The best TV shows of 2018

15. This is Us season 3

What is it? Following the life and exploits of the Pearson family, This is Us straddles several timelines across a 30 year period to slowly colour in every missing detail of this unconventional tribe. Season 3 places a particular focus on Toby and Kate’s marriage, Randall’s entry into politics, and Jack’s participation in the Vietnam war. 

Why should you watch it? This is Us has become famous as the show that’ll leave you in tears with almost every roll of the credits. They won’t always be tears of sadness, thankfully, but Dan Fogelman’s sincerely textured drama has earned its reputation as an expressive examination of dysfunctional family life, and this year’s season was no exception. Continuing with the time-hopping structure so cleverly established in the very first episode, This is Us season 3 frog hops between war-torn Vietnam, 1990’s Pittsburgh, and modern day Los Angeles and New York to check back in with the Pearsons, amidst all their perfect imperfections. There’s some surprising, perhaps unnecessary character developments this late in the game, but This is Us’ earnest agenda still shines through its momentary structural anomalies. You’ll still need to stock up on at least two dozen boxes of tissues, of course, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. Alex Avard

14. Legion season 2

What is it? The weirdest take on recent superhero culture for a while, filmed in a surreal, 60/70 tinged kitsch haze. It’s full of dark nightmarish dream sequences one minute and cast dance offs the next. It’s actually based on the Marvel character Legion, the son of Professor X, a powerful but troubled mutant. While the first season saw him fighting to save his mind, season 2 focuses diverting a future apocalypse. 

Why should you watch it? Few shows have as much character, interesting ideas, and just plane bizarre flourishes as Legion. Using the core of Legion’s - or, more accurately, David Haller’s - psychic powers and mental illness, it creates a world that he, his friends, and, as a result, no one else can be entirely sure about. One minute you’re watching the good guys trying to track down the Shadow King, a near immortal and powerful villain believed to be spreading a mental virus turning the world catatonic, the next there’s a full on Bollywood dance number. And it does this because Legion makes the sort of surreal ideas that usually only work on the page come alive on the screen. This season has everything from time travel to female android bodyguards with moustaches, and a restaurant that serves food via a tiny river with little boats on it. Visually it creates a stylish and inventive experience, and narratively keeps you as confused, wary and as uncertain about what’s happening as the central characters. Leon Hurley

13. The Alienist season 1

What is it? A slightly fantastical crime drama, which focuses on the (fictional) early uses of profiling to catch a serial killer in 19th century New York. Starring Daniel Bruhl as Dr Kreisler, who is assisted by John Moore (Luke Evans) and Sara Howard (Dakota Fanning), it spins a dark tale about murder, abuse, and psychology in a period setting.

Why should you watch it? While The Alienist is a little slow to get going, it soon picks up the pace and features many of the modern twists, turns and tropes of the detective drama, while wrapping them up in a semi-supernatural late-Victorian period. Bruhl is very watchable in the lead role, and Fanning’s Sara Howard is a positive female character in a genre where women are usually victims or bit-part players. There’s enough exploration of each of the main players for them to become interesting and complex, while not always likeable, and the eventual reveal of the villain is well paced and sensible. And while there are few moments that will genuinely turn the stomach, The Alienist does offer its share of scares and horror beats, keeping you nicely gripped as the story plays out over eight episodes. It’s not quite Sherlock Holmes-grade crime drama, but this is a decent period thriller with an interesting enough premise to be a great binge, if you love a bit of dark crime. Andy Hartup

12. BoJack Horseman season 5

What is it? Fresh off of being cast as the lead in gritty new crime drama Philbert, the fifth season of BoJack Horseman deals with the love, lies, and terrible, terrible animal puns that surround Will Arnett’s world-weary character. With BoJack losing a grip on those around him, he starts resorting to a reliance on painkillers. Things get trippy.

