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December 26, 2018

The Best TV Shows of 2018

Best TV Show of 2018 The Good Place Schitts Creek Bold Type Legends of Tomorrow

The past few years we’ve been complaining about Peak TV and how it meant we didn’t have enough time to watch everything we wanted to. But 2018 introduced a new problem: TV shows we didn’t even know existed, let alone got around to watching! Did you know that Catherine Zeta Jones is currently starring on a Facebook series? Or that Toni Collette and Emma Stone did Netflix shows? How about Ben Stiller and Benico Del Toro’s series on Showtime, or Michael Shannon’s drama on AMC? Kevin Costner on Paramount TV? Sean Penn on Hulu? There’s so much new TV coming at us all the time, it’s hard to even know what we’re missing.

But when it comes to the shows we DID watch, one thing is clear: 2018 wasn’t a stellar year for television. Sure, there were a lot of good/decent shows, but while in other years it was hard to narrow it down to a top 10, this year only a few shows felt like essential, A+ efforts, surrounded by a lot of B/B- level pleasant diversions. As per our annual tradition, my TV-lovin’ buddies Nicole and Angela are joining me to talk about the TV shows we fell in love (or maybe just in like) with this year.

The Good Place
Who knew that Shirtless Chidi would have the same reaction on the internet as that Season 1 finale twist did? Season 3 proved to be mostly about The Soul Squad trying to help others on Earth while they can, but as the season drew to a close, we got some kick ass (literally!) scenes and episodes. Also, D’arcy Carden hasn’t made me love the same actor playing multiple characters since Orphan Black, so if she doesn’t get an Emmy nomination (and ultimate win), I swear, I will flip all the tables. –Ange

Though this wasn’t my favourite season (the Earth-bound stuff can’t reach the absurdist heights of the magical good & bad places), a slightly off season is still better than almost anything else out there. And the realization that Chidi is insanely jacked didn’t hurt. -Jen

This show is so wacky and the characters are weird in an adorable 30 Rock way. I’ll watch them whether they’re in limbo or the bad place or Earth. My only request: could Chidi be 90% more shirtless next season? – Nicole


The Americans
There was a lot of pressure to really stick the landing on this often brilliant show and somehow they managed to exceed all expectations. I wasn’t quite sure how I wanted it to end but now I can’t imagine it any other way. From the long-awaited confrontation with Stan to Paige’s wordless goodbye, every moment was both devastating and satisfying. Bonus points for the best use of a U2 song ever.  -Jen

I am a terrible friend and made everyone wait months until I’d seen the whole season before we could discuss it. What an epic finale for a supremely good show. I loved the way the relationship between Elizabeth and Phillip was tested. The parking garage scene with Stan in the finale killed me. –Nicole

Oof, yes, that parking garage scene still gives me anxiety! The fact that they decided to do it with a lack of a music score just made it all the more intense and heart-racing. It was a great ending to the series, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to write happy fanfiction for The Jennings family at this point. –Ange


The End of The Fucking World
There is a super soft spot in my heart for British TV, so naturally I was intrigued by this one, even though I had never heard of the graphic novel it’s based on. Like other dark UK dramas (think: Misfits and Luther), I’m not sure TEOTFW could work as anything BUT a British show. By the end of the season, I really just wanted to hug these little psychopaths and protect them at all costs. –Ange

I breezed through this show in a day! I was so in love with these two characters and spent the whole day hoping these two crazy kids (like, actual kids) would make it. Xoxo – Nicole

What a twisted, quirky little gem. I spent most of the season believing these two little assholes might actually be murderous psychopaths and yet I still rooted for their romance. Also, can more shows have episodes that clock in around 20 minutes? -Jen


The Good Fight
When I heard that season 2 would revolve around Trump (each episode title was simply the date in which he was in the administration), I was weary because the world was/is a giant dumpster fire, but I took the plunge and dove in head first with no regrets. The writers did a great job at keeping things lighter – even with some heavy aspects – in what should have been a difficult season for them to pull off. –Ange

This was appointment viewing for me. I found the lawyer-killing subplot a little tiresome but the way they handled the female dynamics and pitting partners against each other was really interesting, and it kept me riveted. Also, Christine Baranski owning her self defense was great. –Nicole

This show did a season that heavily focused on Trump and somehow I didn’t hate it? The micro-dosing subplot was a little odd, but Christine Baranski’s perfect line reading of “f*ck you” more than made up for it. Bless Canada for airing this on regular TV, instead of making us buy a subscription to CBS’ app like in the US. -Jen


