Here at 25YLSite, we handle a lot of heavy lifting. Analysis, interpretation, deep discussion, introspective interviews…you name it, we’ve got it. “Favorites” takes a lighter approach to the material we normally cover. Each week, we will take you through a list of favorites—whether its moments, scenes, episodes, characters, lines of dialogue, whatever!—in bite-sized articles perfect for your lunch break, a dull commute, or anywhere you need to take a Moment of Zen. So, sit back and enjoy this week’s offering: Our Facebook Members Top 10 TV Shows of 2018!
We thought it was going to be tough going trying to fill that void in our lives that Twin Peaks left, and while nothing really compares, we have to admit there has been some Damn Fine Television out this year. We live in a spoiled age, with streaming services, On Demand, Network shows and even Facebook and YouTube delivering the goods; these days there’s more TV than we can really find time to watch. Some shows though are just too good to miss, and these are the Top 10 shows of the year, as voted for by you! Counting down from 10…
10. Atlanta: Robbin’ Season, FX
There’s only one Donald making America Great and that’s Donald Glover. Whatever he touches turns to gold, and I for one am a big fan, so I am pleased to see FX’s Atlanta get voted in here. In 2018 it was nominated for no less than 13 Prime Time Emmy awards and took home 3, and if it had taken them all no-one would have argued it. Glover brings a totally fresh and eccentric feel to drama-comedy. The show portrays the struggles of three young men scrabbling their way through life: Earnest (Glover), an Ivy League college dropout trying to make his way in the music business by managing the career of his cousin Alfred, AKA Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry) and their spaced-out friend, Darius (Lakeith Stanfield). The show is directed by Hiro Murai, who injects the show with a somewhat surreal flavour. Glover and Murai went also worked on the viral-for-good-reason video for This is America, by Glover’s alter ego, Childish Gambino.
9. Castle Rock, Hulu
For Stephen King fans Castle Rock really is a treasure trove. J.J. Abrams and Stephen King collaborated on the series, with Dustin Thomason and Sam Shaw writing the screenplay. The plot revolves around Shawshank prison in the present day, where, after the suicide of the prison governor, Dale Lacy (Terry O’Quinn), it is revealed that a man, a.k.a. ‘The Kid’ (Bill Skarsgard) has been kept in the septic tank of the prison for 27 years, though he’s barely 27 years old now. Who he is, no-one knows, but bringing him out into the cells begins a series of chilling and mysterious events. Castle Rock does the mythological scale and intimate character storytelling of King’s best-loved works to perfection. Just like with Stand By Me and even IT, you get that warm, small-town feeling, but with a huge air of menace to keep you on your toes. Only three weeks after its release a second season was announced, making its place on this list justly deserved.
8. Legion, Season 2, FX
There is no superhero show like Legion. There is no show like Legion full stop. Imagine David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick got together, did a shitload of acid and talked about science fiction while playing Pink Floyd albums for days, and that would get you only slightly close to what Legion delivers. This X-Men comic is brought to life by Noah Hawley of Fargo fame, so you also know you are getting a great story to boot. This show is still somewhat underrated; I can see that it is difficult for many to get into as it is so vast. The first series was very fast paced, but season 2 slowed it down considerably—without missing a beat. We follow the story of David Haller (the mesmerizing Dan Stevens), who was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a teen. But is he mentally ill? Or is he actually an extremely powerful mutant? Working out what is real and what are hallucinations is half the fun of the show.
The cast is incredible; Aubrey Plaza (Lenny) and Jemaine Clement (Oliver) knock it out of the park every time they’re on screen. David’s love interest is a girl named Syd Barrett (it doesn’t get much cooler than that does it?) with her own unique powers and feline prowess. That alone should make you watch. Season 2 ended with us wondering whether Legion is the hero we thought he was after committing a dubious act against Syd. Thankfully we will get to find out when Season 3 arrives on our screens, but we may have to wait a while for that, as Hawley is working on Fargo Season 4 first.
7. Westworld, Season 2, HBO
The first Season of Westworld took the Western world by storm, and everyone was on tenterhooks to see whether the eagerly awaited second season could pull it off quite so well. They absolutely did. There’s no denying it is a totally different beast from Season 1, when we were eager for the AI to break free from their chains—well now some of them have and Dolores is on the rampage, taking her place as the villain of the show. Season 2 feels more complicated, more violent, with more confusing twists and turns, and now Shogunworld to add to the expanse of it all. You really need to pay attention and perhaps write notes to keep track of what is going on, but that is the beauty of it. Great TV should make the cogs of your mind work damn hard, and Westworld does it beautifully, with some of the best cinematography on television, and the most solid casting with Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Ed Harris, and Jeffrey Wright.
6. Maniac, Netflix
The mini-series Maniac had a pretty big advertising campaign as far as Netflix goes, so I was happy to find that it actually surpassed expectations. The plot focuses on Owen Milgrim (Jonah Hill), a bullied, introverted, and possibly schizophrenic son of a wealthy family. He has visions of his brother Jed, who tells him that streetwise stranger Annie Landsberg (Emma Stone) will reveal to him his heroic mission in life. Annie has a borderline personality disorder and dwells unhealthily on her dysfunctional relationships. The pair meet at a trial for a radical new drug intended to eradicate all unnecessary human pain and suffering, which—when taken—will launch us into cross-dimensional storytelling. It’s no surprise, but the proposed pharmaceutical elimination of human suffering does not go as smoothly as hoped. It is off-kilter, surreal, intriguing, moving, stylish, and very refreshing. I would even go as far as to say these are the best roles both Hill and Stone have ever played—totally against type. High praise indeed from me.
