TV shows here loosely defined as stuff that appeared on television, so including stand-up specials and mini-series.
10. A Very English Scandal
You had me at “written by Russel T. Davies”, but then you went and threw in Stephen Frears writing, and Ben Whishaw and Hugh Grant’s incredible performances, which is just unfair.
9. John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous at Radio City
All three Mulaney specials on Netflix are fantastic, but this one sees him perhaps at his most seasoned, shifting from one memorable bit to another with ease. And, in his first real foray into politics, he nails the current state of the union.
8. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
With only a half season to sport before being unceremoniously dumped by Fox (and thankfully picked up by NBC), the Nine-Nine still managed to put out some amazing episodes, including a fantastic re-visit of the classic “Three Men and Adina” episode of Homicide with a phenomenal guest starring turn by Sterling K. Brown.
7. Last Week Tonight
This is always good.
6. Hannah Gadsby: Nanette
We’ve had the comedy special deconstructed for quite some time now. Hasan Minhaj and Mike Birbiglia have begun to redefine the line between standup and personal storytelling. But none have taken it further than Hannah Gadsby in her latest special, which goes to the very core of comedy itself to tell a story of inclusion, rejection, human worth, and the very nature of storytelling. Moving, hilarious, thoughtful, unforgettable.
5. The Good Place
From the rollercoaster end of season two to the complete reinvention that is season three, The Good Place has continued to be the most inventive and kind show on television. Its dedication to teaching philosophy in the most entertaining way possible continues to give great opportunities to its cast, not the least of which includes D’arcy Carden performing as every single other cast member (and cast members pretending to be other cast members) in one episode.
Just when there was every reason to give up on this particular corner of the Netflix Marvel Universe (even the previouslies gloss over season two and The Defenders) Daredevil returned with not just its best season, but one of the best seasons of Marvel entertainment ever.
The key was letting everyone who was not Matt Murdock rise to the fore, especially the diabolical Wilson Fisk, played to perfection by Vincent D’Onofrio, who when given room to breathe becomes one of the most compelling villains in the Marvel lineup. They also up the quality of visual storytelling, with camerawork and compositions that will be taught in film school, or at least make for some fantastic video essays.
Some folks aren’t necessarily enthralled with the pedal to the metal pace of this season compared to the more contemplative first season, but I’m all in. And they somehow manage to pay off the considerably large promise of the mystery to unravel in season one. The flashback framework makes the viewing challenging, but needful, echoing the characters’ own experiences of events.
2. Luke Cage
All of the “battle for the soul of Harlem” stuff the first season depicted is taken to a whole new level in season two, with deeper explorations of some of the core characters and a plot that never lets you rest. And it’s refreshing as hell to see a considerable increase in the number of female writers and directors. Oh, and if Alfre Woodard does not get an Emmy nod off of episode nine alone, I don’t know what to tell ya.
Season two of Atlanta is some of the most innovative television I’ve ever seen, telling unpredictable stories about people whose stories aren’t often told. There’s no anticipating which character will receive the focus or what genre a given episode will adopt to tell their story. The only thing you can count on is that it will be compelling as hell.
Honorable mentions: Killing Eve, Legion, Sense8, Black Lightning, Patriot Act