Lists TV Reviews

My Favorite TV Shows of 2018, So Far

In the time it’s taken me to write this article I’ve missed the chance to start Picnic on Hanging Rang, get caught up on 12 Monkeys, finally get around to Luke Cage, or maybe give that Money Heist show a look. It’s not that I want or have the time to do all of those things, but in the golden age of TV the reality is there is always something worthwhile you could be watching. Thus, any Best Of list comes with a giant disclaimer: this is just the best of what I’ve had the time to watch.

As such, in the interest of brevity I’ll just cut to the chase and get on with the list:

15. The Frankenstein Chronicles, seasons 1 and 2

What begins as a grisly, but simple procedure-based crime drama dovetails nicely into fascinating reflections on both the woman behind the birth of a horror icon and a key transitional moment in modern medicine. There are dark turns and thrilling sequences along the way and a gripping central performance from Sean Bean as the beleaguered investigator suffering an emotional crisis while simply trying to get to the bottom of an increasingly complex case.

  • Favorite episode: The game-changing season 1 finale
  • Where to watch it: Netflix

14. Waco

The 1993 siege of the Branch Davidians compound in Waco, TX was a crucial moment in fostering deep doubt and disdain for the government in rural America. Waco, the Paramount Network mini-series casting Taylor Kitsch as David Koresh and Michael Shannon as lead FBI negotiator Gary Noesner, makes this rather profound point a tad too bluntly at times, but it still does so quite effectively. It also has everything we expect from prestige dramas these days, namely the feel, look, and performance of a (highly bingable) 6-hour movie.

  • Favorite episode: The perfectly table-setting pilot.
  • Where to watch it: On the Paramount Network’s website or On Demand if you are a cable subscriber

13. Santa Clarita Diet, season 2

I was one of those “Timothy Olyphant is totally miscast” critics of Santa Clarita’s first season. I’m over it now. His zaniness in the second season won me over, and even if the series still does basically hit the same metaphorical jokes about marriage and suburban living over and over again I’m cool with it when it’s making me laugh so hard, especially as it up the gore factor considerably. Plus, any season of television which features Nathan Fillion as an emotionally needy disembodied head is a winner in my book.

  • Favorite episode: “Going Pre-Med,” in which Drew Barrymore slaughters a group of neo-Nazis.
  • Where to watch it: Netflix

12. Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block

SyFy’s creepypasta-inspired anthology series Channel Zero continues to motor on mostly under the radar, doling out highly cinematic slow-horror for the select few who turn up to watch. The first season, Candle Cove, tackled a kind of modified Children of the DamnedThe Ring scenario involving a small town plagued by a seemingly demonic old kids show. The follow-up season, No End House, took on the haunted house genre and explored the metaphorical horror of grief, as the final girl of the story allows a facsimile of her dead dad to feed on her even though it’s slowly killing her. Butcher’s Block similarly uses a known genre, in this case cannibal horror, to speak to larger issues, like mental health and addiction.

Two sisters, one of them a social worker, the other a recovering drug addict, move to a new town to escape their alcoholic mother. They soon come upon a curious stairway in the middle of the woods. Then…well, shit gets crazy. Rutger Hauer appears as the patriarch of a mystical family of cannibals, and the sisters are caught up in a web of human sacrifices and truly horrifying gore.

There is a fourth season on the way. After that, nothing is guaranteed. I just wish SyFy or whoever owns the rights would put this on Netflix in a bid to raise the show’s profile. It deserves to be better known.

  • Favorite episode: “Alice in Slaughterland,” in which the sisters undergo a startling role reversal
  • Where to watch it: Through SyFy’s app if you are a cable subscriber. If not, you can rent/buy the individual episodes on Amazon Video, Vudu, iTunes and elsewhere.

