2018 is nearly in the rearview mirror, and while reflecting on this interesting year is occasionally painful, there was at the very least some great new TV shows that showed up and showed out in the entertainment landscape.
Here are 8 of the best.
8. Castle Rock
Shout out to Castle Rock for being able to draw from the great canon of Stephen King’s books and not end up looking like somebody put a bunch of 80s movies in a blender. An incredible cast led by Sissy Spacek, Andre Hollande, and everyone’s favorite scary boy Bill Skarsgård paid homage to the tone of King’s work while weaving an…okay, a pretty confusing but also very cool story that left its audience with a delicious amount of unanswered questions. And as for those questions? Well, Castle Rock Season 2 is already greenlit, but as an anthology. Take that, fan theorists.
7. The Haunting of Hill House
2018 was a pretty good year for horror on the silver screen and the small, but Netflix’s spooky smash The Haunting of Hill House stood out as a genuinely scary and entertaining take on the old “this big-ass house is absolutely packed with ghosts” story. Its foray into examining the mundane horrors of family and love before even getting to any of the dead people made it a bold and interesting take on the genre. Also, wasn’t it fun playing Spot The Background Ghost all season long?
Where lots of television in 2018 focused on darkness, Pose emerged as a sparkling, spinning disco ball of light. Its characters include those who have in many forms of media been portrayed as downtrodden — namely, trans women of color in 1980s New york — but Pose gave them storylines that focused on their lives, their loves, and their found families. It’s depth of emotion and roots in real history were tearjerking but never bleak, and the overall happiness of its finale felt truly radical.
5. Queer Eye
nearly didn’t make this list, but not because it’s not a spectacular show. It just took a minute to remember that it premiered in 2018! The new Fab 5 have only been public figures since January of this year, but it feels like they’ve always been here, in our hearts and on our screens. That’s the kind of cultural saturation that comes with having the perfect cast and beautiful stories that make audiences feel good (and want to get better themselves).
4. Killing Eve
Sandra Oh is the GOAT and that’s a fact. She was already a star thanks to Grey’s anatomy, but her performance in Killing Eve solidified her as one of television’s best leading women. Killing Eve was exactly the weird, psychosexual romp 2018 needed, and it gave us something more important than a simple cat-and-mouse chase. It gave us Villanelle, the flouncy dress–wearing assassin goddess the world loves to hate.
3. Sharp Objects
Can everyone who is still stressed out about the last five minutes of HBO’s Sharp Objectsplease raise their hands? Ok, good. Even though it was a limited series, the sheer weight and size of Sharp Objects felt like it defined a lot of what watching TV feels like in 2018. It drew heavily from negative emotions — anxiety, drama, the urge to self-destruct — and transformed it into a visual medium that told the kind of story people almost didn’t want to know the truth of. It’s a shoe-in for so many awards, and they will be well deserved.
One quick thing to know about Barry on HBO: Bill Hader is a genius. This show has everything. It’s got murder, it’s got emotional breakdowns, it’s got shitty improv exercises, it’s got that thing where you see an outfit on a mannequin and actually buy it but it looks terrible on you. Submarine sandwiches. Facebook. Barry was recognized very favorably at the Emmys this year and deserved every accolade because of what the show says about personal delusion, patterns, and the dozens of little interpersonal failures that (might!) make someone a bad person. It’s also hilarious, and NoHo Hank is the best new character created in all of 2018.
Showtime’s new 30-minute comedy/drama Kidding flew a little under the radar this year despite having a momentous single draw: Jim Carrey’s return to television after nearly 20 years. In Kidding, Carey plays a Mr. Rogers–esque role with all of his legendary comedic timing, but the story takes his character Jeff to places that lie beyond the role of a funnyman. Its ruminations on death, grief, suppression, family, and consequence are always delivered with laughs and stunning cinematography, and every single episode finds at least one way to reach out from the TV screen and punch its viewers directly in the stomach. Kidding is a masterpiece, and it’s already renewed for Season 2.