We’re at the halfway point of 2018, which feels like a good time to check in on some of the best that television has had to offer so far this year. The list is stacked, with everything from dramas about assassins and seamen and lawyers to comedies about the afterlife and small towns and, well, more assassins. It’s been a big year for assassins. There’s been so much good television that we couldn’t even keep our list to ten. Making a year-end list will be painful. But, until then…
If Atlanta hasn’t been the best show of 2018 so far (and it is definitely on the short part of this longer list), it’s almost definitely given us the best episode. “Teddy Perkins” was terrifying and funny and thoughtful and deep on a few levels, from the Michael Jackson parallels to the “Wait, is the Donald Glover under that makeup?” realization people came to over the next 12-36 hours. And the show surrounded that haunted funhouse of an episode with Paper Boi’s adventures with his barber and Van’s trip to Drake’s house and, really, just so many things.
The trick with Atlanta, though, and I do mean “trick” because I don’t know how the show pulled it off, is that a season littered with what seemed like standalone episodes ended up coming together as a whole, thanks in large part to a great, affecting finale. No one show on television switches tenor and tone like Atlanta does, and the fact that it never feels like a gimmick says a lot about the thought and care that goes into each story. It’s a good show. I think that’s what I’m trying to say. — Brian Grubb
Killing Eve (BBC America)
There is no show I’ve recommended to more people in 2018 than Killing Eve. There is also no other show that I’ve remained as tight-lipped about as Killing Eve, preferring instead to put on the pilot and watch my peers as they watch it. Simplistically, it’s about two women — a psychopathic serial killer and the MI5 agent who pursues her — becoming obsessed with each other but, of course, it’s about so much more. Considering it’s created by Phoebe Waller-Bridge (based on a series of novels), it’s no wonder that it’s so much fun, despite its heavy premise. The third episode, which Alan Sepinwall wrote about here, resulted in me jumping out the couch to watch it standing up; I couldn’t sleep for a while after, which is a sincere compliment. Both Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer are fantastic as they continuously circle each other, launching about a billion fanfics in the process, resulting in a dizzying, addictive ride. — Pilot Viruet
“We started talking about the idea of Bill’s experience at SNL, where he was clearly ridiculously skilled at that job but it was really hard for him. He was really stressed out all the time. We thought it was interesting that dilemma of, how long do I stay in a job that I derive no enjoyment from just because I’m really good at it?” That’s Alec Berg talking about the genesis of Barry, the HBO series he co-created with Bill Hader. Hopefully, Hader is happier on the assassin-turned-actor comedy, which quickly found its voice to become not only one of the best new shows of the year, but also one of the best shows, overall. Barry is expectedly funny, with Hader as the straight-faced hitman, Sarah Goldberg as an aspiring actress, and the great Henry Winkler as a jaded acting coach, but what’s unexpected is how dark it got (especially that perfectly executed (sorry) scene from late in the season). Also, give NoHo Hank an Emmy, thank you. — Josh Kurp
The Americans (FX)
The Americans came to an end this year and there is now a hole in my heart where it once existed. The show was bleak at times, as you could tell by looking at Philip’s face at literally any point of the season, but still so, so good. It’s hard to end a series like that — or any show, really — because you have to find a way to satisfy viewers while also being true to the characters and the story you’ve developed over the run of the show. There was a balancing act involved, and a tricky one at that, and everything culminated in a finale that tied a few things together and left a few things open, both hopefully and painfully.
Poor Stan. That guy never could catch a break. — Brian Grubb
The Good Place (NBC)
Most of The Good Place‘s second season aired in 2017, including the series-best episode “Janet and Michael,” so you might be asking yourself, “Why the heck is it on a 2018 list?” To which I would respond (after putting on my favorite song, a mashup of “She Hates Me” and “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer”), “Well, you dink, The Good Place in 2018 gave us the finale, ‘Somewhere Else,’ which has another intoxicating series-altering twist (which will allow us to see the molotov cocktail-inspired misadventures of Jason in Jacksonville), and a warm moment of connection between Eleanor and Tahani, and ‘Taylor Splift,’ and Eleanor ‘meeting’ Chidi for the ‘first’ time, and most importantly, Ted Danson playing a bartender on an NBC sitcom.” That’s what we owe each other: to agree, The Good Place? More like The Great Show, in any year. — Josh Kurp
One Day At A Time (Netflix)