The Top 10 TV Shows of 2018
Before I start, I’d like to note that this year there were 495 (!!) different TV shows that aired. Did you know Facebook’s now doing original programming or that IMDB is starting to do their own series? BoJack Horseman is no longer satire, it’s becoming real life. It’s impossible to see everything, and art is subjective. What I love might not be what you like and vice versa. If you don’t see your favorites on here, it’s probably because of these four reasons:
-I Didn’t See It
-I Saw It, but Didn’t Like It as Much as You Did
· Ex. I adore The Good Place, but the Australian plotline was a lot messier than I was expecting after two knockout seasons.
-I Saw Some of It, and Abandoned Ship
· Shows here include Lodge 49 (which I will probably return to at some point. The cast is solid, but it wasn’t doing a whole lot for me) and Maniac (which I gave up with in frustration)
-I Hate You, and Your Shows Suck
· It is DEFINITELY this reason
So, with or without you, here’s my ten favorites of the year
10. Glow (Netflix)
The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling became an even better show by focusing less on a season long arc for more standalone episodes. Six months later, I still think of the terrific show-within-a show taping of Glow as well as the one where Alison Brie leads the cast to film parts of a title sequence at a mall. Add in Marc Maron and Betty Gilpin, you have what is probably the best live action comedy show on Netflix.
(All episodes are currently streaming. Season 3 comes out next year)
9. Homecoming (Amazon Prime)
This was a late comer (I had Starz’s Vida at #10 for a while), but Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg’s adaptation of their podcast was an absolute blast to watch. Sam Esmail of Mr. Robot fame directed all ten episodes with smart plot twists constantly being thrown at the viewer and excellent cinematography to boot. Once you start, it becomes impossible to put down (especially since all the episodes are short making it an easy afternoon marathon).
(All episodes are currently streaming on Prime Video)
8. Barry (HBO)
Bill Hader plays an assassin who dreams of leaving the lifestyle in order to become an actor. Go into it knowing nothing else and just enjoy watching the madness unfold in a terrific debut season.
(All episodes are currently on HBO Go, season two drops in 2019)
7. Patriot (Amazon Prime)
The best way to describe Amazon’s Patriot is a combination of Wes Anderson filmmaking, the spy humor of FXX’s Archer, and the musical stylings of Inside Llewyn Davis. The second season is even better, featuring what just might be the greatest tracking shot you’ll see in all of TV this year.
(All episodes are currently streaming on Prime Video)
6. BoJack Horseman (Netflix)
I don’t know what else there is to say at this point. It’s an important show that has satire ringing too close to real life, Will Arnett gives a phenomenal performance in the funeral episode, and BoJack continues to get better with each new season.
(All of BoJack Horseman can be streamed on Netflix. Show can also be found on Comedy Central)
5. Better Call Saul (AMC)
Jimmy McGill finally broke bad as Saul Goodman comes out to play in this astonishing fourth season of the Breaking Bad spin off. Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler is operating on an entirely different level right now, she’s spent so much time creating a monster within herself and Jimmy, it’s hard to imagine how this show doesn’t end in tragedy. Among this great batch of episodes, my favorite must go to “Coushatta” for the elaborate lengths Jimmy and Kim went through in order to scam off a D.A. for Jimmy to get his law license back.
(Seasons 1–3 are currently streaming on Netflix)
EDIT: You should also check out Ological’s Basement Breakdown series on the fourth season of BCS (I did some P.A. work on these videos, and John’s an awesome dude who knows what he’s talking about): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6yRgd1AbJp_-29Fr4phoyw/videos?view_as=subscriber
4. The Venture Bros. (Adult Swim)
Seven seasons in over the course of 15 years, The Venture Bros has age gracefully. Kicking off with a massively stellar three-part story arc to conclude one of the show’s biggest mysteries, the episodes that followed suit features the show’s best action sequences to date (and it was damn funny too). The future has never looked so bright, for what will most likely be its endgame whenever it returns.
(Seasons 1–6 are available on Hulu, parts of season 7 are on Adult Swim’s website)
3. Joe Pera Talks With You (Adult Swim)
The entire run of JPTWY takes a little under two hours, and there’s three of the best short form pieces of comedy Adult Swim has ever aired in that span. Try to see “Joe Pera Reads You the Church Announcements”, and then seek out the one where he talks in real time during a thunderstorm and the New Year’s episode. It’s the most wholesome show Adult Swim has ever created, one that will make you happy to be alive as you marathon through it.
