Top 20 TV shows of 2018

Time is money, yaknow, and sticking with a long TV series up until the end credits of the final episode should come with some sort of reward. I have so many programmes I started in 2k18 and have yet to finish, so hats-off to this lot for keeping me invested until the very end.

I’ve only included scripted TV in this list, and kept it restricted to seasons that were released in the UK in 2018. So whilst I discovered the magnificence of Schitt’s Creek and The Comeback, I’ve left them out because the eps I saw are a few years old now. Similarly I haven’t seen Pose yet but its UK broadcast isn’t due until some time in 2019, so you won’t find it here. I’ve also left out the soaps because of obvious vested interest.

Here are my year-end TV blogs from the last couple of years:
2016: No1 was Brief Encounters
2017: No1 was Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

And if you’re in a listy mood I’ve already gone through my Top 50 singles and Top 25 albums of the year. Film and theatre still to come.


20. Safe

Netflix

It was a toss-up between a string of thriller-y type shows for the final spot in this Top 20 (ITV’s Innocent, BBC’s Collateral, Channel 4’s Kiri) and I went with Safe because I love how every now and then it forgets to be a Very Serious Drama in the same style as Broadchurch and goes gloriously soapy. Its end-of-episode twists and outlandish reveals are a RIDE – totally ludicrous and I enjoyed almost all of it.


19. The Bisexual

Season 1, Channel 4

I was surprised to see this had mixed reviews, because I really liked it: I can see the criticism that the actual story is quite sparse, but I had so much fun watching Desiree Akhavan in action that I didn’t really mind??


18. Bodyguard

Season 1, BBC

It’s getting a bit tiresome that the vast majority of Muslim representation in the thriller genre is either Terrorist or Suspected Terrorist or Poor Brainwashed Wife Of Terrorist; and Bodyguard was guilty as hell of that (although it is really worth reading actress Anjil Mohindra’s perspective on that debate). It’s frustrating because, that aside, Bodyguard had all the makings of a great twisty-turny blockbuster, fully deserving of its water-cooler Event TV status. There were properly unexpected shocks peppered throughout, there were unbearably tense showdowns, and WHO COULD IGNORE Richard Madden’s ascent to national sex symbol status?!


17. Elite

Season 1, Netflix

This year I dropped Riverdale and got my teen melodrama fix from Elite; a dark Spanish-language show that’s a mix of The OC, Big Little Lies and Clique (oh fuck, just realised I haven’t got round to the second season of Clique). So by that I mean everyone is beautiful, most of them are rich, loads of them have #SECRETS, and everyone’s horny as hell.


16. Mrs Wilson

BBC

This is great on three levels. One! Because the story, about a bloke who dies and leaves his wife to discover  he was a big bastard bigamist, is so juicy. Two! Because it’s based on REAL EVENTS. And three! Because the lead character is played by the widow’s ACTUAL REAL GRANDDAUGHTER, aka acting powerhouse Ruth Wilson. It is kind of weird that playing her grandmother means she has to act out the birth of her own dad, but what a brilliant, emotional howdunnit this was. And only three episodes?! Inspired!


15. Doctor Who

Season 11, BBC

Some of the episodes were good, some were weak, some were amazing – which I feel is par for the course with Doctor Who. But the change in showrunner and cast gave the series a big kick up the arse: Jodie Whittaker is obviously great, and giving her an ensemble of travel-buddies rather than just one companion worked a treat.


14. Everything Sucks

Netflix

I was in the middle of making my way through this when it got cancelled, and then I was just really sad for the rest of it. A sweet high school drama with an introverted lesbian? What’s not to love?! Clearly made by people with a real fondness for the era in which it is set (and for other movies and shows set in that time), I thought it was a real delight.


13. Dietland

Amazon Prime

And here’s another cancelled one I’m gutted about. Dietland has such a great premise, and is anchored by  a really strong lead performance from Joy Nash – give it a watch on Prime if you can. Who knows when we’ll next get to see Julianna Margulies in a ropey red wig?!


12. Save Me

Season 1, Sky Atlantic

I found this missing-kid-drama from writer/actor Lennie James really engaging: the fact that his character Nelly is deeply flawed and not always likeable makes this a lot more interesting than other stories along a similar theme, and the environment in which it’s set is so richly drawn that – even when the characters are being dicks to each-other – you can see what they’re up against. The ending is… very unsatisfying, but a second season is apparently en route.


11. Crazy Ex Girlfriend

Season 3/4, Netflix

My favourite show of 2017 continued to deliver comedy, humour and SHOWTUNES into 2k18, and now we’re into the final stretch of episodes before season four ends and the whole thing wraps up for good. It’s for the best that it comes to a close, I reckon: it’s still one of the best shows on TV but its Glory Days were definitely the back end of season two into the first half of season three, and I worry that as time goes by I’m going to forget to catch-up on it more and more.


10. Big Mouth

Season 2, Netflix

I resisted Big Mouth for ages because I thought it looked…. horrible? Like, just a lewd cartoon in which Hormonal Teenagers Obsess Over Sex And Stuff? When actually it’s… well, it’s exactly that, pretty much. But it’s smart! And really funny! And so weird (each character has a Hormone Monster only they can see). And it has Maya Rudolph saying “bubble bath”! The second season is a home-run, especially the Planned Parenthood episode, and while I doubt it’s to everyone’s tastes, it’s one of my most unexpected gems of 2k18.


