Making a list of the year’s best TV shows is impossible. There are just so many across so many different genres and most of them seem to star A-list movie types now. It’s impossible to watch them and impossible to whittle down what you did watch. And it’s also impossible to complain about because some people have real jobs where they break rocks in the sun. “Well, my job was hard today, too, because I couldn’t figure out how to get Homecoming into my yearly top ten shows list.” Woof. Just an exercise in futility on a number of fronts.
We did it, though. Three of our television experts — Brian Grubb, Josh Kurp, and LaToya Ferguson — put together this list of the top 15 shows of the year. Homecoming is still somehow not on it, despite the fact that Homecoming was great. You can take this to mean there was just such an overwhelming number of quality shows that a worthy contender got squeezed out or that we did a bad job. Or both. You have options.
A brief word on our methodology: There was not much methodology! We took our three top ten lists and assigned a point value to each entry (first place show gets 10 points, tenth place show gets 1 point, etc.), kept the top ten scoring shows in order, then populated the last five spots with shows that missed the cut but we were passionate about for one reason or another. Brian threw a fit and got his show in at 15 despite it getting one total point. LaToya may or may not have gamed the system by ranking a CW show so high that it snuck into the top ten on score alone. Josh’s number one wasn’t on anyone else’s list at all. It was chaos.
And yet, even with all that said, it’s a pretty solid list. That’s the benefit of so much television. You can be wrong about everything and right about everything at the same time. Below, please find Uproxx’s 15 best television shows of 2018.
15. Detroiters (Comedy Central)
Detroiters is so fun. It is so much fun. It is ostensibly a series about two guys — played by Sam Richardson and Tim Robinson — running a struggling advertising business in Detroit, but mostly it is just 22-minute chunks of goofs and sight gags. With heart. Lots of heart. It’s a joy to watch for a bunch of reasons, not the least being Sam Richardson, who you might know as Richard Splett in Veep and will hopefully know from everything soon because he rules. I feel like I might be overselling this a bit, and maybe I am, but most of us could use a silly light comedy sometimes and this is very much that. One of this season’s episodes featured a slow-developing gag about a business’s mascot turning into Blade from Blade and I’m still laughing about it now.
Put it this way: If you think of the best television show as the greatest technical and artistic program of the year, well, Detroiters isn’t on this list. But if you think of it as the show you are most excited to watch every week, and you can wear your colleagues down with a series of tantrums unbecoming of even a toddler, then hey, number 15 it is. — Brian Grubb
14. Crazy Ex- Girlfriend (The CW)
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is currently in the middle of its fourth and final season on The CW, and it naturally looks like it’s going to go out on top — at least in whatever way a cult musical “romantic” comedy about mental illness, personal responsibility, and happiness (at the very least—it’s about a lot of stuff) can go out on top. As Crazy Ex-Girlfriend promised from the very beginning that “the situation’s a lot more nuanced than that,” these final two seasons have shown an unflinching desire on Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna’s part to show all the uncomfortable nuance. As dark as Crazy Ex-Girlfriend gets, it also does so in a way that’s more about introspection and depicting the realness of the situation (which can also be kind of funny) than just being dark and depressing for the sake of it. Of course, the catchy songs also help. — LaToya Ferguson
13. Succession (HBO)
The first three episodes of Succession’s first season were… eh. They were fine. Not great, close enough to bad that I almost stopped watching. But then, starting in the fourth episode and continuing forward like a bullet train until the conclusion, it all began clicking. Suddenly everything that annoyed me (the whiny adult children, the plights of terrible billionaires, everything Kieran Culkin’s character did) became vital to the plot and/or charming. Somehow this show went from “Billions, but worse” to one of the most addictive shows of the year. I’m still not sure if it’s really a drama or just the darkest comedy you’ve ever seen. I am sure of three things, though:
- In five years, we’ll all be working for Cousin Greg or dead by his hand
- The theme song was the song of the summer
- It is not a closed-loop system, Tom
Meeting over. Fuck off. — Brian Grubb
12. Barry (HBO)
Most people, or at least anyone with the good sense to rank Bill Hader in their all-time SNL cast list, expected Barry to be very good and very funny. It stars Hader, Henry Winkler, Stephen Root, and hey, look, it’s Janet from The Good Place! The involvement of Alec Berg, who wrote for Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Silicon Valley, was a good sign, too. But I don’t think anyone expected Barry, with the wacky premise of an apathetic hitman wanting to be an actor, to be very good and very funny… and VERY depressing, especially late in the season. Barry was a great comedy (NoHo Hank!) that also worked as an equally impressive drama. — Josh Kurp
11. The Good Fight (CBS All Access)
No season of television — or really, anything at all — that focuses on the “pee tape” as much as The Good Fight’s second season does should even be a fraction as good as it is. In fact, it literally shouldn’t be good at all. But as with The Good Wife before it (except that time Alicia Florrick decided to talk to the help) and even the one-season Braindead, Robert and Michelle King have managed to create a sophisticated and heightened real world that somehow allows such absolutely bonkers situations to work, without taking away from the larger story and quality — which is even more impressive because CBS All Access allows it to be off the leash in a way those two former series couldn’t be.