I found the first several episodes really compelling and loved the noir-ish style and sometimes overwhelming use of music. Unfortunately, despite some great performances, I stalled on this around episode 6 and had to drag myself back into the series. When I finally did watch the last episodes, I found them less interesting and I think it was the story that weakened. I thought the final episode was truly disappointing and I wish there wasn’t a need to tie things up neatly with a bow. – Nicole

It took me a while to warm up to this one because it’s so very stylized. The present is shot in a claustrophobic, small aspect ratio while the past is in widescreen and the whole thing feels very…affected. I usually hate that showy stuff (just ask Nicole, who had to suffer through watching The Favourite with me next to her sighing loudly at every fish-lens flourish.) But then there was the scene where Julia Roberts’ character remembers something and the aspect slowly grows as the full weight of her realization dawns on her and her mind expands and — ok fine. You win, show. -Jen


I usually think there’s too much TV out there to waste time on a show you’re not loving, but I’m so glad I stuck through the first 3-4 episodes because the second half of the season was totally engrossing. Yes, the characters all remained supremely unlikeable, but damn if I didn’t laugh a lot. Plus, the finale made me jump up off my couch in shock – twice! -Jen

I stalled on this around episode 3 and only got back in because of Jen’s reco. I thought it picked up a lot of steam and the family dynamic got more interesting instead of tedious. Ditto on the last episode! – Nicole


I started Barry late in the game, but was desperate to get it in before we did the roundup this year. WHOA!! I haven’t loved an entire series of a North American show like this in a LONG time. Every single episode was better than the last, and that finale had my palms literally sweating. If someone told me it was a limited series and the whole thing was only those 8 eps I’d be happy, but am pretty excited to see what happens and who comes back for season 2. –Ange

For a comedy, this might be the darkest show I watched all year. The scene of Barry telling his war buddy in the car “why did you have to say that?” stayed with me for weeks. Seeing as the finale answered the question of whether or not he could ever be redeemed VERY definitively, I’m not sure where the show goes from here, but that was a pretty perfect first season. -Jen


The Bold Type
I stumbled across this super cute show and ripped through both season 1 & 2. I really loved the way they treated the female relationships and it was a pleasure to watch a really diverse show with young women stumbling through their early career and love lives. It’s a super-fluffy series that still manages to tackle difficult relationship and career situations. I love that they manage to take the sting and shame out of things like losing your job. I also appreciate that they don’t play to the millennial stereotypes because these girls are hungry! – Nicole

I still like this show but we all agree that Jane is the absolute worst, right? -Jen


Sharp Objects
2018 was a flaming heap of garbage for me so I avoided dark shows like the plague (see Bold Type above) – but I made an exception for Sharp Objects and The Handmaid’s Tale. Based on my enjoyment of Gillian Flynn’s books and admiration for director Jean-Marc Vallee, I tuned into a few episodes of this show and quickly found myself absolutely hooked. I became enthralled with Camille’s story and as the final episodes unfolded I fully believed why she chose to act as she did. I found myself irritated by Henry but completely taken in by Adora, Amma and Camille. The performances were stunning and I would only quibble with the need to neatly tie up the end. – Nicole

I felt like I appreciated this show more than I actually enjoyed it, but Amy Adams and Patricia Clarkson were consistently mesmerizing. -Jen


The Handmaid’s Tale  
Let me just say that I did not love the finale. However I thought there were some incredible episodes this year and I still appreciate that they are creating a show that is at once bleak, sad and reflective of an almost-possible present time while also super compelling and a tiny bit hopeful. I loved what they did with episode 9 where Fred and Serena travel to Canada and we see Serena truly begin to question her position. For me, this season was about hitting the bottom and from that episode onward beginning to crack through the oppression. This was definitely Yvonne Strahovski’s season. –Nicole  

I’ll give you that the birth scene was incredible and Yvonne Strahovski did some amazing work this year, but I think I’m out on this show for the same reason I stopped watching The Walking Dead: it’s starting to feel like bleak, hopeless torture porn. And June’s decision in the finale was infuriatingly stupid. -Jen


Legends of Tomorrow
In a world of prestige dramas about dark people doing dark things, LoT delivers a much-needed fix of fun. Out of all the DC TV shows I watch, this is probably the one that I’m least emotionally invested in but it’s also the one that I almost always watch first. It’s just so bonkers entertaining. They’ve leaned into the ridiculousness to such a delightful degree that it hardly comes as a surprise when the villain of the week is a murderous unicorn. -Jen

