Top 10 TV Series of 2018 – A Big Geeks View on the Small Screen
We all know we are in the golden era of TV, with Netflix, Amazon and the rest pumping out original series constantly, and with production rates almost as large of cinematic releases it’s a good time to be a subscriber. Some are brand new original series others are new seasons of long-running favourites. So in celebration of the not-so-small-anymore screen, I’ve created a countdown of my 10 best TV series of 2018.
So just before we get started this is all personal opinion, there are some very hyped shows from 2018 that I have simply shrugged my shoulders at and I’m sure there’s some on this list that people will disagree with. However, this is my list so suck it!
Sorry. What I meant to say was this is purely one gals opinion, not a representation of all the TV goodies on offer in 2018. Also, there are some TV shows that I simply haven’t gotten round to watching that I know are being heralded as an amazing series. This is my opinion though so I’d feel like a cheat if I put a show I hadn’t watched on this list! That would be lies, and lies make Baby Groot cry.
- Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Netflix)
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a brand new Netflix offering from the creators of Riverdale that seems to be the gothic, angst ridden sister of the original Sabrina the Teenage Witch series. Sabrina is preparing for her sixteenth birthday and her looming Dark Baptism which will declare her a fully fledged witch and one of the pro-satan crew. She lives with her Aunt Hilda and Aunt Zelda (one who would happily fit into the original TV show and the other who is depressingly dark). Sabrina has spent her teen years walking the line between witch and mortal and now she must decide between her family’s wishes and her human boyfriend and besties.
Teen drama meets Satanic thriller in this fun and spooky little TV series. The colours and set design are Burton-esque-beautiful and definitely appeal to the teenage emo/horror lover inside of me. I will admit that it took a little while to get into this show, I didn’t fall for its charm straight away. Sabrina’s interactions with her friends seemed stunted and forced and there was a weird cinematography element that kept putting me off (it was as if all the shots were in shallow focus but without purpose, I eventually moved past this but it really fricked me off, to begin with) but I stuck with it, and I’m glad I did. This occult teen drama definitely ups the ante as the series progresses and indulges in more ritual worship and satanic tomfoolery to keep the darkest hearts satisfied.
- BoJack Horseman Season 5 (Netflix)
BoJack has been around for a while now, so I don’t feel the need to preach it to the converted. It’s a show that you either love or you just won’t watch. BoJack is a humanoid horse who was a pretty big deal in the 90’s, staring in everyone’s family favourite drama ‘Horsin’ Around’, who is trying for the Hollywood comeback after a few years of pity partying. Season 5 begins with BoJack’s new starring role in a web series called Philbert and explores divorce, drug abuse and the business of Hollywoo.
This isn’t a childish animation, our ‘hero’ is an asshole and that’s never altered or shied away from. BoJack gets fucking dark, I mean truly dark. The ensemble cast works amazingly well together with the ever-positive Mr Peanutbutter’s character arc taking a slightly darker turn as the season progress. You may not laugh out loud but there are many dark chuckles to be had. The humour is esoteric, the narrative is driven by narcissism and the writing is detailed and satirical. This is creatively and unconventionally displayed in Episode 6 of this latest season. I don’t want to spoil things if you haven’t caught up yet but holy shitsnacks does this show try some weird and wonderful things. That fucking work! I want Will Arnett to voice over my life, please! BoJack Horseman doesn’t hold back in its delivery. Razor sharp wit and a biting black humour swirl together in this blackout cocktail of a show.
- Santa Clarita Diet Season 2 (Netflix)
I have a feeling that this zombie gem is not as known as it should be. Nobody I speak to seems to have watched it and that’s either a travesty or a sign that all my friends have awful taste….sorry. The Hammond’s are just a typical suburban family, mum and dad are real estate agents and their teenage daughter is smart, savvy and independent. What more could a family ask for? Probably not for mummy to become a flesh-eating, finger munching zombie! Now the family must rally round to keep mum’s secret safe and stop her from eating the neighbours, or the creepy realtor who gets a little bit too ‘handsy’.
The cast is brilliant, Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant manage to be both absurdly wacky and realistically grounded at the same time, making us really care about this family. Season 2 begins with Joel (Olyphant) in a mental institution and Sheila (Barrymore) chained up in the basement while their daughter Abby continues the search for a cure. The delightfully juxtaposed combination of raw body horror gore and suburban sunshine settings really encapsulates the absurdity of this show. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and is so easy to binge watch. We delve into cannibal clams, a Nazi baseball team and a new ‘character’ called Mr Ball Legs’…no I’m not making this shit up! If you are a fan of zombies, comedy and Nathan Fillion then you need to get this checked out instantly.
