidences for the hardboiled story the show wants to tell. —Alexis Gunderson
47. Better Things
The easygoing Season 3 brilliance of Better Things is in full flower in its episode “Nesting”: Much of it focuses on an all-over-the-map dinner party Sam Fox (series creator Pamela Adlon) throws for her family and friends, replete with a trained monkey and Sharon Stone. Rambling, crowded, “episodic” in the fullest sense—pausing only long enough on a scenario to suggest its essence—the conversation covers everything from the movie Sam’s shooting and her flirtation with a co-star’s manager to her brother’s (Kevin Pollack) insistence that their mother, Phil (Celia Imrie), lose her driving privileges and enter assisted living. Laundry and divorce, FaceTime and Heads Up, pop-up restaurants, severed fingertips, and hotboxing the garage: “It’s bananas around here,” Sam texts the manager when she carves out a spare moment of alone time, and the Altmanesque “Nesting” is indeed a minor masterpiece of chaotic kinship that defines the series. —Matt Brennan
46. The Other Two
Network: Comedy Central
Comedy Central’s charming, hilarious series The Other Two follows adult siblings Brooke (Heléne York) and Cary (Drew Tarver) as they try and figure out their own lives in the wake of their 13-year-old brother Chase (Case Walker) becoming an overnight YouTube sensation. Though Brooke and Cary support Chase (who is not, yet, an obnoxious internet star) they want to have careers that stand on their own. But they can’t help but get pulled into Chase’s orbit, making sure others aren’t taking advantage of Chase for their own gain while acknowledging they might be doing that very thing. The Other Two is darkly funny and real, as Brooke and Cary struggle to find success and exist on the outskirts of the vapid world that wants to make Chase an industry unto himself. It is one of the funniest series to air this year as well as one of the smartest. Creators Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider understand the modern fame machine better than most, exposing truths in some of its most hilariously audacious scenes. It also has coined one of the year’s best and most useful catchphrases: “In this climate??” —Allison Keene
Despite all the mystery surrounding her long, hermetic life, it’s hard to imagine that the real Emily Dickinson (she of the poetic syntax so wildly removed from the style of her time that it wasn’t until 1955 that publishers stopped editing all her linguistic ecstasies into comparatively dull normalcy), wouldn’t get a kick out of Dickinson, Alena Smith and Hailee Steinfeld’s lovingly weird imagining of the poet’s young adulthood. Dickinson is so fun and so strange and so tireless in handing out little moments of character development, with wildly original mood setting, you could watch thousands of hours of television and still not think to expect, of course, the Dickinson who scrawled out “Wild nights – Wild nights!” and left behind thousands of scraps of genius in a locked chest would dig it.
To be clear, this is not me saying that rapturous anachronisms of Dickinson will be to everyone’s taste. Would Emily’s parents, in reality or as played here by Toby Huss and Jane Krakowski, be into it? Nah. Emily’s peers? Sue (Ella Hunt)—yes. George (Samuel Farnsworth)—yes. Everyone else—it depends. You? Who’s to say! Death showing up in the guise of Wiz Khalifa in a black silk top hat inside a ghostly black carriage to take Emily (Steinfeld) away from the funeral of her bosom friend/true love Sue’s last remaining sister (as Billie Eilish’s “bury a friend” pulses underneath the dialogue almost too quiet to hear) will read to many as try-hard poptimist-adjacent gimmick, and it feels likely that Apple is trying to buy the affections of a Gen Z audience through clout rather than substance.