But also because of its existence on CBS All Access, The Good Fight manages to be one of television’s best-kept secrets, despite the grade-A writing and stellar cast (in terms of both the regulars and guests). It’s kind of funny a series that features Christine Baranski, Cush Jumbo, Rose Leslie, and new addition Audra McDonald all doing absolutely sublime work is somehow kind of an underdog of television, but even that works out for it. — LaToya Ferguson
10. Legends of Tomorrow (The CW)
A Groundhog Day-inspired episode that begins with the tail end of an ABBA-based mission. John Noble as himself circa Lord of the Rings, as an integral plot point to defeat a season Big Bad voiced by John Noble. “Biff Tannen” as the father of one of the members of the Waverider’s time-traveling crew. A killer unicorn. An evil fairy godmother. Voltron Beebo. At this point, it might sound like I’m just saying words, but this is all just the way Legends of Tomorrow rolls. There is no show on television as fun as Legends of Tomorrow, and while it’s easy to forget sometimes, it’s actually okay for television (especially if it’s about superheroes) to be fun. More than okay, even. Legends of Tomorrow’s ability to laugh at itself and the absurd situations its characters find themselves in reached an all-time high in its third season; as such, it was able to constantly impress with its ability to just throw anything at the wall and somehow have it all stick. Now in its fourth season, that consistent insanity — and ability to pull it off in a charming way that actually makes sense — maintains its freshness with the added bonus of magic. (Again: Killer unicorn.) — LaToya Ferguson
9. The Good Place (NBC)
The Good Place will eventually run out of twists. But what separates this series from other surprise-based shows and movies is that it can work (and has worked, in the first few episodes from this season) even when maintaining the status quo. That’s the power of the spectacular ensemble, led by Kristen Bell, Ted Danson, William Jackson Harper (his ode to chili babies is my favorite song of 2018), Jameela Jamil, Manny Jacinto, and stealth MVP D’Arcy Carden, and some of the sharpest comedy writers in the game, including Michael Schur, Joe Mande, and Megan Amram. (She may not have an Emmy, but she does have very good food puns.) It’s a show about messy people trying to be good in a no-good world. It’s uncommonly decent when so much of comedy now is defined by people being jerks to each other. The Good Place’s ability to thrive in such an environment is its greatest twist of all. — Josh Kurp
8. The Terror (AMC)
With some due respect to American Horror Story (but not too much), the most horrific show on television is The Terror. The out-of-nowhere surprise, with a cast of lots of British white dudes and Lane Pryce from Mad Men and Edmure Tully from Game of Thrones, gives away its ending away immediately: everyone aboard the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror dies during an ego-driven debacle of a mission in the Arctic. What makes The Terror so spellbinding, with its ever-present sense of danger and creeping dead (and a supernatural polar bear?), is the way it slowly reveals how the 129 men die. I dare not spoil anything more, because you should really watch this gem of an underseen show, except to say: you may never want to visit a carnival (or go outside) again. — Josh Kurp
7. Better Call Saul (AMC)
I’m trying to figure out why this feels boring. I think it’s because, like, of course this show is on the list. It’s a great show made by people who have been tinkering with this universe for over a decade now and whose total missteps over that period basically round down to zero. But it’s not fair to feel that way because Better Call Saul is still killing it, on its own terms, expanding on the Breaking Bad mythology while folding brand new stories into it. Also, because Rhea Seehorn. I’m going to elaborate on that last thing because I want to, not because I need to. The role of Kim Wexler could be thankless, another female character poo-pooing the exciting and life-destroying antics of our male antihero. Instead, Kim is sympathetic and strong and — in part because we know the fates of so many of the people in this world — the most interesting character on the show. I’m terrified about what will (or, gulp, could) happen to her between this point in the show and the introduction of Walter White. It’s okay. I’m fine.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to watch the “Something Stupid” montage again. And again. And one more time after that. — Brian Grubb
6. BoJack Horseman (Netflix)
By this point, it’s a cliche to call BoJack Horseman one of the funniest AND saddest shows on television (or Netflix). Well, there’s a reason for that: it is one of the funniest and saddest shows on television (or Netflix, whatever). Take the best episode of season five, “Free Churro.” It’s an episode-length eulogy from BoJack to his dead mom… with an organist delivering comedic rimshots and a double-take twist that left me doubled over from laughter. BoJack shouldn’t still be this good at making you love and hate life in equal measures, not after 60-plus episodes of making poor excuses for irredeemable life choices, but as long as creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg keeps the animal wordplay coming, well, then the tears will be from laughter. — Josh Kurp
5. Big Mouth (Netflix)
Big Mouth is a vile little show about filthy perverts and the literal demons who force them follow their libidos into disaster. It is also hilarious. And it is also maybe the best representation of puberty and middle school I’ve ever seen on television, so much so that I feel like parents and kids should watch it together if they can share a viewing experience that involves the phrase “I made thick in her warm” without dying of embarrassment on the spot.
