There have been some fantastic television this year. Television cultural phenomenons like Game of Thrones and The Big Bang Theory ended this year, as did other critically acclaimed television shows like Veep, Broad City, Orange is the New Black and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Meanwhile, television shows that recently premiered this year, like The Mandalorian and The Witcher, are already on their way to becoming cultural phenomenons.
There are my 15 best television shows of the year:
Firstly, some honourable mentions include Bojack Horseman (part 1 of season 6), Catastrophe (season 4), Dead to Me (season 1), The End of the F***ing World (season 2), Good Omens, Killing Eve (season 2), Mindhunter (season 2) and Santa Clarita Diet (season 3)
15: Rick and Morty, season 4
Dan Harmon continues to be the king of cult television (after Community), with the fourth season of Rick and Morty. Despite taking over two years to produce this season, it well worth the wait as the show remains as wonderful as ever. Although only five episodes have aired, hopefully they keep up the standard for the remaining five episodes.
14. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, season 4
As someone who has been a die-hard fan of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend ever since it dropped on Netflix in the UK in 2016, it almost pains me that this is only number 14 on the list, and that is mainly because this season felt a bit like an extended epilogue to the series (also, it didn’t need to be 18 episodes long) and the show slightly peaked in it’s devastating and emotional season 3. However, with the show’s unique mix of musical comedy, relationship drama, and heartbreaking truth about mental health, the show proceeds to be as terrific with its final season. Also, as always, this season boasts some terrific songs (from “Anti-Depressants Are So Not a Big Deal” to “Don’t Be a Lawyer” to “The Darkness” to “Slow Motion”) and some great performances (particular by Bloom and Donna Lynne Champlin).
As an advocate for this show for the longest time, hopefully give it another 10 years, and this show will be a cult classic, in the same vein as Arrested Development and Community.
13. Barry, season 2
Barry could be the closest thing we have to be a successor to Breaking Bad, in how it features a central anti-hero character that, despite the terrible things he has done, manages to remain sympathetic with the show’s wonderful writing and powerful lead performance by Bill Hader. By combining pathos, black comedy, heart-breaking drama and wonderful supporting performances (by Henry Winkler and Sarah Goldberg), this show is one to watch, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next.
12. Veep, season 7
In case you were one of the few who didn’t know, Game of Thrones ended it’s 8-season run this year in, ahem, divisive (and that’s being kind to it) ways. Meanwhile, at the exact same time, another long-running HBO show, Veep ended on a pretty much perfect note. Julia Louis Dreyfus, who portrays lead, Selina Meyer, remains as electric as ever, and has some of the best comic timing by any actor I’ve ever seen. Also, unlike the lead female heroine, Daenerys in Game of Thrones, the show is able to end Selina’s character arc in an absolutely perfect way. Also, there some lovely supporting turns this season by Hugh Laurie, Better Call Saul’s Rhea Seehorn and Tony Hale.
Despite the first few episodes feeling a little bit filler, the finale was absolutely brilliant and remains one of best ways to end a series in recent years.
11. The Umbrella Academy, season 1
This very peculiar superhero series debuted on Netflix in February, and seemed to be an odd mix of Tim Burton, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Pushing Daisies and Heroes. Benefiting from some ambitious character arcs (specially by Ellen Page’s Jean Grey-inspired Vanya), deft interplay between the eccentric characters and an original visual style, this was one of the best Netflix Originals of recent years, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next.
10. Sex Education, season 1
Another Netflix original here that premiered earlier this year that was absolutely terrific. Much like the teen film, Booksmart from earlier this year, this show managed to reinvigorate the coming of age genre with wit and a renewed energy. The show benefits largely from charming lead performances by Asa Butterfield and Gillian Anderson, along with loads of appearances by various promising newcomers (notable cast members include Ncuti Gatwa, Emma Mackey and Aimee Lou Wood). Blending the heart-breaking and harsh truth of teen dramas like Skins but still with a lighthearted charm, I can’t wait to see where this goes for season 2, to be released this January.
