Most review columns are dropping their “Best of 2019” lists right about now, thanks to a deadly combo of holiday resignation and critical narcissism.
On one hand, it’s almost Christmas, so who cares? On the other, critics absolutely must disseminate their invaluable hot takes to the masses, because how will The Sheep know what was good if they’re not told?! Screw the tree—people need to know about Parasite!
I’m not playing like that; there are too many shows to stream. Here are nine series from this fall alone you might have missed—so tune out the family, and catch up.
Succession (Seasons 1-2 on HBO Now): Forget Game of Thrones and The Sopranos—the most cutthroat family on HBO is Succession’s Roy clan. A black AF satire of wealth and passive-aggressive family dysfunction, Succession follows a vaguely demented patriarch (Brian Cox) dangling the keys to the empire before his damaged, power-hungry kids. It’s Arrested Development from the darkest timeline.
Mrs. Fletcher (Season 1 on HBO Now): Scene-stealing side-player Kathryn Hahn finally headlines her own show (well, her own seven-episode miniseries; six are out now, with the seventh coming Dec. 8). As Eve Fletcher, she’s a single mom who’s just sent her only son, Brendan (Jackson White), off to college—midlife crisis, come on down! Eve’s newly adrift life has its highs (lots of lesbian porn) and lows (heartbreaking loneliness), and Hahn embodies it all perfectly.
Harley Quinn (Season 1 on DC Universe): Margot Robbie may have nailed the role in Suicide Squad, but Kaley Cuoco’s Harley Quinn is funnier—and both R-rated and animated. This Harley is also so over The Joker (Alan Tudyk) and angling to join the Legion of Doom with help from Poison Ivy (Lake Bell). If DC’s live-action movies were as fun and profane as Harley Quinn … they’d still find a way to ruin them.
Pennyworth (Season 1 in Epix): “Does Batman’s butler have a back story?” is asked about as often as “How do I get Epix?” (read: never), but here’s the origin tale of a young Alfred Pennyworth (Jack Bannon), London spy. Kingsman comparisons aside, it’s a visually stunning series that presents a different Alfred (not yet omni-brilliant) and a very different Thomas and Martha Wayne (not yet dead).
Stumptown (Season 1 on Hulu): One of the few bright spots in a dismal fall 2019 TV-broadcast rollout, ABC’s Stumptown is essentially The Rockford Files wearing Jessica Jones’ leather jacket: A broke private investigator (Cobie Smulders) solves cases while dealing with intense past trauma. Stumptown is smart, funny, twisty and full of intriguing characters—and craft beer, because, Portland.
Lodge 49 (Seasons 1-2 on Hulu): Weird, wonderful, and now canceled by AMC, Lodge 49 was like nothing else on TV—stick your neck out; get your head lopped off. Long Beach surf-bum Dud (Wyatt Russell) is existentially adrift after the death of his father, but finds a sense of belonging with a local fraternal lodge full of eccentric characters. Lodge 49 plays out like a dream, which it just may have been.
Castle Rock (Seasons 1-2 on Hulu): You don’t have to be a Stephen King superfan to get into Castle Rock, but it sure as hell helps. In Castle Rock, Maine, characters from King’s literary multiverse collide, making for a creepy-if-slow Season 1. Season 2 raises the tension thanks to a jolting performance from Lizzy Caplan as unbalanced nurse Annie Wilkes (Misery). How about including The Running Man in Season 3?
Dollface (Season 1 on Hulu): Kat Dennings’ rom-com career was derailed by six seasons of CBS’ 2 Broke Girls and two Thor movies you’ve already forgotten; Dollface puts her back on track. When Jules (Dennings) gets dumped by her boyfriend, she has to win back the female friends she’s neglected. Dollface is fluffy, fantastical fun, and co-stars Brenda Song and Esther Povitsky own every scene.
Goliath (Seasons 1-3 on Prime Video): Goliath, created by TV lifer David E. Kelley, might look like a standard-issue L.A. legal drama on the surface, but there’s some bizarre shit going on underneath. Billy Bob Thornton is Billy McBride, a brilliant boozehound of a lawyer with a penchant for taking on wealthy corporate villains with over-the-top sex ’n’ drugs kinks. There’s something for law nerds and hedonists!