Being that it's the start of a new year, I like to look back at the past year and reflect upon the pop culture I consumed. Last week I wrote a blog about my favorite video games and music of 2018. This entry is all about the TV shows I watched in 2018. Here's the thing. I watch a lot of television. An egregious amount, frankly. This list consists only of shows that newly premiered in 2018. And it was hard to narrow it down to ten! This doesn't include any shows I've already been watching. So Doctor Who, The Good Place, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Orville, and several others will not appear. Not even Top Chef, the greatest show on television, will be listed. So I watch a lot of TV. I'll also mention that if I watch an episode or two of a show and I don't enjoy it, I quit watching. I rarely (if ever) make it all the way through a season of a TV show if I'm not enjoying it. There's far too much good TV out there to waste my time on unenjoyable shows. But without further ado, here are my top 10 shows that premiered in 2018:
I've read a lot of opinions about this show, and the majority of them are negative. To each their own, but I really enjoyed my time with it. It's a cyberpunk-lite show. It takes place in an alternate reality where the Statue of Liberty has been replaced by the Statue of Extra Liberty, and many other things have changed as well. I absolutely adore the retro-futurist asthetic of the show. I really love the acting, especially by Justin Theroux. It's just very well performed. I think the issue with this show is that it thinks (and presents itself in such a way) that it's really deep and meaningful. It's... not. I mean, there are some nice thematic things here. It does make some observations about people (and especially about grief). It's not frivolous popcorn entertainment. Just don't go into it expecting to have your perspective on life fundamentally changed. Go into it looking for an entertaining romp and you'll have a fine time.
9-The Joel McHale Show
Apparently this was a Netflix version of another show called The Soup, which I've never seen. It's a really simple concept. Essentially Joel McHale stands in front of a green screen, shows recent ridiculous clips from reality TV, and cracks jokes about said clips. Netflix was putting out a new episode every Sunday for this, but they cancelled it after one season. I was very surprised by this. The show looks like it cost them absolutely nothing to make. On one episode, they have some people sit at a dining table. That dining table is identical to my own dining table. It costs $149 at IKEA. That's how little they spent. But they still didn't think it was worth the money to continue! I guess nobody watched it. Netflix has really struggled to get people to watch weekly shows. They've trained us to have all episodes of a show release at once and then binge. Weekly shows are directly opposed to the Netflix format (but more on this issue later in the list). Overall, I really enjoyed this show. I looked forward to it every week. As a fan of Community, I like Joel McHale (even if he was the worst actor on the show). I wanted this show to be successful.
This show just cracks me up. It's about a guy named Jack that taught philosophy at Harvard and got fired because.... well.... he's awful. So he gets a job teaching A.P. Biology at a High School. He doesn't teach his students a single thing about Biology. He recruits his students as weapons to seek revenge on his nemesis, the man who kinda sorta got him fired from his previous job. This is a bit of a dark comedy. Jack is not a pleasant person. You can't really root for him, and yet you kinda do? It's a tiny bit like House, MD. The central conceit of that show was it was about a doctor that's a jerk. That's kind of funny. This show is about a teacher who is a jerk. Kind of funny. The thing is, this show was just really well written and acted. It has been renewed for a second season. I don't know how that will go. I feel like they've exhausted the concept of this show. But I hope they prove me wrong!
Making It is a contest show, formatted in a similar manner to Top Chef. But instead of a cooking competition, the contestants make crafts. They might make a quilt, or decorate a cake. It's such a simple idea that I can't believe it didn't exist already. It's a really fun show. Super positive. If you want a feel-good show, this is a great candidate. I'll especially give props to Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman for being marvelous hosts. I'm not sure if this one is getting a second season, but I hope it does.
6-The Final Table
I love cooking shows (again, Top Chef is my favorite show). This is an excellent one. They take super high-level chefs from around the world and put them in pairs. Each week, they "visit" a new country. They don't physically go there, but they cook food from that nation. Guest judges are brought in from that country. Each pair makes the judges consider to be the national dish of their home. The three teams that did the worst cook again. At this point, one of (if not the) best chefs from that country arrive to judge this round. That judge gives them a single ingredient to cook with. The pair of chefs that does the worst here is sent home. At the final episode, only 3 chefs remain and they divide up to cook individually. They present their food to a panel of ALL the chef-judges from the previous episodes. This panel is called The Final Table. The winner of the whole show gets a seat at that table. There's no cash prize. All they get is the right to say the belong with that caliber of chef. It's very well-produced. The food is gorgeous. They really did bring in incredible chefs to compete. The host of the show isn't great, but I can live with it. I hope this show continues as well.