(All episodes are available on Adult Swim’s website)
2. Atlanta (FX)
Another masterpiece season by one of the hardest working creators in the medium. Every episode features some sort of illusion to being robbed and continues to deliver its strong satire. One week you might get an episode like “Teddy Perkins” and another you might get a road trip with Alfred where everything falls apart for him. So long as Donald Glover wants to keep making the show, it will continue to be one of TV’s best.
(Season 1 is on Hulu. Season 2 is on FX+)
1. The Americans (FX)
As I sit in my bedroom listening to U2’s “With or Without You”, I’m struggling to keep it together. I know it’s the last time I can say anything about the show, at least until a significant anniversary comes around, so I may as well unload on why this show was so important to me.
It’s my senior year of high school. At the recommendation of my cousin Matt, he told me to catch up on this show and Hannibal before their second seasons started. That first ten minutes of the pilot had me hooked. Watching a chase sequence with all hell breaking loose with the trumpets of Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk” playing in the background, I still get giddy every time I see it. Once the enemy is captured and the getaway car pulls into an abandoned alleyway, there’s a new cut every second to highlight the manic tension of the Jennings trying to succeed in capturing a traitor from the KGB. The drums are getting louder as Elizabeth watches her friend bleed out in the back of the car, and Philip is outside trying to switch out the license plates, so they won’t get caught. Keep in mind there’s only been ten minutes that have passed and it’s already setting the mood for what the show will look like. Action, tragedy, with a smidgen of dark comedy and a bad ass soundtrack to boot, of course this was going to be right up my alley.
I spent the next few years getting into acts like Devo and Fleetwood Mac with the help of this show. My undying love for Peter Gabriel and R.E.M. grew stronger for them after the way that they were implanted into the show. 80’s pop music was the show’s secret weapon, one that masterfully foreshadowed and alluded to the thoughts and feelings for what these characters were going through. I spent the last few years championing this show, and it’s one I forever cherish because of how it got me out of my comfort zone to seek out musical acts I would have never considered to listen to otherwise.
And speaking of musical acts, good heavens the way that pop music was used this season was just outstanding. The season premiere, “Dead Hand” had not one, but FOUR needle drops that were among the show’s best. Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over” playing during a montage of the Jennings struggling through their respective jobs as they grow distant from each other,
Peter Gabriel’s “We Do What We’re Told” when Elizabeth is receiving instructions on how to carry out what looks to be a suicide mission for her,
But the best was Talking Heads and their “Listening Wind” drop. There are so many layers to the use of that song, from Elizabeth stalking her target and the FBI drawing closer on stopping the Illegals Program,
To the taxi driver giving Olog his luggage as Olog returns to the United States on a rouge mission to help the KGB with the lyrics “the American man” silenced out
It’s a beautifully edited sequence. David Bryne’s echo of the phrase “drive them away”, couldn’t be truer for Elizabeth as she sacrifices everything including her own relationship to her daughter and husband for a lost cause. The Americans didn’t hold back on launching the most devastating punches this year, and every time it did, it completely nailed the target.
The finale completely wrecked me, not just because it was a mighty ferocious episode of TV, but because I landed in the same spot as the show’s central protagonists: the void of the anxiety riddled unknown. I just graduated college ten days prior, I was without a job and things were looking bleak. No phone calls, no emails, just silence on the other end regarding dozens upon dozens of job applications. I didn’t know what the next chapter of my life would look like for the first time, so of course I’m terrified. Then I saw the finale, and these characters didn’t know what was going to be next for them either. These folks must live with the consequences that came with their jobs, and they destroyed everything that they once built! Bono’s blood curling howl in “With or Without You” when that [REDACTED] scene came up, just about sealed the deal for me as not only my favorite show of the year, but an absolute all timer. Nothing else this year could have topped that emotional climax, every other show started playing for seconds. The Jennings’ relationship may be forever damaged, but at least they’ve got each other, standing on a bridge looking out on the horizon for whatever lies ahead. It was a beacon of light in a scary time, that it was okay to not be okay for a hot second and reflect on where one is in their life.
Revisiting the finale for this list made me realize I’m once again heading into the vast unknown. I have no idea what the next year is going to ring in for me. I hope that whatever lies ahead next, you’ll come along for the ride. See you all next year.
(All of the Americans can be streamed on Amazon Prime Video)