A comic book sequel. A much-maligned final season of a much-loved series. A comedy about a woman breaking down barriers six decades ago.
They’re atop this year’s Salt Lake Tribune best-of-TV list, which also includes nuclear disaster, injustice, rich and powerful families, a musical about mental illness, a telenovela, an anti-Trump drama, a comedy about heaven and hell, the possibility that evil incarnate actually exists, and a monster from another dimension.
(And, yes, the 2019 top 10 list includes 13 shows. Because of ties. And because I couldn’t bear to leave any of these 13 shows out.)
1. “Watchmen” (HBO) • If you’d asked me a year ago to predict what the best show of 2019 would be, “Watchmen” would never have occurred to me. I’m not a big comic-book fan (although I have read the “Watchmen” graphic novels). I liked, but didn’t love, the 2009 “Watchmen” move.
And I’m not a fan of producer Damon Lindelof. I blame him for the disaster that “Lost” turned into, and I was lukewarm (at best) about “The Leftovers.” So the fact that I’m leading cheers for his nine-part sequel to the original “Watchmen” surprises even me.
Even though the first few episodes were more than a bit confusing, the narrative was absolutely mesmerizing and the production was gorgeous — albeit often disturbing. Our questions were answered, and the pretty much closed-ended series was a more than worthy successor to the original.
We don’t know yet if there will be a Season 2, but there doesn’t have to be. HBO’s “Watchmen” stands on its own — and it stands above anything else we saw in 2019.
[Read more: The Salt Lake Tribune’s top 10 movies of 2019]
2. “Game of Thrones” (HBO) • Yes, this is, in large part, a tribute to all eight seasons of this series. And, yes, I realize that there were problems with the final season. But I’ve gone back and watched it again, and much of the negative reaction — including my own — was highly emotional and highly critical because it didn’t turn out the way a lot of us hoped. In the future, this final season will be more appreciated than it is right now. And it’s hard to argue that “GoT” wasn’t the most talked-about — and, yes, best — show on TV during its run.
3. “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon) • After a bit of a sophomore slump in Season 2 — which was still good — Season 3 is nothing short of, ahem, marvelous. It’s smart, gorgeous, funny and highly entertaining.
4. “Chernobyl” (HBO) and “When They See Us” (Netflix) • The two miniseries took two real-life events — the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 1986 and the monstrous miscarriage of justice in the 1989 Central Park jogger case — and turned them into gripping television.
5. “The Crown” (Netflix) and “Succession” (HBO) • These two dramas — one about the British royal family, the other about fictional media moguls (loosely based on the Murdochs, the Redstones and more) — tell deep, rich stories that are not without surprises.
7. “The Good Fight” (CBS All Access) • OK, Season 3 of this legal/political/personal drama maybe wasn’t as good as the first two seasons, which were fantastic. But only somewhat less good. Diane Lockhart just might be the best female character on TV, and the woman who plays her — Christine Baranski — just might be the best actress. No show deals with real-life legal and political issues better than this one.
8. “The Good Place” (NBC) • When this comedy about the afterlife premiered in September 2016, it was hard to imagine where it would go after its unexpectedly good pilot episode. That’s been true of pretty much all 47 episodes that have aired since. With just four episodes to go (beginning Jan. 9), this show has been consistently surprising and hilarious.
9. “Star Trek: Discovery” (CBS All Access) • I liked the first season of this very different “Trek” adventure. I loved the second season. It was compelling and addictive, and the addition of the best Starfleet captain to date — Anson Mount’s version of Christopher Pike — made Season 2 a triumph.
10. “Evil” (CBS) • Who would have thought that the most disturbing show on TV would air on a broadcast network? This drama about the confluence and conflict between religion and science is shocking on a regular basis and has already taken us places we didn’t expect.
Honorable mentions • “Atypical" (Netflix), “The Big Bang Theory” (CBS), “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” (Netflix), “The Expanse” (Amazon), “Fleabag” (Amazon), “Fosse/Verdon” (FX), “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” (TBS), “Great British Baking Show” (Netflix), “His Dark Materials” (HBO), “The Late Show with Steven Colbert” (CBS), “Leaving Neverland” (HBO), “The Mandalorian" (Disney+), “Mindhunter” (Netflix), “9-1-1” (Fox), “On Becoming a God in Central Florida” (Showtime), “One Day at a Time” (Netflix), ”Pose” (FX), “Queer Eye” (Netflix), “Russian Doll” (Netflix), “Single Parents” (ABC), “Stranger Things” (Netflix), “Superstore” (NBC), “The Terror” (AMC), “This Is Us” (NBC), “Veep” (HBO), “The Unicorn” (CBS), “What We Do in the Shadows” (FX), “Young Sheldon” (CBS).