Even though there is too much TV to possibly consume now, everyone has their favorites. I have come up with a list of my top 10 TV shows from the past year, most of which are nominated in several categories at this year’s Emmy Awards. I would not wish to rank them, as I don’t think I even could try to do so. Instead, I have listed them in alphabetical order. My list includes 2 limited series, 5 comedies, and 3 dramas.
American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace (FX)
One of the standout shows from the past year, Ryan Murphy’s follow-up to The People v. O.J. Simpson in this anthology series, American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace took a trip back through time to discover who Andrew Cunanan was in a focus on the homophobia of the ’90s. Featuring a cast of supporting actors who focused on delivering impeccable performances, Versace blessed us all with Judith Light, Penelope Cruz, Ricky Martin, Edgar Ramirez, Finn Wittrock, Cody Fern, and Max Greenfield, among others, serving the stories as best as they could. Beginning with the murder of Gianni Versace and moving in reverse, Versace explains the making of a serial killer in a thrilling, emotional innovation of the genre.
Even more surprising and exciting than the first season, Atlanta delivered a seamless blend of comedy and drama in its second, titled “Robbin’ Season.” Every week, I could expect an episode that I would not forget, many of which are some of the best television episodes of the year. While impressed by all 11 episodes, the standouts are “FUBU,” “Teddy Perkins,” “Alligator Man,” “Barbershop,” and “Woods.” This doesn’t even include a party at Drake’s house without Drake, a dragrace against Michael Vick, and a video ofa . white lady angrily reciting the lyrics to Vince Staple’s “Norf Norf” in one of the highlights of the season. Atlanta chose to leave the characters to their own devices and depict their reactions to some quite bizarre circumstances, notably Lakeith Stanfield’s Darius Epps being trapped in a house of horrors with Teddy Perkins (Donald Glover in a terrifying mask) in “Teddy Perkins” and Brian Tyree Henry’s Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles running through a fantastical set of woods while being followed by an unstable man in “Woods.” The episodes, framed as short stories detailing the characters’ lives, open your eyes to the power of the cast and crew of Atlanta.
In a year of many new shows, Barry held onto its spotlight to earn 13 Emmy nominations for its inaugural season. Bill Hader stars as Barry Berkman, a hitman, whose job has left him with almost no emotion yet a visit to an acting class, while seeking out the victim of his next hit, entices him. He joins the class taught by Gene Cousineau, Harry Winkler in a charming, Emmy-nominated performance, and learns how to find his emotions while working with his classmates. Anthony Carrigan makes a name for himself as a comedic actor in his role as NoHo Hank, a member of the Chechen mob for whom Barry is working during the season. Bill Hader shines in this half-hour show, which he also created, directed, wrote, and produced alongside Silicon Valley creator Alec Berg.
The Crown (Netflix)
Shows often disappoint in their sophomore runs, but The Crown failed to meet that expectation. It soared beyond what we could have ever imagined. The utter majesty of the show fulfills a need for an elegant, beautifully written period drama that exudes brilliance. I found the first few episodes a bit slow in both their pace and material, but the potential was exceeded upon the start of episode 4, “Beryl”–one of the most eloquent and gripping episodes of television of the year. Creator and writer Peter Morgan delivered a magnificent season that brought out some of the best performances I have ever seen from Claire Foy, Matt Smith, Vanessa Kirby, and Matthew Goode, all of whom earned Emmy nominations for their final season, before the show introduces new faces for the characters in later decades of their lives. If you see one episode of The Crown, let it be “Beryl.” You will not be disappointed.
Dear White People (Netflix)
The second season of Justin Simien’s television adaptation of his 2014 film of the same name enhanced the excellence the show exhibited in the first season. Focusing on an individual character’s perspective, each chapter examines the racial climate of Winchester College in a fitting half-hour rhythm that both satisfies the needs of the episode and grabs your attention for the next one. After a forced integration of the predominantly black Armstrong-Parker House due to a fire at the mostly white Davis House, the conversations on race in America and on campus must begin as the student activists share their public living space. Dear White People expanded its foray into topics we don’t often enjoy discussing in a manner of comedy and ferocity that leaves you awaiting the next episode and season, especially after the cliffhanger at the end of this season.
In the year of the woman, GLOW became one of the highlights. The casting agents worked their magic by bringing together this ensemble of women doing all they can to survive in Hollywood. In order to do that, they wrestle. The show never lets itself get too serious, always using quips or well-timed humor to lighten the tone, but it never loses its heart. A surprise hit for Netflix, the poignant and entertaining comedy drives you to focus on the humanity of these entertainers. Alison Brie shines in the lead role of actress Ruth Wilder, alongside Betty Gilpin in a breakout performance as former soap star Debbie Eagan and Marc Maron as director Sam Sylvia. The writers ensured the development of each character in the ensemble, and every actress on the wrestling show-within-the-show delivers a heartfelt, unforgettable performance. Season two was released in June 2018 and features an even more brilliant Betty Gilpin, who deserves every acting award for her ability to draw you into her character and miss her as soon as she leaves the scene.
I am not typically a big fan of the male-dominated genre, but Godless marketed itself as a Western led by an ensemble of women so I decided to watch. Then, the cinematography swept across the vast landscapes and the dramatic score elevated the tension, and I was hooked. I could neither turn away from the action nor miss any second of Merritt Wever and Michelle Dockery wielding pistols. The arrival of refuge-seeking Roy Goode shakes the world built within La Belle, New Mexico, as outlaw Frank Griffin searches for him and kills anyone who gets in his way. The story of justice, revenge, and the power of women enthralled me for every second. You don’t have to be a fan of the Western to enjoy this limited series, but, if you are, this will definitely be your favorite show of the year.
The Good Fight (CBS All Access)
Diane Lockhart is a goddess. Christine Baranski proves that in every scene. This year, The Good Fight continued its angry rhythm from the first season as the lawyers at Reddick, Boseman & Lockhart foundd themselves amid a Chicago murder spree where lawyers were being murdered for overcharging clients. Audra McDonald joined this season as Liz Lawrence, a former U.S. Attorney who also is the daughter of founding firm partner Carl Reddick and ex-wife of partner Adrian Boseman. Juggling the murders of lawyers, the tumultuous office politics, and the current White House administration at the center of the story, The Good Fight is one of the most fun shows on TV. If you don’t believe me, Diane starts microdosing in the first episode. Watch this show!
Killing Eve (BBC America)
The best surprise of the entire year in television, Phoebe Waller-Bridge provided us with a feminine thriller in the cat-and-mouse drama starring Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh. MI5 agent Eve Polastri, Oh in an articulate play on an investigatior, becomes obsessed with assassin Villanelle, Comer in a dark yet playful standout performance, and Killing Eve captures their chemistry and obsession in a suspenseful, sexy tale. I mean, Sandra Oh is in it, so watch it. There’s murder. There’s allure. There’s tension built from the first minute. Killing Eve is a revelation.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon)
One of the revelations of last year, Amy Sherman-Palladino thrilled us with her newest television venture The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. She brings us right into her fast-talking style with Rachel Brosnahan starring as Midge Maisel, who is on her path to stardom as a stand-up comic. The brightness of 1950s New York shines in every aspect of the production design, costume design, and writing. Every joke lands its punch in the eight-episode season, with an inescapable charm at the surface of each scene. Brosnahan shines in her breakout role after an Emmy-nominated turn in House of Cards, and Alex Borstein is a wonder as Midge’s tough manager Susie. Mrs. Maisel is, in its essence, a love story to New York, comedy, and womanhood.
Header image from Atlanta. Credit: FX.