After what feels like nine months of winter with the World Cup and a heatwave squished in the middle, it’s good that 2018 has been such a great year for television.
New seasons, remakes, new original shows: the so-called golden age of television doesn’t seem to be letting up any time soon. However, if you just didn’t get a chance in between mulling over Brexit and/or climate change to curl up with anything good this year, don’t lose hope! Here’s a list of the top ten shows of 2018 to kickstart your Christmas catch-up binge.
Westworld (Season 2)
The star-studded cast of Westworld returns with a slightly convoluted but still thrilling plot. Building on the show’s already well-executed premise and better-timed twists, each character undergoes a massive personal transformation over the course of this second season, none more so than our protagonist Dolores Abernathy (played by Evan Rachel Wood). Nonetheless, Thandie Newton blooms on screen as Maeve, as does James Marsden as the forever loyal Teddy. The mystery at the heart of Westworld, coupled with its characteristic cinematography and brutal aesthetic, will have you desperate to know what’s behind the next door.
Salt Fat Acid Heat
Samin Nosrat hosts this warm, inviting journey into the essentials of food, elevating her audience with the origins of the ingredients she loves best, and acknowledging the skills of the people who produce them. This show is reality-cooking-television at its peak – far from the sterile white walls of the male-dominated professional kitchen, where high-quality food seems to be synonymous with that which is furthest from its natural state (think crumbs, pureés, foams). Here the communal and human aspects of eating are celebrated with simple and diverse joy, making Salt Fat Acid Heat a show that is, quite frankly, a mini-revelation.
Oscar winner Emma Stone and Jonah Hill lead us on a wild trip through a timeless retro-future in which the dystopian cracks in our own day-to-day lives are lit up in perfect neon. Looking for connection in a world that seems to have lost all meaning, the black sheep of the family Owen Milgrim finds fellow lost soul Annie Landsberg at an experimental drug trial purported to fix everything that is wrong with you. But human lives and minds are messier than any pill could align, as we see in the subsequent actions of the doctors and fellow patients around the pair, not to mention those of Greta, the depressed artificially intelligent computer running the whole psychosomatic event.
GLOW (Season 2)
Their second season sees a deepening consideration of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. Each character is paid thorough attention, although the bulk of the plot focuses on the rivalry between Ruth (Alison Brie) and Debbie (Betty Gilpin). Marc Maron as Sam Sylvia even surprisingly becomes vaguely likeable. Fans of this show should also definitely consider watching the documentary GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (also on Netflix), which inspired the whole fictionalised show, if only to better understand the artistic choices the creators Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch made when adapting the real story into a televisual gem for the modern audience.
This remake of the iconic noughties show goes straight to the heart, as we follow the Fab Five on their mission to makeover any man or woman, inside and out, who might have lost themselves a little somewhere along the way. From 57-year-old Tom who starts off claiming that ‘You Can’t Fix Ugly,’ to transgender man Skyler whose final transitional were documented for us to witness, Queer Eye captures our sympathies in so many ways). These heroes are just as endearing as their handsome and entirely charming hosts. You are guaranteed to binge through this show in a day or two (if you haven’t already) and come out the other side feeling like, maybe, the real treasure really is the friends you made along the way.
Hannah Gadsby’s stand-up comedy special was released on Netflix in June this year, and made waves for its fearless baring of the toxic culture within traditional comedy. Deftly untangling the messy relationship between trauma and humour, tension and release, Gadsby refuses to accept the separation between art and artist, and questions the ethics of any comedian, but especially one who is part of a marginalised community, having to seek permission to speak by publicly humiliating themselves. In her charming and heartbreaking style, Gadsby rejects this formula, and instead advocates for us to listen to a new kind of stand-up – or maybe an old kind, the kind of storytelling that women have been doing for generations.
Pose follows the ups and downs of members of the 1990s ballroom scene in New York, vividly recalling the aesthetic and feeling of the vital documentary Paris is Burning (also available to stream on Netflix). Somehow, it manages to balance glamour, drama, and poignant historical detail seemingly effortlessly, and without compromise. With the largest number of transgender actors ever cast in a television series, as well as showcasing a hugely important narrative that privileges the origins of drag and ballroom culture and the trauma that surrounded it. This is a seminal show for absolutely everyone, and both beautiful and necessary to watch.
Riding on the heels of feature films The Miseducation of Cameron Post and Appropriate Behaviour, Iranian-American director Desiree Akhavan shines in her new Channel 4 project The Bisexual as protagonist Leila, a woman breaking out of a ten-year relationship simply because she just isn’t sure. Deeply relatable, funny, and flawed, each character is given the attention they deserve, and Maxine Peake is stunning as Leila’s spurned lover, Sadie. Set in a very loveable representation of London, full of art, culture and diversity, Akhavan brings us a bleakly honest performance tempered by a self-obsessed but well-meaning naïveté, as she explores the delicate intricacies of intimacy.
Atlanta (Season 2)
Before his hit as Childish Gambino with This is America this year, Donald Glover returned in early 2018 for the second season of Atlanta, a wild and surreal project that simply refuses to be pinned down. From the beginning of the first episode, we know we are in an anarchic world and As the format of each episode differs, and the themes shift fluidly between violence and comedy, romance and intrigue, and might even be a work of genius.
If you’ve seen either of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s 2017 television offerings, Crashing or Fleabag, you’ll already be deeply familiar with her signature cocktail of spiky dialogue and dark, explicit humour. In this next artfully constructed series, Villanelle, a romantically psychopathic assassin, is being hunted down by obsessive Scotland Yard detective Eve Polastri (played by Sandra Oh) with very few allies and next to zero budget. It’s close to the bone, crisply funny, and you can go the whole season entirely entertained without even realising that most of the main roles are played by women. You can also imagine Waller-Bridge saying every line, and it still somehow only makes it funnier. This show is by far my top pick of 2018: so if you haven’t seen it yet, get on BBC iPlayer and stream all eight episodes right now before 2019 hits!