Why should you watch it? If you want a dose of the absurd, a heavy helping of angst, and a quickfire joke machine that doesn’t let up, even when dealing with darker subject matters such as death and depression, this is for you. Okay, okay, I haven’t exactly sold it to newcomers expecting a laugh-a-minute comedy involving animals mixing it up with humans. But if you’ve binged the first four seasons, you’ll be surprised at just how much more BoJack Horseman still has to say about loneliness and how friends become something more and, occasionally, something less. It helps, too, that the show no longer relies on the failed sitcom actor to drive the plot, and many of this season’s finer moments – including Todd’s sex robot that inexplicably rises to CEO of a television/time-telling company – come (pun unfortunately intended) elsewhere. The likes of Diane and Mr. Peanut Butter also get ample screen time to develop this year and, yes, BoJack finally gets his comeuppance. Kinda. There still has to be a season 6, after all. Bradley Russell

Read more: Think BoJack Horseman is just 'the sad horse show'? It’s secretly the most grown-up series around

11. The Terror season 1

What is it? A TV adaption of the book by Dan Simmons, The Terror follows the crews of two 19th century ships (The Terror and The Erebus) looking to chart the fabled Northwest Passage from Europe to the US. When they get stranded in the ice, things take a seriously dark turn.

Why should you watch it? Not only is The Terror a showcase for some of the best acting of the year, by one of the most talented British casts, it’s also rather chilling and deliciously violent in places. There’s a slow, two-episode opener to this ten-part season, but after that - when the ‘horror’ has been established, it’s an escalating tale of dread, gore, and hard-won survival. Or not. It’s a show that demands to be watched on a fancy TV, in 4K, with a decent sound set-up, because it’s the scene-setting and audio that often provides the most suspense; the creaking of the ice, the terrifying obscurity of fog and darkness, only punctuated by glowing lanterns. It’s almost a relief when the horror elements show up and make a mess of the crew. More than just horror, however, The Terror deals with weighty political issues too, like cultural sensitivity, the other, race, and the true nature of man - many of these themes ringing as true today as they were in the 19th century. It’s a slow-burning, spine-chilling show, carried by exceptional performances and a wonderfully creepy atmosphere. Andy Hartup

Read more: The Terror is a chilling fusion between The Thing and Master and Commander

10. Better Call Saul season 4

What is it? A portrait of a man destroying his own life in slow motion, in which struggling lawyer Jimmy Mcgill (Bob Odenkirk) continues to worm his way around both sides of the law. Season 4 brings us ever closer to the events of Breaking Bad, with both the construction of Gus’ lab and the transmogrification of Saul Goodman almost complete by the heart thumping finale.

Why should you watch it? When so many other shows struggle to hold our attention for more than ten episodes (*COUGH* Marvel *COUGH*), it’s something of a precious miracle that Better Call Saul remains so obscenely captivating, four seasons in, when its plot refuses to move forward at the pace expected from modern broadcasting standards. But that’s the slow burn ethos that Vince Gilligan so expertly cultivated with Breaking Bad, after all, and Better Call Saul achieves similar levels of success by finding abstract beauty in the darkness of the human condition. In the wake of his brother’s death, Jimmy’s accelerating moral decline is made all the more painful to watch for viewers who know how the story ends. It’s unclear whether the next season of Better Call Saul will be its last but, regardless, this surprising spin-off to the plight of Walter White has already reached masterpiece status by our estimations. Alex Avard

Read more: Why Better Call Saul is better than Breaking Bad - and what other prequels can learn from it

9. Queer Eye season 1 and 2

What is it: A Netflix reboot of the old Bravo series, it sees four gay men, Antoni Porowski, Tan France, Karamo Brown, Bobby Berk, and Jonathan Van Ness - who you may have seen in the viral Gay of Thrones videos - use their expertise to help clueless types improve their lives. 