But with such gorgeous cinematography, costuming, and metatextual design, and with every actor putting in such fun, charming, deeply specific (read: often deeply odd) performances—and with Smith and Steinfeld, especially, so blazingly self-confident in their vision—it seems entirely likely that Dickinson will be one of the brightest debuts of 2019. I genuinely want to be shut up in the prose of its walls, for as long as Emily will have me. —Alexis Gunderson
44. Years and Years
Russell T. Davies’ UK series came to HBO with very little fanfare, which is unfortunate because it deserves your attention. It’s a compelling, if imperfect, look at what life might be like in the next 15 years, as the show cruises through a number of proposed (and likely) world events through the lens of one British family. An outstanding cast helps sell the show’s dystopian vision, giving it an exceptional amount of heart. But Davies also keeps all of the tech and politics and media of the future feeling grounded in the possible. Years and Years is arresting television, with an outlandishly oversized score that pulls you in fully to a story with shocking events and the familiar mundanity that follows them. Despite the erosion of freedoms for these formerly comfortable middle-class westerners, it still feels strangely hopefully, and most of all, embraces the idea of resilience even in the face of extraordinary change. —Allison Keene
43. The Spanish Princess
Season: One (As part of an anthology)
If you love historical fiction, then The Spanish Princess is the show for you. Instead of a typical Tudor story about Henry VIII, after he decides he wants to dump Catherine of Aragon for Anne Boleyn, this show shares Catherine of Aragon’s triumph. A story rarely told, The Spanish Princess details her happy years which, you may not know, were 24 years of marriage before her union was annulled. What makes this story particularly compelling is its intentional choice to use a diverse cast which is also rooted in history. While some might define the use of people of color in a historical fiction drama progressive, it is simply accurate. Chances are you have never seen this story of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon on screen, and it is well worth the watch. It’s season finale has also set up a fascinating Part 2 that will further investigate the reign of Henry and Catherine, with all of the lies, romance, and beheadings that come with it. —Keri Lumm
Season: Seven / Final
2019 was the right time for HBO’s long-running political satire series to have come to a close. The art of the series imitated life, but of concern was life sometimes imitated the art. It was difficult to keep the hilarious, foul-mouthed Veep from careening too far off into the cartoonish when American politics are so fully entrenched there now. But the series wrapped things up with a worthy, if uneven, final stretch of episodes. The pièce-de-résistance, though, was its finale—titled “Veep”—where Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) finally gets her heart’s desire in her final bid for President, one that came at an enormous cost both personally and for the country as a whole. The final moments also transported us to a post-Selina future though that felt particularly hopeful for a series that typically trades in darkly acerbic witticisms and the bleakest of humor. Ultimately, showrunner David Mandel finished out the series by letting us know things might be alright. Not right now … but one day. Maybe. We live in hope. —Allison Keene
Saturday Night Live
’s Aidy Bryant takes center stage as Annie, an overweight woman who wants to change her life. But it’s not what you think: So many TV series, from This Is Us to Netflix’s repugnant Insatiable, build entire storylines about a fat woman losing weight. Before we even get to the opening credits, a total stranger tells Annie, “There is a small person inside of you dying to get out … You could be so pretty.” Annie’s got a boyfriend who makes her leave through the backdoor so his roommates don’t see her and a mom who drops not-so-subtle hints about dieting and exercising. But an unexpected event in the first episode forces Annie to reassess her life and flips the proverbial script on the “fat woman” story TV and movies are so fond of telling. Amazingly, Annie doesn’t have to lose weight to improve her life. She’s ready to advocate for what she deserves. Bryant is so utterly charming, you can’t help but root for her. Lolly Adefope is also a true breakout as Annie’s best friend, Fran. The series is a delight. “I’m the one with the fat ass and the big titties, so I get to decide what we do,” Annie says. Damn straight, she does. —Amy Amatangelo
40. The Umbrella Academy
As a fan of Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá’s comic book, I was a little skeptical of Netflix’s adaptation of The Umbrella Academy. I assumed it’d flatten out the comic’s esoteric edges in an attempt to make it more like other superhero shows. The first episode almost immediately calms those fears, though, revealing a series as weird and idiosyncratic as the comic. Imagine if Wes Anderson directed a Grant Morrison adaptation, complete with a mansion-spanning sad-superhero dance break to Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now.”. —Garrett Martin
I’m not quite sure CBS knows Evil is on its network because Oh. My. God. I can’t believe the same network that airs like 50 different versions of NCIS is airing this meditation on evil from the same people who brought you The Good Wife. Kristen Bouchard (Katja Herbers) is a forensic psychologist who becomes something of a believer when she meets priest-in-training David Acosta (Colter) and tech expert Ben (Aasif Mandvi) and they begin to investigate whether or not certain crimes have a demonic or psychological basis (or both). The always creepy (in the best way) Michael Emerson is also on hand as Leland Townsend, a mysterious character who epitomize the title of the series. Truly my only complaint about this drama, which gets better with each passing episode, is that may be too creepy for me. The show produces the kind of scares that stay with you long after the lights go out.—Amy Amatangelo
38. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Network: The CW
Season: Four / Final
In its final episode, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend caps off its evolution from questionable premise to sterling rom-com to the best TV musical since the near-perfect first season of Glee, all by accepting that life’s beginnings and endings are never as satisfying as fiction’s grand epiphanies, tidy finales, and 11 o’clock numbers. Still, as Rebecca Bunch (series co-creator Rachel Bloom) expresses her love for those who’ve seen her through four topsy-turvy seasons, including her ever-encouraging best friend, Paula (Donna Lynne Champlin), Bloom and co-creator Aline Brosh McKenna close the circle on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend by leaving their heroine’s next act appropriately open-ended. On the fundamental messiness of change, the series remains, to its final frames, one of the medium’s most indelible works of art. —Matt Brennan
37. Our Planet
Coming from those who have helmed previous installments of the Planet Earth series, the engrossing Our Planet is specifically a call for conservation. The fantastic globe-trotting nature documentary keeps to a general pattern in each episode: introduce something wonderful, educate us about it, and then explain why it’s dying or being put in peril because of climate change. Our Planet holds back a little in terms of showing the demise of charismatic megafauna, a long-time staple of nature docs, because its desire is to make us feel connected enough to this planet to do something about the problems facing it (and ultimately us). But there is certainly plenty to make us feel queasy about the stakes. Though it is a little more overt in terms of an agenda than its Planet Earth (and Blue Planet) predecessors, Our Planet is similar in that it utilizes the most cutting-edge camera technology to capture this world in all of its splendor. It is absolutely breathtaking—and incredibly urgent. —Allison Keene
36. Les Misérables
Written by Victor Hugo and published in 1862, Les Misérables is known as one of the great novels of the 19th century. And as the title implies, it’s all about misery, of a sort that’s difficult for most of us to imagine. The most recent retelling of the novel—which many people familiar with the story through the stage musical and its screen adaptations may not have actually read—is brought to you by Masterpiece, and it lives up to the name. There have been many prior versions of the tale, and most of them condense it to two or three hours. The beauty of turning Les Misérables into a miniseries is that we get a long view of the characters, finding new sides to well-known figures—Lily Collins’ Fantine, Dominic West’s Jean Valjean, David Oyelowo’s Javert—and finding depth in those, like Olivia Colman’s Madame Thénardier, who often come across as one-note. This Les Misérables may be the best one yet. —Keri Lumm
35. Dead to Me
Jen (Christina Applegate) and Judy (Linda Cardellini) meet not-so-cute at a grief support group. Jen’s husband died three months ago in a hit and run accident. Judy’s fiancé died eight weeks ago of a heart attack. They develop a friendship over their mutual anguish and their love of Facts of Life (Jen is a Jo, Judy a Tootie). Before long Judy is moving into Jen’s guest house and a beautiful friendship is formed. Or is it? Netflix is keen on keeping the pilot’s big reveal a secret. I watched it with my husband and didn’t even let him know there was a secret and he still guessed it within minutes of the show’s opening. But no matter. The series, rooted in terrific performances from Applegate and Cardellini, is a fascinating mix of humor and pathos. The show deftly balances both extremes and pull both off. After watching the second episode, I had no idea what Dead to Me is really up to and that’s just the way I like it. —Amy Amatangelo
34. Derry Girls
The lovely, silly, funny and emotional Derry Girls finally returned for Season 2 this year. The brief series (each season only runs six episodes) focuses on a group of schoolgirls in Northern Ireland in the ‘90s, during the last days of the Troubles. But in Lisa McGee’s series, that darkness is relegated to the background. Instead, the more traditional teen conflicts of school life and being boy crazy take center stage, along with lots of incredibly specific language and jokes about both that region and that time (you will definitely want to watch with subtitles on). Derry Girls is a warm and funny time hop carried by a dreamy 90s playlist and the gigantic charisma of its wee leads. —Allison Keene
33. Back to Life
Like the exceptional SundanceTV series Rectify, Showtime’s Back to Life picks up when the 30-something Miri (Daisy Haggard) returns to her small hometown after being in prison for 18 years. But this series never flashes back to that time, because Miri’s focus is on starting over and getting a second chance—if only anyone would let her actually achieve it.
The charming and wryly funny series (running an economic six half-hour episodes) is also created by Haggard and co-written by Laura Solon. The duo take the familiar canvas of a small British seaside town where a crime was committed and everyone has secrets, and subverts our expectations of where the story goes next. Yes there is something of a mystery as far as what Miri did, but the script has fun playing with our assumptions (like having Miri’s mother Caroline, played by the great Geraldine James, pluckily hiding the knives before she comes back downstairs). Neighbors write terrible messages on the family’s fence, they harass Miri, or whisper like cowards about rumors they’ve heard. But through it all, Miri puts on a brave if exasperated face, appreciating her freedom and hoping that some day people can forget what she did.
