2018 is in the books, and it’s been quite a ride if you’re a fan of watching the telly (and who isn’t partial to a bit of Attenborough?). Whether it’s the rollicking action thrills of Bodyguard, the science-fiction spectacular of Lost in Space or even the guilty Orwellian pleasures of Love Island, there really was something for everyone this year. But which shows were the best this year? The Edge has polled its esteemed authors to discover their favourite TV shows of 2018, and these are the results of the vote. Without further ado, here are The Edge’s Top Ten Television Shows of 2018! (And no, Big Bang Theory isn’t going to be on it)
Number Ten: Doctor Who (Season 11) – BBC
Doctor Who’s eleventh season saw a new showrunner for the first time in nearly ten years, and a female Doctor for the first time in over fifty, and the show’s new boss Chris Chibnall took full advantage of this regeneration to create a completely fresh version of the classic British show. From the following fan reaction, it seems that many fans hoped for a return to the Golden Age of Russell T. Davies, of subtly linked stand-alone episodes, flirting and fart jokes. Chibnall had other ideas, however, creating an educational family show lead by the wonderful Jodie Whittaker, and her joyful ‘friends’ (not companions), including The Chase’s very own Bradley Walsh.
Exploring historical events such as the Indian partition, the witch hunts of King James, and the revolutionary actions of Rosa Parks, this version of Doctor Who can be a bit on the nose with its messages, but with such good intentions it’s difficult (at least for me) to hold a grudge – spreading messages of acceptance, the value of diversity, and standing up against injustice, all particularly needed in the current political climate.
While, perhaps, many Doctor Who fans may find themselves growing out of the show’s new rendition, it must at least be with an appreciation that there are sure to be many new watchers, young and wide-eyed, learning about history, guided by the gentle hand and sparkling eyes of Whittaker, with her soft Yorkshire tones and childish energy and charm.
Number Nine: Bodyguard (Season 1) – BBC
Bodyguard was a drama series released in the United Kingdom starring Richard Madden and Keeley Hawes. The series follows Madden’s character, David Budd, in his new role as the bodyguard of the Home Secretary, Julia Montague – played by Hawes. The series’ main storyline followed a terrorist plot as it unfolded, as well as the relationship between Montague and Budd, and Budd’s relationship with his ex-wife.
There is no denying that Bodyguard gripped the nation with it’s thrilling tale of terrorism, intertwined with affairs, romance and secrets. Each week the British public watched on to see what the shows creators were going to throw at us next. Was the Home Secretary going to die? How was Budd involved? Who is behind all the leaked secrets? All these questions and more were swirling around viewer’s brains as they tuned in every Sunday night for 6 weeks.
Since the close of the show, Bodyguard has received several nominations for prestigious awards, such as a Golden Globe for Best Actor. The show also holds a 93% approval rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. With thrilling episodes, elusive affairs and twists at every point, nothing about the story was certain, and that’s what had the viewers on the edge of the sofas, gripping their cuppas for dear life. There is no doubt that Bodyguard deserves to be number 9 on this list.
Number Eight: BoJack Horseman (Season 5) – Netflix
BoJack Horseman has been nothing short of a phenomenon, spanning five seasons in just as many years and winning a whole host of dedicated fans along the way. BoJack’s latest ventures, released back in September, have deservingly made their way onto our Best TV of 2018 list, with the series proving one of writer Raphael Bob-Waksberg’s best yet.
Characterised once again by its unique and charming animation style, Season Five saw BoJack star in new web-series Philbert, Princess Caroline be as irritating as usual, and everyone’s favourite, Todd, getting up to all the usual Todd-esque mischief. There was certainly no let up of ridiculousness this time round, but as those who know the show well will be aware, that, combined with an emotional depth that might shock first time viewers, is exactly what makes BoJack Horseman so special. As usual, the highlights were when BoJack’s inner struggles were at the forefront, making for some riotous laughs, but also some serious food-for-thought. A sixth season has already been commissioned, which will come as a surprise to absolutely nobody. BoJack Horseman Season Five proved once again that the bizarre animation about an adult horse-man is easily one of Netflix’s greatest, and certainly most endearing, originals.
