This was undoubtedly the year-end list I was dreading having to write the most. I was simply checked out on a lot of TV this year. I keep questioning whether “Peak TV” and “A Golden Age of Television” is necessarily the same thing. Sure, there’s a lot of TV out there, but I don’t know. There’s only a handful of TV shows out there that impact me as much as, say the best 15 or so movies in a given year. Still, there seemed to be plenty of memorable TV to come out this year, and I probably watched only a small fraction of it.
Shows I started but never finished (and probably should have!):
The Handmaid’s Tale
American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace
I feel a little weird putting this on my list, considering only 6 episodes aired this year. But, to be honest, I didn’t watch any other shows that I would’ve wanted to put on this list, and just couldn’t quite put myself through the misery of finishing another season of Handmaid’s Tale. Which isn’t a knock on this batch of Kimmy Schmidt episodes, which were some of the most gag-packed and inventive of this series’ run, and is hopefully a sign of the show finishing strong next year.
To me, it seems like making a character who’s both scary and funny at the same time is a hard thing to pull off. Somehow, Barry is crawling with characters that are hilariously odd or awkward one moment, and then terrifying or violent the next. Also, despite being in the frustrated hitman genre, the show is also a spot-on take on the futility and self-importance of chasing the actor’s life in L.A.
I can’t even remember the last time I regularly watched a reality TV show. In fact, I don’t know that it’s ever happened. But something about watching this new cast of Queer Eye guys run around Georgia and making random men into the best version of themselves was the perfect respite of joy we needed this year. Also, who doesn’t love avocados?
This is a hard show to critique, since it is just so effortlessly charming. The set design and costumes and era, not to mention the fun showbiz shenanigans, are just all really easy to enjoy. Then on top of that, you’ve got Rachel Brosnahan giving a performance that deserves all the awards it gets, and a supporting cast that’s pretty great too. I’ll admit John might have a point in the show could use a few less subplots (I have never cared at all about Joel), but eh, it’s hard to complain.
I suppose it was inevitable that this show would eventually just turn into Breaking Bad, and this was certainly the Breaking Bad-iest season yet. Mike has clearly made the full jump from small time-professional to criminal, while Jimmy can’t seem to help but get sleazier and sleazier. I guess at this point I’m just waiting for a Dean Norris cameo. But of course, one of the biggest stars in the world don’t come easy.
At this point, BoJack is easily among my favorite shows of the decade. It definitely has a sweet spot that it hits repeatedly – this weird mixture of supremely silly comedy and unexpectedly honest humanity – but yet it still hasn’t grown old. This was pretty overtly the season that the #MeToo movement hit Hollywoo, and unsurprisingly, the show handles it deftly, and in a way that tackles some ideas that I’m not sure were at the forefront of the conversation of misogyny in show business.
Woo! The only show on my list that wasn’t on Sean or John’s list. This is probably because despite having a pretty great second season, Glow kept it somewhat on the down-low. Not a lot of people talk about this show, which might be because it doesn’t seem particularly binge-able, which doesn’t make it a perfect Netflix show. But the show was as fun as any other TV show this year, especially in an episode that consists entirely of an episode of the show with the show, while another stand-out episode showed the less fun consequences of racial stereotypes being perpetuated on TV.
I feel like even if The Good Place doesn’t ultimately come to a satisfying ending, it’ll have all been worth it just because the cast is so great and the laughs are so abundant. Honestly, there have been so many twists and turns in this show over the course of the past year, that I’m having a hard time remembering everything that happened on The Good Place in 2018. But either way, it’s been a delightful ride, and thankfully one that hasn’t come to the inevitable cancellation I’d assumed it would have after its first season.
I sometimes wonder if I’m a true Americans fan, since this show often doesn’t make my Top Ten list in the years where, well, nothing happens. In this final season though, that was far from the case. Stan Beeman and FBI finally find what had been there all along, while Philip and Elizabeth have to make some hard decisions. Which all led to a finale that I found surprisingly warm for a series so cold, and yet somehow, after spending all this time with these often prickly characters, it felt just right.
Obviously, the praises of Atlanta have already been sung by Sean and John, so I’m not sure what else there is to say. This was just the kind of TV you always hope for. Something strange and unique, but also thoroughly watchable, while you’re also getting a perspective that you’re not getting from any other TV show. There were a lot of half-hour comedies this year that were great at doing stand-alone experimental episodes (some of which made my list), but really none of them topped Atlanta.