- GLOW Season 2 (Netflix)
I fucking love wrestling! So how could I not watch GLOW? GLOW is the fictionalised story of the very real Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, a women’s wrestling promotion that ran from the late 80’s to the early 90’s. In the tradition of its real life counterpart GLOW follows a locker room of strong, colourful and unique women hoping to wrestle their way to their big break. Ruth is a struggling actress in L.A (I know, stick with me it’s not ‘that’ story) who receives an invite to the strangest audition she has been to, a women’s wrestling promotion. GLOW becomes Ruth’s everything and along with her former best friend Debbie they fight to get the show aired.
In Season 2 we tackle how to keep the show afloat and the continuing behind the scenes issues that our women must deal with. Our women begin to nicely evolve in this season with the characters becoming fleshed out on and offscreen. The exploration of Debbie and Ruth’s broken relationship is entertaining and deep with them coming to realise that they rely on each other whilst still being rightfully wary of each other. Their relationship evolves past the simple ‘you fucked my husband, you a bitch’ dynamic and becomes something much more complex.
I think this season allows our latex clad rag-tag bunch of stunning women to really shine compared to Season One. We’re beyond world building now and into the character driven backstage of the wrestling world. As much as they cliches are still at the forefront in the ring the true personalities are shining through outside of it. The ensemble cast is perfect and it keeps the drama tight and the leg warmers even tighter.
- Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Season 4 (Netflix)
Sing it with me kids “Uuuuunbreakable! They alive dammit! It’s a miracle!”. Okay, I’ll stop, but you know it’s now stuck in your head. Kimmy Schmidt is a ‘mole woman’ a name given to the survivors of an underground bunker cult led by the unhinged Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne aka. DJ. Slizzard (played hilariously by Jon Hamm). The show follows Kimmy as she explores New York as a sheltered adult finding wonder and amazement in the everyday events of life.
Kimmy has tackled numerous obstacles in her previous seasons including legal battles, divorce, education and her fear of velcro, now it’s time to tackle the workplace. While Kimmy gets to grips with the ‘no-no’s’ of the workplace Jacqueline is setting up her own agency and trying to help Titus get an acting job and Lillian deals with her grief in her own ‘Lillian’ way. There is just as much ridiculous humour and satirical wit as the previous seasons. Episode 3, set up as a documentary, is particularly gripping. Such an unconventional break in the season but so effective and well created that I actually want to watch the full documentary…don’t judge me!
Rewatching through the first few seasons with my partner reminded me how much I love this show. Sure it’s gone off the deep end a little but it’s fascinating to see how it did so. We’ve just hit the mid-season break for Season Four and I’m not going anywhere, I’m on the crazy train and 100% ready for the ride. High Five!
- Dead Wax (Shudder)
Welcome to the dangers of your vinyl collection. Shudder brings us a short series of mini-episodes (all under 20 mins) which is wickedly addictive to watch. We all know someone who claims if you play a Cliff Richard record backwards that Satan will ask if you want help claiming PPI. Backmasking has become the thing of legend! Dead Wax centres its premise on this legend with its story rooted to a record that, when listened to, causes insanity or death. Etta is a vinyl tracker (is that a real thing?) who becomes entangled in some strange murder cases as she hunts down an exceptionally rare vinyl.
This is a smart series, it doesn’t just throw oogie-boogie mysticism at the screen but instead explores the idea of sound frequency manipulation, and its effects, and comments on the times of Satanic Panic in America. It is beautiful in its cinematography and it’s set design, combining minimalism with saturated colour splashes of red. The editing and lighting add a flickering, shutter effect to the proceedings which gives our horror a duet partner of sci-fi. For the old school gore fans, there is a healthy dose of brilliant practical and special effects to boot. Dead Wax offers creative visuals, stunning sound design and an enticing story, so what are you waiting for? Play it again DJ.
- The Good Place Season 3 (Netflix)
Holy shirt, this is a unique and brilliant tv series. The Good Place has such an interesting premise, what if you ended up in ‘heaven’ by mistake? This is what Eleanor has to deal with when she is sent to ‘The Good Place’. Determined not to be kicked out of heaven Eleanor begins working with her ‘soul mate’ Chidi to become a morally better person and we get to tag along for the journey. It’s a case of fake it until you make it…until her worldview is disrupted again by Michael.
Season 3 begins with our groups second chance at a good life, being saved by a mysterious stranger from the unfortunate demise that led to them entering The Good Place in Season 1. So we’re back on Earth and the gang has no recollection of what happened in Season 1&2, which could seem a bit risky and ‘Dallas-esque’, but it really works. It’s only a few episodes in when we get to the reveal and move on to the real storyline. This Season keeps the story going and it is not getting old hat as we rumble down under. The characters are still entertaining and it still makes me smile, laugh and occasionally snort (it’s natural, leave me alone). Ted Danson is the man and Kristen Bell is forking hilarious! It’s cool, dope, fresh and smart-brained.