The key to Back to Life’s success is how it dances along the line of humor and grief, like when Miri returns to her room—untouched since she was a teenager—and sees posters of David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix, and Michael Jackson. “Last one standing,” her mother says, gesturing to a bedside poster of Jamie Oliver. “Thank God he’s still with us,” Miri replies dryly. In a late episode moment, Miri notices that her parents have made a cup of tea for an effigy doll of her that someone left in their front garden. “Well, she was cold,” her mother says, almost breaking into a laugh—I nearly did the same. Back to Life is a quiet and emotionally genuine series that hinges on the fantastic interactions among its characters. It examines the fallout of this past tragedy through the mundanity of daily life, including the lies we hold on to that mask truths we don’t want to confront. —Allison Keene
32. Lodge 49
Season: Two / Final
In a sea of Puzzle Box Television, Jim Gavin’s chilled-out, languid respite Lodge 49 offers something different. There is a mystery, about the potential existence of magical scrolls that belong to the fraternal order’s True Lodge (ones that may hold alchemical keys), and while it does drive some of the narrative, it’s all so esoteric and blissed-out that whether or not they exist is never the point. Back on Earth, Dud (Wyatt Russell), his sister Liz (Sonya Cassidy), and his lodge friend Ernie (Brent Jennings)—really everyone at the lodge—are just trying to figure their own lives out.
As such, Lodge 49 is still primarily a show about discovery: of the self, of history, of arcane knowledge. Everyone is haunted by friendly ghosts from their pasts, often in ways that make these spirit guides feel very real and tangible. They are meant, like the Knights of the Lynx Lodge, to both fought against and learned from. The show is an unhurried meditation and a quirky delight. There is something quiet and nice about a show that is, well, quiet and nice.
When Liz tells her placement counsellor at TempJoy that she feels like her life isn’t heading anywhere, nothing has been accomplished, and she has no idea what she wants or where she’s going, he replies, “from what I’ve seen, your feelings are in line with the larger work force.” That’s part of the show’s sly, winking tone that never feels at odds with its sincerity. In both cases it’s heartfelt and real. “LIFE IS GOOD!” Now get off your laurels and live it. Right after a dreamy afternoon at the beach, maybe. (Where we will be hoping another network might pick it up for Season 3 and beyond). —Allison Keene
31. Jane the Virgin
Season: Five / Final
Despite the wild surrealism of its original premise—a devoutly Catholic twentysomething virgin is accidentally artificially inseminated by her ex-crush/current boss’s sperm during a routine gynecological appointment (chaos ensues)—Jane the Virgin’s exceptional artistry was also evident from the jump. it’s been all but impossible for any new viewer’s admiration not to deepen and evolve as the creative swings taken by Jennie Snyder Urman have gotten bigger and bigger as the seasons progressed.
We knew Jane the Virgin for five seasons, have loved Jane, Xo, Alba, and Michael, Rafael, Petra, and Lina, Louisa, Mateo, and the twins. We have gotten to know Miami, and gotten an inside look at running a hotel, making a telenovela and navigating the American immigration system. We have watched Jane lose the love of her life, then watched her recover from it—twice. We have watched Rafael lose everything and come back with a stronger sense of self. We have watched Petra grow into her own skin and find a love in JR she never knew she could have. We have met these people. But by setting it up so that we knew from the start that theirs was a story, and someday we would know who was telling it and why, Jane the Virgin found a way to make all the goodbyes of its final episode “Chapter One Hundred” one big hello. And that, truly, is a gift.—Alexis Gunderson
30. BoJack Horseman
Season: Six (Part One)
What is the worst thing you’ve ever done? How hard do you have to work to avoid thinking about it every day? And do you actually deserve to escape it? Netflix’s BoJack Horseman has, nearly since the beginning of the series, ascended beyond the surface level aspects of its premise: An animated satire about a washed-up sitcom star (who happens to be an anthropomorphic horse). And that transcendence has always been courtesy of the show’s obsession with examining questions like the ones above. In many ways, Season 6 begins like many others — with BoJack (Will Arnett) determined to make his life better, despite whatever setbacks/emotional trauma he’d endured over the course of the previous season. This time, this is even more explicit, because at the end of Season 5, BoJack made the decision (with some help from Diane [Allison Brie]) to go to rehab. His time there stretches across multiple episodes, even after a somewhat easy-to-predict inspirational montage where BoJack’s difficulties with sharing, crafts, therapy and yoga are overcome.