I’m so happy that LoT has found their footing and the writers just go with it now. Sure, there is some camp to the storylines, but honestly, that’s what makes it so fun! Plus, what other show out there gives us some sweet behind the scenes music videos? Whether they’re doing disco or punk, this cast and crew make it all so enjoyable. –Ange


The Magicians
Season 3 is definitely the strongest and best of the series. For what used to be a guilty pleasure show I would describe to people as a “super sexy Harry Potter meets dark Narnia,” The Magicians has quickly evolved into an absolute “must watch live” show for me. We were given an episode that had a beautiful alternate timeline love story between two male leads, and a musical episode that proved to be part of the quest but most of all, ridiculously fun! I knew that this season would be its best yet when the writers even gifted us with a scene filled with pop-culture code banter, complete with subtitles for the audience. –Ange


Killing Eve
A delicious cat-and-mouse show that kept me guessing at every turn, Killing Eve’s first season was a tight eight episodes that were anchored by two powerhouse performances: Jodie Comer as a serial killer and Sandra Oh as the intelligence agent who becomes obsessed with finding her. Every episode made me laugh, gasp, and instantly rewind scenes multiple times. -Jen


I kept waiting for something gruesome and horrible to happen to any of the characters on the show (this is a Ryan Murphy series, after all), but the show – set in the 80’s ball culture world of New York during the height of the AIDS epidemic – was such a joyous love letter to the trans community. We definitely see some heavy drama (again, this is a Ryan Murphy series), but there is so much beauty and love and community in this perfectly written series that I found myself wishing I had my own house mother like Blanca on the days I need a motivation to be a better and work harder, or a little “pray tell” when I just need someone to “tell ‘em.” –Ange

I watched the first few episodes and I liked it a lot and then I just — stopped. It’s a negative side effect of Peak TV; there’s too much out there to stick with a show unless it’s hitting some sweet spot for you (especially when some episodes clocked in over an hour). Intellectually, I liked everything it was doing (the costumes, the set designs, its trans-heavy cast, the diversity), but it just didn’t hook me.  Still, I’m so thankful that a show like this is being made. –Jen


The Haunting of Hill House
The fact that I’m praising a horror show is insane because I am usually way too wimpy to watch anything remotely scary, but this show pulled me in and didn’t let go. I loved the direction (episode 6 is a series of long one shots that made it feel like a play), the family dynamics (it’s basically This Is Us with ghosts), and the twists (episode 8’s jump scare in the car made me scream — which was unfortunate because I was watching it on a plane). -Jen

YES! The Haunting of Hill House is one of those shows that I had seen and added to my Netflix queue, but figured I’d let someone else watch it first because of how much the trailer made my heart race. Truthfully, I foolishly assumed it would be cheap scares and excessive gore, but the drama of the family, with the seriously amazing cinematography made this a must for 2018. –Ange


Schitt’s Creek
“Honestly David”, it’s about time the world is finally watching Schitt’s Creek! Season 4 gave us deeper growth for the Rose family and more love and laughs than we thought possible. Who knew that telling someone “You’re my Mariah Carey” or singing an acoustic version of “Simply The Best” by Tina Turner at an open mic night, would be so tear-jerking. EVER. SINGLE. TIME! – Ange


It’s hard to pin down what exactly this show is because every episode is something completely different, but it’s almost always amazing. Donald Glover not only managed to avoid the sophomore slump; he somehow topped it with “Robbin’ Season.” The Teddy Perkins episode is the one most people talked about this year (as they should; it was amazing) but I still can’t stop thinking about the one when Paper Boi spent the day with a Instagram influencer and then got lost in the woods. Everyone on the show is outstanding, but Bryan Tyree Henry is doing some next-level work here. -Jen

Honorable Mentions:
Ange’s: Room 104’s “Arnold” episode (seriously guys, Julian Wass and Mark Duplass wrote the most perfectly bittersweet musical episode for Atlanta’s Brian Tyree Henry – please, watch this episode NOW!), Daredevil (S3 as a whole, but especially the 11-min. 1-take fight scene!), Doctor Who, GLOW

Nicole’s: Will & Grace, Atlanta, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Jen’s: GLOW, Sharp Objects, American Vandal, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Bodyguard, Insecure