TV review of 2019: What were the biggest small-screen moments this year?
TV has enjoyed an incredible year, with favourites reaching their finales and new shows making an impact, and both streaming giants and traditional broadcasters offering audiences laughter, drama and insight on-screen.
Here are some of the most notable TV moments and the biggest shows of 2019:
Game Of Thrones came to an end
After eight series, the epic fantasy drama drew to a close in May. Expectations were immeasurably high among its millions of fans, but the final episode left some disappointed.
The reaction to the feature-length episode – which included a controversial plot twist before the fate of the Iron Throne and who would rule over Westeros was revealed – was mixed, and one disgruntled fan even launched a petition demanding the finale be rewritten, slamming the work of creators David Benioff and DB Weiss.
The backlash did nothing to dent Game Of Thrones’ awards success though, as it defied the middling critical reception to scoop two major gongs at the Emmy Awards.
Fleabag and its ‘hot priest’ ruled the world
Adapted by Phoebe Waller-Bridge from her acclaimed one-woman show, the BBC Three series won a devoted following and high praise for its cutting-edge comedy and treatment of pathos through the experiences of its complex lead character.
Its second and final series – introducing Andrew Scott as the “hot priest”, who could remarkably and hilariously see her breaking the fourth wall when she interacted with the audience – saw Waller-Bridge impress fans even more with her touching, perfect ending.
As well as the huge acclaim from viewers, Fleabag went on to scoop six Emmy Awards in the US this year.
After Life warmed the hearts of viewers
Ricky Gervais created and starred in Netflix black comedy-drama After Life this year, which was widely praised for both its comedy and its sensitive handling of bereavement.
Gervais played cynical widower Tony Johnson, who becomes suicidal following the death of wife Lisa. After contemplating taking his own life, Tony decides to live long enough to punish the world by saying and doing whatever he likes, resulting in a number of classic comedy moments – including an infamous putdown to a child who is bullying his nephew.
Instead of being a tough watch, the six-part series shone a light on the power of love and friendship, and a second series is already in the works.
The Jeremy Kyle Show was axed by ITV
The Jeremy Kyle Show was cancelled by ITV for good in May following the death of guest Steve Dymond, which sparked an inquiry into reality TV by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee.
Kyle largely disappeared from the public eye in the wake of the cancellation of his confrontational tabloid talk show, which had been a regular fixture on the daytime TV schedule since 2005, but he said he was “devastated” about the death of Mr Dymond.
ITV later revealed it would extend its regular daytime morning line-up – adding half an hour to both Good Morning Britain and This Morning – to fill the gap left by The Jeremy Kyle Show.
Another stellar year for Love Island
Love Island 2019 was definitely a vintage year, although it did get off to a bit of a slow start.
But with late additions Maura Higgins, Ovie Soko and Greg O’Shea mixing things up – and with one of the worst betrayals in the show’s history when Michael Griffiths dumped his beloved Amber Gill for Joanna Chimonides while Amber was staying faithful to him in Casa Amor – it turned out to be one of the best series yet, with nearly four million viewers tuning in to watch the live finale.
Amber got one-up on her ex Michael when she and Greg went on to win the series and the £50,000 prize.
Rugby World Cup final and Women’s World Cup score viewing victories
England may not have won in the gripping Rugby World Cup final against South Africa, but the coverage of the match did become the year’s most-watched TV moment, according to ITV.
In a year without a royal wedding to draw viewers, the November 2 game’s audience peak of 12.8 million viewers and average of 8.9 million meant it was the broadcast with the most eyes on it in the whole of 2019.
Another sporting win this year came with the Women’s World Cup, with the BBC saying its overall coverage of the tournament attracted 28.1 million watching on television and online, drawing more than double the number of viewers for the previous event in 2015.
Netflix delivers a winner with The Crown’s third series
Olivia Colman had a sizeable job when taking over from Claire Foy as the Queen in the third season of Netflix’s lavish royal drama.
But the Oscar-winning star did it with aplomb, drawing high praise for her portrayal of a slightly older Queen Elizabeth II, one with even more weight on her shoulders as the drama moved into the 1960s.
With Helena Bonham Carter taking over as Princess Margaret from Vanessa Kirby excellently, and Tobias Menzies doing a near-perfect imitation of Prince Philip having taken over from Matt Smith, the dramatic – and at times harrowing – 10 new episodes were well and truly worth the two-year wait.
Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon help launch a new streaming platform
Apple’s highly anticipated streaming service Apple TV+ arrived this year, along with a range of programmes boasting big-name stars.
Among them were Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston (last seen together on Friends) in The Morning Show, about a daytime TV programme struck by a Me Too scandal.
However, with the launch of other contenders Disney+ and BritBox – and existing heavyweights Netflix and Amazon Prime Video – it remains to be seen how much of an impact Apple TV+ will have.
RuPaul’s Drag Race finally came to the UK
Watching drag queen extraordinaire RuPaul Charles attempt to understand the best (and most bizarre) bits of British culture was perhaps the best thing about his hit US series Drag Race finally making its way to the UK.
The UK version of the series – in which drag queens try out a range of challenges such as celebrity impersonations, fashion design and a sizzling catwalk display every episode – included celebrity judges Andrew Garfield, Maisie Williams, Twiggy and Geri Horner presiding over the hopeful contestants as they did their best to prove why should win the competition.
A second series has already been confirmed by the BBC.
Notable TV mentions:
– Strictly Come Dancing aired its first ever same-sex dance this year, with pros Johannes Radebe and Graziano di Prima doing the honours.
– Gripping TV drama Chernobyl showed an unflinching portrayal of the horrific events surrounding the 1986 nuclear disaster in the Soviet Union, and the mini-series became one of the most highly acclaimed shows ever among viewers and critics.
– Ant McPartlin returned to presenting duties on Britain’s Got Talent and I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! after taking time away following his drink-driving conviction in 2018.
– The X Factor returned, but with a showbiz twist, as Simon Cowell recruited several famous faces – including US chat show icon Ricki Lake, ex-Towie star Megan McKenna and journalist Martin Bashir – to sing their hearts out on live TV.
– Drama dominated this year, with excellent new shows such as Sex Education, Unbelievable, When They See Us and The Politician on Netflix, the star-studded and trippy Good Omens (Amazon Prime Video), and His Dark Materials and gripping surveillance tale The Capture on BBC One, all taking over our lives.