Finally, it is time to wrap of this year’s “Best of” collection with a look at my favorite shows. I may have watched fewer things than is typical for me this year (though still more than most people I know), but on the whole, I loved the things I watched more. As both my top 10 and honorable mentions indicate, I’m appreciating comedies more than dramas at the moment and would argue that they are doing better work as a whole. I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at the things I’ve appreciated in 2018 and as always, leave your own favorites in the comments below!
1. The Good Place I occasionally have a hard time believing that a sitcom about moral philosophy aired on NBC at all, let alone has been running for three seasons and has been renewed for a fourth. However, I also can’t think of a more fitting show for this moment in time. What do we owe one another? How do we fix broken systems? What does “doing good” look like? This show addresses them all head on while also telling a beautiful story about four people, one demon, and a Janet who have undoubtedly improved themselves because of the impact they’ve had on each other. They’ve started to overcome old struggles and hurts, become clear about the people they would like to be, and seem to be in the midst of fixing the afterlife for everyone. This is a show that never entirely goes the way you think it may but it does everything so confidently that you can’t help but trust in the end results. There is a solid vision for what this show wants to be and intelligent plotting that rivals many dramas, all in half the time and while making us laugh. It is a remarkable accomplishment and I’m waiting for the award recognition is strongly deserves.
2. One Day at a Time This show is responsible for one of my favorite memories of the year and while that shouldn’t technically count because it involves season three which has yet to air, I’m still counting it because all it did was amplify my love for this special show and all the people involved. This show is everything you want a family sitcom (or honestly, just a good show) to be. The cast is incredible and I will sing their praises constantly, the writing and directing are terrific and take advantage of the cast’s abilities, and it is the perfect blend of funny and warm. In true Norman Lear style, the way they integrate social issues into episodes is beautifully done and I think they topped themselves this year with the episode centering around Penelope’s depression. Rather than being “very special episodes” that are never addressed before and after, they involve issues that have simmered in the background and that flow through into future episodes. I cannot say enough about this show and if you’re not already watching, go to Netflix and hit play on the first episode and catch up before it comes back in early February.
3. Pose I want this show to be Ryan Murphy’s legacy. He has been involved with so many different television shows, many of them critically acclaimed, but he has done something really special with Pose. And he’s done it largely by letting others tell their own stories and using his influence to get it a platform. This is a story by and about queer and trans people of color and it’s full of joy. There is struggle, fear, and loss as it takes place in the 80s during the AIDS crisis but it doesn’t take center stage. Instead, it highlights community and chosen families and love. It feels unlike anything else on television and not just because it’s telling a story about people who are still underrepresented. It’s the heart and core of sense8 with the tight plotting and character work of The Americans and the result is a compassionate, smartly crafted show about identity and life. It has the pageantry of ball culture alongside quietly intimate moments and it all came together to form a beautiful piece of media.
4. The Americans So much of this season will make your heart ache for these characters but it did so in the most beautiful and fitting way. This has always been a show that is very comfortable with what it is. It lingers in the slowness and tedium of spy work and uses small changes in facial expressions and body language to say most of what these characters are feeling. It’s never been a loud, flashy show and it’s better for that quiet examination of these characters. Elizabeth Jennings has given everything for her country. She has been the true believer who is willing to do the ugly, dirty work that is necessary because she thought she was fighting for something bigger. Then she wasn’t. That cause she was working toward turned out to be as corrupt as the one she had been fighting against. It stopped being something she could believe in and she turned to the one thing she could still rely on – her relationship with Philip. It had been broken nearly irreparably as they stopped being able to truly see each other but it was the thing that kept her tethered to herself and in the end, it was all she was left with. This was always Elizabeth’s journey and Keri Russell’s understated performance was the anchor of this series. I didn’t actually intend for this entry to just talk about the brilliance of Elizabeth as a character and Keri as an actress but it feels right and encapsulates what I loved most about the series. It absolutely deserves the recognition it gets as one of the best shows of this time.