THE END IS NIGH-ISH
The end of the year approaches, and with it one of my favorite assignments: the Top 10 list. I find it clarifying to look back and pick out 10 series and limited series out of the hundreds out there on cable, the networks, and streaming services — not just the good ones, but the ones that have lasted in my memory.
But I can tell that this year’s list is going to be hard to compile, and I’m already stressing. There are so very many excellent TV stories out there and only 10 slots to fill.
Right now, my preliminary list includes “Chernobyl,” “When They See Us,” “Fleabag,” “Years and “Years,” “Gentleman Jack,” “Shrill,” “Mrs. Fletcher,” “GLOW,” “Unbelievable,” “Succession,” “Sex Education,” “Veep,” “Russian Doll,” “The Good Place,” “Mindhunter,” “The Other Two,” “PEN15,” “What We Do in the Shadows,” and more.
And a few possibly excellent 2019 series — Olivia Colman’s first season of “The Crown,” a promising comedy about an ex-con called “Back to Life,” new stuff from Apple TV+ and Disney+ — haven’t even premiered yet.
So wish me luck, and help me, too. Let me know in the comments or via email what your 2019 favorites are so far.
WHAT I’M WATCHING THIS WEEK
1. On Friday, Apple TV+ will launch. It’s one of a handful of new streaming services — along with Disney+ and HBO Max — that are about to make Peak TV a lot Peak-ier. Here are some of the shows that will be available immediately if you decide to sign up (for $4.99 a month). I’ll be reviewing them later this week.
• A bonkers comedy called “Dickinson” will feature Hailee Steinfeld as the poet Emily Dickinson coming of age and Jane Krakowski as her mother.
• “The Morning Show,” about the changes caused by a network #MeToo firing, stars Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, and Steve Carell.
• “For All Mankind” is an alternate-history space drama from Ronald D. Moore of “Battlestar Galactica,” and it stars Joel Kinnaman, Wrenn Schmidt, and Michael Dorman.
• “See” is a dystopian drama set in a future where humans have lost sight, and it stars Jason Momoa and Alfre Woodard.
2. Timothée stans near and far, young and old, Netflix is here for you. “The King” has just premiered in theaters, but, as is Netflix’s wont these days, it’ll be available for you at home on Friday. The film, with Chalamet, Joel Edgerton, Robert Pattinson, and Lily-Rose Depp, is loosely based on Shakespeare (but without the Shakespearean language) as it follows Prince Hal’s change into King Henry V. Right now it has a 62 on Metacritic and a 1000 on Chalameta-critic.
3. In November 2018, the town of Paradise in Northern California was engulfed in flames; 85 died in what was the state’s deadliest fire, and the sixth deadliest in U.S. history. Netflix’s “Fire in Paradise,” due Friday, is a 40-minute documentary about the disaster, with firsthand footage of the fire and interviews with survivors and emergency workers. And PBS’s “Fire in Paradise,” an episode of “Frontline” on WGBH-2 Tuesday at 10 p.m., also looks back at the fire, its survivors, and the question of responsibility.
4. As part of this Friday’s pile-on, Amazon is releasing the second season of “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” which to Bostonians is really “John Krasinski’s Jack Ryan.” I’m not a fan. In my review of season 1 last year, I wrote: ”Blockbuster-movie formulas don’t often work on TV. The action template, with its terse stylings and cinematic orange explosions, doesn’t hold up under the intense demand for story and character that comes with serialized storytelling and time to kill.”
5. On Friday, Netflix is releasing a film adaptation of the Broadway play “American Son” by Christopher Demos-Brown. It features the Broadway cast, including Kerry Washington, Steven Pasquale, Jeremy Jordan, and Eugene Lee. It’s about an interracial couple looking for their missing teenage son in Florida.
6. Christmas is here! OK. Christmas is coming! And so is Netflix’s “Holiday in the Wild,” about a woman whose marriage falls apart on the eve of an African safari. Good thing the elephant conservationist is so helpful. Rob Lowe, Kristin Davis, and John Owen Lowe star. It drops Friday.
7. HBO is premiering the documentary “The Bronx, USA,” about a borough that is not Brooklyn, on Wednesday at 9 p.m. It’s a love letter to the Bronx, as seen through the eyes of producer George Shapiro, with appearances by notable Bronx-ites including Alan and Arlene Alda, Robert Klein, Hal Linden, Melissa Manchester, Grandmaster Melle Mel, Chazz Palminteri, General Colin Powell, and Carl and Rob Reiner.
8. “The Affair” leaves the air Sunday at 9 p.m. And so my up and down — but always committed — relationship with the Showtime drama ends.
9. Idris Elba created and stars in “In the Long Run,” a British sitcom set in 1980s London. Based on Elba’s childhood, it’s about a factory worker (Elba) whose home is turned upside down when his party-loving younger brother arrives from Sierra Leone. The series premiered in the United Kingdom last year, and the reviews were warm. Season 1 debuts Friday on Starz.
Time for the series finale, called “Finish It.” HBO, Sunday, 9 p.m.
“Arsenio Hall: Smart and Classy”
Stand-up from the former talk-show guy. Netflix, Tuesday
“The 13 Scariest Movies of All Time”
A countdown. The CW, Thursday, 8 p.m.
“The Durrells in Corfu”
Time for the series finale. WGBH-2, Sunday, 8 p.m.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT . . .
“Mrs. Fletcher,” HBO
Tom Perrotta has created a superb look at the empty nest phenomenon, with Kathryn Hahn confirming her status as one of TV’s best actresses.
“Gary Gulman: The Great Depresh,” HBO
In this extraordinary stand-up comedy set, which features short behind-the-scenes clips, comedian Gulman comes out as a person who struggles with depression.
“Modern Love,” Amazon
Based on the New York Times column, this pleasing eight-episode anthology series plays like a collection of short stories about the many faces of love.
“Living With Yourself,” Netflix
You’ve got to love Paul Rudd to enjoy this show about the complex relationship between a man, his clone, and his wife. The end is nuts, but there’s pleasure along the way.
This top-notch procedural crime drama about a serial rapist is disturbing and powerful, and the lead performances by Merritt Wever and Toni Collette are indelible.