It wasn’t until I composed this list that I realized how much television I watched this year. I often watched an episode a day and apparently it really adds up. Below is a list of my favorite television shows of the year. From drama to comedy to animation, it all impressed and entertained. The majority of the shows on this list are 2018 shows, while a few are a couple of years old.
Note: The only show I watched this year that I didn’t include was Ozark. I watched the first season and it was solid, but it gave me anxiety and I disliked almost all of the characters. I’d rather not include it than make a ‘top 11’ list, which seems foolish.
It’s also worth noting how cartoons like Uncle Grandpa, We Bare Bears, and Summer Camp Island all deserve a round of applause. I didn’t include them on this list because I’ve only seen 5-6 episodes of each. The shuffle function on the Cartoon Network app is a godsend.
Lastly, I’d like to announce that I’m currently re-watching Reno 911! in chronological order. I’m 28 episodes in and it’s so damn delightful. You can find most of the episodes online. The search is worth your while.
Some of the best television I’ve watched. Ever. FX’s Atlanta is now 2-for-2 with their seasons. Season two included a rundown of standalone episodes (one that follows Paper Boi, one that follows Darius, one that follows Earn, etc.) and they all work so well as character pieces. Nothing else on television is coming close to what Atlanta is doing. Donald Glover deserves all of the awards.
Based on the 2015 Norwegian show of the same name, director Cary Fukunaga and writer Patrick Somerville’s Maniac takes a surreal step inside a modified dreamland through a trio of pills, resulting in something like if Inception included more psychedelics, more instability, more humor, and more unique characters. Right after watching this one-off season, I watched the 2015 original, which is almost as good.
Following Sabrina Orah Mark's recommendation, I watched the pilot episode of the FX series Baskets. Hooked instantly, I watched one episode every day for a month until I was finished with the third (and most recent) season. With each season and with each episode, I was captivated. The show is full of desert magic, full of humor that might make you cry instead of laugh. It is stuffed with American consumerism, identity crises, and dry comedy. Perhaps the most notable and unique character is Louie Anderson's character Christine Baskets, the mother of two sets of twins: one set played by Zach Galifianakis and the other set made of up DJs that tour with Sneaker Pimps and Chemical Brothers. All this and more within a depressing and existential desert. How's that for a California gothic?
I watched this 2015 Norwegian television show directly after watching 2018’s Maniac. In my opinion, it’s just as strong. Super different in nearly all aspects, this one revolves around a character stuck in dreamland in search of escaping by means of the American Dream. Football, Batman, war hero, you name it. It’s a riotous occasion, one that will have you both laughing and crying. I’m glad that it was a one-off season (just like the American adaptation), as it works so well on its own.
05. Craig of the Creek
This show was exactly what I was looking for after I finished watching Gravity Falls. Craig of the Creek is equal parts adventure, clever jokes, and endless energy. To watch 11 minutes of Craig of the Creek is to drink three pots of coffee, win in Laser Tag, and get straight A's. I'm forever grateful that this show has been picked up for a second season in 2019. It’s heartwarming, open-minded, and contains a solid cameo from Del the Funky Homosapien.
I’m watching the season finale of this tonight, so please, no spoilers! Happy is a batshit bonkers television show that somehow manages to blend Law & Order with Roger Rabbit. If Christopher Meloni wasn’t the main character, I don’t think this show would work. It’s one psychotic coked out bloodbath full of witty jokes and surreal story lines. I didn’t know what to think of it while watching the pilot, but after a couple of episodes, I was obsessed.
07. Narcos: Mexico
Narcos rules! I love the Spanish and English intertwining throughout. I love the dramatized history lessons. I love the rise and fall of jaw-dropping power. While the first season of Narcos with Pablo Escobar is probably the finest of this bunch, this Mexico spinoff does its best to keep itself in the conversation. The characters, the music, the cinematic shots, it all works here. Much better than I expected.
Clarence might be my favorite cartoon character at the moment. The show is weird, gross, innocent, and hysterical. Clarence reminds me of Thurman Merman from Bad Santa. He and his posse of oddball friends (one that’s hyper intelligent and one that smells like a garbage bin) find themselves handling normal situations wit downright mayhem. I love the creativity within this one. It’ll make you cringe while also making you cry happy tears.
Wow. Kidding is a show that was much darker than I expected. Very twisted and depressing. Jim Carrey plays Mr. Pickles, a Mr. Rogers-type character, who recently had a son that died in a car accident. Other numbing plot lines include: cancer, adultery, drug use, daddy issues, and an overall bleak outlook on the majority of humanity. But it’s all cleverly told with puppets and smiles! Which, somehow, makes it more messed up. Michel Gondry handcrafted something special here, one that I will assuredly follow into the second season.
I mentioned how Craig of the Creek filled my void after finishing Gravity Falls, but I think Hilda is actually closer in theme and style. The series follows a curious and fearless girl through lands of trolls and monsters while also adapting to a new life in the big city. The narrative structure here creates a great build-up that keeps you excited and eager to watch more episodes. I love it when cartoons aren’t just standalone episodes. Hilda is special. I can’t wait for season two.