Number Seven: Better Call Saul (Season 4) – Netflix
When Vince Gilligan announced a spin-off show for Breaking Bad that would focus on the larger-than-life lawyer (and criminal accomplice) Saul Goodman, I was sceptical to say the least. At first, my doubts seemed founded. What we got back in 2015 seemed to be more of a dark comedy than a drama; not to mention the sprinkling of characters and references to Gilligan’s wider ‘Walterverse’ only distracted from the plot at hand. However, three seasons later, Better Call Saul has cemented itself as an entirely different beast than its older sibling, not only equalling it in quality but at times even surpassing it.
The show’s greatest strength lies in its characters. Bob Odenkirk’s Jimmy McGill (the proto-Saul) is a heartbreakingly-real figure, desperate to escape the shadow of his more successful older brother Chuck and make a name for himself in the legal world. As Season 4 begins, and (SPOILERS) said brother is moved permanently out of the picture, we are treated to ten episodes of slow and painful moral degradation, pushing McGill on the path towards becoming the morally-hideous character of Saul as seen in Breaking Bad. We are also treated to an expanded role for Jonathan Banks as criminal hand for-hire Mike Erhmantraut, who finds his connection to Breaking Bad‘s drug kingpin Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) growing deeper.
With beautiful cinematography, heart-breaking character moments and exciting plot developments, Better Call Saul was leagues ahead of the competition once again in Season Four.
Number Six: Killing Eve (Season 1) – BBC
Killing Eve was truly amongst the best of British television this year. Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s stunning development of Luke Jenning’s ‘Codename Villanelle’ novella series hit us all hard in 2018. The truth is, it was classic box set binge bait.
Jodie Comer’s extraordinarily adorable serial killer was pitted against Sandra Oh’s chaotic novice detective. All of this was against a backdrop of international crime and mystery. The acting was incredible, the plot surprising and satisfyingly twisty. It was brutal and violent and whimsical and touching and unlike anything we’d seen before. Curling up on the sofa with a glass of wine and some chocolates to watch this 8-part drama became the highlight of our weeks.
The show has already won several awards and is set to scoop up even more in the coming award season. The second series was commissioned before the first series even premiered and will be on millions of people’s “must watch” lists for 2019, making it truly worthy of number 6 on this list.
Before we count off the top five, let’s take a moment to gander over the voting results for some interesting trivia shall we?
- At a total of three nominations, Doctor Who Season 11 is the stinkiest show of 2018! Having also claimed the tenth spot on our countdown, this result just goes to show how polarising Whittaker’s first series in the driving seat has been! Let’s hope they can course-correct come Season 12 in 2020!
- With all but three picks being broadcast on either BBC or Netflix, it’s quite clear where our loyalties lie in the televisual world!
- Just as the show itself was cancelled (from Netflix and my heart), Daredevil Season 3 was cancelled from the Top 10, missing out on the number ten spot by a meagre few points!
- Young Sheldon actually received a vote, which is surely a sign of terrifying things to come.
But now, back to the juicy stuff!
Number Five: The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Season 1) – Netflix
On the surface, the Archie Comics adaptation from Netflix and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is a Buffy-esque adventure, with a warm fifties feel to its soundtrack and aesthetic (including corded landlines) and a chilling modernity to its social commentary, especially on gender and sexuality, which includes references to the revolutionary hashtag campaign, #MeToo. It’s stylish yet heartfelt, and carried by Kiernan Shipka’s spellbinding performance as Sabrina, alongside a strong cast including Doctor Who’s Michelle Gomez and The Office’s Lucy Davis, who is a joy as the eccentric Aunt Hilda.
Going deeper though, through its exploration of the world of witches and the Church of Night, Sabrina sparks an insightful discussion of religion and faith, of corrupt priests and free will. At its heart, however, Sabrina is an exploration of identity, following a young half-witch, half-mortal as she attempts to reconcile her dual nature, while her boyfriend, Harvey Kinkle (Ross Lynch), is trying desperately to fit in with his mining-hunter family, and her friend, Susie Putnam (Lachlan Watson), hates wearing dresses and doesn’t mind being called a boy.