9. The Good Place, season 4
In a world of television series being dark and depressing and focusing on anti-heroes, it’s wonderful to see to see a show like The Good Place that remains unapoletically optimistic in it’s final season. Although this season has yet to end (with 3 episodes left), the show remains as charming and lovely as ever, and it’s bonkers and weird premise still hasn’t run of steam it’s final year – if anything, the show has just got more entertaining. Hopefully, unlike Game of Thrones, it will end the series just as brilliantly.
8. Schitt’s Creek, season 5
The small underdog series that has finally managed to break into the mainstream, Schitt’s Creek has really come into it’s own in it’s latest two seasons. Perfecting it’s vein of awkward comedy and heart-warming relationship drama, Schitt’s Creek has become possibly the best comedy on television. Also, Caroline O’Hara is a comedy legend.
Following from Game of Thrones disappointment, HBO rebounded with this miniseries, detailing the devastating true life Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, which easily became one of the best miniseries of the year. Every element of production was fantastic from the writing, the direction, the production design and the performances (especially by Jared Harris). It’s very hard to watch, but it’s still very much worth it for just how brilliant it was.
6. Russian Doll, season 1
Much like Sex Education, Russian Doll has managed to successfully reinvigorate a hired genre – this time, being the time loop/ personal improvement genre in the vein of Groundhog Day and It’s a Wonderful Life. It has managed to do that so brilliantly with the wonderful writing and great lead performance by Natasha Lyonne. Hopefully, they don’t mess it up for season 2.
5. Derry Girls, season 2
Although Derry Girls – the Irish comedy-drama, produced by Hat Trick and Channel 4 – probably won’t be known to international audiences, it’s one probably the best British comedy out there at the moment. Filled with wonderful characters, brilliant one-liners (particular by Siobhan McSweeney’s deadpan Sister Michael and Louisa Harland’s bonkers Orla) and great writing, Derry Girls is one of UK’s greatest hits of recent years.
This true life Netflix miniseries was utterly heartbreaking and captivating. The series combines two central story-lines – the harrowing story of the rape of Marie Alder (played by the brilliant Kaitlyn Dever, who broke out this year with equally wonderful Booksmart) and the investigation of various rapes by two chalk-and-cheese police detectives (played by equally great Toni Colette and Merritt Wever). Through brilliant performances, the series manages to completely surpass it’s true crime and police drama roots to create something riveting. A must watch.
3. Fleabag, season 2
These top three are so bloody fantastic that any one of them could be to number one. But currently, in my mood at the moment, the second series to Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s breakout series, Fleabag ranks at number 3. The series combines some of the best writing seen on television with brilliant performances by Waller-Bridge, Sian Clifford, Olivia Colman and Andrew Scott (with a nice cameo by Kristen Scott Thomas). The end result is a heartbreaking and riveting depiction of addiction, trauma and grief, whilst retaining a real wit at the same time. Hell, even Obama loves it, so it you don’t, you have no soul.
2. Stranger Things, season 3
The breakout Netflix series shows no signs of slowing down for it’s third season, with possibly the best season yet. While, the second season of the show felt like a homage to David Cronenberg and John Carpenter’s The Thing (1984), this season felt more like a homage to popular 80s summer blockbusters movies, in the vein of Back to the Future (1985). The real strength of the season is how brilliantly directed it is, keeping it very briskly paced, whilst developing all of it’s characters in interesting ways. It’s just wonderful.
The loose adaptation/ continuation of Alan Moore’s classic 1986/87 graphic novel, Watchmen is the definitely best TV show of the year. The real strengths of the series is how each every episode of the series feels completely unique and different, while contributing to the overall story. Highlights include “This Extraordinary Being”, a black-and-white trip back to the 1930s; “Little Fear of Lightning”, a dark character study about the depths of PTSD and “A God Walks Into Abar”, a really heartbreaking love story. The characters and performances, from Regina King’s Angela to Tim Blake Nelson’s Looking Glass to Jean Smart’s Laurie, are really fantastic. Even though it stands beautifully as it’s own self-contained series, I would still like to see where this goes for season 2. It was just fantastic, and it’s my favourite show of the year.