As an unabashed fan of BoJack, I have personally spent untold hours inflicting one of the lamest cards in the critics’ deck of cliches upon friends, family and random acquaintances: “You have to watch until [This Episode].” For me, that episode is Season 1’s “The Telescope,” where the show’s understanding of how to invoke the past collides in a haunting way with the present, revealing the true potential of this series. It’s also an episode which reveals how BoJack’s use of flashbacks is perhaps its greatest, most deadly emotional superpower: No one can withstand how the dance of nostalgia, hard truth, and real consequences lead to damaged, even broken lives. This is a long-term train of thought that BoJack Horseman is close to completing. But waiting another three months for the show’s final thoughts is going to be rough. —Liz Shannon Miller
Season: Three / Final
Just like JJ (Micah Fowler), the protagonist at the center of ABC’s charming, insightful and hilarious comedy, Speechless has defied the odds. In a landscape dominated by dragons and zombies, a TV series about a family whose oldest son has cerebral palsy shouldn’t have lasted for three seasons. But not only did it last, it thrived. The DiMeo family, with Maya (Minnie Driver, in a career-best role) as its fearless matriarch, represented not just a loving family with a special needs son, but all families who want what’s best for their children and won’t let any obstacles get in their way. In the pitch-perfect Season 3 finale, JJ graduates from high school and makes the decision to go to his dream school, New York University. The move will take him far from his family and his fiercely overprotective mother, but it’s also a life change he knows he needs to make. “I’ve opened so many doors for you, and you’ve walked through every one,” his mother tells him.
To use the show’s words, it was “unrealistic” of me to hope for the show to be renewed for a fourth season. The comedy ended on a triumphant, beautiful and poignant note, with JJ in the Big Apple and his family realizing it’s time to let him go. It was a wonderful way to leave the DiMeo family. But I want more. I’m not going to be realistic. I’m going to be blindly optimistic that we will see them again. TV needs a show like Speechless and so do I.—Amy Amatangelo
In its second season, the FX drama Pose, set against the backdrop of Madonna’s “Vogue,” dives deeper and more tragically into the reality of the trans community in the early 90s. It’s an unflinching look at the ongoing fight and struggle for acceptance and equal rights. Yet there’s still so much joy in the series. From the delight of a dance audition to Elektra’s (Dominque Jackson) ever-fabulous put-downs, to the weekly ballroom competitions, the series never fails to delight. Special shout out to MJ Rodriquez, whose Blanca is the true heart of the series. More than anything, Pose reminds us that family is often the one you make, not the one you are born into, and that there’s nothing like having the support of the ones you love.—Amy Amatangelo
27. The Great British Baking Show
Season: Ten / Collection Seven
When the U.K.’s super-soothing low-key competition series returned, U.S. audiences finally got the option to see it only a few days after our English counterparts. Netflix released the new episodes, known as Collection Seven, weekly on Fridays, which was a great change for fans who were tired of avoiding spoilers. As for the new season itself, it was as charming as ever, as hosts Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig both gently and wryly encourage the amateur bakers as they prepare their stunning creations for judges Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith. The vibe remains the same (though the cast is especially young this year)—it all remains incredibly fun and wholesome to watch.
Yes, there were some gimmicks and questionable choices along the way, but in the end, it was down to the best bakers in the tent. Without giving away any spoilers, the results of the competition were completely satisfying, and there was a heartwarming coda that showed the bakers still visiting each other and remaining friends after genuinely bonding through the competition. As long as GBBO remembers its roots and doesn’t lean into some of these hammier elements for its next season, we should be just fine. Unlike its competitors, the series has never needed to be show-stopping to impress us with its kindness and the quality of its bakes. —Allison Keene
26. Gentleman Jack
Gentleman Jack is drawn from the extensive (some four million pages) journals of Anne Lister, a landed class Yorkshire woman widely considered to be the first “modern lesbian” known to history. Those diaries exhaustively detail her rather audacious life as a world traveler, coal magnate, landlord, mountaineer, and “Parisian,” which seems to be a common shorthand in 19th-century Halifax for “avid seducer of other women.” The series focuses on a timeframe in the 1830s dominated by Lister (Suranne Jones) returning to her family home in Yorkshire and setting her sights on nervous heiress Ann Walker (Sophie Rundle) as a companion.
Watch it for an interesting depiction of 19th-century Yorkshire society with sleek, colorful production and a lot of beautiful high-contrast scenery; rolling green fields and hedgerows starting to sprout factory smokestacks, or Lister’s frock coat and men’s hat and frank stare amid all those blonde ringlets and pastel silk gowns and sunlit yellow drawing room walls. Watch it for Jones’ forceful, vivacious, smart-as-hell portrayal of a defiant iconoclast who chose to value her own integrity over whatever it was society needed her to value. Though all the performances are relatively strong, Jones instantly becomes the center of gravity in every frame she’s in. Perhaps most of all, though, watch it for what it suggests about why it nearly always makes sense to be yourself. Even if it sometimes hurts, because of course it will, whoever you are. —Amy Glynn