Sabrina shares its glorious heroine’s duality, in being both vintage and modern, both a joyously fantastical romp and an insightful commentary on identity, and, like Sabrina, it is that very duality that gives it its magic.
Number Four: The Good Place (Season 3) – Netflix
Please, if you haven’t yet watched Michael Schur’s The Good Place, trust in his reputation (The Office, Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) – and I guess in the taste of our voters – open a tab to Netflix, catch yourself up, and then come back and read this review, because it will have spoilers – and also, you should watch The Good Place.
Each season of The Good Place has a new setting and a refreshingly original story, and for its third season, our troublesome four have found their way to Earth, so that Michael (Ted Danson) and Janet (D’Arcy Carden) can prove to the Judge (Maya Rudolph) that the point system is flawed, and that humans really can change their ways and be redeemed from the Bad to the Good Place. This opens up many possibilities to discuss the philosophical teachings of morality, how to live a good life and whether someone can be judged to be a ‘good’ person.
However, as Janet loses her powers when on Earth, The Good Place lost some of its magic in its change of setting, and for the first half of the season, most of the focus is on our characters and their relationships, as they attempt to save their loved ones from an afterlife in the Bad Place.
Fortunately, the second half of this season earns The Good Place’s place on our top ten, as it returns to its best, exploring the meaning of free will, and whether or not it can truly exist; how to live a perfect life in accordance to the Good Place’s point system, and whether that truly is the best way to live a life; and in the season finale, Michael and Janet make a worrying discovery about the flaws of the point system.
It’s not the show’s strongest season, but is strong nonetheless, with highlights including a return for Doug Forcett, the man who guessed the workings of the afterlife after hallucinating on magic mushrooms, Janet beating up a bunch of demons in a bar, and a guest appearance from Stephen Merchant as head of the Accounting department.
Number Three: The Handmaid’s Tale (Season 2) – Hulu
No show has made me feel excited, on edge, sad or angry – often all at the same time – quite like The Handmaid’s Tale. Season Two fully deviated away from the events of the book, but with Margaret Atwood on board as a consulting producer, we can be assured that this is how she envisioned June/Offred proceeding in Gilead. As with Season One, each episode of the show manages to leave me in a depressed slump as I see what the world could potentially become, and yet I’m desperate to watch the next episode to find out how the events play out. With Season Two ending with as much of a cliff-hanger as Season One, I couldn’t face the fact that I would have to wait another year to see how June manages to bring down the system (at least that’s what I’m hoping for). Ask anyone who has seen The Handmaid’s Tale and they can tell you how relevant and important it is in the era of Trump and the ongoing global fight for women’s rights, but the show is also entertaining in its own right. Elisabeth Moss plays a captivating and candid June, and the supporting cast deliver outstanding performances as well. Though not the cheeriest television programme around, I cannot recommend anything more than The Handmaid’s Tale!
Number Two: Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Season 5) – Fox
In a year where this comedy series based around New York’s police department hit it’s milestone 99th episode, and was cancelled for a total of 24 hours, the fifth series of Brooklyn 99 was still as fantastic as ever.
Following on from the cliffhanger in Series 4, with Detectives Jake Peralta and Rosa Diaz being sent to prison after being framed, the series follows how the Squad fight to have them released, and the antics that follow once they are. This includes the annual Halloween Heist, where in the midst of a free-for-all competition, Jake outwits the others to use the competition to propose to girlfriend and fellow Police Officer Amy Santiago, with the pair marrying in the final episode.
The series’ comedy is still as fresh as the jokes in series one, and its milestone episode brings more to the plate; passing Nakatomi Plaza and visiting the Boyles, and also featuring Rosa coming out as bisexual (just like actress Stephanie Beatriz) all in the midst of getting Captain Holt to a pivotal meeting during his campaign for Police Commissioner.
Episodes to note include 99, The Box, and HalloVeen, although my favourite opening scene for this series is for DFW – getting five murder suspects to sing along to the Backstreet Boys is something you need to see to be believed. Fans, including celebrities such as Sean Astin, Mark Hamill and Lin Manuel Mirand rallied together in May 2018 to save the show from being cancelled from Fox in less than 24 hours! This show, and the community behind it are amazing, and I cannot wait for Series 6 this month!