The best TV shows of 2019

From Motherland to Succession.

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Motherland (BBC Two)

Buggies at dawn: in which Liz, Julia and co did battle once again in the smug and competitive wastelands of west London mummy-dom.

Unbelievable (Netflix)

So, it can be done. A true crime drama about victims of rape that was gripping but never gave in to sensationalism.

Fleabag (BBC One)

All hail Phoebe Waller-Bridge. If the show that made her name began as a scabrous comedy, it ended as profound feminist philosophy.

Chernobyl (Sky Atlantic)

An exhaustively researched, fiercely intelligent drama about the 1986 nuclear disaster that was also riveting. And Jared Harris, to boot. 

Back to Life (BBC One)

Daisy Haggard’s wonderful, sui generis comedy about a woman coming home to Hythe having served an 18-year prison sentence.

The Uncivil War (Channel 4)

Benedict Cumberbatch turned in a bewitchingly peculiar performance as the Brexiteer prince of darkness, Dominic Cummings. 

Years and Years (BBC Two)

Last Tango in Halifax meets Black Mirror? Not quite, but close. Russell T Davies on exuberant and audacious form.

The $50m Art Swindle (BBC Two) 

Vanessa Engle, Britain’s best doc-maker, succeeded where the FBI failed and tracked down Michel Cohen, con man extraordinaire. 

Succession (Sky Atlantic)

Jesse Armstrong’s pitch-perfect drama about a Rupert Murdoch-like mogul and his rivalrous children returned better than ever.

Thatcher: A Very British Revolution (BBC Two)

So many talking heads, so much poison to drip. A mesmerising series that made Maggie seem both monstrous and strangely vulnerable.

Rachel Cooke trained as a reporter on The Sunday Times. She is now a writer at The Observer. In the 2006 British Press Awards, she was named Interviewer of the Year.

This article appears in the 13 December 2019 issue of the New Statesman, Christmas special