There is so much to watch on television. Even if you were to try, it is simply impossible to keep up with all of the comedies, dramas, documentaries, etcetera that are airing across the dozens of networks and streaming platforms. How does one choose what to watch, and more importantly, stick with? The Golden Age of Television that we currently live in allows us the amazing opportunity to travel to distant lands, relive important historical events, and to just laugh hysterically.
The following is my personal list of the best shows that aired during the year 2018. To best capture a wide range of shows, these selections are based on the combination of two key factors: entertainment value and quality. This distinction is made because I believe that a show may not necessarily be the highest quality but can still be enjoyable and worthy of praise. Obviously, I could not possibly watch every show that aired, so several highly praised series (such as “Killing Eve,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Pose,” etc.) are not included. Still, this list contains a wide variety of shows that span genres and networks.
And now, here are the top shows of 2018:
Alone Together (Freeform)
Two years after ABC Family re-branded into Freeform, they launched a sleeper comedy series helmed by the The Lonely Island. Comedians Esther Povitsky and Benji Aflalo star as best friends in Los Angeles trying to get their lives on track. Airing two full seasons in 2018 before being cancelled, this show never really took off, even though it really seemed to understand millennial humor and culture. Mixing a variety of ridiculous scenarios with some truly hilarious pop culture references, this comedy knows exactly what it is and runs with it. Each episode feels totally different, but the dynamic and conflicting personalities of Esther and Benji some how manage to maintain the charm and heart of the series. Even though it is short-lived, all episodes are currently streaming on Hulu and should absolutely be watched.
The End of the F***ing World (Netflix)
Do you ever just feel like dropping everything and leaving your life behind? That exactly what James and Alyssa do in this whirlwind British dramedy. Technically, the episodes aired in the United Kingdom back in Oct. 2017, but the series released on Netflix internationally at the beginning of this year and is therefore included on this list. The best way to describe this series is that it is two characters trying to survive an apocalypse that isn’t actually happening. This an excellent coming of age story that really blends humor and drama perfectly. Alex Lawther and Jessica Barden are downright incredible in their roles as their characters forge a fascinating relationship. These eight episodes are a surprise joy ride from start to finish, and more (possibly unnecessary story) is on the way with a second season confirmed.
The Walking Dead (AMC)
This show appearing on this list may come as a surprise to many. This is my personal favorite series and I will defend it forever. The past two seasons were notoriously weaker than the first six years, but with a new showrunner and a refreshing direction, the series that many fell in love with has returned. Blending the feel of the classic seasons while forging ahead into the future has given this aging zombie drama a lot of much-needed life. Building up to the exits of Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes and Lauren Cohan’s Maggie Rhee allowed for some remarkable character interactions while also paying tribute to the years of story that fans have invested themselves in. The implementation of a six year time jump and the focus on key characters at the heart and soul of the show has allowed for the story to continue on in intriguing ways without two of its main players. If you previously gave up on “The Walking Dead,” it is time to catch up, because the future is bright.
Trial & Error (NBC)
Much like other shows on this list, this comedy flew under the radar of many…and that’s a shame. The second season of this hilarious mockumentary catches up with the residents of East Peck, South Carolina as one of their most famous and beloved residents is charged with murder. Kristin Chenoweth fills the absence left by John Lithgow, the suspect in Season 1. Taking inspiration from fellow NBC sitcom “Parks and Recreation,” this take on the criminal justice system really showcases the absurdity of small town politics. The sexual tension between Josh Segal (Nicholas D’Agosto) and Carol Anne Keane (Jayma Mays), the ridiculous antics of Dwayne Reed (Steven Boyer), and the hysterical symptoms of Anne Flatch (Sherri Shepherd) make this a campy and clever story with a narrative that is actually engrossing. Sadly, this is yet another series that won’t continue into 2019, but the second season is absolutely a treat.
This might be the most pretentious show on television at the moment. Sometimes that can be detrimental when the narrative is so convoluted that it is nearly impossible to follow. Other times, the grand scale and ambition of the series is downright hard not to become entranced by. The first season wasn’t perfect and neither is the second, but there is a lot of improvement in these ten episodes that really make way for some wonderful moments. While much of the story is weaving through multiple timelines with plenty of not-so-gripping characters, the payoff and performances are where “Westworld” really shines. Thandie Newton’s Maeve is the strongest aspect of Season 2, along with the expansion of the world. Even with some of its faults, this is truly an awe-inspiring show that is very much unique and doesn’t play to expectations.