5-Salt Fat Acid Heat
This a food-travel show that is only 4 episodes long (and I still have 1 episode to go). It's hosted by a woman named Samin Nosrat. She's Iranian. She once wrote a cookbook with the same title as this show and it was very well received. Somewhere along the line, someone got the idea to turn this into a TV show. Each episode she travels to another country and learns about how their cuisine utilizes one of these 4 elements of cooking. The food is so tantalizing. But what makes this particular show so special is Samin. She is the most enthusiastic and sincere person! I so desperately would love to just have a meal with her. It would be so fun. She is constantly smiling, and it's genuine. She is just so excited to learn about food and to share her own knowledge with other people. It's infectious! I can't recommend this one enough.
4-The Kids Are Alright
This is a new sitcom on ABC. It takes place in the 70s. It's about a devout Catholic family with about a thousand children just trying to survive. It's a similar format to Everybody Hates Chris and Fresh Off the Boat, except about white people. It's really funny. What I really like is that they don't look backwards with rose-colored glasses. They don't portray these people as great. Especially the parents. Their parenting approach would not fly in a show that takes place today. But it's honest. Things were different back then, and it's okay to acknowledge that. It's okay to look back at where we were as a culture and compare it to where we are now. In many ways we've grown and evolved. In other ways, we may wish to look back and renew old traditions. It's just a nice perspective for a sitcom to have. I'll also mention that I adore the costume and set design. But most importantly, the show is hilarious.
Take Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and improve it in nearly every way. Give it a host that is incredibly charismatic and a top-of-the-class story teller. Now you have Patriot Act. This is Netflix's most recent attempt at a weekly show. They ordered over 30 episodes as I understand, so I'm encouraged by that. They really believe in it. I hope this show lasts a lot longer than Joel McHale did. It has real potential to educate and change lives. If you're unaware, Hasan is American. His parents are immigrants from India. They are Muslim. He provides a perspective that is severely lacking in our media today. I've already learned a great deal from this show and only a handful of episodes are out. I hope you'll check it out. If you don't have Netflix, they've uploaded most (maybe all?) of the episodes to their Youtube channel as well.
I watched a video on Youtube once discussing this show. That video described Aggretsuko as Arthur for adults. I can't really disagree with that. Arthur is a kid's cartoon where very real problems are present in a simple way. Things like, dealing with a bully at school. Aggretsuko does that same thing but for adult problems. What if your boss is a literal chauvanist pig? What if you start dating someone and then realize you aren't compatible? What if you become addicted to instagram? The show is very honest. It looks like an adorable, silly show. And it is. But it's more than that. It has a lot of heart. It's supremely relatable. I also really like that each episode is only like 15 minutes long, so it's easily consumable.
Also, they just released a Christmas special. Thought I'd mention that in case you've watched the show but happened to miss that one.
This came out of nowhere for me. But it's SO FREAKIN CUTE! LOOK AT IT! Hilda is literally the cutest show I've ever seen. The animation, art, and character design are just brilliant. It's sort of a contemporary fairy tale. Like, if our world also had elves and giants and trolls and things. Hilda is a young girl that lives in such a world. Her defining characteristic is that she is a friend to all. Even frightening creatures. She will always go out of her way to help someone in need, even when someone seems monstrous and scary. It's a really heart-warming show. I loved spending my time with it. It's just a fun world that I want to live in. I am desperate for more of this show. Don't let me down, Netflix!
I must say that the most suprising thing to me when I wrote this list is how half of it is Netflix. When Daredevil got cancelled I literally thought to myself, "What is even the point of Netflix anymore? I don't watch it except for Parks and Rec." But my goodness was I wrong. Looking back, Netflix has been a huge part of my media consumption this year. I'll be interested to see if that trend continues in 2019.
So there's my list. What do you think about it? Anything you agree or disagree with? Did I introduce you to a show you hadn't considered before? What new shows did you watch this year? Share with us!