Television of the Year 2018

In 2018, television brought forward one of its largest line-ups yet, with streaming becoming the official bulk of content delivered to our many devices. With a year ahead promising even more challengers approaching, what we are watching and where we watch will shift into exciting and unknown territory. But such uncharted territory can bring new voices and new experiences to the forefront, and offer something for everyone and something exciting and never seen before. It was a year which opened with mixed media storytelling through HBO’s Mosaic, and ended with choosing your own path through Netflix’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.

In the age of streaming, The Twin Geeks boiled down our top shows of the year, and in doing so, four broadcast and cable shows managed to crack the top ten. The traditional means of TV still has its place, and is still going strong. Our list may not have some favorite and beloved picks in it, but it is the list of shows with the greatest impact and importance on us in the year.

10) SHARP OBJECTS

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Sharp Objects, HBO.

Sharp Objects feels like a realization of the form of a Limited Series. This is what they can have the potential to achieve. Staff favorite Amy Adams turns in some of her best work in an already stellar career. Taut and maturely told, this Gillian Flynn adaptation rises above the call of the author’s Gone Girl. Gorgeously shot with lovely dashes of color, the series is marked with fertile greens, and looks unique unto itself. That this is self-contained and expertly made, provides us with this one opportunity to sing its praises, and we’ve been waiting all year to exclaim, Amy Adams is due for all the awards she may receive. – Calvin Kemph

(Now available on HBO.)

9) THE TERROR

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The Terror, AMC.

The true terror was inside of us all along. The AMC series is a monster, a story of men lost to the ice in search of the Northwest Passage. A force comes for them, cruel and unstoppable. Jared Harris holds a powerhouse performance at the center of the season, but its secret weapon is in Adam Nagaitis’ Hickey, who steals the show and commands every scene he’s in. It’s a powerful season of television, with a thunderous rumble under its every frozen scene, tension lying in its every frame, and the terror of man at its very core. – Kevin Lever

(Now available on AMC Premiere and iTunes.)

8) VANITY FAIR

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Vanity Fair, Amazon.

The life of Becky Sharp is about seizing the moment, no matter the consequences… but only if it increases her standing in the process. Olivia Cooke brilliantly stars in the gorgeous period piece based off the classic novel, and makes the best Becky yet as a cunning and forever plotting rising socialite. The story is set across years of rising and falling in the search for something better, and Gwyneth Hughes’ adaptation is a shining example of how there is still power to classic stories when told in a fresh and exciting way. – Kevin Lever

(Now available on Amazon Prime Video.)

7) GLOW

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GLOW, Netflix.

GLOW is nothing if not emblematic of our times. This is our victory of counter-culture programming. An ensemble cast of women continue to perform above the mark in this great wrestling series. The wrestling feels real and studied. Our most present social problems are also explored in this wonderful platform for empowerment and our signature example of what good can come out of engaging with social awareness campaigns. The second season dips only slightly – no longer just Netflix’s best new show – while trying to find new arcs for a too-large cast, while still charming us consistently along the way. – Calvin Kemph

(Now available on Netflix.)

6) KILLING EVE

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Killing Eve, BBC America.

Obsession comes in many forms. Killing Eve is about obsession, and is a show worth obsessing over in the process. Sandra Oh is wonderful as the hunter (or is she the hunted?) and titular Eve, full of theories and trails to find assassin Villanelle, an electric and pitch perfect Jodie Comer. It’s a spirited and fun show, never taking itself too seriously and always servicing itself to its fantastic characters. Phoebe Waller-Bridge creates a smart, beautiful and twisting freshman season of cat and mouse where the roles of each are never certain. – Kevin Lever

(Now available on Hulu.)

5) MANIAC

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Maniac, Netflix.

Netflix’s limited series sports fantastic performances from Jonah Hill and Emma Stone, and it’s directed by Cary Fukunaga. Those elements alone are enough for this to be vastly interesting, but it’s in what it has to say about connection where the show finds the most power. Two lost souls finding each other in drug trial dream states, linked by their need for some closure and some purpose in life, Maniac is a moving and towering achievement in television. It also holds one of the best scores in recent memory by Dan Romer. – Kevin Lever

(Now available on Netflix.)

4) THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL

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The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Amazon.

The Marveouls Mrs. Maisel is one of the best shows on television. That first season may be my personal favorite of any streaming platform. The follow-up is equally good. It takes some severe risks, like moving the show to Paris early on (which feels like a late-series plot dynamic). The truth is that all of its power and potency is explored through what was already there. This makes it crucial viewing and the show of the moment. Rachel Brosnahan and Alex Borstein are a comedy duo for the ages. The second season also blessedly allows more screen time for Tony Shalhoub’s antics. What feels particularly good this year is how neatly its fit into the cultural zeitgeist, it was already the comedy equivalent of the A Star is Born films, where a talented woman eclipses the talent and fame of her partner and experiences a meteoric rise in her own career. – Calvin Kemph

(Now available on Amazon Prime Video.)

3) HOMECOMING

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Homecoming, Amazon.

There was a signature moment where Homecoming clicked and became our new favorite thing. At the end of the pilot, the credits roll, but the shot hangs over the scene. This is how the show continues to operate. It will weave in and out, offer significant moments and just allow the last unsettling sequence to unfold as it plays itself out. It also has the score of a film, quite literally borrowing from a library of classic suspense films, assembling a soundtrack that’s tonally unique for television. It plays with memory, space, and time in novel ways, with present tense reduced in aspect ratio, while the past fulfills the entirety of the screen. Julia Roberts carries the project resourcefully, another strong example of a series that plays more like a film but with unique advantages. Must see television of the highest order. – Calvin Kemph

(Now available on Amazon Prime Video.)

2) SUCCESSION

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Succession, HBO.

The mega rich operate in their own stratosphere. They live outside the rules and regulations that enforce social norms and the boundaries of a healthy work-life balance. Succession is the product of such rarefied air, a darkly comic tragedy about a family with more money than manners. At a certain dollar amount people like to say you have “Fuck You” money, but the family of Succession have “Fuck Off” money. Yes, they have a giddy appreciation for the expletive loaded dismissal. A phenomenal cast full of individualistic quirks, give their heart to selling the material. Succession feels like the heir apparent of the Peak AMC formula, the new Mad Men (2007-2015) in our hearts. – Calvin Kemph

(Now available on HBO.)

1) PATRIOT

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Patriot, Amazon.

The best show on television no one is talking about, Patriot is about a spy operative locked into endless rounds of bad luck and wound-inducing chance. Nothing ever goes right, something other shows would become tedious and stretched over. But here, it’s genius and clever storytelling as a broken man who never stops comes up against a second season even more damaging than the first. Anchored by a mesmerizing performance from Michael Dorman and surrounded by perfect casting with Terry O’Quinn, Kurtwood Smith, Michael Chernus, Aliette Opheim, Chris Conrad, and Tony Fitzpatrick, Patriot is a hilarious show with so much to say about the trauma of our actions echoing back on us tenfold. An oxymoron, perhaps, but the second season plays to this strength with expert writing from Steven Conrad. The final moments are the most haunting images of 2018, heartbreaking and tragic even if there’s a sliver of hope. – Keven Lever

(Now available on Amazon Prime Video.)

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