10. Big Mouth (Netflix)
It is controversial. It is unsettling. It is hilarious. The second season of Netflix’s coming of age animated series really builds upon the wild foundation that was established when it arrived in 2017. Pretty much anything can happen in this series. Talking pillows that crave sex? Check. A singing Shame Wizard causing regret among the youth? Check. A middle school coach teaching sex ed even though he himself is a virgin? Check. Through these wacky scenarios, “Big Mouth” captures the awkwardness of puberty and manages to teach some important lessons. Not only is the humor fantastic, but there is some unexpectedly amazing character development and story progression that is usually absent from a show such as this. Plus, there’s the cast, which is too perfect to put into words. Give Maya Rudolph all of the awards simply for her pronunciation of “bubble bath.”
9. The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story (FX)
On July 15, 1997, the world was shocked when famed fashion designer, Gianni Versace, was murdered outside of his Miami mansion. Nearly 21 years after the killing, FX’s biopic takes viewers on a retroactive journey to show the events leading up to that fateful morning. Rather than having Versace be the central focus, the series follows the life and murders of Andrew Cunanan, played by Darren Criss. While some of the structure of the miniseries may cause some head-scratching, and the second season isn’t on the same level of “The People vs. O.J. Simpson,” the quality put into this series captures the drama of this true American crime story. The nine episodes perfectly place the viewer in the time period and tackle a plethora of issues that still persist today, including the prevalence of homophobia in society. Criss is simply spectacular in the role, and is complimented by excellent performances by Penélope Cruz, Édgar Ramírez and Judith Light, among others.
8. Better Call Saul (AMC)
Who would have ever guessed that a prequel series to “Breaking Bad” would somehow be anywhere on the same level as the show that is widely considered to be one of the all time greats? While 2017’s third season may still be the best run of the show yet, this fourth season still maintains the superb storytelling and character development. Watching this series is a unique experience as the viewer is well aware how things will end up, but it is utterly fascinating to see the characters slowly devolve into their “Breaking Bad” counterparts. There’s also the amazing characters that never show up in the original series, such as Rhea Seehorn’s Kim Wexler, who is one of the best aspects of the show. With a perfect pace and a darker tone, “Better Call Saul” Season 4 is an absolute treat that brings Jimmy McGill several steps closer to going full blown Saul Goodman.
7. The Haunting of Hill House (Netflix)
This was possibly one of the biggest surprises on television in 2018. The series sort of just appeared and generated a massive amount of attention as viewers shared on social media how terrified they were by the show. It is absolutely scary and might just make you have a difficult time falling asleep. The real draw here is the characters and their impossibly difficult relationships with one another. Showing a large family through multiple different time periods as they experience loss and the ghosts that follow may seem complicated. Instead, the timelines are threaded together with some stunning transitions and parallels that really tie everything together beautifully. The all-star cast, along with the powerful cinematography and writing, really make this a series worth binging through.
6. “One Day at a Time” (Netflix)
There are only a handful of comedies that dare to touch upon heavy issues. Most sitcoms prefer to stick to the jokes and let the humor be the central focus, but “One Day at the Time” is different. The Alvarez family captures what real people actually go through. Season 2 expands upon what the first season established by showcasing struggles with sexuality, mental health, racism, religion and so much more. By showing real and visceral portrayals of these struggles, the show works to remove stigmas and have open dialogue. Living-legend Rita Moreno brings a ton of heart and laughs as Lydia. The shining star of this season is Justina Machado who depicts one of the most stunning and emotional portrayals of PTSD, depression and anxiety that I’ve seen. “One Day at a Time” paints an accurate picture of a typical family in America 2018 with all their quirks, problems and love. We need more shows like this. We need more positive representation like this.
