In this era of "Peak TV," there was certainly an abundance of content to consume in 2018. And much of it, quite frankly, was quite good.
I base my best of picks for 2018 on either the excellence of the show itself (through the traditional benchmarks of acting, writing, production, scenic design and more); and/or how it resonates in our world today. Based on the latter, I designated two veteran reality competition series as honorable mentions.
That said, here are my picks for the best of content in 2018 across all platforms, ranked from 10 to one.
10. "The Kids Are Alright" (ABC)
At first glance (or at first earshot, actually), the narration on this nostalgic slice of life circa 1972 immediately reminds you of ABC’s classic "The Wonder Years."
This time, however, the focus is on an Irish catholic family raising eight sons in suburban Los Angeles. And, like "The Wonder Years," the central character in this crowded abode is a young boy – this time Jack Gore as 12-year old Timmy Cleary, who aspires for a career on the musical stage to the confusion of his parents: Michael Cudlitz as tough but tenderhearted Mike and Mary McCormack in her Emmy-worthy turn as the deceiving, manipulative and cleverly conniving Peggy. At a time when the typical TV Mom was a happy homemaker, Peggy Cleary is no second banana.
With chaos at every corner under the watchful eyes of Mama Peggy, "The Kids Are Alright" is much more than the title implies, with sharp writing, fresh performance and spot-on attention to the nostalgic detail of the time.
9. "Pose" (FX)
Set in New York circa 1987, particularly within the uptown ballroom culture, "Pose" is of immediate relevance for featuring multiple transgender actors and members of the LGBTQ community, many of whom are of color. The soapy drama, from Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Steven Canals, explores the harsh realities of these characters; the transphobia, the ignorance, the racism, the ostracism, the poverty and the rejection. All are within the looming AIDS crisis and the understanding that these prejudices still exist. And each character, including Billy Porter as the emcee, Pray Tell, has a back-story.
"Pose" deserves its largest accolade for daring to be different. It’s about celebration against the darkest of odds.
8. "Barry" (HBO)
As a hybrid of crime and comedy (a "crimedy, perhaps), "Barry," starring "SNL" alum Bill Hader, is both a violent crime drama about mobsters, hits and contract killing, and a comedy about a lonely awkward soul who accidentally finds his purpose in life.
Hader as Barry is a former Marine who channels his post-service misery into a job as a low-level contract killer offing "small-town hoods." After an assignment leads him to an acting class in Los Angeles, he ends up on stage and suddenly feels he has a purpose. The teacher is an actor named Gene Cousineau (Emmy winner Henry Winkler), who barely works himself, and there he meets a class of wannabe actors who Barry immediately connects with.
"Barry" is strange, yet riveting, and not like anything you have ever seen before. And its roots are planted in two polar opposite genres that uniquely to connect.
7. "Roseanne" / "The Conners" (ABC)
Roaring out of the gate last March, the return of sitcom "Roseanne" after a 20-year absence certainly proved that some revivals are worth redoing. One episode in and we felt like it never left. But Roseanne Barr, as we all know, sent that racist tweet, and ABC reacted by canceling what was the top-rated sitcom on the air.
Flash to the continuation, sans Barr, called "The Conners," which is so chock full of the other multi-faceted characters we care about – primarily John Goodman as Dan, Laurie Metcalf as Jackie and Sara Gilbert as Darlene – you can barely tell that Roseanne is missing. One question looms though…what happened to the Conner’s youngest son Jerry Garcia and Jackie’s son Andy? And, one suggestion: please give Michael Fishman as son D.J. something to do.
6. "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" (Amazon)
The winner of eight Emmy Awards for season one (including Outstanding Comedy Series), this marvelous tale of an upscale housewife in late 1950s New York City (Rachel Brosnahan) who discovers she has a talent for stand-up comedy was full speed ahead in season two.
Set in laughter and nostalgic in look, season two remains a recipe for characters rich in detail, superior scenic and costume design (including footage in Paris and the Catskills) and the signature crisp banter and zingy one-lines from creator (and recent Emmy darling) Amy Sherman-Palladino.
5. "Homecoming" (Amazon)
In her first regularly scheduled TV series role, Julia Roberts is Heidi Bergman, a therapist trained to help veterans overcome PTSD and adjust to civilian life in this half-hour drama based on the podcast of the same name.
Heidi’s goal is sincere in nature; she wants to assist her patients, particularly Stephan James Walter Cruz who lost some friends while serving overseas and appears to be well adjusted. But life is not all that simple at her Tampa-based facility, as she constantly must justify why she is treating them like human beings instead of like lab rats to Bobby Cannavale as her impatient boss.
This sets the stage for a tense jigsaw puzzle of sorts accentuated by smart performances and flashy direction by "Mr. Robot" creator Sam Esmail.
4. "This Is Us" (NBC)
Given the big reveal on "This Is Us" last season, the fear might have been waned interest in everyone’s favorite tearjerker.
But life continues at addictive speed for the fictional Pearson clan, with Jack’s (Milo Ventimigla) Vietnam backstory, Kate’s (Chrissy Metz) pregnancy, the suddenly questionable future of Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson), and their older daughter Tess’ (Eris Baker) sexual orientation on the forefront. Of course, let’s not forget Jack’s brother Nicky, who did not die in Vietnam after all and gives us the best cliffhanger of any serialized drama in years.
3. "Atlanta" (FX)
Clearly undefined, and unrecognizable by comparison, what sets "Atlanta" apart is the nature of the storytelling.
Masterfully blending genuine humor with the stark realities its characters face, particularly within the black experience in modern America, the series is about the world, seen through the eyes of Earn (Donald Glover) and his friends, and how they seek to connect in a place riddled with potholes and obstacles.
It’s about that dream for a brighter future amongst a narrative of inescapable discrimination. And, in season two, it was all about the characters and the atmosphere.
2. "Killing Eve" (BBC America)
Described as a cat-and-mouse spy story between an MI6 investigator named Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) and a glamorous assassin known as Villanelle (Jodie Comer), what immediately sets this binge-worth drama apart is the casting of two women as the leads.
Both become obsessed with each other ("espionage love," according to creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge).
Both truly enjoy their jobs. And the result if an adept mixture of dark comedy and dramatic intrigue, anchored by Oh as the inexperienced half with the tendency to scream excessively in the face of danger, and Comer as an attention seeking psychopath.
1. "The Americans" (FX)
On the surface, this was the story of two Soviet-era spies (Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys), recruited as teenagers and eventually joined together in a pretend marriage so that they could be sent to the U.S.
But the heart of "The Americans" was a couple that started out as strangers, but grew to care about each other far more than any mission. And there was no happy ending, as the pair and their older daughter Paige (Holly Taylor) fled to the Canadian border, leaving their other child, Henry (Keidrich Sellati), behind in the care of their FBI neighbor.
Always a "bridesmaid and never a bride" as Best Drama Series at the Emmys, "The Americans" did conclude its final season with two trophies: Matthew Rhys for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series and Joel Fields and Joe Weisber for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series.
"America’s Got Talent" (NBC), "Better Call Saul" (AMC), "The Cool Kids" (Fox), "The Deuce" (HBO), "Game of Thrones" (HBO), "The Good Fight" (CBS All Access), "The Kominsky Method" (Netflix), "Lodge 49" (AMC), "Sharp Objects" (HBO), "Survivor" (CBS)