09. Unforgotten

Season 3, ITV

Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar returned for another great run of this consistently riveting whodunnitagesago. And I liked that the final twist (spoiler!) was not so much a last minute “NO WAIT, IT WASN’T THAT PERSON, IT WAS THIS PERSON!” but a more unexpected “OH, IT WAS THAT PERSON, BUT THEY’RE NOT WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE!” I thought it really worked. And I’m excited to see how Chris Lang continues with Walker’s Cassie Stewart when the show returns for season four, given the headspace we left her in here.


08. A Very English Scandal

BBC

Between this and Paddington 2, Hugh Grant has really been on one of the biggest rolls of his career, hasn’t he?! A Very English Scandal is darkly brilliant: Russell T Davies and Stephen Frears gleefully run with the fact that the whole sequence of events it’s based on is absolutely ridiculous, and they do a great job of leaving you tickled but horrified.


07. Inside No9

Season 4, BBC

The fourth cycle of Inside No9 was actually the first time I’d watched it, and huns, it would seem I have been missing! out!! Each episode is so clever. And different! And that Halloween special? Genuinely fucking scary! Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton are MASTERS.


06. The Marvelous Mrs Maisel

Season 2, Amazon Prime

I’m so glad that this show has been soaking up, like, all of the awards this year, because it reeeeally helps when trying to sell it to people who think it looks a bit naff. Season two is – in the best possible way – more of the same: fast-paced dialogue, brilliant characterisation, Alex Borstein being iconic… this show is just such a joy to watch, I would recommend it to absolutely anyone.


05. This Country

Season 2, BBC

Even when I find things funny, I don’t often literally laugh aloud – but with This Country I was honking, like, every few minutes. Charlie and Daisy May Cooper have created such a well-observed, brilliantly unbearable show; both riotously funny and – who knew?!?! – kinda heartbreaking at times, too. When Kerry couldn’t make it to the steam fair on her birthday, it was up there with the end of The Notebook. I’m so glad this won big at the BAFTAs and I hope we get more soon.


04. The Good Fight

Season 2, More4

A lot of shows rush to try and reflect the #currentpoliticalclimate but none did it so pitch-perfectly as The Good Fight; a spin-off that is a completely different beast compared to its parent (The Good Wife) and… in some ways… is probably better?? Christine Baranski, Audra McDonald, Cush Jumbo and Sarah Steele are phenomenal leads (it feels like Rose Leslie’s Maia is becoming a liiiiittle bit of a spare part???), the writing is razor-sharp, and honestly I’d be happy if this drama just ran and ran and ran for years and years and years. Also – best opening credits sequence of all time? MAYBE.


03. Killing Eve

Season 1, BBC

You could just say to me “it’s Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh doing a cat-and-mouse thing” and I’d put it in the Top 10 without having seen a minute. So IMAGINE my excitement at the fact this is also EXCELLENT?! And I mean of course it is. Comer and Oh are a fantastic double-act: Comer the exciting assassin you’re weirdly in love with, Oh the well-meaning everyperson you’re desperate to succeed. Fiona Shaw as Eve’s hilarious boss and Sean Delaney as her BEAUTIFUL son are just the cherries on top of the (probably poisoned) cake, and the scripts are watertight with zippy, funny dialogue. Killing Eve deserved Bodyguard levels of attention, and the fact it had 26 million iPlayer requests in one month is thoroughly deserved.


02. Glow

Season 2, Netflix

I had a couple of false-starts with the first season of Glow; it wasn’t until I had a long-haul flight that I really ploughed through it. And by the second half of that season, it was amazing. Now here we are with season two and it’s a solid 10; a continuation of that stride it found last year – and then some. You find yourself deeply invested in this wacky group of have-a-go TV stars, rooting for their success on-screen and for their relationships with each-other to stay solid. Betty Gilpin (who, by the way, is HILARIOUS in all of her TV interviews?!?!) is the MVP as Debbie ‘Liberty Belle’ Eagan, along with Alison Brie’s try-hard Ruth; but it’s the strength of all the key players together that really make this show tick. I really, truly loved season two, and I’m also v intrigued by the seeds it’s sewn for what’s to come in season three.


01. Derry Girls

Season 1, Channel 4

There could have been enough episodes of Derry Girls to fill the entire year and it still WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ENOUGH. It’s just so goddamn funny!!! Lisa McGee has found warmth and humour in a period of history when the more ignorant among us would assume warmth and humour were in short supply; and the ensemble cast are without a weak link – from the titular group of mates to those around them (Sister Mary? An ICON!), everyone’s clearly having a blast and timing each one-liner to perfection. And like all the best funny shows it also has real depth to it: there’s Clare’s coming out, for example, and that surprisingly moving last sequence of the season finale. Episode One of this show aired on January 4, and for the last twelve months it has – in my opinion, anyway – gone unbeaten. “What were you doing heading up Pump Street with a cream horn?!”

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