- Big Mouth Season 2 (Netflix)
I’m so glad this series came back! I wrote a review on this earlier this year and I’m still completely in love with it. Big Mouth follows a group of pubescent teens as they discover the embarrassment and confusion of going through changes. Aided by their hormone monsters Nick, Andrew, Jessie, Jay and Missy must traverse the awkward rites of passage involved with this time including periods, sexual confusion and pubes. Seriously, it’s beyond funny and so relatable even in its wackiest moments.
Nick is worried in the opening of Season 2 that he is cursed to be a late bloomer with a useless geriatric hormone monster who’ll never get him through puberty. Jessi is going through a teenage rebellious stage that includes shoplifting and drug experimentation. Andrew is dealing with the Shame Wizard an inevitable part of the teen experience. Missy confronts body confidence issues (with an amazing musical number) and Jay gets close to Coach Steve, the confused virgin PE teacher. The humour is still at the forefront here and it keeps tackling the issues that are often ignored in other shows. Big Mouth focuses equally on both genders and covers the nitty-gritty bits of ‘becoming an adult’ just through the limitless medium of animation and with some brilliant show tunes along the way. Where was this show when I had uneven boobs, a face full of spots and a whole heap of weird questions I needed answering?!
- The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 (Hulu: USA, Channel 4: UK)
This show was a summer binge watch for me that hit hard from the word go. Based on the novel by Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale is set in a dystopian future after a second American Civil War that has resulted in women being brutally subjugated in society. Females cannot work, own property or even read! Any fertile woman in the newly named ‘Gilead’ is forced to become a Handmaid, a woman who is essentially raped by rich male ‘masters’ to bless their infertile wives with children to raise. I know it sounds bleak as fuck, and in the sake of honesty it kind of is, but it’s also incredibly intelligent, beautifully shot and politically charged.
Words cannot even explain the sheer cinematic and emotionally charged beauty of the opening scenes of Season 2 Episode 1. I don’t want to give too much away with this one as it is a journey that needs to fully experienced by the viewer with all the morbid twists and brutal exploration of a ‘future world’. The normalisation of this situation and the acceptance amongst the people of Gilead to abuse, ritually rape and demonise women based on their biological properties. Season 2 furthers the rebellion of Offred (meaning of Fred, the name given to a handmaid when she is assigned to a specific man…yup) and her mission to look after the child she lost to the system and the child she is currently pregnant with. I crashed violently between wanting to scream and hurl things at the screen every time the system proved its cruelty to flooding with tears at the emotional abuse and loss of dignity the women go through. It’s not easy watching. It’s heart racing, emotionally manipulating, politically driven and terrifyingly not as far out of the realms of reality as one would hope. We must remember this tale, we must learn from this tale.
- Haunting of Hill House (Netflix)
It couldn’t be anything else, this just is the absolute best TV series of 2018. Haunting of Hill House is based on a novel of the same name, this one by Shirley Jackson, and it blows the two previous film adaptations right out of the water. The Crane family move into a beautiful mansion in the Summer of 1992 hoping to flip it for profit. The series cuts between the events of 1992 and modern day when the Crane children and adults who still suffer from the events that happened at Hill House. After the tragic loss of their sister under ‘mysterious and paranormal’ circumstances the family are reunited and must deal with what happened to them over twenty years ago. The non-linear structure allows for a slow drip of information to fall through and keeps the focus on the mysterious of both the past and present.
The ensemble cast and exquisitely creative team behind this show are pure powerhouses. This isn’t a paint by numbers jumpscare marathon, it’s a tense, atmospheric and intelligent horror series that unravels a story like no other. The Crane family are individual characters crafted with unique traits and weaknesses that hold them back emotionally from seeing the truth. Theo is one of my favourite characters in the series, she has attitude and Rogue-like abilities that cause her to protect herself with gloves and sarcasm, the ultimate weapons for a ‘sensitive’. The house is at the centre of it all, even with the distance the family have put between them and it. It causes emotional and familial problems that are dealt with just as effectively as the horror and scares.
I love horror films and it has unfortunately been a long time since one garnered a physical reaction from me but this TV show managed that beautifully. I screamed and drew my legs up so violently I nearly chinned myself before breaking into joyous laughter at how perfect the scare was and how happy I was to have felt it. I’m hoping to write a little bit more on this at some point so I’m going to stop myself before I ramble on too much. Maybe you’ll join me in the Red Room for a spot of tea sometime?
So that’s my list! What do you think? Am I missing out on an amazing show from 2018 that I have to binge before the New Year countdown?