We have had some incredible English language fiction content this year across the three main OTTs legally available in India – Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hotstar. While some series have had new seasons that have outdone previous years, there have been new shows which have first grabbed our eyeballs and then found a place in our hearts. So, here are the 10 best new English shows of 2019. Some of these are miniseries, never to return, while others are going to come back in 2020 with their second seasons.
The world is divided into two kinds of people – those who love Ricky Gervais and those who loathe Ricky Gervais. Regardless of which category you belong to, it’s difficult not to like After Life, which explores the life of a man struggling to come to terms with his wife’s death. There is an endearing simplicity and irreverence in Gervais’s writing and the way he champions goodness in humanity is infectious.
Chernobyl (Hotstar Premium)
The genius of this show dramatising the 1986 nuclear meltdown at the Chernobyl power plant is in the emotional honesty. There’s all the science and the facts on offer in the retelling of the biggest manmade catastrophe in history but it’s in the depiction of the very human story that creator Craig Mazin truly gets it right. No wonder, the five episodes of the mini-series have revived fresh interest in what actually happened before and after the disaster.
Euphoria (Hotstar Premium)
Always harrowing and at times heartwrenching, there has never been a more unsettling look at teenage life. But while things on the surface are raw and rough, inside the show beats a heart which is vulnerable and tender. A supremely visceral trip, what keeps you coming back for more is the performance of Zendaya as Rue, the recovering 17-year-old drug addict.
Russian Doll (Netflix)
After providing stellar support in countless films and shows, including Orange is the New Black, Natasha Lyonne finally leads from the front in this delightfully loopy concept show where Lyonne’s Nadia gets to relive the day of her death many times. There is a bit of existential blabber here and there but largely Russian Doll is so much fun and Lyonne so incredibly cool, that you can’t help but keep watching her die and reboot in the bathroom, over and over again.
Seldom has a show with a subject as sensitive as teen sexuality be fun yet responsible, provocative yet pertinent. A series which starts off as a fun exploration of a young boy’s sexuality goes on to smartly include everything from homosexuality to masturbation among high schoolers. It’s the clever writing which helps Sex Education evolve from being just another teen drama to a real and relatable drama about teens. Of course, the presence of Gillian Anderson makes everything better.
A girl is raped and then dismissed by the police after she reports the crime and it needs two lady detectives from two different counties to connect the crime to a serial rapist. Based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning story, this compelling series by Susannah Grant (writer of Erin Brockovich) lives up to its title right through its eight episodes with unforgettable performances by Toni Collette and Merritt Wever.
Undone (Amazon Prime Video)
This is still kind of a hidden gem. From the guys who gave us Bojack Horseman, Kate Purdy and Raphael Bob-Waksberg, this is a show about a woman (Rosa Salazar) who has visions of her dead father (Bob Odenkirk) even as her world seems to be falling apart. Animated in rotoscope that gives the live-action footage a dreamlike quality, you can’t take your eyes off the eight half-hour episodes of the first season.
When They See Us (Netflix)
It’s not easy to watch Ava DuVernay’s mini-series about the wrongful convictions of the five black and Latino teens from Harlem, known as the Central Park Five, who were forced to confess to the rape and assault of a white woman back in 1989. But besides its obvious infuriating content, the four episodes manage to brew hope and somehow look at the present by digging deep inside this gut-wrenching event of the past.
What We Do In The Shadows (Hotstar Premium)
If there was one new show this year which was created for laughs and laughs only, it’s this howlarious adaptation of the cult eponymous Kiwi film about vampires living among humans and struggling to share a house. With a fresh cast plus new characters, Jemaine Clement creates a world gleefully absurd, one that you love sinking your teeth into.
Watchmen (Hotstar Premium)
Creator Damon Lindelof goes beyond Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s famous source material and transplants his adaptation – from the dystopian Cold War terror turf – to a world where racism and police violence rule the roost. In the process, he updates the comic book to an all-new contemporary take on superheroism. Regina King as Sister Night does the rest.
For next week, we will list the best returning shows of 2019, some of which had their final seasons this year.