5. “The Americans” (FX)
For five years, viewers were transported to the 1980s during an especially eventful period of the Cold War. “The Americans” wrapped after 6 incredible seasons and managed to maintain it’s remarkably high quality until the very end. Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys deliver two of the greatest performances of the year in this final season as their Elizabeth and Philip desperately try to maintain their cover while keeping their family together. There’s such a sense of finality in these last ten episodes that serve to bring some closure to viewers while allowing for some self-interpretation. There’s nothing quite like this show’s ability to tell such a grand story in such a quiet and low-key way. Keeping in line with the series as a whole, this last season is a slow-burn, but is totally compelling and gripping throughout. Even though it was never a ratings hit, this show will go down as one of the smartest and most engrossing series to air.
4. Queer Eye (Netflix)
The Fab Five are changing lives. Karamo Brown, Jonathan Van Ness, Tan France, Antoni Porowski and Bobby Berk are five gay men that are on a mission to bring out the best in people. A revival of Bravo’s “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” this reality series spends each episode with an individual as they discover their true self with the help of the Fab Five. This isn’t your average makeover show and instead focuses on enhancing oneself rather than completely altering everything. Each with their own area of expertise, these five men take their time and get to know their client to best create a plan to help them. With the series being set in Georgia in the current political climate, one might expect there to be tension and hatred. Instead, this series focuses on love and attempts to show that we are more alike than different. The two seasons that released in 2018 are brilliant and have made the Fab 5 social media icons. “Queer Eye” is inspiring and encourages the viewer to be the best version of yourself you can be. Hopefully, this series continues on for years to come, because this is precisely the kind of positivity the world needs right now.
3. American Vandal (Netflix)
The Turd Burgler is bringing chaos to a Washington high school and is causing students to literally shit their pants. Much like the first season, the plot of the second and final season of “American Vandal” is absurd, but is also one of the most clever things to air on television lately. Following their success with the “#WhoDrewTheDicks” mystery, Peter and Sam continue their investigative documentary series and the twists continue. To say that this show is wild would be an understatement. Sure, there are plenty of laughs to be had, but where this show really succeeds is the excellent commentary on the youth of today. This show is not a typical portrayal of young people. It understands this generation in a way that no other show really does. Rather than simply vilifying millennials for their obsession with social media and being constantly attached to screens, “American Vandal” tries to understand why and actually provides solid answers. Season 2 is more than just poop jokes just as Season 1 is more than just dick jokes. This show is golden and it is a crime than Netflix cancelled it. Do yourself a favor and watch both seasons of this gem of a show. You will not regret it.
2. Atlanta (FX)
It’s “Robbin’ Season” and there are no rules. It didn’t seem possible, but “Atlanta” outdid itself with a spectacular sophomore season to one of the most fascinating and riveting shows currently on the air. With each episode following a unique plot, there is literally no telling what will happen at any point while watching this show. Season 2 has so much popular culture references and important social issues packed into it. The beauty in this series is that nothing ever feels forced and even though the characters find themselves in insane situations, it always seems to fit and work. “Teddy Perkins” just might be the best and most immersive episode of any show to air this year, showing that the series really doesn’t fit any single genre and can be downright terrifying when it wants to be. Donald Glover, Brian Tyree Henry, Lakeith Stanfield and Zazie Beetz are simply too incredible of a cast to adequately put into words. If you aren’t watching “Atlanta,” then you are missing out. In a time when everything seems to be a reboot or a revival, this show is truly one of a kind.
1. The Good Place (NBC)
When this series first premiered, no one could have ever predicted that it would be where it is today. Just when you think you have the show figured out, the show takes a dramatic turn and changes literally everything. As Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, Jason, Michael and Janet travel through the mortal world, the afterlife and everywhere in between in search of the actual “Good Place,” they are put through more tests than ever before. This show really seems like it shouldn’t work and should have run its course, but it somehow has only gotten better and Season 3 is proof of this. The characters are the heart and soul of this story and the individual personalities make them so enjoyable to watch and interact with one another. The surprisingly layered world-building is another reason why this show takes the top spot on this list. Just when you think the writers have run out of ideas, they throw more crazy scenarios and elements of the universe at you. Kristen Bell is spectacular as Eleanor and she really goes beyond her usual joker personality and shows a more vulnerable side. D’Arcy Carden knocks it out of the park in the final episode of 2018 as she plays nearly every character in the game-changer Mid-Season Finale. “The Good Place” is clever, hilarious, heartwarming, and is the best show of 2018.
What are your picks for the best shows of 2018? Share them with us in the comment section!