11. Westworld, season 2

At times, I wish Jonathan and Lisa Joy Nolan would be a bit more okay with simply making something purely entertaining as opposed to a complex puzzle box which aims to make grand statements about the nature of humanity, master/slave dynamics, gender politics, and the moment of self-actualization. But, damn, their ambition, filmmaking, and eye-popping production values has my rapt attention, even if the show is starting to fall prey to Battlestar Galactica syndrome where damn near everyone turns out to be a robot.

  • Favorite episode: “Kiksuya,” in which we realize the cycle of native vs. settler oppression has simply repeated itself in robot form.
  • Where to watch it: HBO

10. The Terror

AMC’s new horror survival series tackles a real historical mystery about lost British naval ships in the Northwest Passage and imagines, essentially, “What if they got stuck in the ice for years and were gradually hunted by a primeval monster?” The series plays out in bursts of action followed by long stretches, if not entire episodes of talk, despair, and origin story flashbacks. That can make it frustrating if you come just for the thrills, but it ultimately makes for a more rewarding, well-rounded series. Special props to Jared Harris for his performance as the ship’s drunken captain.

  • Favorite episode:“The Ladder,” in which the leader of the expedition finally realizes that, yeah, there’s totally a monster out there on the ice.
  • Where to watch it: On Amazon Prime if you live outside the U.S. Otherwise, the episodes can be rented through digital retailers and the entire season can be binged on AMC’s app for cable subscribers.

9. Killing Eve

Phoebe Waller-Bridge…really, after Fleabag, that’s all I need to say. Whatever she’s in (like Solo and Fleabag) or whatever she writes for other people to be in (like Killing Eve), I’m interested. Killing Eve, starring Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer, is like Waller-Bridge’s version of Spy mixed with Mindhunters, except instead of Fincher somberness she sprinkles her tale of a female assassin and the woman hunting her with unexpected humor, recognizably human and thus flawed people, and a killer soundtrack of vintage Europop. Sandra Oh is, of course, fantastic as the titular Eve, but Comer is the true revelation as Villanelle, the bored, sociopathic assassin who finds Eve’s pursuit of her invigorating. I imagine blockbuster roles await her, even though Oh is the one who ended up getting the Emmy nomination.

  • Favorite episode: “Don’t I Know You,” in which [redacted] heads into his last disco.
  • Where to watch it: Digital purchase/rental or through the BBC America app.

8. Supernatural, season 13

No show in its 13th season can, what, find new creative legs? Nope. Not happening. Not without a significant change to the cast or premise.

Or so you’d think.

Yet, to my complete surprise Supernatural managed a creative rebound and pulled off one of its finest seasons to date. The Winchesters essentially got a little brother (it’s complicated) to mold and protect, and a show built around the good guys thwarting each new apocalypse introduced a juicier “What’s the point of it all?” crisis which hung over much of the season. Beyond that, the show continues to excel at inventive standalone episodes and is more willing to break from its old bag of tricks for the serialized stories. The brothers, for example, still keep secrets from each other, of course, but only for a couple of episodes now as opposed to entire seasons. And quest narratives now take a backseat to character growth.

  • Favorite episode: “Scoobynatural,” in which the Winchesters meet the Scooby gang and throw each one of them into an existential crisis by revealing monsters and ghosts are real
  • Where to watch it: Netflix

7. The Good Place, season 2

This is a tough one to pick because less than half of The Good Place’s second season actually aired in 2018. If not for that, I would have this ranked even higher because seldom have I seen a sitcom so thoroughly committed to constant reinvention and experimentation. Community, obviously, but Good Place’s experimentation has none of Dan Harmon’s unmistakable smirking, replacing it instead with throughtful reflections on morality and the potential for good in all of us, even a demon like Michael.

  • Favorite episode: “Rhonda, Diana, Jake, and Trent” in which the gang finally visits The Bad Place
  • Where to watch it: Season 1: Netflix; Season 2: Hulu

6. GLOW, season 2

Awww, the joy of watching a good show turn into a great one. GLOW’s evolution into becoming the new Orange is the New Black is complete. What began as an enjoyably flawed story about two white girls has turned into a richly rewarding ensemble story about a diverse group of women finding sisterhood together while fighting against the constraints put on them by men. Plus, it’s still so much fun watching them work out their drama through kitschy 80s wrestling.

