None of them are The Bodyguard…
After years of TV becoming increasingly more relevant and brilliant than cinema, last year was a bit of a disappointment. Unfortunately, this same article from last year is now lost forever due to the death of my old site RobWatchesMovies (RIP). Take my word for it though, 2017 wasn’t as stellar as the years that had preceded it.
Happily, 2018 has come roaring back with plenty of fantastic stuff across a bunch of different channels and networks. The rules, as always, are simple. Each show must have been released in 2018 either in the UK or the US. Only new shows count otherwise this list would just be Game of Thrones and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia every year.
Let’s get started…
10. Mark Kermode’s Secrets of Cinema
At a time when there has never been a bigger disconnect between critic and viewer, Mark Kermode is an ever present voice of reason. His Secrets of Cinema series attempts to look behind the curtain of a variety of different genres to get to the nuts and bolts of what happens behind the scenes. The horror entry was naturally the most compelling, but Kermode is such an engaging presence that he has something interesting to say about every aspect of the cinematic spectrum.
9. Final Space
While not as laugh-out-loud funny as Big Mouth or as game changing as Rick and Morty, Netflix’s Final Space is still an understated and hilarious gem. Part Red Dwarf and part Futurama, Final Space is the story of Gary Goodspeed, a well-meaning but preposterous prisoner who is serving a solitary sentence aboard the prison spacecraft Galaxy One.
If you like all the shows mentioned above, Final Space is essential viewing. If you don’t then what’s the point of any of it? You are a husk. An empty vessel.
After a bad start with the turgid McMafia that stank the place out back in January, the BBC has recovered to serve up some of their best work since War & Peace and The Night Manager. Despite being unfairly overshadowed by Little Drummer Girl, Informer is a compelling and high-octane drama series with strong performances from Paddy Considine and Nabhaan Rizwan at its core.
At only 6 episodes Informer is a gripping and easily digestible piece of work. Catch it on iplayer now.
7. Killing Eve
Another BBC production that was overshadowed, this time by the vastly inferior The Bodyguard, Killing Eve was perhaps the most purely entertaining show of 2018. Featuring a breakthrough performance from Jodie Comer as psychopathic assassin Villanelle and strong work from her co-star Sandra Oh as the eponymous Eve, this BBC drama has confirmed that writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag) is one of the most exciting talents in the UK right now.
The perfect storm of great acting, daring direction and assured writing ensured that Killing Eve was one of the most watchable shows this year.
6. A Very English Scandal
Yet another BBC effort, this time a biographical mini-series about the Jeremy Thorpe scandal of the late ’70s. I knew absolutely nothing about Thorpe or his situation going into A Very English Scandal but an astonishing turn from Hugh Grant brought this old ignominy back to life and re-ignited interest in the case. Ben Whishaw’s performance was a little over the top for my tastes but other than there is so much to love here. One of the funniest shows of 2018.
5. The End of the Fucking World
Annoyingly, I wrote a review of this show when I watched it back in January, forgot to publish it, and promptly broke my laptop. As a result of this every word that I am writing in this section is filling me with pain and anguish. More than normal even. Anyway, The End of the Fucking World was the best coming-of-age tale to hit in 2018. Surprisingly brilliant.
It wouldn’t be an article about television if HBO didn’t feature somewhere and Succession was everything that Billions should have been. Loosely based on the Murdoch family and from the mind of Peep Show writer Jesse Armstrong, Succession was the dumpster fire that it was impossible to look away from. Despite pretty much every character being a piece of shit, or perhaps because of that, Succession is a guilty pleasure that makes watching rich people screw each other and screw each other over as satisfying as it could possibly be. Another potential HBO classic in the making.
3. Patrick Melrose
This Sky Atlantic production was low key one of the most thoughtful and compelling portrayals of addiction since Trainspotting and Requiem for a Dream. Featuring a career best performance from Benedict Cumberbatch in the titular role, Patrick Melrose is a mini series that ran the gamut of human emotion across five fantastic episodes. Huge Weaving and Jennifer Jason Leigh round off a starry cast and it’s a shame that this sterling pitch black comedy wasn’t seen by more people. A sleeper hit in the making.
2. Sharp Objects
I have given Gillian Flynn adaptations a pretty rough ride over the years but Sharp Objects is virtually flawless. The dark, insular atmosphere of small town America is brought to life magnificently by Amy Adams. The concept of the big city girl returning to her home town is nothing new but the artful cinematography coupled with an emotionally affecting script made for a show that was masterful and eminently watchable. If you loved Big Little Lies, make Sharp Objects your next stop.
1. The Haunting of Hill House
I’ve only recently written a full review of The Haunting of Hill House but I will add that it is probably the best supernatural TV show ever produced and also undoubtedly the television event of the year.
For more hero worship of The Haunting of Hill House, click here.
The Little Drummer Girl
Wild Wild Country