The Eighth Season of American Horror Story was pegged as the crossover of S1: Murder House and S3: Coven that fans had been longing for. The show received mostly positive reviews—certainly compared to the two seasons before. In the wake of a nuclear apocalypse, a select group of ‘people’ survive in a sealed bunker, with Wilhelmina Venables (Sarah Paulson) and Miriam Mead (Kathy Bates) calling the shots, and inflicting torture on those residing there (including Joan Collins). That is until Michael Langdon (Cody Fern)—the Antichrist—arrives and begins to throw order into chaos as he tries to bring those worthy to a “sanctuary”. From there, the worlds of Coven, Hotel, and Murder House all merge. AHS: Apocalypse starts at the end of the world, and slowly works its way back until we figure out how it all ended up this way. There are many twists and turns (and plot holes) along the way. The finale may not quite have delivered, with more questions remaining than answers given at the end, and some fans were left disappointed about how much history had been disregarded from the earlier seasons, taking away some of the poignancy of those big moments. But no doubt, there will be more to come.
4. Better Call Saul, Season 4, AMC
Just like Breaking Bad, Vince Gilligan’s thrilling drama, Better Call Saul, seems to just get better and better as the seasons go on. Some may say it even surpasses its progenitor, which is a very rare comment to make about a spin-off show. Unlike Breaking Bad, it’s not gangland standoffs or our anti-hero trying to win the ‘Most Toxic Male Award’ that brings Better Call Saul’s dramatic tension, it’s the attention to detail, turning everyday life into moments that feel monumental. The (dissolving) relationship between Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) and Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) in this season is compelling to watch, and their performances are electric. Jimmy’s journey from being the shifty but gold-hearted lawyer to a ruthless and sleazy one is quite a slow burn, but every single moment that has transpired in his life prior—especially his torturous relationship with his brother Chuck (Michael McKean)—plays a part in shaping his eventual character and mindset as Saul Goodman. A truly outstanding television series which deserves all the awards in 2019.
3. The Handmaid’s Tale, Season 2, Hulu
The Handmaid’s Tale is hard going, there’s no doubt about it. A drama series set in a dystopian America that treats women as property of the state, forcing them into sexual servitude to repopulate a devastated world, wasn’t ever going to be light and breezy. Yet somehow, the creators managed to make Season 2 even more brutal than the first. Season 1 was pretty closely based on Margaret Atwood’s novel of the same name, and that’s where the story would have ended, but creator Bruce Miller kept it going to carry on the tale of Offred (Elizabeth Moss), her friends, and those she serves. The show continued to have a deep resonance with current political issues, especially that of Donald Trump’s presidency, transforming the show into a terrifying vision of an all-too-possible future. Handmaid dresses became a rhetorical symbol, worn to marches and at Congress. And while some viewers have been turned off by the second season’s dip into what could be called ‘misery porn’, this show is one of the most important on television. Why? Because sometimes we need to be reminded how awful rape is, and how wrong it is to rip children away from their parents. Because if it’s too upsetting to watch a dramatization of it, but you’re OK about it happening to people desperate for sanctuary in the real world, then something is very wrong.
2. Sharp Objects, HBO
The adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s novel, Sharp Objects, was my number one choice of the year. The limited series delivered my perfect kind of television. It was tense, complex, and the first show that really got my brain working overtime since Twin Peaks. Amy Adams starred in her first TV role as lead character, Camille Preaker, a Crime Reporter and functioning (sort of) alcoholic, recently discharged from a psychiatric hospital after years of self-harm. She returns to her hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri to investigate the murders of two young girls. The case forces her to confront some personal demons and takes her back to her childhood home under the critical eye of her neurotic mother, Adora (Patricia Clarkson), and her Jekyll and Hyde-like sister, Amma (Eliza Scanlen). The performances of the whole cast are incredible throughout, making what could be a slow-burning story into one of the most fascinating. The minute detail, secret words, sprinkled clues—thought projections—an insight into the deteriorating mind of Camille as she plays the self-destructive heroine. If this doesn’t win a lot of awards I will riot!
1. The Haunting of Hill House, Netflix
Well, this show just totally stormed ahead on the polls, easily taking the number one spot, doubling the number of votes of the 2nd place choice. The Haunting of Hill House crept up on us from out of nowhere it seemed this October and gave us something that it appears we all wanted and needed, so much. The story alternates between two timelines, following five adult siblings whose paranormal experiences at Hill House continue to haunt them in present day. The series also features flashbacks to 1992, showing us the events in Hill House leading up to the eventful night the family departed—without their mother. None of the children deal with the loss of their mother in the same way. For Steven and Shirley grief comes in the form of denial and anger, for Theo it’s something more paranormal and she feels too much, and for the twins Luke and Nell, it manifests as addiction and depression; as the youngest, they fed most closely on their mother’s mania and the absorbing power of the house.
While yes, the show is pretty much a family drama, it is still scary as hell. Nell is visited by a spectre she calls the Bent-Neck Lady, who stands before her bed or hovers over her during sleep paralysis. Her twin brother Luke has his own demon, a monstrously tall ghost who glides above the ground, steering himself with a cane. There are plenty of jump-scares to keep you on your toes throughout, but it’s the story that really makes you want to keep watching; the lurking ghosts are an added bonus.
It’s unlikely we will meet the Crain family again, but there are hints that there may be a second season of Hill House, so watch this space! If it happens we’ll be covering it right here at 25YL.
Thank you to all of you that took part in the poll that brought this article to life. If you didn’t vote, leave your choices in the comments or on social media. Now let’s hope we have another amazing year of television in 2019. Cheers!