Any article purporting to offer advice for must-see television in 2019 should begin with one simple announcement: THE FINAL SEASON OF GAME OF THRONES AIRS IN APRIL!!!
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s turn our attention to what else is landing on our most popular streaming sites this next orbital trip around the sun. Forecasts indicate we’ll be ringing in the 2020s with the era of Peak Television still in full stride. Original series premiere, old favorites return, and that blurry line between auteur television and long-form cinema gets less and less defined. Here’s a quick look at a few of the most anticipated small-screen offerings on Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Netflix in 2019.
In addition to a second helping of American Gods coming to Starz this spring, fans of Neil Gaiman’s myth-bending imagination can whet their appetites with a new series adaptation of Good Omens, a novel Gaiman cowrote with that other minister of fiction magic, Terry Pratchett. Armageddon draws nigh for life on Earth, but Aziraphale (Michael Sheen), an angel, and Crowley (David Tennant), a demon, in a misfit cosmic friendship if there ever was one, are saddened to see it go and join forces to stave off the end of times just a wee bit longer. In what is so far Amazon’s most auspicious announcement for the New Year, Good Omens bodes to be a raucous, colorful adventure, equal parts British humor and apocalyptic action.
Hulu is making big bets on comedy in 2019, with PEN15 premiering in February and then Catch-22 airing in April. From the teams of Lonely Island and AwesomenessTV, PEN15 is an adolescent comedy starring cocreators Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle, who play 13-year-old versions of themselves, circa 2000. The trailer suggests Lady Bird meets Big Mouth, with a deadpan zaniness that distinguishes this coming-of-age comedy from both of its predecessors.
Speaking of predecessors, George Clooney’s new series adaptation of Catch-22 has some pretty formidable ones of its own. Based on Joseph Heller’s satirical WWII novel, which was then adapted as a film by Mike Nichols in 1970, Catch-22 is tried-and-true material. The sprawling madcap novel, which lampoons the absurdity of the bureaucratic American war machine, is a rollercoaster of comedy and tragedy. A faithful adaptation of Heller’s vision has always needed more space than a mere two hours can afford, and George Clooney, with his proven comedic chops (he’ll be playing the aptly named Lieutenant Scheisskopf) and his keen eye for political critique, seems the perfect candidate to captain Heller’s story across a six-part series on Hulu.
Netflix looks forward to another year of likely dominance over its streaming competitors. In January, the streaming service will premiere a reboot of the beloved Carmen Sandiego series, featuring voice work from Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin) and Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things). In the summer, Stranger Things will pick up where it left off with a third season of its lovable outcast adolescents trying to right the Upside Down. Netflix will also continue its trend of hosting more prestige feature films with the much-anticipated Martin Scorsese picture, The Irishman, which has the legendary director reteaming with a stacked bill of his greatest wise guy collaborators, including Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Harvey Keitel.
Another big swing in the prestige department for Netflix will be Ava DuVernay’s new dramatic miniseries, The Central Park Five. Similar to the critical and box-office success BlacKkKlansman from Spike Lee, DuVernay’s series is an archeological drama that attempts to illuminate America’s disheartening present by finding its corollary in the past.
The director of the MLK biopic Selma and the social justice documentary 13th turns her camera to the Central Park Five case of 1989, where five black teens were wrongfully convicted for the assault and rape of a white female jogger. The five youths were imprisoned until 2002, when DNA evidence proved their innocence. The case received a resurgence of attention during the 2016 presidential campaign in light of then-millionaire playboy Donald J. Trump’s full-page advertisement in all the major New York papers of the time, calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty as a punishment for the accused. As recently as 2016, Trump stood firm in his position and doubted the innocence of the five teens who were cleared of all wrongdoing over a decade earlier. So far, it has not been announced who, if anyone, will be playing Trump in the series.