  • Favorite episode: “Mother of all Matches,” in which the artifice of wrestling is illustrated through the differing experiences of two characters in the day leading up to their big match.
  • Where to watch it: Netflix

5. Barry

Bill Hader’s Barry is a bit like a version of Get Shorty where the mobster is a hitman and the movie producer he meets is just a self-serious acting coach (Henry Winkler). Except it’s so much better than that description would lead you to believe. Hader’s titular Barry is a hitman who hates his job even though he’s good at it, and he suddenly decides he wants to be an actor even though he’s terrible at it. With Stephen Root in tow as Barry’s uncle/boss and Sarah Goldberg and The Good Place’s D’arcy Jarden aka Janet filling out Barry’s acting class, the ensemble is stellar, and the comedy pitch black and often quite unpredictable.

  • Favorite episode: “Chapter Five: Do Your Job,” in which Barry final owns up to the amorality of what he does for a living.
  • Where to watch it: HBO

4. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Some of the best journalism going at the moment. It just happens to come packed with jokes.

  • Where to watch it: HBO

3. The Magicians, season 3

The producers wrote themselves into a corner at the end of the second season. After all, how does a show called The Magicians continue after its characters inadvertently caused all magic in the world to be turned off? Admirably, the show refused to take the easy way out. Rather than rushing to return things to their default setting, the entire season was about the wide-reaching aftermath of a magical world suddenly going dark. Some characters coped with the change better than others, and Quentin, our presumptive hero, clung to his belief that all could be solved through a quest.

Not to get too heavy about it. After all, this is a show in which a scene like this happens:

Yep, two characters spoke entirely through pop culture references as a sort of code to avoid being found out by their otherworldly enemies. That’s just one speck of the level of formal experimentation in season 3, from something as little as casually working “fuck” into the dialogue to playing an entire section of one episode in near silence to doing a full-on musical episode. The Magicians is a different show every week, yet it also always remains somehow recognizably itself.

2. The End of the F****** World

Arriving in early January, this British import struck an immediate chord with its title – The End of the F****** World – sounding like a perfect summation of the gloom and doom of the day. However, that title is actually just a reflection of teen angst and the redeeming joy of young love.

If this was the 90s, World would be a hip indie movie making major waves at Sundance, getting instantly scooped up by Miramax for millions, and setting up its directors for a solid decade of impressive work, with probably a failed dalliance or two with the mainstream. But this is 2018, and for World’s unabashed celebration of those kinds of 90s movies to work, it has to also offer something new and relevant to the mix. Thankfully, it does that by asking what if halfway through a clever Tarantino story or darker-than-usual Wes Anderson script the movie we were watching suddenly developed a conscience and delved deeper into its endearingly complex characters while still managing to seem, well, cool as fuck.

  • Favorite episode: All of them
  • Where to watch it: Netflix

1. Wild Wild Country

This docu-series about an Oregon cult from the 80s touches on so many hot-button topics that it feels almost like the directors used some kind of advanced computer algorithm to find the perfect, most zeitgeisty subject material possible. Their refusal to take a side between the religious zealots and their don’t-tread-on-me neighbors ensures the debate over what to make of the story continues to this day. Like most good Netflix docu-series, Wild, Wild Country inspires outcries of “How have I never heard about this before?” Once you finish the show, though, you won’t soon forget the story of Sheila, the guru, his sex cult, and a completely mystified small town in Oregon.

