Culture

What to watch in 2019

Action thriller? Comedy panel show? Psychological drama? What does the telly we watch say about us, and about our cultural neuroses? Stuart Heritage takes a collective emotional temperature-check based on what’s coming to our screens in 2019

Television does not exist in a vacuum. Look at any series made at any point in history and it’s bound to give some clue to the era that produced it. A random example is Mad Men – a meditation on the damage caused by toxic masculinity, made during the rise of fourth-wave feminism.

Another is The A-Team; the story of four veterans who could no longer fit into the patterns of civilian life, made while the horrors of Vietnam were still fresh. In 1957, when Khrushchev was terrorising America with intercontinental ballistic missile tests, you’ll find a brace of television westerns like Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, Have Gun – Will Travel and The Restless Gun; all tales of American exceptionalism battling against clearly defined forces of evil.

This is true, even today. After all, the biggest show to emerge from this grisly period of Trump and Brexit has been Bodyguard, a series packed with tension and conspiracy and corruption and PTSD that’s exactly as rattled and jangled as we are. You suspect that, in the future, people will look back at all those who watched Bodyguard and think: ‘Those poor sods’.

So with this in mind, what can we predict about life in 2019 by the new shows already announced for it? Well, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that the overwhelming trend for TV in 2019 is shows based on movies. There’s going to be a series based on First Wives Club. There’s going to be a series based on What We Do In The Shadows. There’s going to be a series based on Snowpiercer. There’s going to be a series based on Watchmen. If rumours about Disney’s planned streaming service are true, then we’ll also have series based on Marvel characters like Loki and Scarlet Witch. We’re all going to be drowning in stuff we’ve already seen, because when times are hard, you always go running to the familiar.

And remember, that’s the good news.

The bad news – the much, much worse news – is that we’re all going to be just as terrified by our authority figures as we already are. Look at some of the American shows that have been announced, all of which will invariably end up streaming somewhere over here. Fox’s The Passage will be about scientists who accidentally turn a bunch of murderers into vampires. NBC’s The InBetween will be about a law enforcement service so abject that a woman is forced to ask ghosts to help her solve crimes. Similarly, CBS’ Blood & Treasure is about an antiques expert and a thief who join forces to take down a terrorist, presumably because they’ve lost all trust in any actual counter-terrorist officers.

So where are all the actual, qualified authority figures? Even more bad news: they’re all tied up dealing with the worst of us. Law & Order, usually a plodding procedural drama, will next year debut a new spin-off entitled Hate Crimes. It’s about how the police force now has to spend most of its time dealing with ugly, unprompted cases of violent discrimination.

Still, at least in good old Blighty we know how to let the good times roll. What’s that? BBC1 is making Dark Mon£y, a show about child abuse? And Sky’s making Curfew, about a gang of criminals struggling to survive under a totalitarian regime? And Channel 4 is making Adult Material, about the human ravages of the pornography industry? Welp.

Grim, isn’t it? If next year’s TV tells us anything, it’s that our leaders have abandoned us, and it’s all our fault, so we should probably all just hide under the kitchen table and wait to die. Happy 2019!