Best TV Shows of 2018

By | January 1, 2019

I’ve already covered some of this ground in “Best TV Characters of 2018” and “Best TV Moments of 2018,” so check those articles out for further details…

10. Who is America?…Shamefully underrated, masterful satire that fully explores (and explains) why we are so very, very far apart in 2018. Not all Cohen’s set pieces work, but this is scathing, somewhat bi-partisan pranking that is a good time capsule to explain the era we’re in and why we can’t stand each other.

9. Roseanne…I can’t remember the last time a TV show did such a great job exploring the lives of the country’s morlocks (the uncool, the unwealthy, the unhealthy, the unseen). The series finale–where Dan Conner is at the end of his rope in a house literally underwater–would have gotten rave reviews if it were a show on Broadway, and you know I’m right.

8. The Americans…FX’s long-running (and only sporadically great) series finally lived up to its full promise, with its greatest season since season 1 (and then some). All’s well that ends well, and the final season was terrific. Yet there was one espionage series I liked just slightly better…

7. Homeland…The only real reason I liked “Homeland”‘s excellent 7th season (when was the last time a TV drama actually got better as it kept going?) is because it’s so very relevant to what’s happening right now. Sure, not all storylines panned out–I think we’ve officially had enough of Carrie’s sister–but the last two episodes were the best the series has had in years.

6. Kidding…Through the innovative direction of Michel Gondry, we learn that trying to be a good person and live a virtuous life is very, very difficult. It’s such a struggle, that I’m surprised more series (other than this and my favorite TV comedy of the year) don’t concern themselves with it. This is quite possibly the best comedy series Showtime has ever produced, and it’s a miracle that a show involving puppet foreplay, costumed sex, violent ice-skating, and giant foam heads can be this insightful.

5. Counterpart…J.K Simmons’s double-role is one of the best TV performances of 2018, but that’s only one great aspect of this thoughtful series that truly makes you question the biggest moments in your life, and how big a difference even small changes can make. We meet multiple versions of different characters (like an assassin in one universe who’s a classical musician in the other) that raise big questions about fate vs. chance, all in a show that’s also a moody action series, paranoid espionage thriller, and a thoughtful domestic drama.

4. Escape at Dannemora…Benicio Del Toro and Patricia Arquette are Emmy-worthy in this miniseries that’s a little bit like a 70’s drama stretched out into 7 hours of TV. It’s strength is character-building, but there’s also moments of laugh-out-loud humor and nail-biting tension.

3. Wild Wild Country…The year’s finest non-fiction series is so good, it’s trying to use a loophole to be eligible for the Oscar’s Best Documentary category, and I hope it succeeds. It’s ostensibly about the conflict between a (mostly) harmless cult and some very old, very plain Oregon residents who don’t like anything different, but things get weirder and more violent as the story keeps going. I found my sympathies shifting with each episode, and I still think the series is open to more than one interpretation, which is exactly what you’d hope for in a character based documentary.

2. The Good Place…As I said for “Kidding,” I’m surprised more TV series haven’t concerned themselves with the epic struggle of living a good life, but at least we have this one, and “Place” contains enough storylines, ideas, and plot developments for a dozen series. The series moves at such a freshingly breakneck pace—don’t most TV comedies seem stuck on a hamster wheel by comparison?—that you could easily not know what’s going on just by missing any one episode. It’s one of the rare TV comedies that feels as essential as a drama, and the great character work is worthy of the finest scripted dramas.

1. The Terror…There’s nothing left to say about this unparalleled drama series. It’s my favorite TV show of 2018, and you can see the near-dozen articles I’ve written about it to explain why. The arctic landscape is gorgeous and original, the scope epic but intimate, and it includes some of the finest TV performances you’ll see this year or next.

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