Awards Daily TV contributor Clarence Moye names his list of the Best TV Shows of 2018.
Due to personal reasons, I had to take a step back from my on-going duties as Editor of Awards Daily TV. Thankfully, the great Jazz stepped in and took over, and she’s really been doing a fantastic job – even if her countless hours of behind-the-scenes hard work aren’t always evident to the casual reader. Taking a step back also means that I’m not able to watch as much television as in easier times. There are shows I’ve made time for, and there are dozens of shows I simply couldn’t get to despite some very passionate and intelligent people recommending them. These shows include Succession, The Good Place (hotter in its third year than ever), the Murphy Brown reboot, Waco, second seasons of Luke Cage and Divorce… The list goes on and on and on and on.
But, here’s my list of my absolute favorite television of 2018, what I got to anyway. Here’s hoping 2019 is a better year for all!
10. Pose (FX Networks)
I missed Pose on its initial run, but the holidays offered time to catch up to this 8-episode extravaganza dedicated to the New York ball scene in the late 1980s. Perhaps with time and consideration, the show would rise on my list beyond the number 10 slot. Certainly other shows have benefitted from time, but Pose immediately struck me as a fascinating and heartfelt piece of work. Sure, it’s not perfect (and it’s marred by one really bad performance), but when it’s great, it soars. Ryan Murphy again tackles themes popular to him – AIDS, homosexuality, building family units – but it still feels very fresh and progressive. Ultimately, Pose serves as the perfect time capsule of a world very few of us have ever seen. It excels at documenting history and the human lives intersecting in it.
9. Schitt’s Creek (POP)
Since Season 2, I feel like I’ve reserved a spot in my Top 10 list for this gem of a comedy. At first, I was sort of nurturing a baby bird as it learns to fly from the nest. But the biggest surprise of all is that the show evolved from a beloved cult hit into a legitimately great comedy. Stars Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy continue their expected greatness, but Dan Levy and Annie Murphy grew their characters and performance into a marvel of humanity. Dan Levy, in particular, nurtured this little-show-that-could into something worthy of the highest praise. For my money, it’s the best true sitcom on television.
8. GLOW (Netflix)
GLOW managed to improve over an already great first season with its deft balance of comedy and melodrama. For my money, Betty Gilpin (Liberty Belle) and Chris Lowell (“Bash”) emerge as Season 2 MVPs. Gilpin, in particular, beautifully realizes Liberty Belle’s meltdown as she strikes out against Alison Brie’s Ruth. And Lowell provides an unexpected emotional undercurrent as he struggles to connect with something I suspected from Season 1. GLOW could have been a kitschy mess. It’s anything but that.
7. The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
Season 2 seemed to be the world’s punching bag after finding itself shut out of major Emmy wins. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why. Is it too difficult for some to watch? Are people tiring of “handmaids” being trotted out every time there’s something to protest? Did the seemingly Unsinkable Offred’s many plot twists and paths back into Gilead turn people off? Maybe the answer lies somewhere between all three. It’s a shame, too, because Elisabeth Moss, Yvonne Strahovski, and the rest of the accomplished cast continue to turn in amazing work in Season 2. Ultimately, the show tells us a lot about mothers and relationships with their children – biological or adopted. It wasn’t exactly entertaining as much as it was emotionally enthralling.
6. Patrick Melrose (Showtime)
Benedict Cumberbatch delivers one of (probably his finest) screen performance to date in Showtime’s adaptation of the novels by Edward St. Aubyn. Like Handmaid’s Tale, Patrick Melrose features an incredibly painful and difficult story that highlights universal truths. Emmy recognized the brilliance of Cumberbatch’s performance in addition to the writing and directing. Too bad they couldn’t find room to recognize the great Jennifer Jason Leigh and Hugo Weaving as well.
5. Escape at Dannemora (Showtime)
This is going to seem like the best example of backhanded praise, but I remain astounded that Ben Stiller brought Escape at Dannemora to such a beautifully vivid and understated realization. He guides the true story of those involved in an intricate prison break with an assured hand and passion for great acting. Nothing in his career hinted at such an incredible depth, and I’m doubly excited for his next project thanks to the brilliance of this one. Speaking of brilliant, the incredible cast deserves all the Emmy attention – particularly the great Patricia Arquette who delivers the absolute best performance of her career.
4. Sharp Objects(HBO)
This adaptation of the Gillian Flynn novel is, in truth, a deeper and more emotionally resonant limited series than its HBO cousin Big Little Lies. Maybe I think that because I love depictions of the dark, seedy underbelly of humanity. Even though Missouri isn’t technically the South, the production has all the appeal and intricacy of a great Tennessee Williams play. Amy Adams, Patricia Clarkson, Chris Messina, Eliza Scanlen, and Elizabeth Perkins all deserve Emmy nominations for their fantastic work. Some argued the pacing was too languid, too repetitious to be fully entertaining. To me, the long and awkward pauses are what make this series so great. It’s not rushed. It’s as long and sticky and uncomfortable as a humid summer day.
3. The Haunting of Hill House (Netflix)
Sometimes, I’m able to watch television shows completely outside of the noise of the world. I was able to discover Hill House in that way – without Twitter or Facebook or website comments shaping my opinions. I was able to discover the fantastic surprises and genuinely terrifying shocks all on my own. The series hits incredible highs with Episode 6 and glides to an admittedly too-easy conclusion. But the combination of fantastic set design, strong acting, genuine scares, and emotionally resonant storytelling create one of 2018’s very best television shows.
2. Killing Eve (BBC America)
There’s not much I can say about Killing Eve that you don’t already know. It’s a practically perfect show – I can’t imagine anything I would change within its tightly wrought first season. Stars Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer deserve all the awards for their tremendous performances in this unexpectedly great series.
1. The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story (FX Networks)
Ryan Murphy started my Top 10 list, and he closes it with my number one pick of the year’s best in television. Versace could have been a dramatic mess – all obsessed with tabloids and paparazzi and fashion drama. Instead, Murphy (as with Pose) paints a vast dramatic canvass that captures 90s-era aspects of homosexuality. The strange relationship between Gianni Versace and his assassin Andrew Cunanan becomes the jumping off point for an intelligent and deeply moving exploration of the pain people can inflict on each other. I never would have expected that, by the end of the year, this would have been my favorite show of the year. That’s the benefit time offers.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel; Homecoming; Better Call Saul; Bodyguard; Jesus Christ Superstar Live; Camping