Top Ten TV Shows of 2018
Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed in this review are solely those of Marlon Wallace and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of WBOC.
There is so much television. From what’s on broadcast TV, cable networks, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, most people could just get lost. After binge-watching so much, I’ve only made a dent in all the programming that’s out there. I’ve whittled all I’ve seen down to 30 shows or TV movies that I really enjoyed. To see all of them, you can see the full list on my personal blog.
From that full list though, I’ve condensed it to this final selection of the best series that went over the air or over the Internet.
10. ALL AMERICAN – It’s basically The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air meets Friday Night Lights. I didn’t think it would be as good as either of those shows. The show is about race and class, bouncing back and forth between a wealthy place and an impoverished place. I thought that it would be problematic in its depiction of Crenshaw, the impoverished place and the predominantly black neighborhood, but the show does a good job of balancing perspectives and experiences from both Crenshaw and Beverly Hills, the wealthy place and predominantly white neighborhood.
9. QUEER EYE – Bravo’s Queer Eye for the Straight Guy was a cultural phenomenon of the early 2000’s. It represented the pinnacle of makeover TV shows. In the 10 years since it’s been off the air, there seems to be less of a need for a show like this. What’s surprising is how the show proves that actually a purpose still does exist for it. Plus, the five guys at the center are simply entertaining to watch.
8. THE LAST O.G. – Tracy Morgan (30 Rock and Saturday Night Live) was severely injured after having a car accident in 2014 after leaving a show at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino in Dover, Delaware. He plays Tray Barker in this TBS series about a man trying to make a comeback after spending time in prison. He tries to reconnect with his ex-girlfriend and mother to his two kids, Shay, played by Tiffany Haddish (Girls Trip and The Carmichael Show). Co-Created by Jordan Peele (Get Out), it’s a simple premise that’s handled extremely well, allowing Morgan and Haddish to truly shine.
7. THE GOOD PLACE: SEASON 3 – I didn’t care for the first season of this NBC series. I heard about the twist that happens at the end of the first season, which changes things completely. Despite giving up on the show, I started watching the second season and I absolutely fell in love with it. I’ve been watching every episode every week dutifully and riveted. The series, created by Michael Schur (The Office), strings us along on a ridiculous plot, but it’s peppered with great jokes and hilarity that has me laughing or increasingly curious. The show features Ted Danson (CSI and Cheers) and Kristen Bell (Frozen and Veronica Mars) in fine form. Without spoiling anything, the show is about four people who die and find themselves in the afterlife. What’s funny is how the afterlife is run like an incompetent, government bureaucracy. The characters they encounter are great and the whole thing has a level of excitement that most shows lack.
6. ATLANTA: SEASON 2 – I didn’t really like the first season of this Emmy-winning comedy series on FX either. Created by Donald Glover, that first season aired in 2016. Normally, a TV series would follow up the next year, but Glover who has become a very busy guy doing music and movies took a hiatus, releasing the second season in 2018. I don’t know if that hiatus allowed Glover to focus more on the characters, but the second season’s focus on the character relationships between Glover’s character, Earn, an aspiring music producer and agent, and his one client and rapper, Paper Boi, played by Brian Tyree Henry, as well as girlfriend and mother to his daughter, Van, played by Zazie Beetz, is what makes this second season a surprising delight.
5. THE GOOD FIGHT: SEASON 2 – The first season of this show made my list last year. It’s a spin-off of CBS’ The Good Wife. This second season continues in the amazing writing, acting and direction from the first season. It’s a legal drama that focuses on a middle-age woman named Diane Lockhart, played by Christine Baranski. Diane loses her retirement and her marriage, which forces her to start-over in a new law firm, an all-black law firm in Chicago. Despite tackling topical legal issues, it also deal with issues of race and politics in brilliant fashion.
4. TOM CLANCY’S JACK RYAN – John Krasinski (The Office) brings the popular character from novels and films to the small screen. Streaming on Amazon, it’s a spy thriller and action series that takes its queue from shows like 24 and Homeland. It might not be as compelling as both those two shows, but I find it highly entertaining. It kept me on the edge of my seat, episode to episode.
3. POSE – Even though I’m not a fan of period TV shows, meaning TV shows that take place in some time period that isn’t the present, this one by Ryan Murphy (Glee and The People v. O.J. Simpson) is very well done. It’s set in New York City in the 1980’s. It focuses on queer people of color who are part of what’s called “ball culture.” Ball culture is a series of parties and competitions that allow queer people of color to socialize and express themselves in a safe space. The series centers on a makeshift family that support each other through homophobia, transphobia, economic struggles, poverty, drugs and abuse. It’s powerful stuff, anchored by Broadway star Billy Porter and transgendered actress MJ Rodriguez in heartbreaking performances.
2. HOMECOMING – Julia Roberts is an Oscar-winning actress. She’s also been a movie star for nearly 30 years. She’s appeared on television here and there, but this is her first time as the lead in a series. This one is streaming on Amazon Prime. She’s probably not going to make a habit of it, but her one and only series for now is very notable. She plays Heidi Bergman, a counselor at a Florida facility that tries to help soldiers and veterans transition to civilian life. Created by Sam Esmail (Mr. Robot), this show is an excellent examination of memory, point-of-view, loss, regret and PTSD. It is beautifully filmed, superbly acted and a must-see of the the year.
1. SEVEN SECONDS – When I saw this series on Netflix early in 2018, I was absolutely blown away. Regina King won the Emmy for her role here, which is a mother who has to deal with her unarmed son getting shot by a police officer. It follows the legal case that mounts against the police officer who pulled the trigger, but it is by far one of the best examples I’ve seen in TV or film about Black Lives Matter. Regardless of what one’s politics are, this is a very well wrought drama. I can’t say much more than that it is no question the best TV show of 2018.