If I’m being honest, I wasn’t quite as dialed into TV last year as I have been in the past. And yet, I still had a seemingly endless list of television shows I enjoyed from 2018 to choose from when picking my favorites. I guess that’s peak TV for you! I’ve put my top six including my picks for best drama, comedy and limited series in the top half of this post and then followed that up with a bunch of other quality shows I thought were worth mentioning. Well, here they are: my favorite shows of 2018!
In its final run, Casual made the jump from good television to great television and delivered one of my favorite seasons of 2018 in the process. The occasional inane subplot or frustrating character decision that dragged the show down in the past were nowhere to be found this time around. The oddball relationships between the core trio of Alex, Valerie and Laura – as well as their friends – were as weirdly charming as ever. And the characters showed some real growth before the series took a bow. Now it wouldn’t be Casual is everything went smoothly. It doesn’t. Romantic entanglements still go awry. Awkward situations continue to arise. But when all is said and done, I love where we left these characters. Throw in some clever callbacks to the pilot episode during the finale and I’m just extremely happy with how the series came to a close. It wasn’t a perfect season of television by any means, but it did feel like a perfect final season for Casual. And what more could I ask for than that?
I love alternate universes in fiction and Counterpart scratches that itch for me in a big way. It has the character doubles and accompanying opportunities for great actors – like J.K. Simmons here in the lead role – to show off their talent. It has the fun time that is spotting the differences between each world and seeing how they came about. And it doesn’t hurt that I was reminded a bit of my beloved Fringe when watching this new Starz series – it even followed its big twist with an explanatory flashback episode! Counterpart is also a spy thriller and all the character swapping shenanigans that its two universes bring fits perfectly into the series’ espionage aspects. The first season that aired early in 2018 was stellar and continuing to explore these worlds while trying to keep up with Counterpart’s twisty narrative in Season 2 has been highly enjoyable as well.
The End of the F***ing World
Over the course of eight twenty-some minute episodes, The End of the F***ing World takes viewers on one hell of a road trip with its two leads. The self-proclaimed psychopath James and the extremely angsty Alyssa – two teenagers that see themselves as outsiders – come together for their journey under odd circumstances. But despite their attitudes and what brought them together, their relationship becomes surprisingly endearing by season’s end. Peppered with dark humor and dramatic turns, this black comedy series goes to some absolutely wild places during its brief run time. By the end of the third episode, you should be hooked on its brand of insanity – I know I was. Assuming you aren’t turned off by the violence or subject matter, this gem of a dramedy is an easy recommendation, its short time investment making for a perfect afternoon binge. (Note: This aired in the UK at the tail end of 2017, but was new to the US on Netflix in 2018. It’s sort of a borderline 2018 show, but I wanted to talk about it so I included it!)
Sharp Objects (Best Limited Series)
Sharp Objects, HBO’s adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s novel of the same name, succeeds on many different fronts. It excels as a character study of Camille Preaker who returns to her hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri as a journalist to look into the murder of a local girl and ends up confronting her own tragic past in the process, Jean-Marc Vallée’s direction helping to put viewers inside the fractured psyche of the show’s main character throughout. It works as a wonderful acting showcase for star Amy Adams who breathes life into what must have been an emotionally taxing lead role as well as supporting players like Patricia Clarkson and Eliza Scanlen who play members of Camille’s estranged family. It intrigues viewers as a murder mystery as we follow along with those investigating the crimes at the show’s center. And it mesmerized with its Southern Gothic setting, oozing with atmosphere the way it did for every single frame of the eight part series. I found myself glued to my TV screen from its opening moments to the very end of its shocking finale. Few shows drew me in the way Sharp Objects did on Sunday evenings this past summer.
