Once upon a time the best shows on TV were consensus. Mad Men. Breaking Bad. The Sopranos. The Wire. Everyone watched on Sunday night and everyone talked about it on Monday morning. Game of Thrones is probably grandfathered into that scenario, but it’s perhaps the last one (Thrones also notably took 2018 off). TV is too personalized for that now. Shows are not just being scripted for only a particular set of people, but none of those people watch at the same time anymore. If a Netflix show is released 7 days prior, there’s no shot that a 4-person dinner table has all seen the same number of episodes.
So with that caveat, I can’t really claim these as the best 10 shows of the year. One man’s Cobra Kai is another man’s Great British Bake Off (How the F is that a show?). But I, Rated Greg, enjoyed these 10 shows the most in 2018.
- Succession (HBO)
- Cobra Kai (Youtube Red)
- The Haunting of Hill House (Netflix)
- The Americans (FX)
- Sharp Objects (HBO)
- Atlanta (FX)
- Escape at Dannemora (Showtime)
- Vanderpump Rules (Bravo)
- Better Call Saul (AMC)
- Narcos: Mexico (Netflix)
Honorable Mentions (in no particular order): Love, Insecure, Yellowstone, Billions, The Deuce, and of course MTV’s The Challenge: Final Reckoning
Succession (HBO) – Season 1: Succession is a tough ask. How many lackluster dates will you give someone before you decide not to see them anymore. One? Two if they live super close? Three if they’re really hot? Four if they have a boat? How many lackluster episodes will you give a TV show before you unsubscribe? Because Succession, my favorite show of the year, is admittedly kinda bad in the early stages. Critics will tell you it doesn’t get good until episode 4. I actually don’t think it really hits it’s stride until episode 6. Five hours is a lot to ask of someone, but mark my words, you will be rewarded in episodes 6-10 if you stick it out. It’s hard to say what changes between the two halves of the season. The characters don’t necessary become more likeable, but they are vastly more entertaining. This five episode stretch is up there with any extended stretch of the Mount Rushmore mentioned in the opener. Succession, you are my number one boy.
Best episode: The one with the bachelor party
Cobra Kai (Youtube Red) – Season 1: Cobra Kai is also a tough ask. Not because of the quality of any of the episodes, but because it requires you to figure out how to access Youtube Red, a lot more confusing than it should be in 2018. I watched all of Cobra Kai using the free one-month trial, but it was so good that I will definitely be paying for Season 2 next year. For more on the Karate Kid sequel series, you can find my summer ode it here.
Best episode: The one with the All-Valley Karate Tournament
The Haunting of Hill House (Netflix) – Season 1: This Is Us meets The Conjuring. Yet again, a tough ask by Rated Greg. Not because of first episode quality and not because it’s hard to access, but because it resides in the horror genre. Are you one of those people that refuses to watch scary movies? That’s fine, but aren’t there some exceptions you make? Like, aren’t you glad you saw The Shining? Aren’t you glad you saw Jaws? You should see this.
Yes, The Haunting of Hill House is scary. It’s really fucking scary. There’s a jump scare towards the end of the season that basically gave me a heart attack. But it’s also one of the most profound stories about the stages of grief you’ll see, big screen or small. Each episode focuses on a different member of the Crane family (Lost style) and it intertwines between the ghostly things that the children encountered growing up and the repercussions that experience is having on their own adult lives. The comparison to This Is Us wasn’t a joke. If you like things about adult siblings getting together, you should give Haunting of Hill House a shot.
Best episode: The one in the funeral home
The Americans (FX) – Season 6: This was always one of the more under appreciated shows on TV. Sons of Anarchy is probably the most popular drama FX has ever had, but The Americans is certainly the most critically adored. Good on FX for keeping it going despite what I’m guessing was a limited financial return. And it ended on a high note. Final episodes are really tough to be fully satisfying. Parks and Rec, Friday Night Lights come to mind, and you can add The Americans finale to that list. Question: Did Keri Russell kill as many people with her bare hands in Felicity as she did in The Americans? I never watched Felicity but I can’t think of Russell without picturing all the different ways she could murder me.
Best episode: The one with the finale
Sharp Objects (HBO): Back to the tough asks. I’m a sucker for all things Amy Adams, Gillian Flynn, and murder mysteries, so of course this was going to make the cut. But Sharp Objects is a slow burn if there ever was one. At times a dreadfully slow burn. It’s also very…… humid, which is an adjective I never imagined linking to a TV show, but if you’ve seen it you’ll understand. Nonetheless I enjoyed my time in Wind Gap, Missouri and was sad when the 8 episode mini series wrapped up.
Best episode: The one where the mystery is uncovered
Atlanta (FX) – Season 2: My favorite show of 2016 took a minor step back in season 2, only because a few of the episodes got a little too weird for me. I don’t know what the hell Teddy Perkins was…. but Donald Glover is clearly working on a different wavelength than other human beings. Atlanta is still the most creative show on TV though. Each week it can literally go in any direction, and that’s exciting.
Best episode: The one with the barber
Escape at Dannemora (Showtime): I’m confused as to why Escape at Dannemora isn’t garnering more buzz. It resides in the ever-popular true crime genre (based on the 2015 upstate New York prison break), it’s directed to perfection by Ben Stiller, and it’s got movie stars. That along with the fact that it’s just really good is formula for a lot of internet content, however I haven’t seen much. I might be jumping the gun here, as only five of the seven episode mini series have actually aired, but regardless it needs to be on here. Escape is the best acted show on TV and it features perhaps my favorite single episode of television this year.
Best episode: The one where they break out of prison.
Vanderpump Rules (Bravo) – Season 6: If you don’t get it, you don’t get it.
Best episode: The one with the curiously placed hot tub pillows
Better Call Saul (AMC) – Season 4: Better Call Saul will never leave you on pins and needles, but it might be the most consistently entertaining running series. Unlike Atlanta, you know exactly what to expect in a Saul episode because it delivers every time. It’s kind of crazy that this Breaking Bad prequel could end up with more episodes than Breaking Bad (it’s currently at 40 with an order of 10 more to BB’s 62).
Best episode: The one with the twins
Narcos: Mexico (Netflix) – Season 1: Contrary to popular belief, Narcos: Mexico is not Narcos Season 4. It is completely it’s own thing and actually takes place prior to the Columbian centric Narcos series. In fact, had Narcos never existed, I think Narcos: Mexico would be getting A LOT more praise. While the two shows share a similar narrative structure, the Mexico version is simply more compelling with significantly better execution. This show is basically gangster movie karaoke, playing homages to The Godfather Part II and Scarface among others.
Best episode: The one where Michael Pena goes undercover