Best TV 2019: the 5 best shows of February
2019 is but two months old, and it's already looking like a more promising TV year than 2018, thanks to a combination of fun new shows and returning favorites.
So we've gone and made a short list of our favorite debuts of the month, just like we did in January, with a focus on shows that flew a little under-the-radar in this age when it's growing easy to just turn on your favorite streaming service and let it suggest whatever it wants. (But, okay, you will also find that we've included the wildly praised, much beloved Russian Doll .)
And where the shows we recommended in January (1
9659004) We'll keep recommending new shows each month for the rest of the year – and hopefully something will pop up on one of these lists that you will end up enjoying
With that in mind, here are our five favorite TV debuts of February 2019, including three new shows and two returning ones
FX's Better Things is even better in season 3
I enjoyed some TV shows as much as I enjoyed Better Things in her second season, which aired back in 2017. I wrote glowing, beautiful things about it. And then, right as season two was ending, co-creator and co-writer Louis C.K. confessed to having masturbated in front of women who did not want him to do so, after the New York Times revealed his misconduct.
It almost did not matter that Better Things is the brainchild of star Pamela Adlon (who also directed each episode in seasons two and three). The scandal threatened to swallow the show whole. C.K. was fired from the show (and FX in general), and Adlon has talked about how she was shaken by the whole experience
And it really stinks that I or more have to recount the whole ordeal here, because season three is as good as the show has ever been – even better, really. The season's first half includes Sam Fox, Adlon's character, confronting the many ways that society does not have as much room for aging women as it does aging men. She's turning 50, and her oldest daughter, Max, is off to college in Chicago.
But Better Things is always loose and freewheeling in the best possible way. The characters are funny, but the show never forces laugh lines, and when Sam and Max have a long discussion about whether it is better to get the best room or the best bed in a college dorm, it feels both amusing and lived in.
Add to that Sam's other two kids – middle daughter, Frankie, who is testing the boundaries of her teenagerhood, and the youngest daughter, Duke, who is seeing ghosts – to say nothing of Sam's increasingly absent-minded mother, Phil, and
Better Things is also slightly more serialized this season, as the show follows Max's adventures in Chicago and the specters of both Sam's father and estranged ex-husband keep popping up. And Adlon's direction, always terrific, offers a breezy, sun-dappled view of the Los Angeles family's home that never feels sentimental or cynical. This is a wonderful show, and TV is lucky for how well Adlon has overcome the awful circumstances she had to deal with to make the show even better
Watch Better Things if you like: Enlightenment, Murphy Brown You're the Worst
Where to watch: Better Things Season 3 debuts Friday, February 28 at 10 pm Eastern on FX. The Miracle Workers Miracle Workers Miracle Workers Miracle Workers Miracle Workers Miracle Workers , and a new limited series of comedies on TBS, feels a bit like those Twitter threads where God designs animals and angels react in horror – but, y'know, as a workplace comedy. And then there are times when the show captures some of the loopy, bittersweet vibe of creator Simon Rich's previous series, the three-season FXX sketch rom-com Man Seeking Woman
Rich's work occupies a weird in-between space in the comedy world, where his shows fit comfortably into the world of sketch comedy, nor the world of traditional sitcoms. The best way I can describe his shows is that they subscribe to the principles of magical realism and traditional sitcoms equally.
Hence, Miracle Workers can be set in heaven, among the angels who grumble about their boss (God), while also having some of the vibe of The Office or Superstore . Whenever Rich wants to leave reality behind for something utterly bizarre, he can. But he can also take a turn into romantic realism
Steve Buscemi as a bumbling, kinda bored God, who may not be able to read when you come right down to it; and a terrific breakout performance from young actress Geraldine Viswanathan. Miracle Workers Take a little while to get going, and it never quite escapes the feeling that its parts are bigger than its whole, but the parts are a lot of fun
Watch Miracle Workers If you like: The Good Place 30 Rock Fargo
30 pm Eastern on TBS.
