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David Hinckley's Top 15 Shows of 2018
December 29, 2018  | By David Hinckley  | 2 comments

Here’s another good thing about the platinum age of television: More and more programs are no longer one-and-done.

If you missed something when it first aired, odds are increasingly good that it is still available on a digital stream somewhere.

This comes to mind in connection with year-end "best of" lists. Until fairly recently, to be honest, many of those lists could have been subtitled “Hey, look what you missed!”

Now they’re almost all around, for binging or savoring.

So here are 15 shows, from among the 500 or so that were airing in 2018, that struck this set of glassy eyes as particularly worth a look.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (top, Amazon). Rachel Brosnahan’s Midge Maisel may sometimes speak so fast you need subtitles, but this dramedy about a female comic who breaks out of the 1950s is just plain fun to watch. Brosnahan and the show deserve every one of those statuettes.

The Good Place (left, NBC) – Kristen Bell, Ted Danson, and pals prove that broadcast networks can still produce intelligent comedy. A bizarre premise, five off-center characters, and very dry humor keep you watching.

The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu) – The buzz faded a little for the second season, maybe because it really can be hard to watch. But Elisabeth Moss, Alexis Bledel, Ann Dowd and the rest of the cast provide a solid payoff. Sometimes art, including TV, has to make us uncomfortable.

Marvel’s Jessica Jones (Netflix) – Of all the depressed, screwed-up good guys on television, and that’s a truckload, Krysten Ritter just might be the most striking. Marvel at its darkest, wholly redeemed by our fascination with Jessica.

Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger (Freeform) – A different side of Marvel, tossing superpowers into the already tangled world of teen drama. The Marvel part gives the teen drama more durability and a fresh edge.

Killing Eve (right, BBC America) – Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer create the best female buddy drama since Rizzoli and Isles, even allowing for the fact they spend much of their time trying to kill each other. It’s complicated.

My Brilliant Friend (HBO) – If it weren’t for Eve, this would be the best female buddy drama on television, and the characters played by Gaia Girace and Margherita Mazzucco really are friends. Well, sort of. It’s complicated.

Archer (FXX) – Most animated comedies have worn out their gags by Season 3 or 4. Archer just wrapped up season 9 with no visible decline in attitude, which is the heart of the show. You want to wrap it up, and five minutes into an episode it’s got you all over again.  

Outlander (Starz) – Testimony to the value of a show staying in motion. After Caitriona Balfe’s time-traveling heroine survived 18th-century Scottish uprisings, the show sailed her and her squeeze over to America in time for a revolution here. A little soapy, sure, but a tale well told.

Ray Donovan (Showtime) – Another show reinvigorated by moving, in this case from LA to NY. It’s been a rough ride for Liev Schreiber’s title character, but a fast-paced, lively action adventure for the rest of us.

Sweetbitter (Starz) – A small, underappreciated dramedy that drops a small-town girl into a quirky corner of fast-lane New York and watches her bob and weave to stay alive. Ella Purnell seems to be creating our girl Tess on the fly, which has been great fun to watch.  

Poldark (PBS) – Some of the plotlines have slipped a bit into reruns, and all the characters have flaws. No problem. It’s high-class soap, nicely acted and lovely to look at.

Better Call Saul (right, AMC) – Vince Gilligan maintains a brilliant touch with antiheroes, bringing in Bob Odenkirk and Jonathan Banks to flesh out two supporting characters from the Breaking Bad world. With the more than able help of Rhea Seehorn, they create a different kind of show with the same kind of fascination.  

Mr. Inbetween (FX) – Another small, overlooked show whose six episodes aired late at night. It’s a dark comedy with Scott Ryan as a droll hitman, which doesn’t sound funny or endearing and becomes both.

Sacred Lies (Facebook Watch) – What could be a teen melodrama becomes a much more interesting study of cults and challenges and the nature of truth? Elena Kampouris nails the lead role of a cult escapee, and the whole series nicely navigates the novel concept of doing a drama in 30-minute episodes.

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Linda D
To Paul Schatz: My apologies. You addition of "Bojack Horseman" to the list (in comments) was mistakenly deleted.
Jan 3, 2019   |  Reply
David, one small correction, as regards the blurb about The Good Place: "A bizarre premise, five off-center characters..." Really should be six. The character of Janet, played by the comic actress D'Arcy Carden, is a hoot. She plays multiple variations of the character, a robot/android/interface-to-an-all-knowing-database, including a "Bad Janet" version that's the polar opposite of the "Good Janet" we see most of the time. Janet's unrequited love affair with Jason in the first season was hilarious, with neither of them having any clue about sex. Every time I think this show can't get any wilder or weirder, they up their game another notch.
Dec 29, 2018   |  Reply
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