Why should you watch it? So pure and wholesome and kind, this show is basically the antidote to the rest of 2018. When faced with their subjects - some of them men who are lost, some who wouldn't know a moisturizer if it slapped them on the testicles, some facing huge life changes - the team of experts responds with generosity and practical advice, never judgement. Sounds sickly? It never is, because the Fab Five are as witty as they are talented, and the camaraderie between them means plenty of jokes, mischief, and gossip as they casually change lives. It's no surprise then that the show is also packed with meaningful moments amongst the interior design and makeovers, like when Karamo explains to a cop, Cory, why as a black male he is often scared of the police - the two are still friends now and text often - or when the gang help trans man Skyler start the first chapter of his new life post surgery. You'll cry, you'll laugh, you'll learn how to dress a little better, and then cry a little bit more. Not many shows can entertain you while making the world a better place, but Queer Eye really does. Rachel Weber

8. Sharp Objects season 1

What is it? An HBO miniseries based on the novel of the same name by Gillian Flynn, the same brilliant author that gave us Gone Girl. Starring Amy Adams as damaged and raw journalist Camille Preaker - her best work since Nocturnal Animals - and Patricia Clarkson as the worst mother since my hamster that ate her babies, it focuses on a serial killer.

Why should you watch it? Some shows pride themselves on having one 'difficult' female character, Sharp Objects thrives on having a whole gang of messed up, angry, cruel, and fascinating women on screen. Just as with Gone Girl, Flynn's writing brings a modern, venomous bite to gothic scenarios. Camille is an alcoholic, twisted by a toxic childhood and almost allergic to good decisions, but from the very first moment - as she returns reluctantly to her home town to report on a series of murders - you're on her side, and you back her until the end. Clarkson as Adora is basically a super villain, wafting around her huge Southern home in increasingly stunning nightgowns as her daughter threatens her local standing with her digging. Eliza Scanlen, as Adora's youngest daughter Amma, is breathtaking too, and deserves every rising star award the US has to offer. Rachel Weber

7. Star Trek Discovery season 1 (Part B)

What is it? The second half of Star Trek’s bold, modern overhaul. It all starts with the crew inside the Mirror Universe, looking for a way to return home, but the twists start to come thick and fast and pretty soon there’s fresh conflict, betrayals, and some serious head-messing sci-fi.

Why should you watch it? The first half of the season really feels like a set-up for the second half, laying the groundwork for many of the biggest reveals and plot moments that come towards the end of the season. So, the main reason to watch is ‘because you loved the first half of Discovery’. Of course, stand-out performances from Jason Isaacs as Captain Lorca, and Michelle Yeoh as… well, that would be telling, really help to round out Star Trek Discovery season 1, and the special effects here are top-notch too. Trek fans were initially left cold by the darker sci-fi vibes of Discovery, feeling it deviates too far from Gene Rodenberry’s optimistic ideals, but this season is so well produced, and stuffed with Trek Easter eggs that many ended up warming to it by the end. For anyone else who just loves sci-fi… this was, and still is, essential viewing. Andy Hartup

Read more: Star Trek Discovery ending - everything you need to know after watching season 1

6. GLOW season 2 

What is it? The second season of the hit Netflix Original, GLOW season 2 rejoins Sam, Ruth, and the rest of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling as they prepare to turn GLOW into a real life TV show, navigating the cutthroat world of television and their own troubled relationships along the way. 

Why should you watch it? If you thought the first season of GLOW was one of the best TV shows you’d ever seen (and you’d be right), then, unbelievably, the second season tops it. It’s pretty rare to discover a returning series that's even better than its standout debut, but GLOW season 2 is one such rarity. Even more impressive when you consider it’s fairly niche subject material, the second season takes the success of its first and pushes it’s powerful story even further. That’s not to say that the glam and glitter of the first season is gone - far from it - but this year, GLOW paired its outrageous aesthetic with an even more exillierating, heart-breaking, and important female story. Put simply, GLOW season 2 is one of the best TV shows of 2018 because it delivers on everything its first season promised and more. Lauren O’Callaghan 

Read more: Beneath the glam make-up, power ballads, and Spandex... GLOW season 2 has a smart, important story to tell

Continue to Page 3 for more of the best TV shows of 2018

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