  • Where to watch it: Netflix

Honorable Mentions: Tabula Rasa, Jessica Jones, Brooklyn Nine-Nine

2018 TV Show I Simply Haven’t Seen/Finished Yet: Picnic at Hanging Rock, 12 Monkeys (I just started the final season), The Americans, The Assassination of Gianni Versace, Atlanta: Robbin’ Season, Corporate, Counterpart, The Expanse, Pose, The Looming Tower (it does have a solid pilot episode), Luke Cage: Season 2 (still stuck on episode 2), Legion (can’t get past the emotional emptiness of it all)

What about you? What are some of your favorites of the year?


  1. I’ve loved Supernatural, well…forever. Can’t believe its still supported by its loyal fanbase and its network. I’m also really intrigued now by The Frankenstein Chronicles and Channel Zero. Thanks.

    1. I sort of fell out of love with Supernatural around the 9th season. I’d just had enough of the endless co-dependency and seesaw between which brother is keeping a secret this season. I didn’t stop watching completely; it just wasn’t mandatory viewing anymore.

      But then season 10 brought Claire back and did some fascinating stuff with Castiel’s guilt.

      Then season 11 was one of the best in the show’s history. I would have been fine if they stopped there.

      It’s been rocky roads since then, but this last season was better and now I’m actually looking forward to what they do next and what kind of spin-off, if any, they might try. I could see them taking a second go at Wayward Sisters but repackaging it with Jack (from this most recent season) and turn it into more of a strict Supernatural clone with a bunch of female hunters and one former half-angel on the road and hunting.

      Channel Zero, btw, has newly been announced as an upcoming exclusive addition to Shudder, the horror-tinged streaming service. The new seasons, should there be more after season 4, will continue to air on SyFy, but the back seasons are coming to Shudder – Season 1 in August, 2 in September, and 3 in October.

    1. I have now watched the first episode and I’m definitely on the hook for more. I remember watching the original Peter Weir Picnic in college and at that time it was one of the most ethereal, trance-like films I’d ever seen. So, I wasn’t sure if the show was going with that as well. So far, it’s just different enough to seem new.

  2. Really? Supernatural? The only good one can say about this last season is that it at least wasn’t as terrible as season 12. But I still feel it should have ended with season 11. I think the worst part was them bringing back Gabriel just so that they can do exactly the same arc they did with him in season 5 AGAIN and killing him off for good. Honestly, the great thing about Gabriel were never the daddy issues, it was the experimental and creative episodes he was involved in.

    May favourite new show if this year has been so far Cloak and Dagger. I fear though that the show won’t be around for long, mostly because nobody pays any attention to it.

    1. Maybe with Supernatural I was simply relieved it was good again.

      Downsides of Season 13

      -One too many characters nonchalantly resurrected or reintroduced via alt-universe
      -Misha Collins’ weird Peter Lorre voice as alt-Castiel
      -Dean STILL struggles to see the moral grey areas
      -The show still feels like it’s stuck with Mary as opposed to actually wanting here to be in there or a part of storylines
      -Shit goes off the rails at the end, like the stuff with Gabriel

      -Dean’s anti-Jack stance only lasts so long and gives way to a more interesting storyline of Sam showing what happens when being the good soldier was really just a coping mechanism
      -The introduction of a quest narrative that doesn’t overtake the season and is instead deal with somewhat nonchalantly in favor of putting the boys through emotional conflict instead of “Get from Point A to Point B to Solve Villain C”
      -Finally acknowledges just how many damn angels have died since season 4
      -Shows a new, almost human side of Lucifer
      -Is perfectly constructed as a series of mini-arcs
      -Manages to make Jack a vital new addition to the cast
      -Better than season 12

      “May favourite new show if this year has been so far Cloak and Dagger. I fear though that the show won’t be around for long, mostly because nobody pays any attention to it.”

      Guilty as charged in terms of paying no attention to it. I have heard surprisingly good things about Cloak and Dagger, but truth be told, I’m just burnt out on all comic book TV shows right now. The movies, because they arrive far less frequently and don’t require as much of a time commitment, I can handle. The TV shows, good and bad, I’m kind of over right now. That doesn’t mean I won’t check out AoS or Daredevil or whatever else when they come back. I’m just taking a break right now.

