The 15 Best Television Shows of 2018

For many years, the quality of movies far topped the quality of television shows. Then, television entered an era known as “peak TV” and it began to be the must-see format every year. Now, I think the era of peak TV is probably over, with a few last vestiges hanging on. But there’s definitely way more quantity than quality, which has always been true of television. But now it’s more like there’s way more wanna be quality than quantity than quality. It’s a tricky system to navigate. So now, film and television are more even, which is great because balance is lovely (ahem) and there’s still these fifteen wonderful shows! In fact, I couldn’t even narrow it down all the way so this is where I now give a special shoutout to The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale, which was absolutely delightful on Netflix and canceled far too early. Ah, well. Life goes on.

15. New Girl

And life goes on still, even though New Girl has concluded its run on Fox. It did so with aplomb and sweetness and lots of lovely humor as all of our beloved characters ended up where they needed to be: the loft. It felt like the end of the last great hangout comedy so it’s great that it maintained its quality to the last conclusion.

14. Love

Here’s another show on the list that had its final season in 2018. Love felt like an anomaly on Netflix from the minute it debuted. With its Comedy Bang! Bang! type pedigree, Love always had an offbeat sense of humor, but it never struggled to showcase the heart of its story, which was the relationship between Gus and Mickey. They were often insufferable, but I can’t deny that I was happy to see them get their happy ending.

13. Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Brooklyn Nine-Nine had a very peculiar run in 2018. Now, it’s my thirteenth favorite show of the year, so there is no denying its monstrous quality and hilarity. But I want to talk about the heroism. The heroism of NBC that has always been there. They gave life to Seinfeld and Friends and Cheers, despite initially awful ratings. They did everything they could with Scrubs and allowed it to end properly on ABC. They gave The Office a second chance. They let Parks and Recreation figure it out. They let 30 Rock make fun of them. They saved Community time and time again. And now, they’ve rescued Brooklyn Nine-Nine from Fox cancellation. Thank you, NBC.

12. Crikey! It’s the Irwins!

Twelve years after the tragic death of Steve Irwin, the Irwin family returned to Animal Planet with a new show that follows their animal escapades at the Australia Zoo. It is so educational and fun, but it is also so lovely to see the spirit of Steve existing through his family. His legacy is alive and well. It’s everything he could have wanted, which is made clear from the outset of the show.

11. Maniac

The Cary Fukunaga-adapted and Jonah Hill and Emma Stone-starred Netflix original mind-bending drama series set in a fantastical mental hospital has been on the top of my most anticipated television series list for years now. And it did not disappoint. It wasn’t the greatest show ever made, but it was thought-provoking and unpredictable and even if it didn’t quite stick the landing, the journey was a hell of a lot of magic and fun. Oh, and it’s time to start talking about Stone as the best of her generation.

10. DuckTales

Another year, another appearance of DuckTales on the top ten list. This year, the narratives were just as stellar as last season and a DuckTales cinematic universe seems to be brewing with the appearances of the Three Caballeros, Don Karnage, and Darkwing Duck. Could Gadget be coming up next? I understand this is a niche choice, by the way, but I love it anyway.

9. BoJack Horseman

BoJack Horseman is probably the greatest show ever produced by a streaming service. The amount of character development done by the show is remarkable and season five was no exception. I know I say the same thing every year, but it really is the best combination of dramatic and silly on television. It’s hard to come up with more praise for the show, but its accomplishments are truly an astounding feat.

8. Better Call Saul

Much like BoJack, Better Call Saul probably has a rubber stamped spot on this list every year because of how impressively consistent the show has been and will likely continue to be. I am excited to see more of Jimmy and Mike together, but for now, I am more than happy to be enthralled by the intricacies of Jimmy and Kim’s relationship as he sinks lower and lower towards Saul. The scenes at the Cinnabon are still my favorites of the show, though.

7. Succession

Succession has the prestigious title of my favorite new drama television series. The drama on HBO was produced by Adam McKay and Will Ferrell, created by Jesse Armstrong, and led by Kieran Culkin and Alan Ruck, among many other stellar newcomers. It is a morbidly funny tale of a family in New York with their heads up their asses. It’s a tough sell, but it’s worth the watch, as long as you have a palette cleanser nearby.

6. American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace

I did not love the Versace installment of ACS as much as I loved the O.J. Simpson version, but I still found it to be one of the most riveting and compelling stories being told on television. Perfectly acted by Edgar Ramirez, Darren Criss, Ricky Martin, Penelope Cruz, and Max Greenfield, Versace was rightfully celebrated by both the Emmys and the Golden Globes as the miniseries of the year. That first episode still stands out as one of the best “pilots” ever made, to me.

5. Barry

Damn, that mid-2000s to early-2010s cast of Saturday Night Live sure was talented. Andy Samberg has become one of the funniest people in Hollywood. Kristen Wiig has become a full fledged movie star. Seth Meyers is crushing it on Late Night. And Bill Hader is devastatingly excellent on Barry. The story of a hitman who turns to a life of acting, but still can’t shake the life of crime, was the best new show of 2018, bar none! Barry is equal parts hilarious comedy and devastating tragedy and Henry Winkler might just be the best damn part of it all.

4. Atlanta

Season two of Atlanta was dubbed the “Robbin’ Season” and it was potentially even better than Atlanta’s first season. The entire arc of the season was clearly cut out from the beginning of the year, but yet, on an episode to episode basis, it was entirely unpredictable. Anything with Zazie Beetz was perfect. Teddy Perkins was entirely creepy. Katt Williams was surprisingly compelling. The haircut episode was slapstick hilarious. It was all a perfect distillation of the comedic genius that is Donald Glover and the talent he surrounds himself with.

3. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

It’s Always Sunny is in its thirteenth season. Not many shows can still be this good for this long, but there’s no denying it deserves a spot like this on the list. From Mindy Kaling’s appearance to the escape room to the Eagles winning the Super Bowl to the return of Dennis’ car, it was all just as funny as it’s always been. But no scene from television this year, besides maybe some from the two shows listed above it, stuck with me as much as the ending of “Mac Finds His Pride” did. It is a truly remarkable piece of art that is so much better with the less that is said about it. But this show might have just cemented itself as the defining narrative on the culture shift of the modern era. All of that from a dumb, misanthropic comedy. I’m thoroughly blown away.

2. The Americans

The Americans, of all the shows that ended in 2018, had far and away the best series finale. There’s really nothing I can even say about it without spoiling anything. But it was one of the best payoffs after six years of dramatic storytelling that I’ve ever seen. And the rest of the season matched this, too. Take a bow. (Oh, and Matthew Rhys finally got his Emmy, but where is the justice for Keri Russell?)

  1. The Good Place

The Good Place was the best show of 2018. Obviously, I have to give some praise to its third season, which continues to push the envelope of the show and refuses to stay stagnant and is always seeking growth and trying new things. The “Janet(s)” episode is a particular standout, to be sure. It is currently high on its own mythology, which is a particular delight. But I was certain it would be the best show of the year from the way it concluded its second season way back in January. From the fact that Michael Schur somehow pulled off the character growth of a literal demon to the emotional crux of the season finale, everything about The Good Place was so forking impressive. I’m jealous and I’m in awe and I’m so happy to be along for this ride.