The highlight of this season was an entire episode about Planned Parenthood, what it does beyond what loud people with cardboard signs think it does. The whole thing was informative and funny and included a Bachelor-style bit about a girl choosing a form of contraception that ended with a cartoon IUD crying in a limousine. Westworld didn’t have that. Not even once, even with its many extended episodes. It also did not feature Maya Rudolph pronouncing “bubble bath” with about seven syllables and a few Ws tossed in for kicks. (“Bwa-wubb-ah bah-ay-ethhh-uh.”) What the hell were they doing over there, anyway? — Brian Grubb
4. GLOW (Netflix)
GLOW’s second season really improved on all the potential for greatness of its very good first season, from the character development to the professional wrestling to the emotional beats and, of course, to the comedy. Seriously, is there anything better than a critically-acclaimed television comedy that’s actually a comedy and ultimately remembers that? Because while GLOW is fully capable of tackling serious topics — and proves as much this season with an uncomfortable but honest episode like “Perverts Are People, Too” — it’s also very committed to its comedy. The peak of this is the season’s episode-within-an-episode, “The Good Twin,” which is the biggest joke machine of the entire series. And even more impressively, it proves that GLOW is the rare show about behind-the-scenes culture where the show its characters are making is actually good. (Okay, “good,” in the way the actual G.L.O.W. was.) — LaToya Ferguson
3. Killing Eve (BBC America)
Killing Eve manages to be sexy, tense, dark, funny, and thrilling, all at the same time and also never all quite when you expect it. It’s a series that features general tone shifts with every passing scene — and honestly, often even mid-scene — and never once does it feel like a problem. It truly never feels like creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge isn’t quite sure what she wants the show to be. That’s not just an impressive amount of confidence to have during the first season of a series — hell, it’s impressive to have for any series. And that’s not just on Waller-Bridge, as the execution also falls on the cast to pull it off: With Killing Eve, Sandra Oh finally gets the starring vehicle she has long-deserved, and Jodie Comer’s Villanelle is arguably the MVP of this television season’s new offering of lovable psychopaths. And just for good measure, Fiona Shaw’s Carolyn Martens is perhaps the character that best encapsulates the series’ ever-changing but always fascinating tone. — LaToya Ferguson
2. The Americans (FX)
Even if the final 10 episodes had been a minor letdown (spoiler: they weren’t), The Americans would still belong in any discussion of the greatest shows from the Peak TV-era. Thankfully for everyone except poor Martha and/or poor Stan, Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg delivered another incredible season of television, with a chilling series finale that still lingers all these months later. The final season also gave us studly Hockey Henry, an acting masterclass from Matthew Rhys and Holly Taylor and especially Keri Russell, Oleg’s beard, and the best final episode music cue since The Sopranos (I will never listen to “With or Without You” the same way again). Cheer up, Philip — you were on one of the best television shows this year. — Josh Kurp
1. Atlanta (FX)
Atlanta might have been number one if the entire season had been one episode long, provided that episode was “Teddy Perkins.” That was one of those moments, those special slices of television, where you start realizing about halfway through that you’re witnessing something pretty special. And weird. Whoa Dolly, was it weird. I’m still not ready to discuss the egg. I might never be.
Atlanta had more than one episode, though. A bunch more. And over the rest of them, the creative team of Donald Glover and director Hiro Murai told a collection of stories you couldn’t find anywhere else on television. Sometimes those stories focused on Brian Tyree Henry’s character, Paper Boi, and that was awesome. Henry emerged as one of television’s best performers this year and one of its best Reactors To Things. The man is a treasure. So is the show. — Brian Grubb