      1. Honestly, Cloak and Dagger isn’t much of a Superhero show…it is more a mystery show in which the main characters have powers. But there isn’t much rescuing going on overall and most of the time it is more a teen drama, but one which sidesteps every single issue I usually have with teen dramas and instead delivers something very thoughtful which ironically feels way more realistic than other shows about this theme without superpowers.

  3. Some great choices here. I’ve been trying to find time to watch Santa Clarita Diet and Killing Eve. I’ve heard some good things about both of those.

    I was surprised to find I liked Barry even though it’s usually not my type of show. I’ve always been a fan of Supernatural and Westworld, although I was dissatisfied with the last season of Supernatural. I liked some of the individual episodes, but overall, I wasn’t happy with the whole season.

    1. Santa Clarita Diet is a remarkably light show, one of those perfect, completely unchallenging Netflix viewing options to put on while folding laundry or something like that. Killing Eve is far more steeped in the Prestige TV model, right down to its impeccable soundtrack full of obscure old French pop songs. However, it also makes for a remarkably fun binge on a lazy weekend afternoon.

      Barry is often described as being the combination of two kinds of shows we already have a lot of – the assassin/hitman story and the show about acting and/or Hollywood. What I’ve rarely seen is those two things combined, and that combination as well as the quirky humor was unique enough to win me over.

      On Supernatural – If you disliked season 13, how did you feel about season 12, i.e., the one all about the British Men of Letters? The fan consensus seems to be season 13 was at least an improvement over 12. I’m wondering if you feel quite the opposite or if you’re down on both seasons. I could see why. The show, I think, has yet to truly top season 11 and the utter finality of the boys finaly meeting God (and his sister).

  4. Once again I’m being contrary in that I like season 12 of Supernatural. I liked Season 11 more for the seasonal arc, than the individual episodes, but season 12 I enjoyed because I liked specific episodes.

    There was no episodes that stood out in particular in season 13, I’m disappointed there won’t be a Wayward Sister’s spinoff, and I’d had enough of Lucifer by the end of the season.

    I keep seeing gifs of Santa Clarita Diet on Tumblr, and I like your rec of it, so now I’m deeply curious. And although I love Sandra Oh (I’m happy for her Emmy nom) Im still a little nervous about watching Killing Eve. It looks pretty deep and I don’t want to get into a deep show, since I’m just climbing down from Westworld.

    1. I see your point about seasons 11 – 12 – 13. 11 definitely tells one of the best overall stories in show history, and while there are plenty of standout episodes maybe not quite as many as some of the show’s all-time seasons like 4 or 5. 12, on the other hand, has a mediocre Men of Letters arc but also episodes like “Celebrating the Life of Asa Fox” (a hunter’s funeral used as bait by a demon), “Lily Sunder Has Some Regrets” (the early 20th century woman hunting down Castiel’s old crew), “Regarding Dean” (their magical memory loss episode), “Stuck in the Middle (With You)” (a rare family hunt with Sam, Dean, Cas AND Mary together, told from alternating POVs). All amazing. I liked Lucifer through most of season 13, but they went so big with him at the very end (and so suddenly) that I was kind of turned off.

      I’m not horribly upset over Wayward Sisters being passed over just because I don’t think that backdoor pilot episode they came up with was amazing. I think they might actually benefit from retooling a little. However, if not now, then at least sometime soon there is a good spin-off to be had there. I hope they come back to it this season.

      Re: Killing Eve. I can at least assure you this: Killing Eve is not as heavy as Westworld. Granted, few shows are, but in comparison to Westworld Killing Eve is a fun summer beach read (if they were both books). It’s a spy story with plenty of twists and turns and even a surprise death or two, but it’s not especially deep in anything other than its routine commentaries on gender.

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