Keeping up with good TV has never been harder – there’s great shows on broadcast, cable, premium cable, streaming services. If you are just looking for something good to watch – it’s never been easier! Flip on the tube or fire up Netflix and chances are you’ll be able to find something great. If you’re an obsessive like me who feels a compulsion to keep up with all the great, talked-about shows – it can be a real test of sanity.
Boy it was tough to come up with these rankings (besides #1 which was a slam dunkeroo). I feel like my #2 through about #20 are all really close in quality, I could reverse the order and be fine with the list.
Anyway, usual disclaimer – I’m just an amateur with eclectic taste so “don’t @ me, bro!”
- The Leftovers. No surprise here for readers of my 2014 and 2015 lists. This is one of my three favorite shows of all time and my favorite show in every year when it’s aired a season (sadly, this is the last). Justin Theroux and Carrie Coon and the rest of the cast are stellar, the imagery is fantastic, and nearly every episode makes me “lose my shit” (this is the masculine way of admitting that this show makes me cry a lot). The Leftovers is an exploration of how we explain tragedies in our lives and how we put our trust in science or religion or family to help us make sense of loss and grief. It’s astounding and I can’t recommend it enough.
- Bojack Horseman. Quick confession – I haven’t quite finished season 4 yet (two episodes to go) but I’m willing to put it at number two based solely on the fact that it has a show-within-a-show called “Felicity Huffman’s Booty Academy” that features Sir Mix-A-Lot as a judge because “everyone knows he cannot lie”.
- The Good Place. This one’s a little weird because it airs in winter so I’m judging it based on half of season 1 and half of season 2. Eh, whatever. Hilarious show with a plot that really moves. With a show that upsets the status quo so much that it can’t really be said to have a status quo, you have to wonder – can they keep it up?
- Better Call Saul. The escalating war between the McGill brothers reached its apex this season in ways both comic and tragic. The showdown in “Chicanery” is my series high point. I will say that this season could have used more Mike. I could watch that guy take apart a car all day long.
- GLOW. This 80’s set comedy about the early days of women’s wrestling is my recommendation for the perfect binge. It’s on Netflix, it’s hilarious (especially Alison Brie doing a hammy Russian accent), and heartwarming. The kind of show that’s hard to stop watching.
- American Vandal. Another amazing freshman comedy, this parody of the true crime drama starts funny and ends in a surprisingly emotional place. Come for the penis humor, stay for the reflections on documentarian ethics.
- The Deuce. The new show by David Simon (The Wire, Treme, Show Me a Hero) deals with prostitution and the rise of the porn industry. The premise wasn’t particularly interesting to me, but I’m game for whatever Simon wants to do and wasn’t disappointed. Great time-capsule look at 70’s New York in all its scuzzy glory.
- Legion. This is technically a comic book show but feels more like a psychedelic horror film. Amazing visuals (the series was created by Fargo showrunner Noah Hawley) and an all-time great villain performance from Aubrey Plaza. The only superhero-adjacent show on television that I enjoyed this year (DC shows are a bit silly for me and Marvel shows all seemed pretty long and bloated with possible exception of Runaways).
- Sneaky Pete. I love the “con artist” genre and this Giovanni Ribisi led neo-noir reminded me a lot of the first season of Orphan Black. Lots of pulpy plot twists and episode cliffhangers.
- Big Little Lies. The writing and acting were great but what really struck me about BLL was the superb directing from Jean-Marc Vallée. Every episode was packed with interesting camera angles and compositions. Maybe I just like the “eyes in a rear view mirror” shot.
Other shows I quite liked, in rough order: Sweet/Vicious (RIP), Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Review (RIP), The Americans, Master of None, Silicon Valley, Rick and Morty, Detroiters, Orange is the New Black, Brockmire, Fargo, Angie Tribeca, Man Seeking Woman, Veep, iZombie, The Handmaid’s Tale, Game of Thrones, You’re the Worst, The Young Pope, American Gods, Mr. Robot.
Important shows I missed: The big one is obviously the new Twin Peaks, which many critics are calling the best of the year but I wasn’t able to get to it in time (I wanted to re-watch the original first). I also wasn’t able to catch the new seasons of Better Things, Insecure, Outlander, The Path, Catastrophe, One Mississippi, The Girlfriend Experience, Survivor’s Remorse, Lady Dynamite, and Stranger Things. There are also several new shows I have yet to sample like Star Trek Discovery, Feud: Bette and Joan, Godless, Big Mouth, Liar, Dear White People, and I Love Dick. Only so many hours in the year.
Shows people ask me about, that I’m not into: The Crown (not my cup of tea), Narcos (not my eight ball of cocaine), House of Cards (yuck), The Walking Dead (double yuck).
Biggest disappointment: The new season of Top of the Lake (my favorite show of 2013) was a pretty big letdown. I was also pretty disappointed by Hooten and the Lady which featured my kind of premise (bickering treasure hunters roam the globe and get into scrapes) and two appealing leads but was ultimately bogged down by its shitty writing.
Worst show of 2018: Watched a lot of bad pilots from the broadcast networks this year, but the worst by far was Wisdom of the Crowd, a show about the awesome power of online lynch mobs. I haven’t seen Young Sheldon yet though.