In Season 3, Netflix's One Day at Time is still one of TV's freshest, funniest sitcoms
Here's an excerpt from my earlier, four-and- Netflix's warm, traditional sitcom about a single mom and her family:
I always feel like I'm selling ] One Day at Time short, because it's so easy to talk about it in terms of how beautiful it is, or in terms of the serious topics it tackles, or in terms of just how much it could move you or make you cry. It is and is a very funny show, one of the funniest TVs, if only because nobody is as good at wringing every ounce of laughter out of a joke as this cast
But mostly I feel like I sell the show short when I try to recommend it because I just love it so much. As I started watching the season three, even when a joke did not land or a storytelling choice did not quite pay off, I felt like I was welcoming an old friend back. It's impossible to say if anyone watches this show, thanks to Netflix's obfuscation of its own numbers but if you have not yet, it's time to start. One Day at Time is a TV treasure, and it would be a shame to see it go away. If you like: Brooklyn Nine-Nine Mom
, This Is Us
Where to watch: All three seasons of One Day at Time streaming on Netflix
HENU'S PEN15 is the teenage cringe-com that will remind you of how awkward adolescence can truly be
Here's an excerpt from Alex Abad- Santos's four-star review of PEN15 Hulu's coming-of-age comedy about two 13-year-old girls in the year 2000 – who are played by the show's creators, who has their 30s:  PEN15 's reluctance to turn his characters' behavior into a teachable moment might be more honest than most shows want to admit: Kids do not always learn lessons, some of those (19659054) But that does not mean it does not contain any hope. Children who are bullied may never get the respect they deserve. PEN15 acknowledges that middle school is indeed a special type of hell, but it also understands that if we were lucky, we had someone like Anna or Maya to get through it with
Watch PEN15 If you like: If you like: My first name is My first name is on Hulu
Netflix's Russian Doll is so good. So, so, so, so good
This is an excerpt from my five-star review of Russian Doll Netflix's ingenious dramedy about a woman who can not seem to escape her birthday party
] Natasha Lyonne is one of my favorite actors. That's one of my few shareable reactions to the new Netflix comedy Russian Doll because the less you know about this terrific new series, the better. So let me just assure you that Lyonne is the star, she gets to showcase her considerable range, and her gift for wildly unconventional line readings is on full display. The series is probably too weird to win a bunch of Emmys, but God willing, Lyonne will be nominated. She's so good
But she's more than just playing the central role of Nadia, a woman who gets trapped by most unusual circumstances, then works to figure out a way out of them. Lyonne also co-created Russian Doll and wrote many of his episodes. And she directed the season finale. If you've been looking for an incredibly efficient Natasha Lyonne delivery vehicle (and I have) – this is the series for you
Watch Russian Doll if you like: The X-Files The Twilight Zone Veep
Where to watch: Russian Doll 's eight-episode first season is streaming on Netflix. If you have not watched it now, for God's sake, what are you waiting for?
Five other shows worth sampling …
While the five shows above are my top priorities from February's TV debuts, you might
At Home with Amy Sedaris (truTV, Tuesdays at 10 pm Eastern) is a truly wacky, endlessly inventive series that simultaneously parody DIY Martha Stewart types and builds a whole universe around the fictional show within a show, also called At Home with Amy Sedaris . It has shades of the 70s soap opera spoof Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman .
- I never saw the movie that Boomerang (BET, Tuesdays at 10 pm Eastern) is based on, so I'm afraid I'm missing something in this romantic drama that is kinda-sorta a sequel to the original film and also kinda-sorta and remix of it. But the story of a young Lothario who discovers that his new female boss is even more of a player than he is offering sassy, sexy fun, even for those of us not familiar with the source material
- It's hard to believe that Documentary Now (IFC, Wednesday at 11 pm Eastern) even exists, much less that it is now in its third season. But if you fall into the show's incredible niche audience – that is, people who have been crying out for an anthology series that makes very specific fun of very specific documentaries – boy, you will love it as much as I do
Doom Patrol (streaming on DC Universe) has not convinced to subscribe to its streaming service based on the two episodes sent to critics, of a team of superheroes with very strange powers. Plus, the cast (which includes Brendan Fraser and Matt Bomer!) Is excellent
- Finally, if you just need a show to watch while you fold the laundry, Whiskey Cavalier (ABC, Eastern) is one of the best laundry-folding shows to debut in quite some time. It involves two people with sexual chemistry that they will not act on for several seasons, spy missions, and sexy complications.
And do not look now, but March is right around the corner, bringing it all from the return of The Good Fight to a terrific new series based on Lindy West book Shrill . To TV!