My 2018 List: TV & Streaming
This year I watched 32 television & streaming series, a bit less than last year’s 38. I spend a lot of time on flights, in hotels, and alone in cities so I get a lot of books, TV, and movies in along the way.
My two top choices last year, Better Things and Master of None, weren’t on this year. I wish there was a rule that all television or streaming series had to begin new seasons within 12 months of beginning the previous one. I appreciated the increase in international offerings on the streaming services this year, and some of them were my favorites.
It is really hard separating out an absolute favorite. These are my top 10.
- A Very English Scandal (Amazon) So interesting and tragic and funny. The acting was incredible, and the “assassination” scene was hysterical. How sad that this happened on all sides.
- Atlanta (FX): Donald Glover was full of surprises, and the characters all became more interesting and compelling through it all. The Alligator man, a German Fastnacht celebration, Alfred’s journey to get a haircut and his journey through the woods, Teddy Perkins!
- Babylon Berlin (Netflix): A German mystery drama centered on an unlikely male-female detective pair with a plot buried in Berlin’s libertine underworld and touching the communists, nationalists, and Nazis who made our “roaring 20s seem like a yawn.” I was watching on a flight when a scene made me gasp so hard people around asked if I was OK.
- The Chi (Showtime). Lena Eaith created a community of interesting characters connected in various ways. So many programs have good people and bad people. This show was filled with people who were good and often sympathetic yet also had flaws, did bad things, and got trapped in bad Catch-22 situations. And I want Papa to be my best friend.
- Derry Girls (Netlfix) A comedy taking place among a group of school girls in Northern Ireland in the early 1990s. No show made me laugh out loud more than this one. Fast paced, quick witted, and bitingly funny.
- The End of the F***ing World (Netflix). Started this year off with a punk rock tale of two outsiders – one who fashions himself a psychopath and one who might be – on a road trip with many twists and turns and a great end.
- Kiling Eve (BBC America). Two amazing actresses facing off with stellar performances in a spy mystery plot that was truly bingeworthy. And perhaps the most colorful assassin in style and personality ever on film.
- Patriot (Amazon) This was one of my favorite shows in 2017 and my love for it grew in 2018. It was a long wait, but I was glad to re-watch season 1. A depressed and reluctant spy and folk singer who sings TMI has to stop a terror plot in Paris. It is quirky, absurd, silly, soulful, often surprising, and filled with rich characters.
- Sacred Games (Netflix). An Indian mystery in which a good cop and an earnest homeland security agent must penetrate a mystery involving organized crime, terrorism, corruption, and crooked police in Mumbai. Had to binge even though it was often super intense.
- Sharp Objects (HBO) What kind of show puts a quick scene after the credits that changes the meaning of the entire show? This one. It is a slow burn about mental health, dysfunction, and trauma that crosses generations in small town Missouri. Patricia Clarkson’s creepy mother and her super creepy husband have wealth and power that mask it all, and their alcoholic journalist daughter Amy Adams must face her own trauma while helping solve serial killings that hit too close to home.
My next five were:
- The Americans (FX): Ended well and sadly more relevant than should be. Phillip and Stan were the two characters that carried it for me, and their last standoff was powerful.
- Better Call Saul (AMC) “It’S all Good man.” Jimmy closes second season breaking bad. The characters are so great whether Jimmy and Kim or the Breaking Bad standouts Mike Ehrmentraut, Gus Fring, and Hector Salamanca.
- The Man In the High Castle (Amazon): I almost gave up on this one last season, found it too confusing. I liked this season best of the three and I just love the mysterious, meditative, and also very tough Tagomi character.
- My Brilliant Friend (HBO): I was totally captured by Lenu and Lila and look forward to what they do next (and I love listening to Italian).
- Patrick Melrose (Showtime): Benedict Cumberbatch in a mini-series that explores childhood abuse and trauma, addiction, and how to find a way to live with pain.
Other Shows I liked this year :
- Arrested Development (Netflix): Just love the characters.
- Big Little Lies (HBO). I was late to this one – rich people obsessing about their kids’ schools and amplifying their privilege makes me cringe. But, after I got over that, I was moved by the performances (especially Nicole Kidman) and liked the end (and look forward to next season).
- Bodyguard (Netflix) Short, intense British thriller.
- The Detour (TBS): Absurd and LOL funny.
- Forever (Amazon): Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen (and Catherine Keener) explore what being together forever truly means in a melancholy but ultimately hopeful show that threw me for a loop.
- Glow (Netflix): Great characters made me interested in a show I normally wouldn’t watch.
- The Good Place (NBC): I was late to this, but love the ensemble and the approach to exploring philosophy through situation comedy.
- Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu): Dark and sad. After what she went through this season, I can’t imagine how she will get her daughter and get out.
- Homecoming (Amazon) Interesting twist on military psychological industrial complex.
- Insecure (HBO): Didn’t love this season as much as the past two, but felt this was perhaps a transition season and am intrigued to see how Issa and Molly develop.
- Jack Ryan (Amazon): A solid ride with a unique approach and good twists and turns amid a pretty traditional story line. And Wesley Pierce!
- Jessica Jones (Netflix): This one made me wait too long, and I thought it had a bit too many twists but the Marvel feminist take on noir works and Jessica is a compelling if often annoying hero.
- Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon): I enjoy the era detail, the relationship between Miriam and Susie, and Tony Shalhoub.
- Orange is the New Black (Netflix) I thought I was done, but ended up watching it and liked it better than I thought I would. Prefer the story centering on Tasha and Cindy to Chapman and Voss.
- Patriot Act (Netflix) is a solid addition to the weekly funny but wonky political line up. I appreciate another option along with Trevor Noah, John Oliver, and Samantha Bee that informs, entertains, and helps me feel less crazy.
- Silicon Valley (HBO): Without TJ Miller, the ensemble holds.
- Sneaky Pete (Amazon) I like Giovanni Ribisi. I like the family. Not sure how much longer, but the second season held.
- Wild Wild Country (Netflix) Cults. Mysticism. Corruption. Bigotry. Violence. Can’t believe this actually happened.
What did I miss? What else should I catch up on this year?