The Good Place (Best Comedy)
It feels like we went everywhere on The Good Place last year. From the Bad Place to the quarters of an otherworldly Judge, back to Earth, off to Janet’s Void before arriving in The Good Place itself during the show’s final moments of 2018. Needless to say… it was amazing! The fantasy setting has always been a boon to the show and while Season 3’s early terrestrial episodes were perhaps not on the same level as those that preceded them, I think they further showed off the creativity of the show. That even without its afterlife backdrop it could keep doing all the things I love about the series. Take the attention to detail for example. As shown in the set design of the Cowboy Skyscraper Buffet, it was as strong as ever. And then there was still plenty of humor and heart. And philosophical quandaries. And Jacksonville Jaguars jokes. And Jeremy Bearimy. And afterlife accountants. And bar fights with demons and hilarious simulations and Heir B&B’s and so on and so on. This is all just my way of trying to praise a show I’ve praised a million times before. It’s become an all-time favorite of mine and was once again the best comedy on television in 2018.
Killing Eve (Best Drama)
In Killing Eve, one of television’s best writers, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, brings her dark comedic voice to a whole new genre and the results are spectacular. The series based on novellas by Luke Jennings hones in on the deadly cat-and-mouse game and mutual fascination between two highly intelligent women – MI6 agent Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) and international assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer). The clever writing that made Waller-Bridge’s previous works, Fleabag and Crashing (UK), so humorous makes the transition to this spy thriller wholly intact, adding levity and laughs alongside the danger and suspense of the show’s central chase. Likewise, her knack for witty banter shines, the dialogue of various pairings like Eve and her co-workers and Villanelle and her handler crackling in most every scene they share. While Oh gives a terrific performance, Comer steals the show as the talented killer with a penchant for showing off. She’s as hilarious as she is lethal, her facial expressions alone capable of cracking me up. Killing Eve was the must-watch new show of 2018 and perhaps simply the best thing on television as a whole last year.
More Shows I Really Enjoyed in 2018
The Good Fight: A solid improvement over the first season and a huge step up from the last couple of seasons of The Good Wife. Great mix of entertaining cases, quality character work and larger story arcs. I continue to love all the recurring guest characters in this universe.
Jane the Virgin: It’s equally hilarious and heartwarming. The narrator and captions remain gold. And it still somehow manages to surprise me with crazy twists. I just love this show so much.
Billions: This has grown from a run-of-the-mill premium cable drama when it started into one of my favorite shows on TV. Taylor is such a great character and even though I kind of hate both of the leads, they are so good at what they do that it remains entertaining to watch them operate.
Better Call Saul: Just another quality season from BCS. I didn’t love it as much as last season when it was up in my top five, but every character seemed to get a moment to shine and it was cool to see more connections to Breaking Bad pop up.
The Handmaid’s Tale: This wasn’t quite as good as the first season, perhaps due to the lack of source material to work off of this go around. But the acting remains top-notch – Yvonne Strahovski gave a hell of a performance this season – and the dystopian world remains at once horrific and interesting. Plus Season 2 gifted us the brilliant line, “Blessed be the Froot Loops.”
The Originals: I’d sort of fallen off of this after the lame ending to TVD, but I’m glad I went back because The Originals’ final season was excellent. It was a nice send off for some 1,000 year-old characters and it was cool to see an older Hope given all the teases of her power since birth.
The Americans: A great final season to a great series. The scene with the Jennings and Stan in the garage is one of last year’s best. I’ll miss the characters, the wigs and the mail robot.
Barry: Another quality dramedy in a year full of them. Hader does great work in the title role as a hitman trying to turn his life around by getting into acting, but Anthony Carrigan was a real scene-stealer as NoHo Hank. That guy cracked me up every time he showed up on screen.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine: This show was as good as it ever was in 2018. It seems like the best laughs can come from so many different cast members on any given week. While 100-plus episodes would be a fine run for any sitcom, I was happy NBC saved this one as I could always go for more laughs from this crew.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: I watched the goofy sitcom when I was younger and read some of the CAOS comics more recently, and I just thought this show was a fun time. More so everything involving Sabrina’s witch side, her family and the academy; less so her regular high school friends and the like.
Homecoming: Every scene between Heidi and Walter was so damn compelling. It’s worth watching for those alone, but I really dug Sam Esmail’s unique cinematography too and the show’s half-hour drama format was refreshing.
That will do it for my look back at my favorite TV shows of 2018. Which series topped your list last year? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!